Fall Into Good Habits
By Amy Crum, MS, RD, LD
September 28, 2022
As the season changes to fall, we have a new opportunity to also change habits, especially any unhealthy ones that crept in during the summer. The new season can mean a fresh start in terms of food choices, exercise routines, water intake, and sleep hygiene. Happiness expert and author Gretchen Rubin calls this a Clean Slate, or the strategy of taking advantage of a time of transition where removing old habits and forming new habits can happen more quickly (1). Since we are already in the period of transition, it becomes easier to try doing things differently. We’ve compiled a few ideas to help you start new habits as the seasons change:
Could the new crisp, cool air inspire you to start a new outdoor exercise habit? Think of a time of day that will be the easiest for you to fit in activity and make this the season it turns into a daily habit. With autumn and “back-to-school” schedules, we might have more structure and routine in our lives, so don’t forget to put daily movement on your calendar. Scheduling time on your calendar for exercise makes it more likely to happen because it becomes a priority.
Do you need accountability for exercise? Call a neighbor to see if they would like to set up a weekly hike. Maybe a coworker would like to use lunch breaks to walk. Or maybe a fellow soccer mom wants to walk some laps while watching the kiddo’s game. Have you been hearing friends talk about pickle ball? Take advantage of the break from the summer heat and join a league. Find an outdoor yoga or Tai Chi class. Check out any movement offerings with your local community center.
Do long-term goals help keep you accountable? There are plenty of 5Ks in October and November to sign up for and you can spend the beginning of fall training to walk or run them. For those of you who don’t have a harsh winter like we do in Minnesota, now is a great time to find something you enjoy and can stick with through the winter. For those of us with snow and ice on the horizon, it’s never too early to start thinking about winter gear like snowshoes, skis, skates, or an indoor track walking pass! Finding an activity you really enjoy is key - it will make it easier for the exercise habit to stick.
When the cooler weather comes, many of our clients are ready to change their eating habits as well. Does the fall bring a busier schedule because of kids’ schedules or more work obligations? Start the fall with a meal plan. It’s common to overthink meals for the week, and to end up without a plan due to feeling overwhelmed. Keep it simple. Think of one or two breakfasts you’d like to eat this week, an option for lunch, and a few simple dinners. Write the ingredients down and plan a trip to the store (just like exercise – get it on your calendar!). Make sure you plan a little extra time to chop your veggies when you get home and put them in clear containers in the refrigerator, so they don’t go bad in the crisper drawer.
What are some foods to start the fall off with? It could be a great time to change to eating a nourishing, hot breakfast rather than a cold summer smoothie. My favorite way to start the day is with vegetables, because it sets me up to make good food choices all day. Try our Brussels Sprout Hash in the morning. This is a good recipe to substitute with any leftover roasted vegetables you have. I love to make a big pot of soup or chili and eat it throughout the week for lunch. Let your slow cooker do the cooking for you this fall. Try our Cream Cheese Crockpot Chicken or Pot Roast for a dinner your whole family will enjoy.
Don’t forget to let the change in seasons help you switch unhealthy snack options for something new. For information and ideas on snacks, check out this article Why Do We Need Snacks? (And How To Make Them Healthy!). Did your family get in the habit of eating ice cream too often during the summer? Try a delicious Pumpkin Custard for a treat or try our protein packed Pumpkin Muffins as an afternoon snack. Choosing foods that are in season will also help you add variety to your meals and snacks, so maybe it’s time to swap your berries for our Sauteed Apples recipe. Adding a few new recipes this month could be just what you need to refresh your meal plan and bring back the enjoyment of eating in balance.
Need more meal ideas? Schedule an appointment with one of our dietitians or nutritionists to brainstorm what will work for you.
Most people have a harder time remembering to drink water during the cooler months. Staying hydrated is just as important in the fall and winter as it is in the summer. In fact we may need even more water in colder temps due to central heating causing drier environments. Even mild dehydration can impair the function of cells in blood vessels (2).
You might not be getting as many thirst cues to drink water when it’s cooler, so make a plan for how you’re going to reach your water goal every day. Check out this article 6 Ways Your Body May Be Telling You To Drink More Water to see what your dehydration cues might be. We recommend getting half of your body weight in ounces of water, but if that’s far from where you’re at right now, start slow and build up. Measure the water bottle you usually use and see how many times you need to fill it up during the day to stay adequately hydrated. Experiment with sipping different herbals teas (check the labels!) or starting your day with warm water and lemon.
An adequate night’s sleep is one of the most important changes you can make to improve your health. Are you getting the recommended 7 1/2- 8 hours of sleep every night? Did summer have your bedtime creeping later? As the sun goes down earlier, it could be a great time to move your bedtime a little earlier too. Look at the time you need to get up in the morning and determine when you need to be asleep (or at least turning off the lights!) in order to get at least 7 ½ hours of shut eye. Switch your electronics off at least 30 minutes before bed to assist in sleep quality and add in activities that create a relaxing bedtime routine: hot bath, journaling your thoughts, cup of tea, light stretching. A cool room is important for sleep quality, so don’t turn the heater on too high once the temperature outside starts to drop. The ideal room temperature for sleep is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, although that can vary from person to person (3). Supplementing with the mineral Magnesium Glycinate can help to promote healthy sleep by helping you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Sleep a struggle? Take our online class Getting A Good Night’s Sleep for only $25!
Healthy Habits for Healthy Life
Exercise, meal planning, water, and sleep…four key areas of well-being to focus your efforts. Exercise helps regulate stress levels, boosts your metabolism, and provides you with the strength and mobility to do your favorite activities. Meal planning helps you prepare for the unexpected during the week while allowing you to stay on track with your health goals. Water helps all your organs function optimally for the vitality. Sleep supports your resilience by giving your body that down time it needs to process stress, protect your brain and memory, balance hormones and hunger cues, and give you better energy during the day. What are you going to try with the fresh start of fall? Think of one habit you can improve on today. When you change your habits for the good in the fall, you can come into the holiday season with fewer cravings, more energy and ready to finish the year in good health.
For more information on to help build autumn habits, check out these resources:
- Read: The Relationship Between Sleep, Hormones, and Weight Gain for more sleep hygiene tips
- Listen: Consistency & Weight Loss Success to hear how two of our clients made healthy habits stick
- Take: Virtual Demonstration Cooking Classes that will highlight seasonal foods and recipes
- Try: White Chicken Chili Recipe to mix up your chili flavors in one of our favorite slow cooker meals