This is a list that I know I’ll add to over time but here it is for now!
1. It all starts with your why
If you don’t nail this, nothing else will really work for the long term. You don’t lose weight or get fitter or healthier because your spouse would like you to or you know you ‘should’.
You make changes in your life because you’re motivated and ready to change.
Sometimes your motivation will be instant and triggered by an event. It could be as simple as not being able to fit into your favourite pair of jeans. Or as painful and life changing as the death of a loved one. Or perhaps your own health crisis. Whatever it is, stay in touch with it often. Don’t let life take over and before you know it you’ve ‘forgotten’ why it was so important to you to take action towards your goal.
So how do you put this into practice?
You could experiment with a few different strategies. Maybe a particular song that ‘anchors’ your motivation in and acts as an instant reminder. Or a photo on the fridge. Perhaps making up a vision board or looking at your sexy jeans hanging in the wardrobe. (You know – the ones you can’t get into!)
2. Get real about your future if nothing changes
Reality check time.
A good question to ask yourself is ‘What is my health and fitness going to look like if I continue with my current course of action?’ Visualize this in all it’s gory detail. Don’t hold back.
Is this the future that you want for yourself?
What one thing can you change TODAY to move you closer to the future you really want? Remember it doesn’t have to be everything. Nor should it be. Start small.
You will not change until the pain of staying where you are becomes greater than the pain of change. Change doesn’t occur by chance. It occurs by choice. Pat Mesiti
It seems to be human nature that we seem blissfully ignorant of the long term repercussions of our day to day choices. Me too, by the way! It is SO easy to think that we’ll make better choices soon on some imaginary tomorrow that never comes!
Do it today.
3. Enjoy the journey
For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time to still be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment that you have … and remember that time waits for no one Souza
When I first read this statement, it was like it had been written just for me. I wrote more about enjoying the journey here.
I wasted so much time longing, wishing and hoping for a different future that I totally missed the beauty of the present! It sounds like a contradiction to set goals and visualize a different future – maybe healthier, fitter, slimmer – while enjoying the journey along the way.
This is your life. Every single, precious second of it. Live it. Love it. Enjoy it.
4. Love yourself now
This sort of builds on the last point. We can be SO hard on ourselves. We think that we’ll love ourselves when we reach a certain weight, look a certain way, or reach a particular goal.
Love yourself now. With all your glorious imperfections, you are amazing.
You are enough.
5. Watch your self talk
We can be our harshest critics. Awareness is the first step. This is something I’m really vigilant about. I don’t allow anyone, including myself, to put me down.
But take this a step further. Make sure that your words build you up. Become your own best friend.
6. Habit change is a new skill – practice it
Like any new skill, creating healthier habits in your life will take practice. It is SO much more than just having enough willpower. Be willing to stay in the arena. Pick yourself up and have another go!
7. Small steps
I’ve made the mistake many times in the past of jumping headfirst into big changes either with an exercise program or with dietary changes. Most of the time this is a recipe for disaster.
When you’re thinking about making changes, make them almost insultingly small and build slowly from there. I can remember thinking that this advice was ridiculous when I first heard it. I was dead wrong.
It’s all about having a long-term view and thinking about the results you want three, six or twelve months from now. This is where the willpower comes in – reigning in that natural tendency we have for instant results and starting small.
8. Check your attitude
You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your own way Anon
Ouch. Our attitudes and beliefs can be huge obstacles on our path to success. I heard someone say the other day that she would start to exercise when her doctor was able to convince her that exercise was important as she hated exercise!
This will sound harsh but the lady above needed to get real, find a way to enjoy moving her body or do it anyway!
Be willing and brave enough to know when you’re BS’ing yourself. Reread point 2.
Maybe hire a coach who will lovingly call you on your BS as sometimes we’re too close to see it.
Being healthy and in shape is all about learning to go up, over, around or through obstacles. Make sure you’re not one of the obstacles!
9. You don’t have to be perfect
For a recovering perfectionist like me, this is a tricky one! But perfection can really stop us in our tracks. I’m learning to embrace the motto ‘Progress not perfection’ (sometimes with gritted teeth!) and it applies equally well to our health.
Instead of being paralysed by the pressure to follow a healthy diet perfectly, what are one or two small changes you can make? Can you add in an extra serving of veggies or use a smaller plate?
No time to do your perfect workout? What CAN you do instead? Go and do that.
10. Lapses are normal. Learn to get better at getting back on track
Life gets in the way sometimes. It just does. Maybe you’ve had a shitty week and you’ve consoled yourself with a family block of your favourite chocolate. Don’t make things even worse by beating yourself up. See point 5.
One of the skills we need to practice is not to let a lapse become a permanent change back to your old habits. Dust yourself off, look at what happened, put some new strategies in place if necessary and get back in the game.
11. Think of food as a way of nourishing your body
Somehow along the way, we’ve lost sight of the fact that food provides valuable nutrients for our bodies. I love the analogy that if we had a million dollar race horse we sure would be paying attention to what we were feeding it!
Much of what passes for food these days is high fat, high sugar, high calorie ‘stuff’ that not only doesn’t nourish our bodies but is harmful. A useful question to ask is ‘Does this food nourish or harm?’
Note to self – remember this point the next time I’m tempted by the chocolate aisle!
12. Exercise is beneficial at any age
Yes. Our bodies are meant to move. We also lose muscle every year so it’s not just about the cardio.
I know what it’s like to hate exercise, but get over it, beautiful! Find a way to love it or do it anyway!
13. Prolonged sitting is bad for you
This is fairly recent research relevant for those of us whose day to day activities mean we’re less active throughout the day. They don’t seem to know why, but prolonged sitting will take years off our lives.
Even if you’re doing formal exercise sometime in your day, find a way to move every hour if you’re sitting for long periods. As I write this I have a timer set up to go off every half hour and I’ll get up from the computer, and do a few tasks that have me moving around for five minutes.
Some people have standing desks while others have set up a desk of sorts on their treadmills. But it can be as simple as getting up from your desk every hour and walking a short distance to the printer.
If you ARE active through the day, this doesn’t get you out of point 12!
14. You are the sum of the 5 people you are associated with
This is probably true in any area of your life and health and fitness are not exception. Take a look around at those you spend the most time with. They WILL be influencing your habits, even if they and you are not aware of it.
If you need to change this dynamic to surround yourself with people whose values more closely align with yours in the health and fitness area, this doesn’t mean you need to ditch your friends and family. Forums or Facebook groups can be a great way to associate with others who will actively support your health and fitness goals. You could also make some new friends who exercise regularly or generally follow a healthy diet.
15. A support team is essential
This expands on the last point. Particularly if we’re making some healthy changes in our lives, we need to make sure we have some more active support around us. Being a ‘lone ranger’ who doesn’t like to ask for help is going to delay or stop your progress.
This could be as simple as meeting a friend regularly for an exercise session or asking your better half not to bring high fat, high sugar treats into the house. I’d also put your doctor on the list for that all-important annual check up and other professionals as you need them. A personal trainer or exercise physiologist could design an exercise program that suits your body and your life and prevent injury. A physiotherapist or chiropractor could be part of your team to assist you on an ongoing basis or for speedy injury recovery.
Now it’s YOUR turn! What have I missed? Let me know in the comments below!