Health and fitness has become such an unnecessarily complicated subject.
I believe a lot of people are stuck and not taking actions towards a healthier life because of information overload.
There is so much advice out there and when some of it is also conflicting, it’s hard to figure out with path to follow.
Magazines, internet, tv – they’re all filled with recommendations, eating and exercising plans, the ”right” and “wrong” way to do it. No wonder some people find it easier to stay put and do nothing, because:
A- They don’t know where to start
B- They think that if they don’t do everything ‘right’ there’s no point,
C- They have tried a diet, lost some weight but gained it all back again
Well, fret not, I’m here to help.
Most of the diet plans or exercise plans out there work. That’s not the problem. The problem is that they aren’t sustainable or adaptable to our life and therefore we fail at following them, making us thing that we’re the problem. Or we follow a plan, loose weight but also mess up our metabolism along the way, which makes it harder to keep that new weight. Or, we follow a plan, challenge, juice detox, what ever it might be, but once the plan is up, day 30 is done, we go back to our old habits.
But here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be complicated.
I just think a lot of people have lost sight of what a normal diet is and how your body is meant to move.
You don’t have to buy expensive meal replacements or Supplement X to loose weight. You don’t have to embark on an intense exercise regimen 7 days a week.
You don’t have to go ‘all in’ and do everything “right”.
And why the rush? It took you years to create the less healthy habits your in right now, and probably years for the weight to creep up. So what makes you think it’s possible to change all that in just 30 days?
If you are new to health and fitness and simply just want to feel a bit better, maybe loose a bit of body fat and have more energy, please don’t think you have to go all in and overhaul your whole life. You can of course, if you’d like, but it’s not the only way.
Chances are, you are already doing a few things ‘right’.
Maybe you’re already taking your bike to work, or eating a substantial breakfast every day.
Health and fitness should enhance your life and make it better, not burden and exhaust you. Ok, it might not be easy every day, but in general, you should create routines and habits that benefit you and make you feel better.
You do not have to follow a diet plan, buy expensive supplements or embark on a 30 day (or 60 or 90) diet or exercise challenge. You do not have to live at the gym, cut out carbs or go on a juice detox to be healthy. That is not what a healthy lifestyle means. In fact, I’d argue that none of the above makes you healthy.
You need to find a way of living a healthier life as well as enjoying it. How fun is it to live of shakes and diet food? To say ‘No’ to your nephews birthday cake because you’re on a ‘diet’? If you don’t like cake sure, by all means, don’t eat it. But if you are constantly depriving yourself, sooner of later you will have a backlash. Maybe not today, but by Saturday, or next week or month. It will come. And surely you do not want to live just for the weekend because thats when you “can” eat cake or have a drink? I talk about all this here.
Same thing with moving and exercise. Again, you do not have to go ‘all-in’. It might be tempting to embark on a fitness journey and it feels so great; you are all high on endorphines and you want to keep the good feelings going. So if some of exercise is good, more must be better, right?
Many make the mistake of doing to much at once. They either:
A. Get injured or ill and the whole plan is derailed
B. Start missing workout days because of work, family, friends, and well…life
C. Feel stressed because their new regimen takes up too much time and stop completely because they think there’s no point if they can’t stick to the programme exactly as written.
So where do you start?
I know it is hard, but if you want to make a permanent change you need to start small.
Do something every day that makes you feel good, but make sure you allow for life to fit in to your every day. Like I said, exercise and nutrition should enhance your life, not make it harder.
Don’t dive in at the deep end with your biggest struggles. Start with the easier ones. The ones that don’t take to much effort to change in to a better habit. Or break down your ‘big’ struggles to smaller steps. Then work on them one step at the time. You want to get some ‘wins’ under your belt. Once you’ve established that one in to a habit, move on to the next.
Change a few things, maybe 2-3 and see how that makes you feel and if it is sustainable.
You need to create good, healthy habits. Habits are everything.
Habits makes you less reliant on willpower.
There are plenty of books out there about habits, but I would recommend Better Than Before. By Gretchen Rubin.
In it she also developed a tendency framework and there’s a quiz you can take to figure out which of the four tendencies you belong to. This is a tool to help you understand yourself better and to help on your journey to develop (healthy) habits. Utterly brilliant in my opinion. And fun!
To live a healthier life you need to find a balance in the following five areas. You will need to work on incorporate healthier habits, maybe not all at once, but eventually you should find a balance. You can not neglect one area, or simply focus on one, there need to be a balance.
* Nutrition. You need healthy food that will both give you nourishment and satisfaction. A few basic guidelines are to eat mostly whole, unprocessed food. Plenty of vegetables, and some fruit. Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks. Your body need all the macro nutrients: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates. Do not cut out any of them, but again, avoid the processed stuff. And if I am to guess, you probably lack protein. A good place to start is to make sure you incorporate protein with every meal (meat, fish, dairy, egg, pulses). I talk about my own journey to eating moderately and mindfully here.
* Sleep. How much sleep you need, I can not say, its very individual. Guidelines say between 7-9h of good quality sleep per night. Sleep deprivation can mess with your hormones and studies have linked lack of sleep to weight gain. If you know you don’t sleep enough, try to go to bed a bit earlier tonight. Sleep is vital!
* Stress. Stress management is a very important to a healthy life and a healthy weight. Make sure you fit self care in your life.
* Movement. Your body is designed to move. Every day. Everyday movement is more important than your twice a week gym sessions. If you have a desk job, try setting an alarm every hour or two to remind yourself to get up and move. Try to incorporate a daily walk, maybe at lunch, or try gardening, or dance around in the living room, or do some yoga before bed. Try to think of different ways to move every day.
* Exercise. Of course I love this one. A lot of people think of exercise with dread. But it doesn’t have to be, it really can be fun! Resistance training have a bunch of benefits, and I for one could not live without throwing something heavy around a few times a week. But you don’t have to join a gym or lift weights, body weight training in your own living room works just fine.
As for cardio, try to get your heart rate up and get sweaty a couple of times a week. Do something you like. If you don’t like running (for some reason that usually pops in to peoples heads when they think of exercise) Don’t! Do something you like: Cycle, zumba, swimming, jump rope, a class at the gym. What ever you like. The options are endless. My favourite is to simply lift weights faster!
You don’t need to be perfect in every area, every day, that’s simply not possible. You just do the best you can in the situation you’re in. And work on your habits.
Habits. I can not say that word enough.
So again, don’t try to do all of the above at once. Start slow and gradually build up habits.
Maybe your already pretty active, but you know you could improve on your sleep. Then start there. Focus on your sleep, nothing else. But to think that you will sleep 8 hours a night right away might be a bit ambitious. Think smaller. Maybe aim to go to bed at 10pm three nights this week. Next week it might be four.
Or you might exercise but you know you need to improve your diet. Start there. Again, no overhaul, just try to include 5 fruit and veg today. Or bring a packed lunch from home instead of going out for lunch four days this week.
Or maybe you generally eat well but you struggle to cut down on your biscuit consumption. Maybe set a goal to only eat a biscuit or two after a meal? Once you’ve nailed that, you can aim to only eating them after one meal per day. Baby steps. Don’t cut the biscuits out completely, because they will come back with a vengeance.
To be healthy you need to think long term, as in forever. Not the next 30 days, or just get down to a certain weight. You should find a way of living that enhances your life and health in a sustainable and still enjoyable way. If biscuits is something you need to enjoy your life, by all means, include them!
Remember, something is always better than nothing. Strive to make the best choices you can in the situation you’re in.
Note: I am not a doctor, and all the advice above are given as general recommendations for the general population. If you struggle with specific issues, please check with your doctor before making any changes.