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I'm a Nutritionist and These are 5 Healthy Habits That Changed My Life

Here is what she recommends.

Mirror mirror on the wall, what are the healthiest habits of them all? Kayla Varney (@consciouslykay) is a health and wellness influencer with over 250,000 followers on TikTok and 87,000 on Instagram who regularly shares all of her holistic health secrets. Last year she shared a five-part series of wisdom with her followers. "Healthy habits that changed my life as a holistic nutritionist," she captioned the first one. From hydrating to refusing to follow societal norms with dieting, here is everything you need to know about her health habits. We also asked The Diet Diva, Tara Collingwood, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD/N, ACSM-CPT, a Board Certified Sports Dietitian, to weigh in on her tactics. 

1. She Drinks a Full Mason Jar of Water Every Morning

@consciouslykay So excited about this new series!! I have developed so many healthy habits over the years that have truly changed my life! Lots of micro-habits developed over time is the key to long-lasting health and wellness! Do you drink enough water throughout the day? Consider starting every day with a full liter for ultimate hydration, energy, longevity, and more! #healthyhabits #healthyhabitsthatchangedmylife #hydrationation #hydrationtips #hydrationiskey #clearskintips #holisticnutritionist #holistichealth #holistichealing #healthandwellness ♬ original sound – Kayla Varney

In Part 1, she reveals her first habit, "drinking a full mason jar of water first thing in the morning every single day," she says. "If you're like me and you are so bad about drinking water throughout the day, making sure you get in a full liter first thing in the morning before coffee, before breakfast is an absolute game changer," she says, going on to offer four reasons why hydrating this way is important.

"I notice any day that I don't start my day like this one. I never drink as much water. Two, I always end up with a headache at the end of the day. Three, my skin immediately breaks out. I have really, really dry sensitive skin, and when I am not hydrated, my skin freaks out. And four, I just don't feel right."

Drinking water throughout the day is excellent, agrees Collingwood, "but starting the day with at least 12 ounces of water is a good way to start hydrating your body after the dehydrating effects of the night of sleep," she says. "A whole liter might be difficult to get down right away in the morning, but if you focus on at least 12 ounces and work up from there it will help you get into the routine."

Expert tip? "If you prefer it hot with a squeeze of lemon or a decaf tea bag that will also hydrate you just the same!" reveals Collingwood. 

Related: I'm a Nutritionist and This is #1 Tip You Need to Know if You are 20s and 30s

2. She Eats 30 Unique Plant Foods Per Week

@consciouslykay Our bodies need diversity and they need PLANTS 🌱 Eating a wide variety of plant foods is amazing not only for your gut, but for your metabolism and overall health and wellness! Aim to eat 30+ unique foods a week for ultimate health and wellness! #healthyhabitsthatchangedmylife #holisticnutritionist #healthyhabitsdaily #wholefoodsplantbased #wholefoodsdiet #eatyourvegetables #eatyourveggies #eatyourfruits #healyourmetabolism #metabolichealth #metabolismbooster #boostyourmetabolism #plantdiversity #gutmicrobiome #guthealthtiktok #guthealthmatters ♬ Aesthetic – Tollan Kim

In Part 2 she suggests aiming to eat 30 plus unique plant foods every week. "It is so important to have plant diversity in your diet, not only for your gut microbiome, but for your metabolism, your immune system, and just your overall health and wellness," she says, citing studies that have linked not eating enough plants and not eating enough different plants leads to low microbial diversity. "Low plant diet equals low diversity equals slow metabolism," she continues.

"High plant diet and more diversity equals a revved up metabolism." While 30 "might sound like a lot," she encourages thinking about it in terms of color, "like a red bell pepper and a yellow bell pepper would be two different types of plant species," she notes. You also can include herbs and spices. "So say you make a salad with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, avocado, and basil. That's six unique plant foods in one meal for the entire week." If your diet isn't fibrous, "be sure to increase slowly because your gut microbiome is very similar to a muscle in the sense that you wouldn't go to the gym and immediately start lifting a hundred pound weights," she says.

"You shouldn't go into your diet and immediately start eating a hundred grams of fiber. If you've only been eating five grams of fiber a day, start slow. Build up your plant foods, build up your gut microbiome until it's strong enough to handle all of those amazing plant foods. And I promise your life and your health will never be the same." Collingwood absolutely agrees with plant diversity "and the research on 30 different plants per week is a good place to start.," she says.

"It is surprisingly easy to get 30 different plants when you count herbs and all fruits and veggies. And fiber helps to fill you up but it also does wonders for the gut microbiome as well." She recommends increasing it slowly if you are not eating very much. "Women aim for about 25 grams per day and men about 38 grams minimum per day."

3. She Mixes Up Her Workouts

@consciouslykay Healthy habits that changed my life as a holistic nutritionist – part 3! Exercise doesn't have to be doing to the gym and running marathons, it can be whatever you want to do that feels good and is enjoyable! If you love hiking, DO IT. Biking? Swimming? Playing a sport? Yoga? AMAZING. Moving your body in any way is the perfect first step to changing your life! #healthyhabitsthatchangedmylife #lifechanginghabits #exerciseroutine #exerciseforyourmentalhealth #runningtiktok #hikingtiktok #yogaisforeverybody #pilatesisforeverybody #holisticnutritionist #strengthtrainingadvice #moveyourbody ♬ original sound – Kayla Varney

In Part 3, she reveals another game-changer, "exercising in whatever way I want to that day," she says. "I used to get so stuck in this cycle of needing a workout routine, which of course if you do something like strength training, it's important to split up your muscle groups, you're getting proper rest. But that's not something that I personally do, and I have found so much freedom in doing all different kinds of exercises all week long. So maybe one day I'll wake up and I feel like going for a run, and then the next day I wake up and I feel like doing more resistance training or something like the Form app. And then the day after that, I want to lift heavy legs. And then the day after that, I want to go for a walk. It's so okay to do all different kinds of exercise," she continues.

"Varying your exercise is great for the body so it doesn't get used to the same thing every day," agrees Collingwood, who recommends a blend of resistance training and aerobic throughout the week "to build muscle and continue to burn calories as well as work on cardiovascular fitness," she says. "Always find something you enjoy doing. Use apps for guidance, meet friends for walks/runs/bike rides, and try different classes at the gym or on various apps to get variety and keep it fun."

4. She Drinks Her Greens

@consciouslykay Drink (and eat) yo greeeeens 🥬 #healthyhabitsdaily #holisticnutrionist #greenspowders #eatyourgreens🌱 #drinkyourgreens #guthealthtips ♬ original sound – Kayla Varney

In Part 4, she stresses the importance of "drinking her greens. I've said this a million times on here, drinking your greens is not a replacement for eating your fruits and vegetables every day. And green powders are definitely not a miracle cure to anything. However, I also totally have those days where I'm just not in the mood to eat vegetables. I know I'm not getting all of my nutrients in. I'm not drinking enough water. Greens powders totally help with all of those things. Not only do they force me to drink a whole glass of water, they're also packed full of those vitamins and minerals that I might be missing out on that day," she says.

"My favorite greens powders all have anywhere from one to five servings of fruits and vegetables to a super convenient way to stay on top of your nutrition and your hydration. And they also can be amazing for gut health. They're not going to magically heal the underlying cause of your bloating."

Greens powders "can be an excellent way to get a powdered form of veggies, probiotic, and multivitamin all in one," agrees Collingwood. "Read labels to see the ingredients they contain as they vary greatly from brand to brand." However, she warns against relying on greens powder to get all of your veggies or nutrients for the day. "And if you can't stand the taste of them, no worries! Just eat your veggies and fruit, probiotic rich foods, and you'll be just fine," she says. 

Related: 7 Ways to Save Money at Costco on Healthy Food

5. She Doesn't Stick to a Diet Label

@consciouslykay Let's leave diet labels in the past 👏🏼 here's to intuitive eating, balance, and not keeping ourselves in a box 🤍 #healthyhabitsdaily #healthyhabits #healthyhabitsthatchangedmylife #nodietlife #exvegan #exvegetarian #intuitiveeatingjourney #balancedlifestyle ♬ original sound – Kayla Varney

And last but not least, in Part 5 she stresses the importance of not sticking to a diet label. "For those of you that don't know, I was vegan for eight years, vegetarian for 10, and while I do not regret that time in my life at all, it completely shaped me into who I am today. Transitioning into a diet label free lifestyle has completely changed my life," she says, explaining that because she had a diet label she was obsessed with thinking about food and wondering if she could eat certain things or not.

"Just because I follow a vegan diet doesn't mean I'm not allowed to eat anything. I could go eat some cheese pizza right now if I wanted to. Being in those situations, on top of putting myself out there online, I felt like I was constantly being put in this little box, and the idea of food freedom was just so far from my mind. It just didn't exist. And now giving myself the freedom to eat whatever I want, whether it's healthy for me or not, just because it sounds good has been such a game changer," she continues.

"Our society is so obsessed with labeling things, particularly diet labels, and it drives me insane. I feel like it hinders our health and wellness progress far more than it helps. One of my biggest tips to you if you're on your health and wellness journey is do not feel confined to a box. Do not feel like you need to label your diet and label yourself. We are all unique individuals with unique individual needs, so let yourself live intuitively and find what works for you. I promise it will change your life."

Finding what works for you and makes you feel best can take some trial and error, says Collingwood. "You can reduce animal protein intake and substitute with plant protein for a few weeks or months and see how you feel," she explains. "If you still want to have a little animal protein, have it! No need to say you are a vegetarian or vegan. You can eat a certain way 'most' of the time but still have something off that 'label' if you want without feeling guilty about it."  

💪🔥Body Booster: Challenge yourself by seeing how many different types of plants you can eat in a week. 

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more
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