Here we are; nearly halfway through a new year already. Have you been keeping on top of your resolutions and goals for this year? The majority of the world’s resolutions have to do with health – whether it’s to quit smoking, get enough sleep, take yoga classes, eat healthy, or, arguably one of the most popular, lose weight. If you’re still trying to stay healthy or are looking to start your health journey anew, here are 10 handy tips to keep in mind about weight loss and exercising that will help your mind and body stick to it – and hopefully get the results you’re looking for.
10. “Dieting” is not sustainable
You may be trying to go on any and all fad diets that you can–only to fall off the plan or suffer through the program over and over again. This is because dieting is not a sustainable way of living your life. It is good to change your “diet”–as in the foods you regularly consume–but “dieting” is a very short-lived, short term, non-permanent solution for weight loss. Diets are generally more designed and geared towards slimming down a bit before a special event, jumpstarting your system with a cleanse, for health reasons (such as cutting out dairy for two weeks to see if it’s what’s giving you stomach troubles,) or to otherwise eliminate and add rules and special factors to your daily life. Most humans can’t live on what most diets offer–and that’s why you shouldn’t torture yourself by only drinking kale smoothies for the rest of your life. Again, you may want or need to change your diet, but try to stay away from diet-ing.
9. Make replacements
A tiny start goes a long way! Little changes here and there in your routine can really add up to make huge differences over time. After all, taking small steps is better than not moving at all, isn’t it? Look for subtle replacements and changes to your foods, such as: sugar free items, reduced fat, switching ground turkey out for ground beef, opting for wheat breads instead of white, sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, leaving skins on your fruits and veggies, (that’s where a lot of nutrients can be found,) 1% milk instead of the fattier 2% milk, using unsalted butter, baking foods instead of frying them, put natural, zero-calorie sweetener (such as agave or stevia) in your tea and coffee–it starts to get easy once you open your eyes and mind to the possibility of these simple swaps. Grocery stores are very accommodating nowadays with several options to every food. Hey, if you’re planning to have chips and ice cream, might as well have veggie chips and frozen yogurt instead! This way you can easily make healthier choices in ingredients and in better “versions” of foods while still indulging in favorites. Keep it up and keep swapping your way to health.
8. Change your state of mind
It’s critical to note that being healthy is more mind over body than anything else. Getting into the right mental game will make all the difference in your perspective on your health. When choosing food or at a meal, think things like: “Is this beneficial for my health? Will this give my body good nutrients to use? Am I even hungry? Will eating the rest of this make me too uncomfortably full so I don’t enjoy the meal or evening anymore?” Luckily, the majority of us have access to food almost any time. This means we can lose the mindset of needing to eat all we can at one setting–something we had to do in the primitive days when food was more scarce and when we didn’t know when our next meal would come. It’s always okay to stop eating before you’re too full, to keep leftovers for another day, and to pass on a certain food instead of eating it just because it’s made and in front of you (let’s face it, you’ll always have another opportunity to eat toast or what have you.) You can even forgo dessert, since, in reality, it does little to fuel your body right. (You wouldn’t fill a car with sand instead of gas, or give a plant cough syrup instead of water, would you?) In summation: change your mindset into feeding your body right, passing up garbage food you don’t need or food you can have another day, and know when to stop eating. If you are hungry later, you’ll have access to food if need be!
7. The longer you go without it, the less you’ll want it
Many say that the longer you go without sweets and sugars, the less you’ll end up feeling like them as the cravings leave your system. See how long you can go without your favorite candy bar, your daily lunch soda, or after-dinner cookie. At first, it may be all you can think about, but after enough time, you’ll notice that you have been surviving without it. Make it a challenge as for how long you can go without tasting the chosen “forbidden fruit,” so to speak. (Please, still eat fruit.) When and if you finally have that certain item again, your opinion may change towards it, it may taste different, or you even no longer find joy in eating that unhealthy thing. This same idea can be applied to other “sweets-and-treats” situations. If you have the option to nibble a bite of something unhealthy, do yourself the big favor of foregoing even the smallest taste at all. This way, you won’t even know what you’re missing and won’t be tempted at all to crave more after that one little taste.
6. Let other people know
Improving your health is a situation where sharing really is caring. Notifying your friends, family, and loved ones that you’re working on your health will help you greatly to keep right on track. Let your family know you chose to no longer drink soda, so they don’t bring it for you at a family picnic. Telling your friends or roommates to keep an eye out and make sure you go to the gym every day–even ask them to join you in your exercise so that you can hold each other accountable. Not only will you get some outside help if your inner willpower diminishes, others will be made aware to not ruin your healthy choices by introducing temptations and weaknesses to you. Real friends will respect your wishes and goals, and help you stay away from donuts and check in to make sure you worked out when you said you were going to.
5. Shop more
Yes, we are telling you to go out shopping more! For healthy food, that is. By shopping more often, you’ll have access to more produce that you can use more often. Instead of doing a once-every-few-weeks grocery shopping trip, in which you pick out a couple fruits and vegetables that are sure to go bad before you get to eat them, hit the grocery store produce aisles more often to bring home the freshest ingredients for meals that you can. Getting more short-lived, “unnatural” items versus items with infinite shelf lives, (Twinkies, we’re looking at you,) is more healthy overall than processed, packaged, longer-lasting foods. It may be a bit bothersome to make extra stops at your grocery store on the way home from work, but in the end it’s worth it to bring home the freshest ingredients to use that night and not let them die in the fridge over weeks.
4. Do not punish yourself
No one said maintaining or even starting a healthy and exercise habit is simple. It’s all too easy to slip up, spiral down, and eventually completely derail off your healthy intentions. Dropping off into old habits is like pushing a wheelbarrow down a road with a rut; once you pull the wheelbarrow wheel out of the deep rut, you’ll see how much easier it is to push it along the path. This is what getting out of old habits and into new, better ones is like. Most importantly, it’s okay to slip back into the rut. There’s no real harm done; you’re just making life a little trickier for yourself by staying in the bad rut. Do not let yourself feel a failure or harbor negative feelings, as this will only make the rut deeper and harder to get out of. Just acknowledge the slip up, put yourself out of the rut, and try again. Never punish yourself for small mistakes or blunders; you’re only human and you’re trying your very best in learning what ways work best in taking control of your health and well-being. After all the diet changes and exercise–what remains most important is to foster your mind into healthy, positive views.
3. Go for a feel, not a look
Sometimes, if you weigh yourself after exercising for weeks, you may happen to find the number frustratingly stays the same or even goes up some. Don’t worry or feel you’ve failed yet–if you have been working out, your body may just be exchanging “fat” weight for “muscle” weight. This is why it’s hard to trust numbers on a scale at all. Instead, judge in more unconventional yet accurate ways, such as taking full body “before” pictures (to later be compared to the “after”–you may weigh the same but notice all the new muscle and toning on your body as compared to before.) You can also judge your health goals by what you could and couldn’t do before–such as being able to jog a mile without resting anymore, going up flights of stairs without getting out of breath, reaching your toes without bending your knees, etc. In short: try striving not for a look, but a feel. Weight and numbers shouldn’t define you. Your body feeling strong and healthy is what matters most! (Sometimes, a conventionally “thin” person may eat only junk food, smoke, and never, ever work out, while a more overweight person may eat very healthy food, doesn’t smoke, and walks three miles a day. This is yet another reason why you can never really judge by looks alone!)
2. Eat more
You can watch what you eat, yet eat more?! Of course! Eating several smaller meals, or more often, instead of “starving” yourself and eating too much at one time, is the smart and safe way to go healthy. Snack throughout the day on good-for-you snacks to keep hunger at bay so you don’t deprive yourself and overdo it at the next meal time over and over again. It’s important to have a well-balanced cycle of hunger and eating–never letting yourself get uncomfortably full nor crazy, starving hungry. Nibbling veggies, nuts, fruits, drinking plenty of water, and eating smaller meals more often throughout the day will help regulate your hunger levels, keep blood sugars balanced, and keep you overall happier and healthier. One can not and should not alternately starve and binge their way to sustainable health.
1. It takes time
Finally, changing your overall health and habits for the better is and should really be a lifetime commitment. Starting slow by gradually introducing healthy food substitutes and light activity (such as walking every day) are the best place to begin, until these become a comfortable habit for you. Then, you can increase your healthy food choices and physical activity evenly over time. Many people don’t feel or see results in their body for many weeks, if not months, or even a year, or more. Keep your new habits, keep your head down and work hard, and as time marches by and as your new healthy lifestyle becomes normal to you–then check back in. Look back on photos of how you looked months or years ago, how you perform physical tasks now as compared to before, and most importantly, how you feel, physically and mentally. Now, go out there and take charge of your health once and for all!