Oftentimes, when we want to start exercising or eating differently, we make all these plans, sometimes buying all these new gadgets or foods, or getting a gym membership. The first day might go great, rough albeit, but good. The second day is more of a struggle, and eventually three, four, five days down the road, we give up. For some it can take a bit longer to hit this wall, for others, starting is the biggest hurdle. It’s not as if we don’t want these things, but then why is it so hard to follow through with fitness and health goals? As someone who struggled with following up on my workout and nutrition dreams, these are a few things I did in order to finally start accomplishing what I had set out to.
Don’t Go All Out
So many times we set goals with the intention of going full force into whatever we need to do. Go to the gym 6 times a week, eat only fruits and vegetables, walk 10,000 steps a day, run every single day, and drink a gallon of water a day. But then, inevitably, we falter or we just can’t keep up with all the things we wanted to accomplish. So we give up. Then some time later, we try it all over again, only to repeat the cycle. As someone who has had these same experiences, I don’t recommend jumping onto every aspect of your goal right off the bat. Instead start with the idea of just forming a habit, or incorporating something small and simple into your routine. If you have a goal of working out everyday for an hour, but you struggle to keep this goal, try something small and manageable. Say, “I will go for a 10 minute walk around my neighborhood” or “I will do a 10 minute workout video everyday”. Pair it with another task that you normally do. This is called habit stacking. After dinner, I will go for a walk, or after I brush my teeth, I will do 10 minutes of yoga. This is more likely to help build a habit that you can then build and grow into something more, like walking 30 minutes a day or cooking healthy dinners 6 days of the week.
Set Yourself Up For Success
I remember reading about this tip in Atomic Habits by James Clear. It has become one of my favorite suggestions from his book. Remove things and situations that will take you away from your goals. By taking away the option to eat unhealthy food, you increase your chances of eating the healthy food you have in your house. Sleeping in your workout clothes makes it more likely that you will get up and work out in the morning. Prepping your gym bag before you workout, prepping your food ahead of time, these are all great ways to improve your chances of following through with your goals.
Find Activity Anywhere
Every little bit counts and can boost your overall health. Parking a little further away than you would normally, so that you can walk. Obviously do this within safety and reason. Finding stairs to take instead of the elevator. Using commercials or breaks to stretch. By reframing those little moments, this can not only help you add a bit more healthy movement into your day, it can also help you flex your willpower muscle. When you exercise willpower in this way but shifting your habits and thoughts, it helps to gradually shift your habits and thoughts in other parts of your life. You will start seeing new opportunities for health and wellness start popping up the longer you practice self-discipline.
Do not restrict yourself
In regards to things like food and lazing around when we start our health journeys, we will sometimes heavily restrict these things. Many times, this can lead to destructive behaviors and creating negative feelings of self worth. Instead, start practicing moderation. Instead of saying, absolutely no potato chips, start practicing putting only a handful of chips on a plate with other healthy foods. Instead of banning take out from your house, make it a special meal once or twice a week. This sort of thing takes practice, patience and self-reflection. This is where awareness of oneself and your thoughts will be very important. Learning to be kind to yourself and allowing room for mistakes and growth are very important when we pursue goals, especially one like health and fitness. Oftentimes we have histories of falling off the wagon and punishing ourselves mentally. I myself found that by slowly incorporating foods that I knew were nutritious into my daily diet, I would have a better foundation going forward for a healthy diet. I would place on my daily to do list “Eat 1 serving of fruit”. It might seem silly, but in the long run, it has helped me to not only eat more fruit, but to also enjoy it more.
Beware of Social Media
While social media can provide great inspiration and sometimes provides a community that you find support in, it can also end up as a black hole that we can lose ourselves in. Remember that fitness influencers and creators are paid to be fit and look a certain way. While some have good intentions, others do not. While some have legitimate credentials in order to give advice, many others do not have the correct credentials to be giving advice. Be picky with who you follow and be mindful so that you don’t lose yourself in a social media whole. We can quickly get down on ourselves when seeing the most perfect version of someone who is at a different point in their journey to us.
Change is Hard
Remember that lifestyle changes can be hard, and that’s okay! Even if we make small changes like I recommended at the beginning, it can still be hard. If you want to run a 5k, there will be some initial discomfort when you start running, especially if you weren’t a runner before. If you want to start building muscle, but haven’t lifted weights before, you will experience muscle soreness for a while. Trying to eat healthy after eating junk food for a period of time? You’ll probably experience cravings and grumpiness. And that’s all okay. That’s why I recommend starting small, it’ll be less of a shock to your system and you’ll be more likely to succeed as you start to build on your new habits.
Health is a long term goal, not something that can be achieved overnight. It is not something you do accomplish and never have to think about again. This is a marathon and not a sprint. Learning to love cooking and moving are big parts of the journey. These tips are just meant to help make your journey a bit easier.