The time for doing is now! If the title above has prompted you to read this, it is pretty obvious you want to get your fitness back on track. So what’s stopping you? Time, money, energy, knowledge? We all have 168 hours per week, no-one has more than that, so why is it that some people have healthier lifestyles than others? What we do with our time is completely up to us. You might have a full on job, a family to look after or other people depending on you but if you don’t look after yourself you won’t be able to help anyone else.
Taking the first step is always the toughest. The first time getting in the pool, the first day at school or the first time committing to a change. We make assumptions that it is going to be much worse than it actually is and in fact we generally look back and think to ourselves there really wasn’t much to worry about. The same goes for making a healthy lifestyle change. Here are my steps to follow to ensure you take the plunge and stick with it:
1. Decide what it is you want. If you want to lose weight, decide how much weight and why that number? Just saying ‘I want to lose weight’ isn’t enough to keep you on track when times get tough. Try not eating for a day and I promise you’ll have lost weight, but it’s obviously not sustainable! The point is to be specific and set a realistic, measurable target. If my clients wish to lose weight, I ask them to record their body circumference (waist, hips, legs, arms, neck) as well as taking an optional photo. This way we aren’t just measuring from the scales (or the ‘sad step’), but instead we are looking at the whole picture.
2. Set a time frame to achieve your goal. Look at your calendar for the next 6 months and identify whether or not changing your shape by the amount you wish is realistic. If you find you have holidays, weddings, birthdays lined up, take these into account so guilt won’t set in and you can enjoy them. Humans are generally sociable so unless you are planning to become a bodybuilder (which I wouldn’t recommend), make sure you enjoy these events guilt-free.
3. Find time to exercise. You won’t just wake up one morning, put the trainers on and head out for a run. It takes planning. Find time in your day by either getting up 30 minutes early, taking a lunch break or swapping your TV time at the end of the day to fit in 20-30 minutes of exercise. Please don’t think the only way to get results is by committing to 60 minutes of exercise each time. Look at each part of your day and really ask yourself if it is helping you, or would you class it as ‘dead time’?
4. What is tracked gets measured. How many calories have you eaten over the past week? I can guess you have no idea which means you don’t know how much food you’re eating. If I asked you how much food you give your pet each day, I bet you would have a better idea. If the dog is carrying some extra weight, you give them less food. Humans are no different in that way, and so a good place to start is awareness. If you can find out what you are eating on a daily basis, you can consider what changes you could make.
One of the most common questions I get asked is ‘can you help me with my food, I just don’t know what to eat?’. The media tells us that certain foods are classed as good or bad, but I disagree. Instead, foods are either more, or less nutritious and easily or not easily over consumed. Think of it this way, if you eat 50% of your maintenance calories from just chocolate you would lose weight. But this comes at a nutritional sacrifice. You won’t have much energy, you will be deficient in most vitamin groups and you would constantly be on a high then a deep low from the amount of sugar. If the goal is weight loss, this will work, but if it is sustained weight-loss over a longer period of time which is more enjoyable and healthy, don’t just eat chocolate. Before looking at what you’re eating, track how many calories you’re consuming. You could eat the most nutritious diet, but you still won’t lose any weight if your calories are too high!
5. Step it up! You will have heard of the ‘magic 10,000 steps per day’ by now. Did you know that this actually came from a marketing campaign in the run up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics when Dr Hatano was worried that the Japanese where developing a more ‘lazy American’ lifestyle. He created a device called a ‘Manpo-Kei’ which aimed to increase an average of 4,000 steps per day to 10,000 which would approximately burn off an extra 500 calories per day. There isn’t actually any scientific data surrounding the 10,000 number, but the idea of increasing your own daily step count by 10-20% each week will certainly contribute to a larger calorie burn.
There you have it. 5 steps to getting your health and fitness back on track. Some of which you may already be doing which is great, but try adding in another of the steps above to lead you to a healthier lifestyle. One healthy habit turns into 2, then 3 and so on, so make a commitment today. Your future self will thank you for starting!
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