The Power Of ONE: How a Decade of Healthier Habits Transformed My Life

posted by Andrea | 01/13/2020

the power of one healthier habit

For the last several years, I’ve decided on 1 or 2 “Healthier Habits” to develop over the course of that calendar year (with the intention of continuing each new habit for the foreseeable future). 

It’s exciting for me to choose my healthier habit each year because eating and living healthier usually feels very overwhelming to me.

It doesn’t come naturally to me like cleaning and decluttering does… and it’s not anything I particularly enjoy, not like a good organizing project! 

When it comes to healthifying my life, the only thing that works for me is to START SMALL, make ONE change at a time, and continually work at it until it becomes a true habit (something I do without even thinking about it).

Hmmm… that advice sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it!! 🙂

I also love looking back at previous years’ Healthier Habits and realizing just how far I’ve come over the past decade — all making ONE SMALL change at a time.  

homemade cinnamon rolls and vegetable quiche

goats milk soap

Why Do I Start My New Habits in January?

Here’s a secret… it’s NOT because these habits are my “New Year’s Resolutions”! 

While I certainly do NOT think healthier habits (or any goals) should be reserved for the beginning of a New Year, I have personally found that this time period works really well for me because I have more “downtime” during this part of the year… meaning I have more time to focus on learning, trying, and doing something new. 

I don’t have yard work or fun outside activities vying for my attention, all the holiday “extras” are done and over, Dave and the older kids are back to school, and I always seem to have a break in the requests of my time from church, school, etc. from the middle of January through the end of February. 

Change is hard for me! 

Who can relate!?!

I need to focus on making conscious efforts to change my behavior in order for my habits to really stick, so over the last decade, I’ve utilized the 6 weeks from Mid-January through the end of February to jump-start my new healthier habit. 

Of course, I continue pursuing and honing the healthier habits all year long (and into the foreseeable future) but those first 6 weeks are crucial to my success because THAT’S when I form the new habit (and get rid of old habits). 

But Why Only ONE New Habit A Year?

That’s just what I’ve found works best for me!

As I mentioned above — change is hard and not something I enjoy. Too much change at once and I’m ready to throw in the towel before I even get started. 

One change (sometimes 2) at a time just seems to work for me. The changes stick better, the habits form more easily, and my new routine develops more naturally than when I try to force too many changes at once. 

simplify your life

If I could drill one Simple Living Message into your brain, it would be THE POWER OF ONE! 

  • one small change
  • one new habit
  • one better choice
  • one task crossed off your list
  • one decluttered drawer
  • one organized shelf
  • one pile of papers to shred or recycle
  • one bag of trash
  • one box of donations to bring away
  • one dollar put into savings
  • one chunk of time spent doing something you love
  • one page in your book (seriously, this is how I read at times!)
  • one earlier morning
  • one more dollar saved
  • one pound lost

My list could continue for miles!

I know it doesn’t seem like much in the beginning (seriously, I really do understand) BUT over time, the power of ONE has the potential to completely transform your entire home and life. 

If you don’t believe me, just look at where a decade of Small, Simple, Healthier Habits has brought me! 

the power of one healthier habit

I want to note that I actually got a fair amount of criticism and “you’ve got to be kidding me” type of comments from readers who thought my yearly healthier habits were too easy, too small, too insignificant. 

But I stuck with it… and while I know there’s always more I could do (and will continue doing) to live and enjoy a healthier lifestyle, it truly is amazing to look back over the past 10 years and see that the power of ONE small healthier habit has made such a massive impact on my life! 

2011 Healthier Habit = Get More Sleep

Proper sleep health has always been important to me as it has such a huge effect on every aspect of my life — but this was the year I really pushed hard to be in bed on time instead of always doing “one more thing”.

Ironically, it was also the year we had our first baby (the baby who NEVER slept!)

Dave and I both did really well getting to bed on time (and waking up on time) until the last month of the year when baby Nora kept us both up for the majority of December (and the next 3 years — LOL!)

9 years and 4 children later, we are back to a much happier and healthier sleep routine again… and it feels good! 

This is most definitely a healthier habit I will take with me throughout my life — and one I hope my children will carry with them as well! 

farmhouse bedroom with iron bed

.
2012 Healthier Habit = Drink More Water

While I’m far from a health or nutrition expert, I have realized (through my own personal experience, and now doing quite a bit of research) that drinking enough water each day is one of THE SIMPLEST THINGS we can all do to improve our overall health and wellbeing.

Water is free (or at least very frugal), it’s readily available pretty much everywhere, and consuming enough of it can have profound effects on our skin, nails, hair, sleep patterns, weight management, digestion, muscle tone, mental well-being, and more! 

I try to drink at least 100 ounces of water every single day — and while this might seem like a lot, it’s now a habit for me and my body has “regulated” to drinking this much water (I promise, I’m not in the bathroom all day long!)

adult and child water bottles

.
2013 Healthier Habit = Use Butter Instead of Margarine

This change seems like a lifetime ago — but I remember how challenging it was for me at the time. 

I grew up on margarine and the cost difference between margarine and butter is BIG (especially for how much butter our family goes through each week!)

Now, 7  years later, I no longer buy or use margarine, Crisco, or vegetable oil. Instead, I substitute butter, coconut oil, olive oil, or even applesauce in all my recipes.

NOTE: I know many of my old recipes on the blog still call for “butter or margarine” and “vegetable oil” but I just haven’t made the time to go back and update them all — it’s on my long list of “Things To Do Eventually” though!

butter wrappers

.
2014 Healthier Habit = Switch to Full-Fat Dairy Products (no post for this one)

This switch was relatively easy for me once I found my “sources”. Aldi now caries whole milk Greek and regular plain yogurt, as well as whole milk, full-fat cottage cheese, and cream cheese. We also have a health food store just about a mile from our house — it’s expensive but has excellent options for full-fat dairy.

I will say that while I’m happy we made the switch to full-fat dairy, this is one habit I don’t stress too much about. If I can’t find whole milk products, I’ll just by 2% or less if we’re really in a pinch. 

I would really like to get back to making my own yogurt, but we eat it so quickly that the time it takes to keep it in the fridge is more than I’m willing to spend right now — especially with high-quality store-bought options.

yogurt with fruit

.
2015 Healthier Habit = Buy Higher Quality Bread and Eat “Healthier Fats”

This was the year we officially switched from white bread to buying whole-wheat or whole-grain bread from the store. Of course, now I make much of our own whole-grain bread from scratch (see my 2019 healthier habit below) — but this was a great starting point for me and for my family. 

Also, after switching to butter 2 years before, this was the year I made the switch from vegetable oil to olive oil and coconut oil.

I also started integrating healthier fats into our everyday lives — eating lots of avocados in guacamole, pudding, and smoothies; including lots more nuts and seeds into our daily snacks and recipes, and we got our kids to eat salmon (well 75% of them will eat salmon!)

homemade guacamole

.
2016 Healthier Habit = Eat Less Processed Meats

After Dave’s parents gifted us with a 1/4 of a cow for Christmas in 2015, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to remove many processed meats from our home. 

Truthfully, I still buy all-beef hotdogs on occasion, and the kids absolutely LOVE all-beef summer sausage and this breakfast sausage from Costco, but for the most part, I am fairly diligent with buying and preparing high-quality beef, pork, chicken, and fish on a very regular basis.

Obviously, the fact that we are gifted A LOT of beef from Dave’s parents helps to minimize our costs, but we plan to continue purchasing meat in bulk even if they stop gifting it to us! 🙂

I get lots of questions about how well our kids eat meat — honestly, I think all of my kids would say that “meat and potato” meals are their favorites. They do love a variety of casseroles, but they are huge fans of meat-potato-veggie meals. 

healthier habit of eating beef from grass fed cows

.
2017 Healthier Habit = Use Real Maple Syrup and Start Flossing Every Day

Dave and I both grew up with imitation syrups — and honestly, I think there are worse things to consume so it never really bothered me all that much. However, I decided that 2017 would be our year to switch to real maple syrup. 

It was hard… not only did the kids complain about the taste difference, but the “Real Deal” is SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE than the imitation stuff! 

We utilized one sneaky trick to help our children transition to Maple Syrup… it worked like a charm! Now our entire family happily consumes real Maple Syrup with our whole grain pancakes… and to be honest, we sometimes skip the syrup altogether and just opt for fruit on our pancakes! 

Also, if you’re looking for a good deal on Maple Syrup, we buy the Kirkland’s brand from Costco (it’s delicious and the best price per ounce I’ve found anywhere).

In 2017, I set a 2nd healthier habit of flossing every day. I have definitely skipped a few days — but considering I almost never flossed for the first 31 years of my life, I’ve been doing pretty well these last 3 years!

real maple syrup as a healthier habit

.
2018 Healthier Habit = Pack Low-Waste Lunches and Eat TONS of Veggies

We use Planet Boxes and Bags to pack lunches every school day — and we always bring reusable water bottles wherever we go. 

The Planet Boxes were a bit of an investment up-front (I actually purchased them in 2017), but we’ve been using and loving the Planet Boxes for 3 school years already and they still look brand new. 

Regarding the veggies… as many of you know, our family now eats SO many veggies each and every day! We eat veggies for breakfast, we eat them for snacks, we eat them roasted, and I always have a large assortment of vegetables prepped and ready to go in the fridge at all times. 

As I incorporated more veggies and fresh produce into our meals, I naturally began cooking more from scratch — which morphed into using very few process foods. I truly have nothing against processed foods and we still eat them on occasion, but I’ve really come to enjoy cooking from scratch and figuring out ways to make things myself instead of buying them. 

healthier habit of eating more raw and roasted vegetables

NOTE: this was also the year I committed to losing ALL my baby weight for good! Read more about how I lost 60 pounds in 60 weeks in this post

how I lost 60 pounds in 60 weeks

.
2019 Healthier Habit = Grind My Own Grain (and eat a wide variety of whole-grains every day)

This habit has been a true labor of love — it honestly IS a “habit” now. I slide my grain mill out almost every single day, without a second thought, any time I need flour or other grains for cooking, baking, and more.

Along with hard and soft White and Red Wheat, I grind, roast, steam, and boil Spelt, Einkorn, Kamut, Barley, Buckwheat, Amaranth, Millet, Farro, Oats, Quinoa, and more on a near-daily basis. 

Cooking, eating, and ENJOYING whole grains with my family has become a passion of mine — and while my journey to find the perfect loaf of 100% whole grain bread nearly killed me (OK, not really, but it was a long road) I can honestly say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about, experimenting with, and tasting such a huge variety of grains. 

My children have enjoyed the process too — regularly asking questions about grains and learning right along with me. 

I know I haven’t shared as much as I could about my whole-grain journey on the blog (just a handful of my favorite whole-grain recipes) but that’s because I’m not sure it really “fits” here on my simple-living blog. I will continue to evaluate this as the months go by. 

whole grain breads and cinnamon rolls

my grain mill with jars of grain

.

The power of ONE is truly amazing and transformative! 

Don’t let yourself feel defeated or lose hope that you aren’t making big massive life-altering changes.

Just pick something small and start implementing it today… and then work on it again tomorrow. 

What new habit will you work towards this year?

NOTE: Check back later this week to read about my new 2020 Healthier Habit! 🙂

the power of one healthier habit

Filed under: LifeFamilyHealthGoals

Leave a comment

42 comments

  1. Chris

    02/05/2020

    A few things I’ve done in the last year are to use Himalayan pink salt and no aluminum baking powder. However, both grocery chains in my town look like they no longer carry the baking powder. I also found a marked down refrigerated salad dressing at Kroger in the produce section that is made with yogurt. I think it has less or no soy oil, so I like that. I also do intermittent fasting and eat less meals per week. (This also saves money, but that’s not the reason I do it). 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is all great — thanks for sharing what works for you (especially since they are so different than my habits). Lots of good ideas to consider!

    [Reply]

  2. Dianne Medeiros

    01/17/2020

    I’ve been following your blog since before Nora… Reading your post was like going down memory lane for me, too, lol. I was especially excited to see your goal last year and understood/understand why you didn’t post much about it while going through the process (although I was selfishly hoping that you would). However, since it has become a habit and part of your daily simplified life and now that you’ve “simplified the baking with whole grain process” it seems like it would be a perfect fit for your blog!! If that makes sense. By sharing you could simplify the learning process for your readers by having one resource (ie, a blog post) with all the information in one place. It would be helpful to even know where to start. Maybe a series of 3 posts. For example, as a beginner what to make first…. and what grains to use. Then a Second/Intermediate post… more grains & bread that might be slightly more challenging to make. Then possibly a final post that’s a little more in-depth and more “special” types vs everyday grains. People may think that they have no interest in this topic, but like to read your blog – just might decide to give it a try 🙂 Of course, I’m biased but since you have a talent/natural ability for simplifying things – maybe more people would be interested in the process IF they had someone help simplify it for them and walk them ONE step at a time through the process. It seems like a perfect fit!! (I believe that you also mentioned that you are stubborn, lol – but please don’t assume that other people will think that this topic “doesn’t” fit the spirit of your blog. I am asking you to please consider sharing your knowledge – I don’t think anyone will stop reading your blog or be offended if you share a few posts on grinding & baking with whole grains perhaps you may broaden your audience a little. Thanks for taking the time to read this 🙂 Dianne

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Dianne!
    I love that you are interested in more grain information. Honestly, I have SOOOOOO much I could share, I’ve thought about eventually starting a 2nd blog — but I know I don’t have the time or energy for that right now 🙂

    You can read all my whole grain posts here — and I will periodically add more simple recipes too!

    [Reply]

  3. Amy

    01/15/2020

    This is exactly how I became a more active person. I told myself I had to do SOMETHING active three days a week. It could be a workout video for ten minutes, a whole video workout, some crunches and pushups, walk around the block, ANYTHING! But I had to do it three days a week. It seemed like so little most days. But I stuck with my little bits of activity. It morphed into me trying a yoga class, then jogging for a while! Now I walk with my baby in a stroller most days a week. When he gets older I plan to get back into yoga and running again because…..I really enjoy being active now! Prior to all this I used to hate exercise. I’d join a gym and do the elliptical and weights really good for a couple of months then I’d quit and do nothing for a year. I hated every minute of it. I just had to find things I did enjoy and then start small. It feels so good to be active and I physically feel so much better now.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    thank you for sharing — this is very encouraging for me to read! I am NOT an active person and would like to work on that in the next couple of years. Maybe I should start by trying to do SOMETHING 2 days a week — that seems reasonable and doable for me!

    [Reply]

  4. Janice

    01/14/2020

    Girl, you always inspire me with your common sense practical ideas! Of course you’re right about the “power of one”! The Bible even states the “one” idea in several places. I like Philippians 3:13 “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this ONE thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Is that inspiration or what?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Janice! Great Bible reference too!

    [Reply]

  5. Amanda

    01/14/2020

    This is a great plan! I totally agree it’s easier to change to a healthier lifestyle 1 step at a time. I never thought of making it a goal for the year like you did, but this really inspires me! We made radical changes in our diet for a while but it was too much at 1 time and most of it was dropped after a while! I do remember setting a goal when I turned 19 to not drink any pop for a year. Before that, I drank an average of several a week. My good friend laughed at me. She thought it was such a little thing, but I’m still thankful today that I did that! I never cared much for pop after that year! I want to try your plan and work to make a few changes every year! Thanks for the tips! Look forward to hearing your new goal! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, smaller changes over time are much more doable!
    Funny story — I actually went a full year without pop when I was 19 too! My college roommates didn’t think I could do it, but I proved them all wrong. To this day, I still drink very little pop at all (an occasional Dr. Pepper is it for me!)

    [Reply]

    Amanda Reply:

    That’s so cool! I like how you think. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Amanda Reply:

    That’s so cool, I like how you think! 🙂

    [Reply]

  6. Kelly

    01/14/2020

    I was actually telling my husband tonight, about the amount of vegetables and fruits your family eats and how you serve them. This is the reason why: I Skyped my mum while my toddler was eating his lunch today and she thought what I had on his plate was weird!!! Yoghurt, banana slices strawberries and sugar snap peas. He ate the lot!!! Thanks for the idea!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    my kids would have loved that lunch (especially James — he’s obsessed with sugar snap peas!)
    Good for you (and your son!)

    [Reply]

  7. Chris

    01/13/2020

    My guess on your 2020 goal – you bought a milk cow! Just kidding!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — no! BUT, interestingly enough, it DOES have something to do with milk 🙂

    [Reply]

    Chris Reply:

    Homemade yogurt!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    not quite!

    [Reply]

  8. Pascale

    01/13/2020

    Thank you for sharing this comment: “It doesn’t come naturally to me like cleaning and decluttering does… and it’s not anything I particularly enjoy, not like a good organizing project!”

    Honestly, I thought it was a breeze for you. It encourages me because I’m the same way when it comes to fitness. Like you, I would much rather declutter, clean and organize than strengthen my muscles.

    On the topic of water, I find that drinking warm water is easier during the winter months.

    Thank you for taking the time to post every weekday. I admire your commitment especially after all these years. I look forward to reading more about your 2020 healthy habit.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    you’re welcome 🙂

    [Reply]

  9. Pascale

    01/13/2020

    Thank you for sharing this comment: “It doesn’t come naturally to me like cleaning and decluttering does… and it’s not anything I particularly enjoy, not like a good organizing project!”

    Honestly, I thought it was a breeze for you. It encourages me because I’m the same way when it comes to fitness. Like you, I would much rather declutter, clean and organize that strengthen my muscles.

    On the topic of water, I find that drinking warm water is easier during the winter months.

    Thank you for taking the time to post every weekday. I always look forward to reading your blogpost.

    [Reply]

  10. Ronnie

    01/13/2020

    Great post!! I always love reading about how you and your family live. It’s so refreshing and motivating!!

    Thank you for allowing us this glimpse into your life!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Ronnie! I really enjoy writing these types of posts too!

    [Reply]

  11. JJ

    01/13/2020

    Such awesome progress and results!!! Congratulations on long-term changes!!!

    A new habit goal is to have more movement. I don’t honestly like exercise or naturally gravitate toward activities that are active(unless you count cleaning as exercise ). However, many people in my family have had dementia, and as I get older(still in my 30’s but creeping close to 40) it freaks me out. So many studies are showing exercise and having proper vitamins and nutrients help prolong onset. I’ve also started taking B12 supplements to boost brain cells and help nerves/tingling. We have found fun PE type games on YouTube that a gym teacher does. My kids have loved the games. Their favorite was Turtle Tag. https://youtu.be/JZSI2sPTJhw. SO it isn’t full-fledge exercise yet, but it’s movement.

    We love whole house hide and seek, too! What family movement activities do you all enjoy? I’d love more ideas!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    so fun — thanks for sharing!

    [Reply]

  12. Jennifer

    01/13/2020

    I think your whole-grain story does fit with simple living. It’s because of your simple living that you had the time to devote to something that may not be “simple” in itself, but is important to you. Great post today, very encouraging… just one thing at a time rather than trying so many at once and failing.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Jennifer!
    And yes, you’re correct — without simplifying many other areas of my life, I most likely would not have been able to make the time to do the whole grain thing last year. It took SO much time and effort in the beginning. Of course, now it hardly takes any time at all — but there was a HUGE learning curve!

    [Reply]

  13. Kim

    01/13/2020

    I think making one small change at a time is an awesome idea. When I try to do too much at once I never stick with it. We have made many of the changes that you have and love it so maybe I’ll try a few more, one at a time.
    And for the ones that thought your changes were too simple…..there’s no such thing. Change is hard and sometimes overwhelming so even the simplest change for the better is a great accomplishment.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    exactly — start small and you’re much more likely to finish!

    [Reply]

  14. A

    01/13/2020

    Great post!!!

    But i am curious about the 2020 healthier habit?

    Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Melissa Reply:

    Me too! Let us know your 2020 goal.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — you’ll have to wait until Thursday 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — come back on Thursday and you’ll find out!

    [Reply]

  15. Becky

    01/13/2020

    Why doN’t you like low fat dairy?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    the low-fat versions usually have added sugar and sometimes extra ingredients to offset the lack of fat. Also, “full fat” dairy is not “fattening”. It’s not like eating straight cream! It’s usually 4% or 5% instead of 1% of 2% fat content.

    [Reply]

    Debby Reply:

    I also switched to full fat a few years ago when incorporating a cleaner eating lifestyle. I read that the process to de fat dairy is not good for you. Your food ends up being more processed than it needs to be. Just my two cents 🙂

    [Reply]

    Karen Reply:

    Also, with full fat dairy, the fat content lets your body absorb the calcium and Vitamin D in it. As well as other fat soluble vitamins you might be consuming at the same meal. You can not absorb those nutrients without the presence of fat.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes! Thanks for sharing that helpful information!

    [Reply]

    Melissa Reply:

    So do your children drink whole milk, use in their cereals, etc? I appreciate this information. Plus full fat cheese is the ONLY way to go. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    we never have cold cereal (we just don’t like it) so that’s never a “thing” for us… and believe it or not, our kids don’t drink milk! They pretty much just drink water (by their own request). We do use milk in oatmeal, smoothies, pudding, and all sorts of other recipes, but we very-rarely drink it plain.

    [Reply]

  16. Leanne

    01/13/2020

    We switched from non-stick cookware to cast iron 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, we made this switch a couple of years ago too!

    [Reply]