One Small Step at a Time – Exercise and Healthy Eating
Now that you’re in the mindset to get started, you’ve probably written out some big health goals you want to accomplish, but have you been realistic? Your goals should be clearly defined and be achievable. For example, can you really go to the gym five times a week? Or is it more likely that your schedule will only allow you to make it two days?
When you’re starting a new fitness routine, look at your schedule and lifestyle and remember even our best intentions can’t account for the kids getting sick or your boss asking you to work late. Be realistic about how much exercise you can actually do, and really how much you want to do.
It may be better to squeeze in two gym visits a week and two walks around the neighborhood in the morning or during your lunch break at work. Be really honest with yourself and remember you’re more likely to stick with your routine if it’s flexible and adaptable to your family life.
Don’t Make it Too Easy to Slack Off
By the same token you do want to make sure you’re getting enough exercise overall. If you have an active lifestyle already such as walking rather than using the car or have active hobbies like dancing, or a sports activity, you may not need that much extra. However, if you sit at an office desk all day then drive home and sit on the couch you will need to seriously increase your activity level.
In this case you may need up to four 30 minute sessions per week. Remember the little things add up theory. Don‘t think that because you don‘t have a 30 minute block of time you can‘t do it. Ten minutes here, ten minutes there and you‘re on the road to fitness, if, and it‘s a BIG IF, it‘s done consistently. Your approach to exercise shouldn’t be just about hitting the gym (unless you really enjoy it of course) but instead should be about having an active lifestyle overall. You may have heard these tips before and for good reason, they work.
Think active for everything you do. If you’re vacuuming the floors put a little extra effort in it. Turn a mundane chore like vacuuming into walking lunges. (Your thighs and backside will love you for it) Modern conveniences have made it much too easy for us to be inactive. Simply get out there and move your body. Whether you do five gym sessions or walk everywhere, it’s all about moving your body and burning calories through movement.
You Mean I Gotta Eat Healthy Too?
Yes sirree. The same thing goes for healthy eating; you don’t have to drastically change your eating habits in one fell swoop. Ask yourself if the modifications are something that’s really achievable for longer than one week.
If you set the bar too high and fail miserably within a few days, you’ll be disappointed and give up. So why not set the standard a little lower so you can actually reach those small goals.
Now if you’re the type of person that thinks “big" and is very all or nothing this will be a little tricky, but multiple amounts of research has proven that people achieve more when they break their goals down into small measurable steps. If that’s not enough to change your mindset look at it this way – would you rather be completely healthy for 5 days or overall generally healthy for a lifetime? Please say the latter.
If you have a larger amount of weight to lose even small changes will make a big difference to start. If you have a smaller amount of weight to lose – say 10 to 20 pounds it may be a little more difficult, but you can adjust your goals accordingly to how your body reacts and how much weight you need to lose.
Pick One or Two of These to Get Started
- Switch from white based flour products to whole wheat. Once you get used to the texture and wholeness of these products you will start to enjoy them. And if you really can’t stand brown rice, that’s okay just, have white rice once a week.
- Give up drinking soda or even juice. Most juice has been sweetened and even natural juices make it easy to consume larger amounts than when you eat fresh fruits. And as far as soda, these can be toxic for the body (even the sugar free varieties). This stuff really isn’t good for you so make a pact to try giving it up altogether. If that’s too much to start, than limit yourself to one per day until you can eventually wean yourself for good. By switching to water as your main source of fluids you may be cutting out a huge number of hidden calories you didn’t even know you were consuming. Some fruit juices have up to 150 calories or more per glass. If you get bored with water, drink herbal teas, especially green tea. Remember the antioxidant effects of green tea which help fight disease.
- Aim to include vegetables with every meal. This may seem like a bit of work at first, but vegetables have so many health benefits. Many of us fall into the trap of eating very little fresh food, in fact some people will have bread or cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pizza or fast food for dinner… where are the vegetables and fresh fruit? If your diet looks anything like this it may be time to make some serious changes. (I’ve got a special tip for you in the recipe section).
- Can’t give up pizza? How about adding a big fresh salad along with it, you’ll find you probably eat less and your body will get the much needed nutrients it needs from the salad.
- Have a couple of pieces of fresh fruit on hand daily as a quick healthy snack. If you’re going out pop a couple of apples into your bag and have those once you feel hungry.
Think About it
Losing weight is all about having the right mind set. Instead of vowing to give up your favorite foods forever, start by reducing them. Become more aware of food and the effects it has on your body. If you eat the burger and fries how does it make you feel afterwards? Maybe you could skip the fries and have the burger and a salad instead, it may not be ideal but it would certainly help you feel better – not to mention cut out at least 400 calories from the meal.
Snacking is OK
If you feel like snacking but aren’t sure what to snack on have a piece of fruit (or two) and a glass of water. Look at the clock and give yourself 15 minutes. If in 15 minutes you’re still hungry then have something a little more substantial. If you really crave something sweet have a piece of chocolate (preferably chocolate with a high cocoa content at least 65%). Chocolate has a lower GI than other sugary treats which means it won’t cause the high insulin reactions that having a donut will, but proceed with caution, it may be better for you than the donut, but you can’t gorge yourself on it. Having a little is better than denying yourself altogether or having a king sized Snickers.
Avoid Processed Foods
These foods have no nutritional content and have been proven to actually damage the body. Processed foods include hydrogenated fats which have been linked to cancer and heart disease. Thankfully the big trend now is to ban trans-fats. Try to think of quick meals that you can put together with little effort but are still healthy. How about this: whole wheat pasta with vegetables or a salad some cut turkey ham or rotisserie turkey or tuna and voila, you have a fast healthy meal. Think of easy meals you can have on hand so that if you’re tempted to reach for the phone and call Domino’s you can resist. Your body and purse strings will thank you for it.
Department of Redundancy Department
This bears repeating. Sugar can be damaging to the body in many ways, it lessens your ability to fight off disease, and drastically raises your insulin levels giving you the “sugar highs" and inevitably the “sugar lows". Sugar also ages your skin by causing inflammation and damage to the skin cells amongst a number of other damaging effects.
Naturally it won’t be easy to give up sugar especially if your body has gotten used to it. So again, start small. Don’t just say you’ll never have sugar again. Of course if you can do this that’s great but it’s not realistic. Instead reduce any sugary foods you now eat.
Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant. With our coffee shop culture and drinks being a natural part of every dinner party or social event it may be hard to give these things up altogether. Aim to limit your coffee intake to one cup a day and then treat yourself to a coffee shop lite latte or cappuccino once a week. You can do the same with alcohol, try to limit to a few drinks per week. Opt for wine (specifically red wine) instead of beer or hard liquor. Red wine in moderation has been proven to have some health benefits. If you’re at a party alternate a wine spritzer with water and you’ll end up consuming less overall.
As with everything in life, it’s much harder to give things up altogether and moderation may be a better approach. There are some things, however, such as smoking where it may be beneficial to just quit altogether, and don‘t feel bad if you need to seek professional help to do this.
How many of these can you accomplish? Look through them and be honest with yourself. If it’s too overwhelming to do all at once choose one or two things and once you accomplish those cross another two off your list.
Use moderation and start thinking about your body rather than just going through the motions of life. Start to feel how your body reacts to foods, exercise or bad habits. Learn to connect with your body again and treat it with respect and love and you’ll be on the way to a healthier lifestyle and a healthier, happier new you.
Sandra L. Garth is a speaker, personal trainer, wellness coach, and online contributor for WEYI NBC-25 from Saginaw, Michigan. Send in your fitness questions to http://www.onebodyonelifetime.com