Don’t fall for the fads and temporary fixes. The small changes are what add up for lifelong results.
BY SARA-JANE McSHANE
It’s that time of year again; seasonal weight-loss ads are flooding social media, the latest summer cleanses and detoxes are filling the pages of magazines, and the pressure of having your “summer body” ready by June is setting in. Setting fitness goals is a great thing, but arbitrary season deadlines are set by a fitness industry that feeds on fads. We become accustomed to these concepts—because they bombard us—rather than creating a healthy lifestyle.
According to the Boston Medical Center, an estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, spending $33 billion on weight loss products. And while a majority of these diets presumably meet with failure—obesity rates, after all, are still on the rise—the good news is that getting in shape and staying in shape, just might be easier than you think. You don’t even need to go out and buy anything. With a few simple lifestyle changes, you can be on your way to life-long fitness success.
Before we get started, it’s important to know the difference between dieting and creating a healthy lifestyle. Dieting consists of temporarily changing your eating habits to promote a certain outcome, such as weight loss, before returning to your previous habits. On the other hand, a lifestyle change consists of adopting healthy habits that promote long-term weight control and health; actions that become second nature.
Here’s how to create a lifestyle change that can help you reach your goals for the summer—and beyond.
SET REALISTIC GOALS
With taglines like” Lose weight fast” or “Get Fit Today” it’s no wonder why we are hard on ourselves when results don’t come overnight. Ditching that mindset altogether will help ease your mind as you work on a better self. So, if your goal is to lose fat, give it time. Weight loss varies from person to person for many reasons, especially if you’re slowly adopting a healthier lifestyle. The same goes for getting fit; strength will not come overnight, nor will that six pack. The best results are the ones that take time because it means you they will be much easier to maintain for the long haul.
STOP RESTRICTIVE DIETING
Start off on the right foot this time by creating new, healthy nutritional habits vs. extreme and restrictive dieting. Just because someone on the internet told you to eat 1,000 calories a day doesn’t mean you should. Just because someone told you to have zero carbs doesn’t mean that’s the key to your success. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to nutrition. Restrictive dieting can leave you feeling deprived and miserable which can then lead to binge eating. Instead, adopt a clean eating lifestyle that focuses on real, whole, and mostly organic foods. Think fruits, veggies, lean protein, nuts, whole grains and seeds that are in their natural state.
Believe it or not, 80% of your fitness success will depend on what foods you eat. So instead of giving up everything you love, start by introducing foods that will nourish your body and over time, naturally slim your waistline. Food should be enjoyed, not feared. Yes, some restrictions need to be made—less processed junk, less refined sugar—but overall, you want to introduce healthy foods that you will enjoy for life, not just for beach season.
USE PORTION CONTROL
This is one of the simplest, yet most effective changes you can make that will produce results without stress. Something as simple as eating smaller portions can shave off hundreds of extra calories per day while leaving you feeling satisfied. The advantage of practicing portion control is that you do not have to cut out entire food groups to get results, and you get to indulge in your favorite treat every now and then. No dieting and no deprivation, a simple formation of creating a new healthy habit.
A few ways to cut portions: use a smaller plate, fill half of your dinner plate with vegetables or salad, chew more thoroughly, and drink water before meals. If you’re used to grabbing food out of the bag or box, start paying attention to serving sizes and just take one.
The saying goes “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The process of meal prepping may take an hour or two each time, but once it’s done, you will have fully prepared meals and snacks for the rest of the week! Think of how many times you ended up eating something not-so-good because you were starving and ate the fastest thing you could get your hands on. Meal prepping will help you avoid situations like this and also save you money! Whether you travel to work or you’re a stay-at-home mother or father, having food ready and on hand will ease the stress of a hectic daily schedule. Prepping is a way of life that can help you succeed in your health and fitness journey, and once you get used to it, it won’t feel like work.
KEEP IT MOVING
You don’t have to spend hours in the gym—unless you want to, of course—to get in great shape. The key to adopting a simple, effective fitness routine is start doing more things that you enjoy. From boxing to tennis, dance class to weight-lifting, it’s all about keeping your activity levels high by making it a daily habit. Chances are, if you enjoy what you’re doing, you will stick to it! Working out shouldn’t feel complicated when it’s meant to give you energy and boost your feel-good hormones. Something as simple as skipping rope for 5 minutes a day can burn fat, boost heart health, and increase your cardiovascular capacity.
USE THE SWAP SYSTEM
A lifestyle change can be challenging at first. Ease any anxiety by slowly swapping out a few snacks or meals that don’t support your desired goals. If you tend to eat snacks at work that aren’t so clean, swap one of them out for something healthier. Also look at what you drink: if you tend to indulge in sugary drinks, swap them out for a lighter beverage or just drink water. Even if this is the only change you make, you are heading in the right direction. Slow and steady wins the race.
Eat the cake! That might sound contradictory, but getting healthy isn’t about total deprivation. It’s about finding a healthy balance that is both beneficial to the body, mind, and soul. This goes back to practicing portion control; have a piece of cake, just don’t eat the whole thing. Enjoy a dinner out with loved ones, but don’t continue to eat out all the time. Make this a part of life. Work out, eat clean, enjoy a treat from time to time, and celebrate and live in the moment. Health is a good relationship between your body and your mind.
So you’ve hit your goal. What’s different this time? The difference should be that you’ve made changes which have turned into lifelong habits, and you will not be gaining the weight back just because you hit your goal. Experiment with healthier living and see what works for you. Keep in mind, persistence will get you the results and being consistent will keep them. Cheers to a healthier, stronger you!