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7 Healthy Habits I Wish I Would’ve Adopted in My 20s

gwyneth-made-me-do-it-logoyogaNo other quote rings truer as you get older than: “Youth is wasted on the young.” On second thought, another one comes to mind, which I find myself saying quite often:“If I knew back then what I know now.” As we age, most of us find that we truly get wiser and have a deeper understanding of how the world, business, and relationships work. While life never really gets easier and instead gets more complicated as we get older and our families grow, we can usually tackle problems with more clarity and less drama; in a sense, answers seem to just come easier. Many women, which I can personally attest to, also grow more in-tune with their bodies and how they work and feel, leaving them feeling empowered and in charge.

Yes, getting older has a plethora of benefits, but it also has its downsides. Our bodies often hurt for no good reason. Mysterious body aches come out of nowhere, for unexplained reasons. A bad night’s sleep or a night of over-drinking is harder and harder to recover from. And another decades worth of information to keep track of squeezes our headspace tighter and tighter, so that we often become forgetful of minor little details. But aside from these minor inconveniences and annoyances, I’m truly happier, more confident and secure now in my late thirties than I ever was at any point in my twenties. It’s a wonderful thing to not feel doomed by age but rather celebratory of another year older, another year wiser.

With all this accumulated knowledge over the past decade, knowing what I know now, there’s several areas of life I would like a do-over in. While turning back the hands of time may be impossible for my 20-something-year-old self, perhaps I can impart some of my ancient wisdom on any youngsters out there. Truth be told, there’s quite a few things I would go back and change in my twenties if I could, but limiting it to the realm of health seems a little more manageable at this time.

7 Healthy Habits I Wish I Would’ve Adopted in My Twenties:

1. Ditched soda

My soda addiction ran as deep as any other red-blooded American, so much so that during my very first prenatal visit during my first pregnancy, I asked my doctor straight up how much soda I could reasonably drink while pregnant. While many women I knew gave up the drink while pregnant, I was so addicted I sadly wouldn’t even consider it. Twenty-eight years old at the time, she restricted me to one can of pop per day, and from then on I started to wean myself off the stuff. While I didn’t completely give it up until last year, slowly cutting back was a step in the right direction and better than my previous 3-4 cans a day addiction. Virtually all experts agree that consuming large amounts of rapidly digested sugar and high fructose corn syrup, the likes of which are found in the average can of soda, causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin. This can lead to inflammation and insulin resistance, both of which may increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. It also makes it damn near impossible to lose any amount of weight, if you’re concerned about weight loss.

2. DIY lunches

Hardly a day went by in my twenties where I didn’t eat out for lunch, especially during the work week. And in those early post-college years where money was tight and career expectations were high, most lunches were bought and consumed in the drive-thru line. When I think about all the money I would have saved and how much healthier I would’ve been by eating meals from home, I want to smack myself upside the head. The average restaurant meal is devoid of much nutritional value and clocks in at an outrageous 1,495 calories and is high in saturated fat and sodium, leaving it just as unhealthy as your typical drive-thru meal. Save yourself money and calories, and bring in your own lunch from home.

3. Learned about food

I have to admit that I didn’t know a lick about nutrition and general healthy eating habits until after I had kids and was interested in feeding my family better. I wish I would’ve taken the time to care enough about my own health in my twenties, as it would’ve saved me a lot of back and forth drama and confusion. In my twenties, I agonized over the diet versus regular soft drink decision, instead of just coming to terms with the fact that neither is healthy. I focused on calorie consumption, obsessively writing down every bite I took throughout the day, only to never make any headway in the “body of my dreams.” If I had only taken the time to learn how to properly feed myself all those years ago, I think I would have been a lot happier with myself and had a less twisted view of food.

4. Stepped outside the gym

A self-proclaimed gym rat, I spent countless hours standing next to grunting guys who routinely hogged the weights, running on the hamster treadmill, or spinning my legs on a bike that went nowhere because I thought those were my only options. The result was a general dread of exercise rather than it being something I could look forward to. If I could go back in time, I’d step out of the gym and go for more runs along the beach, hike through our local hills, and maybe even join some sort of group class that would allow me to actually meet other people and form some sort of bonds over a common interest. Basically, I would exercise the way I exercise now: outdoors and alongside other incredible women who motivate me.

5. Been more open to yoga

I would definitely go back and reconsider my preconceived notions about yoga and hit the mat more often. Who knows what kind of yoga star I’d be now had I spent all these years practicing! Yoga has been the best thing to strengthen and tone my body, especially my arms, relieve stress, stretch out sore muscles, and elongate limbs, helping me to get inches closer to achieving a life list goal of being able to do the splits. It’s been anything but boring, easy exercise, that’s for sure!

6. Nurtured friendships more

I didn’t realize how much I needed and wanted to be surrounded by positive, happy, and encouraging women until I became a mother, nor did I realize how important it was for me to also be a source of encouragement for other women. If I could turn back time, I would spend more time nurturing the friendships I had at the time and would let go of resentment and negative energy. Life and friendships, especially with fellow women, can be complex and require tending. I wish I would’ve realized that back then, as I would have been a lot more forgiving and understanding and less dismissive. Ladies, never underestimate the power of having a positive tribe in your corner!

7. Slept less erratically

As a mother of three who’s had her fair share of sleep deprivation, I’ve never appreciated my sleep more. Which is why if I had the chance for a do-over, I would focus more on preserving healthy sleep habits when I was younger. I spent far too many work nights staying up way too late, only to feel horrible and groggy the next morning, hitting snooze on the alarm clock 10,000 times before I finally got up. Then, once the weekend came, I would make up for the sleep deficit by wasting half the day snoozing away. You don’t understand how silly this way of living is until you have kids and the luxury to sleep when and how much you want is snatched away from you. When you can no longer “catch up” on sleep over the weekend, you realize you need to be more responsible with maintaining healthy sleep habits seven nights a week. This consistent sleep routine leads to better sleep habits in general, often eliminating the need for a snooze button. Of course, if you have a terrible sleeper on your hands, all bets are off, but generally once your kids are out of infancy, everyone’s sleep habits usually settle into more of a healthy, consistent routine.

If you’re past your twenties, is there anything you would go back and change? What habits would you do away with, and which are you glad you’ve maintained?

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