I received a comment from Holly at Fat Girl Running in one of my last posts that really got me thinking about what I have done to be successful on this journey so far. When I was responding to her I decided that it made a lot of sense to do a whole post about the topic. These are not things that I think are necessarily universally applicable, but they are the general guidelines which I have personally followed over the past five months and which work exceptionally well for me.
1. Make it sustainable. This is point number one for a reason! Don't go on a diet or a fad workout program that you plan on stopping once you have achieved your goal. Instead, find something you feel you can stick with long term and which will work in your life on a regular basis.
2. Enjoy it. This goes hand in hand with the first point and while I know it is hard to imagine really loving new, healthier habits when you are first starting out, just work on the parts that you enjoy for now. Before you know it you will be setting yourself up for more exploration and bigger successes as you begin challenging yourself, and the scope of what you enjoy will become much wider.
3. Avoid deprivation. I don't feel that denying yourself something is generally an effective way to lose weight and become healthier as it works against making your plan sustainable. I know this, more than many other points, would be argued by some as they have had much success with cutting out trigger foods, but for myself I have had to realize that making certain things off limits just makes me crave them more. If I want to eat something that is not a great choice, I will minimize the amount I consume rather than thinking of it as completely off limits.
4. Recognize the folly of perfection. It doesn’t exist, so stop trying to chase it. You will make mistakes – it’s how we learn. Do not allow a moment of weakness, during which you consumed an entire cheesecake, to dictate how you deal with the rest of your day. There is no reason to ‘give up’ and ‘restart tomorrow’. Every single second can be the one you decide to make a good choice, and the cycle of feeling like you messed up and can’t fix it, so why bother trying needs to be broken. If you don’t make the best choice just figure out what happened, decide how to avoid the same problem in the future, and move on.
5. Work on the emotional and mental aspects. If you are simply trying to change your food and exercise habits without addressing the issues that initially caused you to overeat or live in a sedentary manner, there will likely only be short term progress. I learned this lesson again and again over the many years that I attempted to lose weight. Figure out what the problems were in the past; sometimes they are very simple and sometimes very difficult to work through, but they are important to recognize and deal with regardless.
6. Stay in the game. It is easy to start to let things slide and to become complacent after a while. Be prepared for the pitfalls you may face and know how to avoid or cope with them. I try not to ever give myself too much slack because I recognize that, for me, it is a slippery slope. We are capable of accomplishing a lot if we work hard and refuse to return to old habits that did little to serve us positively in the past.
7. Move a little every day. Even if all I do is 30 stomach crunches or a set of squats (although, personally, I generally do a lot more) I make sure I do something every day. I often find that once I am moving I will do more than I was anticipating.
8. Plan. Make sure to prepare for what the day, week, and even month may bring. Got a birthday dinner coming up? Decide ahead of time how much cake, if any, you will be having. Do you know that your day will be exceptionally busy in the evening? Be sure to workout in the morning to avoid running out of time later on. Realize that the holiday season is approaching? Offer to bring a vegetable platter to each event so that you know with certainly that there will be at least one healthy alternative offered.
9. Find your motivation. This actually didn't solidify for me until I was a couple of weeks into this journey. I was already making progress, but decided that I really needed to commit to developing a body I was confident was healthy enough to handle pregnancy in the near future. My motivation has actually changed a bit as time has gone on and I think that is okay too - we should utilize what is important to us when trying to discover what will light the fire to promote positive change.
10. Realize that turning something down is not the end of the world. A big mental block that I had to work through was realizing that I ate a lot of items because I felt like if I didn’t I would not be able to get them again when I actually wanted them. Put this belief away. In the modern world there isn’t much that we can’t have year round if we really want it, so don’t panic if you decide to turn down a slice of sun-dried tomato Havarti cheese at a friend’s place even though you would never normally buy it for yourself. If you really can’t get it out of your mind later, you can always go to the supermarket.
11. Try to eat cleaner. My best advice is to concentrate on whole ingredients - mostly what you can find against the outside walls of a grocery store (stay out of the aisles as best you can since that is where all the processed items are stocked). I could never go totally clean myself, but a lot of the food I eat now is prepared from whole ingredients whereas I used to be the processed food queen!
12. Make it yours. This is almost the same concept as my initial point, but I think it is worth re-framing. What I am doing will probably not work in exactly the same way for any other person. There are too many factors involved – including age, height, genetics, lifestyle, and personality – that could alter the results of following my specific regimen. Ensure that what you are doing works for you. This is so important! Remember that this is a lifestyle change and not something you will be doing just to reach a goal; allow it to be flexible, varied, and evolving in nature to accommodate who you are and who you may become. It needs to fit with the person you are in this moment in order to offer the sustainability that will make you successful on this journey!
Now, because I am a bit of a dork and was trying to come up with a clever way to summarize all of these points in one nice, neat package I created the following acronym to help simplify this information. Just remember that we are all after H.E.A.L.T.H.Y. L.I.V.E.S.!
Enjoy what you are doing.
Learn to accept your imperfections.
Think about the mental and emotional aspects.
Yield to daily activity.
Validate passing on food.
Stay true to yourself.
FOOD & BEVERAGES:
- 8 glasses of water throughout the day
- 1 toasted whole wheat English muffin with light strawberry jam
- 1 banana
- 5 whole wheat crackers
- 1 egg white wrap on a whole wheat tortilla with feta cheese, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 mug coconut steamed skim milk
- 10 yam fries dipped in a mayonnaise sauce
- 4 cups Caesar salad with baby shrimp, Parmesan, and croutons
- 1/4 piece foccacia garlic bread
- 2 orange chocolates
- 1 cup low fat pumpkin pudding
- 25 minute workout video