A reader recently reached out to express a struggle that is far too common across the board, men and women alike.
She wanted some tips on how to start a healthy lifestyle/fitness journey and continue it for the long haul. She confided that she tends to dive head first into a new routine, then falls off or does a new fad diet and then gets bored of it or can’t maintain it…etc etc.
This is all too common for SO many people, as well as me personally. I definitely struggled with this early on…and family members close to me also struggled with this as well. Going on fad diets, making drastic food choices, cutting out major food groups, crazy cleanses etc….I’ve attempted basically all of it. (Not alllll of them, haha, but a LOT…enough to know that none of them work for the long haul!)
It’s easy to say “ok, today is the day and I’m going to cut out everything bad and work out every day no matter what and never eat bread again”. The trouble is, that usually only lasts a couple of weeks for people at most. Why? Because it’s drastic. It’s not realistic for a normal, happy human lifestyle. It’s incredibly restrictive and will set you up for failure. Instead, think about food as something that is beneficial, not something to be avoided. IT ALL STARTS IN YOUR MENTAL SPACE!
Let me explain…
First things first….
Correct your thoughts about diet and exercise– food is not the enemy and exercise isn’t a punishment or a way to get to an end point. Rather, it is a lifestyle choice that benefits you inside and outside for the rest of your life- it’s a life long health decision!! A journey that is for YOU- to invest in yourself.
If you think of food and exercise as a means to an end, you will most likely fall off the wagon. If you just workout and eat well to get skinny, you aren’t in a good headspace to really embrace the healthy lifestyle for the long haul. And if “getting skinny” is all you are looking for, you are more likely to fall off the wagon if that goal doesn’t come right away…which it probably won’t.
I recommend thinking first about all the health benefits you will get mentally and emotionally from a healthy lifestyle. Think about treating your body like a palace that you care about more than anything- take care of it. Focus on how your energy levels will skyrocket and how your mental happiness will change for the better with a healthy lifestyle. Then…and only then…think of all the external benefits as a little bonus. The hot bod, the nice booty, sexy abs, the clear skin, strong hair and nails, the youthful glow…all of those things are amazing benefits of health and fitness. Bonuses for treating yourself well.
I bet you hear people talk a lot about balance, right? Well I’m here to say it again: a healthy lifestyle is all about balance. If you deprive yourself all the time, you won’t be happy and you’ll most likely fall off the wagon in a major way.
To cure that pitfall, I suggest two options:
Give yourself a cheat day once a week– a day where you order the pizza and fries for dinner and maybe have a few too many glasses of wine. A day where you have your favorite meal and polish the plate with no second thoughts. Then go back to eating normally. For many people, myself included, this cheat day is something I look forward to but also something that becomes a little less appetizing, meaning I tend to crave healthy nourishing foods now, so the idea of a big plate of greasy fries doesn’t sound like it will sit well. Instead I’ll eat until I’m satisfied and not feel guilty. Then move on with my life and continue eating healthy at other meals.
OR, eat these things more than once a week, but in great moderation. This one is a bit harder for some people, myself included. It is harder for me to eat a few bites of a burger, a cookie or just a few fries than it is to alot myself an official cheat meal. That’s just me though! If you are great at exhibiting self control, then go ahead and have little bits of whatever you crave all through the week. Just make sure to eat clean 90% of the time! Don’t let nutrition fall to the way side. Nutrition is key to feeling and functioning well.
Also, as you start eating cleaner every day, your body will begin to crave nourishing foods and you will realize that those bad foods you like so much don’t make you feel so great after.
And get to know the benefits of what you eat- learn what’s in your food, how it benefits your body and take pride in nourishing yourself. The more aware you are of foods, their calories, their benefits etc…the better you will become at making food decisions every day. And on that note- calories are not the end all be all! For instance, an avocado has a lot of calories BUT it is such a healthy food that you should eat them all the time! Calories are not the enemy, just chose the right calories that will do good for your insides.
As far as the fitness part goes, find something that you enjoy. Whether that’s dance, spinning, hiking, running, playing basketball…whatever you enjoy doing, you’ll want to do it more and you won’t get bored. If you try to workout doing things you don’t like, you probably won’t stick with it for very long!
And you’ll soon learn to love the feeling that exercise brings- that endorphin rush is a great feeling unlike anything else!!
I love getting a sweat on- it relieves stress and just generally makes me feel amazing. But some days I’m not super into it, and on those days I don’t beat myself up about it, I just do what I can manage and move on with my day. Exercise shouldn’t be a punishment, it is something you are doing for your body to keep it healthy and strong. It is a gift to be able to exercise for your health and well being, so don’t ever think of it as a punishment.
So in all- think of your health as a life long investment. It is not a fad diet. It is not a fad fitness devotement. It is a healthy lifestyle journey, something that you are living day in and day out- not just to reach one goal.
Do it for you, for your health and your happiness. If you start there, you will discover that health and wellness goes far beyond your outward appearance. It is a commitment to you- to the only body you have. That is pretty amazing if you ask me. Make that commitment for the right reasons, and that is the first step toward a life of health, strength and happiness.
Let me know if you have an specific questions! I love talking about this and hearing your personal stories.