Slow Down for Long-term Health Success
We live in a world of instant gratification. You can find just about anything you want online and then have it delivered to your doorstep that very day. But not everything can be done quickly. Improving your health and achieving a healthy body weight doesn’t happen overnight.
You didn’t gain weight or form unhealthy habits that quickly, and you can’t expect to undo it in a short amount of time. If you do, chances are you’re going to extreme measures that you can’t keep up long-term.
We’ve all seen the shows where people are losing 10-20 pounds in a week. But those people are exercising for hours each day, eating a very strict diet, and, in some cases, have left their home environments to focus just on weight loss.
This is not feasible for most of us. We have to go to work, spend time with our families and have a life. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. You can start making small, achievable changes in your life to be healthier and lose some weight.
Set Your Goals
Before you make any changes, sit down and write out your goals. For example, you can write down health goals: improve blood pressure, come off medications, lower cholesterol, lower body weight or even improve blood sugar. These are all measurable health improvement goals that you can see with regular check-ups by your doctor.
You can also write down fitness goals: improve endurance, increase strength, improve flexibility/mobility, or exercise 3-5 times each week are a few examples. You may find you have many goals, or just one or two.
Doesn’t matter how many you have, just write them down and keep the list handy to keep you motivated!
Make One Change
I’m a big fan of the motto, “small steps lead to big success.”
Baby steps allow you to incorporate healthy habits into your life, and then keep them. If you try to completely overhaul your nutrition and exercise in a week, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, try to make one nutrition change and one exercise change each week. For example, start increasing your water intake. Drinking more water can be a challenge. Figure out how much you normally drink on a daily basis. Then try adding 2-4 ounces per day, aiming to hit at least 64 ounces. You will get fluids from your food and other beverages as well, but water makes up about 60% of your body, according to the Mayo Clinic. So, drink up! Some people need more, but start with this goal. It gives you something to aim for.
An exercise goal for week one could be to get out and start walking at least 3 times a week. If you lead a very sedentary lifestyle, aim for 5-10 minutes at a time to start. You don’t have to speed walk, just get your body moving. Let yourself become accustomed to moving around on a regular basis.
You can add a couple minutes to each session if you’re feeling good, or keep it slow and steady for a short amount of time. Just move!
Keep It Going
Every one to two weeks you want to add a nutrition and exercise change.
Keep it simple so that it can become a habit that you continue.
Week two you can try focusing on breakfast. Do you usually eating breakfast? Is it a balance of protein, healthy fats and carbs? I am often not hungry when I first wake up, so there are days I skip it, or eat it hours after I wake up. But what I’ve found is that I then overeat later in the day. I’m also more sluggish.
I can tell you that in the fitness community, most of us are big believers in starting your day off with a good breakfast. Try it, and see how you feel.
Each week you should be increasing your walking so that you can do at least 20 minutes 3 times per week. Now how about some stretching? After each walk, stretch your muscles. Refer to my article about the importance of stretching, tips and actual exercises to guide you. Stretching feels good, and can help reduce pain caused from muscles that are tight.
Seek Professional Help
Once you’re ready to really start challenging yourself, seek help if you need it. Dietitians and personal trainers will help you figure out how to take those steps to a healthier you. Share with them the improvements you’ve already made, and what goals you hope to accomplish. Dietitians can help you determine how much you should be eating, and create a plan that works with your life. Trainers will help you develop an exercise plan that will challenge you, but also keep any limitations you have in mind. Then, as you get stronger and more fit, your workouts can become even more challenging, and fun.
What are some steps you’ve taken to live a healthier life?