We have all had those glorious moments of perfect clarity, dreaming up exactly how and when we would lose those last 5 kg, show off toned abs, or get fit enough to climb all 10 flights of stairs to the apartment without coughing up a lung. I don’t know about you, but my motivation usually trails off within the first week. Why does this always happen? From personal experience I know part of what prevents me from accomplishing my goals is continuously thinking that I’m too busy or too stressed to take the steps necessary to get to the place I want to be. I get home from work and don’t have much motivation because I’m tired or I don’t feel like there is enough time left in the day to make any significant progress towards my goal. In reality taking those few extra minutes to prepare a good, healthy meal, going out for a quick walk or jog, or even doing a few sit-ups before getting in the shower would make a big difference, especially when done on a daily basis. Accomplishing real change boils down to series of small decisions. Overcoming this kind of thinking and maintaining a positive attitude is half the battle of living a fit and healthy lifestyle.
Set your goal! Give this some thought, and come up with a specific and clear goal you would like to accomplish within a certain amount of time. Make sure your expectations are reasonable and that you give yourself enough time to achieve them — don’t think that you can lose (and keep off) 10 kg in two weeks, or that you will be able to run a marathon after jogging around the local park a couple of times. Once you have determined your feasible goal, write it down, and keep it in a visible place, so that you can be reminded and encouraged by it every day.
Plan it out! If you are trying to make some changes in your diet, come up with a strategy. Don’t starve yourself, or deny yourself all the things you enjoy preparing or eating. Salads are a great way to get plenty of vitamins and fibers, but don’t restrict your diet to one thing (or five things) because you will get sick of that in no time and it’ll be right back to old routines and worse, feeling guilty about failing to stick to your goals.
Variety is key! If you enjoy salads, learn different ways to spice up your old routine and create different kinds of fun, delicious, and filling salads. A better idea than an impossible all-salad plan is to make a list of foods that are weighing you down. Decreasing your intake of breads and pastas (especially those made with white flour), foods high in sugar and starch (like corn and potatoes), and processed or packaged foods (don’t fall for that “low fat”, “sugar free” nonsense) is a great way to ease yourself into a healthier diet. The key is to make smaller changes that you can deal with on a regular basis, step by step, instead of drastically changing your diet to something you cannot handle and torturing yourself until you give up by deciding this is not for you.
Exercise and rest! When you exercise make sure you work hard, but overworking your body without sufficient rest and replenishment can cause you to burn out very quickly. Don’t think “exercise” is limited to trips to the gym for long runs on treadmills or aerobic’s courses. If you hate going to the gym, don’t go! You can go for long, brisk walks, or jog in a local park or forest trail. You can go hiking or swimming, or you can start attending an exciting dancing class. Do something that you will enjoy, turn it into a hobby and you won’t mind working hard. Once you start noticing improvement, you will find your progress is not restricted to your physical fitness alone, but your sense of accomplishment as well. It is important that you pay attention to your body and take your time, but keep on going– especially if you want progress that lasts.
Whether your goal is to alter bad eating habits or to get more exercise, make it fun. Get support, involve others. Share your new ideas and goals with family and friends. They might want to try out new recipes, exercise with you, or have new, interesting ways to move you towards your goal. Such contributions are great sources of support on days when you feel particularly groggy or unmotivated. There are also tremendous amounts of different communities and groups available online who can provide you with support and fresh suggestions, helping you reach your goals.
Reward yourself! The satisfaction of achieving your goal is very rewarding in and of itself, but assigning yourself little treats along the way helps you work towards individual little milestones towards your goal. Reward yourself with useful, inspiring things! Don’t fall into the trap of rewarding healthy eating habits with junk food or a day off from working out– do something constructive instead. Buy something flattering that shows off your progress, or some work-out gear to improve your performance. You don’t even have to spend money, you can enjoy relaxing spa-like treatments in the comfort of your own home. Give yourself a facial, change something about your hair, get your nails done, or ask your significant other for a soothing massage. Still, the best reward of all will be to experience and see your progress day by day!
- Get enough sleep. If you are tired you will be more likely to make worse decisions about what you eat and whether or not you want to exercise. And don’t forget: regular exercise helps you sleep better!
- Portion sizes: pay attention to the amount of food you are eating. Just because something is healthy does not mean you have to eat too much of it!
- Keep a food journal: if you feel like your food decisions are out of control, start writing down everything that you are eating. If you keep to it honestly, you may find bad choices and patterns which you can work to change. Recording your daily calories will help you establish if your diet or exercise is to blame for not hitting goals.
- Accomplished what you wanted? Set new goals, always keep improving, and relish your progress!
For more tips on living a healthier lifestyle and access to helpful resources, please contact the FirstMed Dietician.