5 Things I Started Doing Differently Once I Became a Health Editor

Including easy healthy lifestyle changes anyone can try.

Photograph by Caroline Cunningham.

I’ve always been interested in healthy eating and exercise. I have not always been a health editor, however. When people ask how I got into writing about health, I like to tell them that my mother is a registered dietitian, my father works in hospital supply chain, my sister is a doctor, and my other sister is a neonatal nurse. It was pretty much inevitable my writing would one day turn to health.

When it did, I naturally began paying even closer attention to the endless studies and new health information available. I’m constantly reading the latest research and on the phone and emailing back and forth with health experts — doctors, nutritionists, trainers, you name it — telling me the best way to live well right now.

And while I’ve never seen myself as a particularly unhealthy person, having so many resources and so much information right in front of my face all the time has helped to reshape some of my habits. Here are five of the things I started doing differently once I became a health editor.

Lifting Weights

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it now, but for a long time the heaviest weight I’d lifted was a ten-pound dumbbell. My exercise plan was primarily made up of running outdoors, with some at-home HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts mixed in. It wasn’t until trainers and research really forced me to realize that everybody needs to do strength training, that I started going to the gym just to lift weights.

When I started, lifting 15-pound dumbbells over my head was challenging. Now, I lift 25-pound dumbbells, and I’m working to build up from there. Rather than making me “bulky” as some might worry, strength training has given my weakling arms more definition than they’ve ever had.

Using Retinoids

If there’s one thing paying attention to science news has taught me, it’s this: It changes all the time. One day they’re saying coconut oil will save us all, the next day it’s killing us. So when it comes to slathering the latest anti-wrinkle whatever on my face, I’m just a little skeptical.

Nonetheless, it seems the one skincare ingredient that’s stood the test of time is retinoids. It’s the one thing it seems any dermatologist will tell you can actually help keep your skin looking youthful. There’s a million products that use retinoids, and some of them can get pretty pricey. But since I’m cheap, I go for the inexpensive ones. I use The Ordinary’s $10 retinoid serum at night, and smear Glossier’s $22 Priming Moisturizer (which has retinyl palmitate listed in the ingredients) under my eyes every morning. I’ll let you know when I’m 50 if they worked.

Working Out Twice a Day

I used to think that exercise was an all-or-nothing effort. If I could only get in 30 minutes in the morning, then that was that for the day. But after trainers gave me permission to think about my daily exercise as cumulative, I realized that while finding a full hour of time every day seemed impossible, finding 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening was way easier.

This is by no means something I do every day, but it has opened the door for more time spent exercising. With this new mindset, I could go for a 30-minute run in the morning before work, then hit the gym for strength training at night, getting in 60-minutes a day — something that rarely happened before.

Not Caring About My Weight

There was a time when I used to weigh myself nearly every day, feeling a sinking disappointment every time the scale changed by two or three pounds. Nowadays, I understand that weight fluctuation is a part of life. More importantly, I now care far more about my body composition — the amount of my body that is made up of fat versus muscle — than my weight.

These days, as long as I’m in a healthy weight range, I’d far rather lose two percent body fat than lost five pounds, because then I know I’m gaining muscle, getting stronger, and improving my metabolism, which is what’s going to help me regulate my weight in the long run.

Wearing Sunscreen

Yes, yes, this is something I already did when I was headed to the pool or beach. But now I wear more. And I wear it (almost) every day — even on days I don’t plan on spending much time outdoors. Much like the retinoids, I’ve upped my sunscreen wearing habits because it seems to be the one thing every single dermatologist agrees on: wear it, and wear it often.

I can’t stand greasy lotions, but my BareMinerals foundation and finishing powder both come with sunscreen built-in. I also now add another layer to this with SPF 30 Brush on Block ($32). It’s no-mess, grease-free, and it’ll keep me wrinkle-free forever — or at the very least, lower my risk of skin cancer.

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