How often have you found yourself running around in circles when it comes to “fitness”? You find a program you kind of like, get a plan together for your nutrition, and hop on the fast track to health. Way to go!!! You do great for awhile, absolutely kill it day in an day out and are so proud of how far you have come. You look better, you feel better, and you know you are healthier on the inside & out. Then BAM! Just like that you either get bored, you feel like a slave to your new routine, one slip up on nutrition has snowballed into an all out binge fest, you hit a plateau and stall with progress, and/or you have lost every ounce of motivation that was bottled up inside of you.
Once we fall off track with a fitness routine, it’s HARD getting back into the swing of things! That momentum you had quickly falters and one day ‘off plan’ turns into one week, then into a month, and you get down on yourself. The weight has gone back up, clothes aren’t fitting quite the same, your body & mind are sluggish, and on top of all of that you feel entirely defeated. You quickly fall back into your old ways and can’t remember the last time you ate something nutrient dense, let alone when you did anything remotely active. It’s frustrating and exhausting. We have all been there at one time or another and probably more than we care to admit!
Listen, I get it! “Life” happens, it happens to ALL of us though. We are only given ONE body in our lives’ and the longer we take to start taking care of it and treating it properly, the harder things will get as each day passes. Not to mention how things our bodies will function and look as we continue to get older. Personally, when I’m 75 years old, I do NOT want to be in and out of the hospital for various things and feeling like my body is shutting down. I want to STILL be enjoying life and my grandkids. I want to be able to travel with my husband. I want to be able to take a long walk by myself. I want to have great skin and healthy insides. I want people to look at me and think “NO WAY is that lady 75 years old! I would have never thought a day over 60! Whatever she’s doing… I wanna start doing!”
So, you have two options at your health & fitness crossroads. You can either A. Decide you are capable of feeling and looking better so you hop back on track immediately (not waiting until “monday” or the 1st of the month)… IMMEDIATELY! Or B. Decide that your present and future health will continue to take a back burner to everything else you have going on. It’s simple. It’s one or the other.
However, once you’ve decided that ‘you’ are worth it, now you have to find a way to stick to it for the longterm! Here is a quick list of things that may help you keep health and fitness a priority in your life:
1. You Have To Want It
First and foremost, if you don’t truly want to make health a priority or change your body physically, you will NEVER make a dent. Fitness & health need to be an actual lifestyle change. You will need to change the way you think about nutrition and keeping an active lifestyle. The desire to want better for yourself and your body have to be stronger than any excuse that you can come up today, tomorrow, or next year. You need to want it and commit to making changes (even SMALL changes)!
2. Choose Attainable Goals
One simply cannot expect to lose 50 pounds in a matter of a few weeks (nor is that healthy). When weight & strength training, most women will not jump right into hitting a 200 pound squat their first time in the rack. If you want to train for a marathon, you will not get through half that amount with complete ease. Want to be a yogi and do perfect handstands on your very first inversion? Don’t count on it.
Don’t set yourself up for failure! Be realistic.
It is important that when we first begin training for anything specific, you simply strive for progress. It may take you months to get through 3 miles of running nonstop or a year to hit your goal weight. The bottom line is that you should ALWAYS simply want to become better, stronger, faster, healthier. As long as you are giving your 100%, creating permanent changes for the better, and making progress (even SLOW progress), you should know you are achieving your goals and be PROUD!
3. Find An Exercise Program You LOVE
If you absolutely hate running, don’t force yourself to do it. Not into cross fit? Neither am I! Would you rather go to the dentist to have work done than do an hour of Zumba? Skip that class completely! The quickest way to fail is starting something you don’t find enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to try new activities, but if you really don’t find any pleasure in them, move on to something else. Eventually you will find something that you love and can see yourself doing in the long term. Some people find their ‘peace’ of mind in the weight room pushing and pulling heavy weight. Others are too fearful of lifting and prefer doing things like group classes. Lots of people love to hike and can do it for hours every day. Whatever the case may be, find something YOU are happy doing. Pick activities that motivate and push you. If you love, you will WANT to do it and look forward to it!
4. Don’t Give Up Eating ALL Of Your Favorite Foods
Will you have to adjust your current nutrition and eating habits? Yes, absolutely. You will most likely need to start keeping tabs on your meals and intake, but that doesn’t mean you should give up eating everything you love. Similar to finding a sustainable exercise program/activity, you will also need to find a nutrition plan that you can see yourself sticking to weeks, months, and years down the road. Most often, when people catch the fitness bug they are forced to think that they need to eat a certain way (cut out carbs and all sugar, become a vegan or vegetarian, do a Paleo diet, avoid XYZ foods, etc.). They get excited right out of the gate, but then get bored and begin feeling deprived of every food they once loved.
Bottom line to weight loss is calories in VS calories out. You need to make sure you are getting enough protein, carbs, fiber, and fat in your diet depending on what your goals are (weight loss, muscle gain, maintenance). Be smart about your nutrition, eat plenty of vegetables, but also be “flexible”. Know that you can eat ALL foods in MODERATION. Avoid labeling everything as “good” or “bad”.
Instead, begin to think of food as fuel. The macros (protein, carbs, and fat) in a Pop Tart might technically be ok for your overall caloric goal each day, but is that really going to sustain you? Calories aren’t really considered “equal” per se when you look at it like that. I can choose to eat a 1/2 a serving of brown rice, a lean protein, and vegetables for the same calorie total AND know I won’t get hungry or feel sluggish when it comes down to exercising. Personally, I will always opt to have a larger volume meal. More food, more fuel! HOWEVER… on some days where I’m really craving a Pop Tart and don’t mind being hungrier than usual for the day… I know I’ll probably be ok to it every now and then!
5. Slow & Steady Wins The Race
Regardless if your main goal is to lose weight, simply eat better, and/or just become more active each day , do not look at ANY of it as a race! Whether it takes you 3 months or 9 months to lose 15 pounds, celebrate your progress. In the end you have to realize that the slower you lose weight, the longer you will keep it off. Same goes for nutrition. Small changes can make a BIG difference AND help ensure you maintain it longer than the typical 3 month period. Doing a little bit over a period of time will help to create habits VS the quick fixes you may be used to. After a little while, everything will eventually just feel like second nature. You will be so used to doing and thinking about things in a “new” way, it becomes ingrained in a routine.
For example, we ALL need to be drinking water every single day to stay hydrated, keep our systems functioning properly, and to make our skin look good. So if you currently drink soda 4 times a day, make a commitment to only have it 3 times a day and replace the other serving with water. Then after a few weeks drop soda to 3 times a day, then 2 times a day, then one time a day. I would put money on your skin clearing up, feeling a little lighter, and just feeling healthier overall! I remember when I first started increasing my H2O intake, I struggled drinking 8 ounces of water a day. I set a goal for myself to eventually drink 1.5 gallons a day, so I slowly worked my way up to that amount. The first week I started with a cup of water before I took my first bite of food in the morning. I told myself I couldn’t eat until that cup was finished! At first it wasn’t fun because I wasn’t used to it, but after a few days, I got it down without any problem. The following week, I added another cup of water before I had lunch. Easy! After a couple of months or so, I worked my way PAST 1.5 gallons with ease! I’ve been drinking this amount for over 2 years now and cannot imagine drinking any less!
Know you need to be eating more vegetables? Decide that every week, you will try one new vegetable! Make it a part of all your dinners for the entire week. Not only will you be getting more nutrients than you previously were, but you may even discover a vegetable that you actually really enjoy eating. Then you can slowly add more vegetables in to your other meals as well. Eventually, you may even crave vegetables!!! I’m a prime example of that! I HATED vegetables, all of them. Now I absolutely love them, have them with ALL of my full meals, and even snack on them in between meals!
6. Focus On How You Feel
It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers on the scale. Most will measure their progress solely based on whether or not their weight continues to decrease. Week after week and sometimes day after day, we will jump on the scale and allow it to dictate how we are going to feel. Instead of using the scale as our only guide, it should be used as only one measure of our progress. The scale should simply be a tool in measuring how far we have come.
We should be paying more attention to how we feel before, during, and after we workout. The anticipation of walking into the gym to train, the excitement about attempting a new PR, and the sheer the satisfaction of being faster or stronger. We may not look forward to each and every workout, but I promise that you will ever regret a workout. Even if you are only able to squeeze in 15 minutes, I assure you the satisfaction you feel in yourself and getting it done will be worth it.
Remember how you feel in ALL of your ‘moments’…
When coworkers and family member point out how great you look and how much more confidence you have. When you go to try on pants and realize that you need a smaller size because the waist is too big. When you are casually walking by a mirror and notice that your butt is looking perkier. When you go out to dinner and actually crave something healthier on the menu. When you used to get winded from climbing a flight of stairs, but now you are almost running up.
YOU made all of that happen. Be PROUD!
7. Take Progress Pictures and Make Your Goals “Public”
Whether or not you are totally comfortable with the infamous ‘selfie’, progress pictures can be extremely important on your fitness journey. Not only are they a great measure of progress, but they can be a very useful tool to keep you motivated. Any time you might feel like falling off track or if you find one off plan meal turning into four or five, immediately take those progress pictures out! They will show you just what you are capable of! With any luck, seeing how far you have already come will lend a hand in getting your head back in the game!
Furthermore, once you have decided to make health a priority in your life, let the world know! Don’t be afraid to post it on your social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). Friends will be there to support and encourage you, especially during times when you may get down on yourself. Letting your friends and family know about your goals helps keep you 100% accountable!
8. Have Non “weight” Related Goals
Again, its nice to have the scale as a tool in your progress reporting, but also make sure you have other goals as well. Are you terrible at running, but wish you were better and faster? Make it a point to continuously beat your previous weeks time on a mile run. If you can do 10 burpees in a minute with ease, make a commitment to try and get 20 in a minute within a months time. Feel like you are eating the same things every single day, week after week? Make a goal to try one new food or vegetable every Monday. You may be surprised at what you end up falling in love with. Always wanted to do a pull up? Make it a point every single day after you warm up to practice on the assisted pull up machine or with bands. Once you can do one pull up, set a goal to hit one more the following week.
Having goals outside of the numbers on the scale will help ensure you are being pushed and motivated for the right reasons. One week, if your weight doesn’t do what you want it to and you get down on yourself, surpassing one or more of your other goals may help you see the bigger picture of your journey! You will begin to take pride in ALL of the efforts and progress you make!
9. Celebrate Yourself and EVERY Achievement
Regardless of how small the changes or slow the progress, always take pride and celebrate ALL of your achievements. Remember, however ‘insignificant’ you may think something is, there are countless individuals who are a hundred steps behind you. There are individuals who wish they had the motivation that you do, people who continue to complain about their current physical & mental state, yet refuse to take the first step. Not you though! You are already ahead of the game, feeling good, and on the right track!
Instead of beating yourself up, be kind and gentle with yourself at every step of your journey. You may not be the fastest or strongest or best at something, but as long as you are trying your hardest and giving your 100% effort, you should be PROUD!!!
10. Remember The Ultimate Goal…
Making health a priority in your life doesn’t have to be difficult or looked at like a punishment! Change the way you approach “fitness” and it will be one of the greatest blessings in your life!!! Not only do you want to look and feel good in the present, but you want to make sure that you will also be healthy years down the road.
Instead of complaining that you “have” to do cardio, be thankful that you have the ability to do cardio. Hate vegetables so much that you need to plug your nose to eat them? Think about all of the people in the world who don’t have access to any regular food, let alone to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Appreciate your body and all its capable of. There are so many people in the world who take their bodies and food they have available for granted. Be thankful for the sheer blessing to walk, run, weight train, swim, hike, and fill your stomach with delicious nutrients to fuel your body!
Don’t take your health, your body, and your ability for granted!!!