There’s a lot of should’s that are tossed around with regards to health. Run. Work out. Eat less. Sleep. Drink water. Eat fruits and veggies. Stand more. Sit less. Breathe. And that’s the list I came up with in less than 5 seconds.
While making lifestyle changes is not easy, I don’t think it has to be so hard.
I firmly believe it’s easier in mind and body to tackle 1, maybe 2 things at a time than it is to make large, sweeping and yes, often overwhelming changes. First of all, it can be a daunting and seemingly insurmountable task (it’s too much work, ergo I won’t attempt it) and secondly, there’s no reason that you have to make yourself miserable. You can achieve your health goals and still live a happy and enjoyable life. No need for plain baked chicken and dry salad or torturing yourself on the dreadmill.
My only caveat to this plan is that if you are in a serious medical state that requires immediate changes that you do what your doctor says. Otherwise, try a saner approach.
1. Work on fixing a big and a small “problem” at the same time.
Here’s what I mean. My diet has become a bit sloppy during the tail end of my marathon training and I have also doubled my coffee intake while reducing my water. (Welcome to post-marathon fatigue and malaise). So the big fix I’m tackling first is to cut out the snacking and picking and noshing anytime I’m around foodstuffs. No handfuls of this or that while I’m prowling the cupboard. No bites or bits of my kid’s lunches as I prepare them.
The smaller fix is to drink more water. Water first, then coffee. Water with meals, water on the go. Keep refilling the water bottle and slugging it down. That one is easy once I start focusing on it.
Here’s some Psych 101 for you, mastering a small goal or task will help build confidence and encouragement for a larger goal.
2. Give yourself more than a minute.
The creation of healthy habits won’t be mastered overnight. You need to continually work at new habit so that it becomes ingrained in your every day behavior. Here’s an example of how to do it. Say you have ice cream every night while watching tv. You don’t measure it out, you just scoop it into a big bowl or eat right from the carton. And you decide this is a habit that could use some tweaking.
Start by adding fruit to your mondo bowl of ice cream. Don’t cut portion size. Yet. Do this for a few days and then start adding more fruit and less ice cream. Then in a few days more fruit and less ice cream.
Maybe a few days after that move to a smaller bowl and pile on the fruit and top it with a small scoop of ice cream. In a few days sub out the ice cream for maybe yogurt and fruit. Soon you’ll realize you don’t miss the ice cream every night or you consider it a once in a while treat.
Yes. This will take longer than cutting out ice cream completely. But honestly, that method sucks because it involves suffering and I, who run marathons and love big hills, hate suffering. Go figure.
3. Cut yourself some slack
How many of you have starved yourself after a particularly out of control eating weekend. Or went for a run, a class or hit ‘the box’ after not doing any exercise or a while? How did that work for you?
I like to push myself physically and I think everyone can benefit from intense exercise but there’s no need to punish yourself. Start slow, set a goal and every day your job is to do something that gets you closer to that goal.
Don’t judge. Don’t should all over yourself. But also, don’t give up.
Now go run!