Changing our unhealthy behaviors is usually a lot more complicated than we initially anticipate.
We tell ourselves, we are going to get up and start to move more. We are going to stop eating junk food and start making healthier choices. However, it is A LOT easier said than done.
There are a lot of strategies and principles that we can use to our advantage when changing behaviors. We find out that what works well for one person may not work at all for another. However, I believe the following 7 points to be very universal and should be considered/followed when aiming to adopt an overall healthy lifestyle.
1. The best plan is the plan that you can adhere to. If exercising and/or your diet isn’t fun/enjoyable for you, you will not stick to it. Adherence is key to any change because if it cannot be maintained then it is pointless. What worked really well for someone else may not work for you. The goal is to find a plan that fits YOUR lifestyle and that YOU enjoy doing. Prioritize adherence.
2. You cannot out-do a bad diet. Many times when we want to lose weight we try to just ramp up the amount of exercise we do while continuing a poor diet. The issue is, it takes only minutes to eat 500 calories but 60 minutes or more to burn it off. There is no way around the fact that if we want to be healthier and leaner we have to adopt a healthy diet that we can maintain. As with the previous point, what worked really well for someone else may not be a good fit for us. We have to find a healthy diet that WE can continue long-term. [Safely] experiment with different fruits, vegetables, meats, etc aiming to find ones you truly enjoy eating. Strategically make healthy substitutes, replacing unhealthy foods with similar but healthier options.
3. Slow is fast. Many wishing to be more fit, lean, etc jump right into a 5 day a week, high-intensity workout regimen and completely change their diet with no time for adjusment. 9 times out of 10 they are back to their old lifestyle within weeks (or months if they are lucky). Slow and steady wins the race. Make small changes to your daily lifestyle and overtime those small changes will make a huge impact. How quickly you start will depend on your exercise history and attitude towards exercise, however, slower (more times than not) is usually better. Start with several 15-20 minute sessions of physical activity a week to get your body used to moving again. Keep the activity extremely enjoyable, especially for the first few weeks. Later on you can test out different styles of exercise (HIIT, Steady state cardio, calisthenics, free weights, etc) to find which best works for you (one you enjoy and can/will sustain).
4. Develop a healthy relationship and appreciation with/for food. Food is energy and I believe too often we forget that. Because so many of us have food in such abundance eating becomes less about consuming energy and/or surviving and more about pleasure and satisfying a desire. We have to learn to appreciate food and reevaluate how we look at eating. I am in no way saying we should eat blan, tasteless food (for many reasons that is a non-starter). What I am saying, is that we should be more mindful of why we are eating and shift our focus from pleasure eating to eating foods that give us proper energy and/or nutrients.
5. Enjoy eating and do not be TOO strict with yourself. This point is strongly correlated to the last point as well as the next one. Though it would be ideal and extremely beneficial to eat 100% whole foods, sometimes that is tough (not impossible but tough and not practical for many of us). Eating foods you do not enjoy is not a sustainable change and we are aiming for sustainability. If eating the same healthy foods everyday works for you do that. If you enjoy eating a wide variety of healthy foods/trying different things then thats what you should do. Make your diet enjoyable and do not be so strict that it is off-putting. Being excessively strict will almost always lead to you quiting your diet and adopting the old, unhealthy one.
6. Enjoy your food but do not indulge/Watch your portions. Eating too much is one of the biggest issues among people who are not reaching their goals. If you put in more than you put out, you will not lose fat. Portion control is extremely important, so we must realize and accept that we must decrease the amount we eat. Eating a slice of pizza once a week won’t ruin your goals. However, eating a whole pizza each week can quickly make reaching your goals much harder (assuming you don’t have a very inefficient (or “quick”) metabolism. Stemming from the last point, enjoy your food (have small “cheat meals”, choose foods you enjoy eating, etc) but watch your portions.
7. Lastly, find solid information and accept/realize its importance, then follow it to a t. Reading an article on 100 ways to lose weight is great but do not try to follow them all or process them all at once. Take 2 or 3 at a time and slowly add them into your life. Though there are hundreds of points and tips that can be given, simplicity is important. Too much information in such a short time (usually) is not effective.
Change is not easy but if we wish to continue to grow and improve ourselves we must push through the barriers.
I hope these 7 points are beneficial to you in your start to living a healthier life.