When you are going through any change in your life, the hardest part is step one. Step one isn’t just thinking about your goals, it’s where you make that decision that you are going to disrupt your routine and your comfort in search of those goals. Especially in terms of fitness, step one can be overwhelming. Not only is a change to any comfort scary, but when it involves your body and your self esteem, it carries much more weight. As well, with so many things to change and so much misinformation out there, what do you even do first? Many people approach fitness as a sprint, not requiring more than effort, changing everything at once and as quickly as possible, which leads them to burn out not far from the start. Fitness should be treated more as a marathon. You should expect it to be a process, one that does require work, but also requires research and a gradual change to all aspects of your life. It’s not just a quick fix, fitness truly is a lifestyle change. How do we do this in a way that won’t leave us burned out and more discouraged than before we even decided to start? Read on to find out.
Add, Not Subtract
I know, I know. “Molly what? I’m trying to lose weight, why would I add anything?” Well, over the years, I’ve noticed it’s much less jarring to clients if they keep their normal routines, but begin to add better habits on top of it. Step one (after the initial step one of making the decision to change) is to plan. You need to research different ways of going about making the healthy switch, and plan which is best for you. After you do some poking around and reading, we reach our next decision: what is your next step? Are you more comfortable with exercising or changing your eating habits? Even that may be too much, lets start smaller.
•Do you drink enough water? More often than not, you don’t. The majority of new clients I speak with either don’t keep track of their water intake, or know how much they drink, and it’s not enough. So our first step here, add in more water. The usual standard is 64oz per day (or 8 8oz glasses). The human body is mostly made up of water and staying properly hydrated allows your body to run efficiently. As well, water can help keep your appetite in check, as the cue for thirst can commonly be mistaken as hunger. Always keep a water bottle with you, preferably a refillable BPA free one you can always top off, to ensure you have no excuse not to keep drinking throughout the day. Also, start each meal with a full 8oz glass of water. This helps to increase water consumption, and can also help with overeating as it almost pre fills your stomach.
•Do you eat enough vegetables? Probably not. You’d be surprised how many vegetables actually makes up the five servings per day that is recommended. Our next step, add in an extra serving of veggies. This can be adding in a salad before dinner, making an extra side for dinner, or adding a salad or veggies in place of chips or fries at lunch. So, again, we’re not changing your normalcy yet, we’re just adding in more food. Vegetables are very nutrient dense foods, but luckily not very calorie dense. This means that 100 calories of broccoli is way more volume of food than the same 100 calories of bacon, so adding in veggies is not going to adversely affect your calorie intake. Adding in higher nutrient dense foods that have lower calorie counts can actually help lower overall calorie intake by replacing the volume of higher calorie foods, but that’s just an added bonus of extra vitamins and minerals.
•Do you move enough? Again, probably not. How often do you hear people (maybe friends, coworkers, family) talk about hitting 10,000 steps on their Fitbit. That’s the recommended amount of movement daily, and its a lot! 10,000 steps is pretty active, and if you hit that without either trying to or thinking your daily activity level was high, I’d be surprised. So our next step is to add more activity. This step takes more effort than the previous steps, but it’s just as important. Activity doesn’t have to automatically mean more time in the gym. It can be a gym session. It can be trying out a new exercise class. It can be adding in a walk before or after dinner. It can be getting up from your desk for a lap around the office every hour. It can be stretching before bed. Anything that gets you up from sitting and moving around is adding in activity. The recommended amount of exercise from the department of health is 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Now, you don’t have to get up to that level right away, but that should be the goal to start. Like I said with the other two steps, we’re not taking away anything from your lifestyle, we’re just adding in healthier habits.
Starting a new routine, especially a fitness or health routine, can be daunting. However, adding things to an already comfortable routine, rather than subtracting, can bring about a new lifestyle in an easier way. The more comfortable you get with these habits while still in your everyday routine, the less harsh the overall change will be. As well, change one habit per week. Start with adding in water, then the next week add in a serving of vegetables as well as the water, and finally the next week, start to increase activity levels. Once you get fully comfortable with adding these habits, we can start subtracting the unhealthier habits that we’ve grown accustomed to, but we’ll tackle that later. After you add in healthy habits, you’ll start to notice positive changes, whether it be physical appearances or just feeling healthier, and it will help to propel your journey forward. It may seem slow at first, like the changes aren’t doing much, but over time, when you’re deep in your journey, and your habits and lifestyle are completely different from what they are now, you’ll see the benefit in the gradual change.