Back in January, I would drive by gyms and see jam-packed parking lots. My own gym was filled with determined faces that I had never seen before, and a nutritionist that I knew from college posted on social media that she had lots of new clients looking to turn their lives around. This phenomenon hardly lasts beyond the first few months of the new year. By the time you get to March or April, lots of people aren’t able to keep up with their lofty New Year Resolutions, especially the goals aimed to achieving a healthier lifestyle.
Having fallen off the wagon in the middle of January, I decided to use Chinese New Year – Friday, February 16th – as my new springboard and my second chance. This didn’t last longer than a few days. My health caught up to me, and instead of taking time everyday to exercise and cook healthy dishes, I let my excuses pile up (again). It wasn’t until February 23rd, when my family decided to do a 10-Day Detox Diet and pulled me into it, that I got back my motivation and have kept it so far. Granted, it’s only been about two weeks, but I’ve already found the tools and mindset that I needed to keep being successful.
In light of March being National Nutrition Month (created by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), I wanted to share the mindsets that I’ve found to help me so far to keep with a healthier lifestyle.
How to Keep a Healthy Lifestyle
1. Just Do It: Don’t Wait for a New Year, Just Start
If you’re sitting around and waiting for a good time to get started, that day may never come. From my experience, there’s no ideal time to start eating healthy or to start exercising. Instead of waiting for the ‘right time’ to show, start making small changes in your life. Perhaps it’s adding a workout or two twice a week, then slowly increasing it to 3 or 4 times a week over a span of a few weeks or months. Or maybe it’s just deciding to no longer buy processed foods as snack foods, and then eliminating them from the house. Instead of tossing unhealthy food away like most diet books say, start eating them in moderation until they are gone and avoid buying any more of those types of food (except maybe for a treat on a cheat day). This helps you feel less guilty about tossing those foods that you already have already spent money on, and will help ease you into a healthier diet and lifestyle because it isn’t a huge change overnight.
If setting a date helps you, do it. Planning a date or weekend that isn’t too far away allows you to plan and prepare your home to make those small changes. Sometimes it’s helpful to say that you’ll go grocery shopping and prep all the food on a specific weekend to guarantee healthy meals throughout the week.
Either way, just start! You don’t need to wait until a certain time to start.
Why is this important?
This line of thinking allows you to keep motivated to move forward. There shouldn’t be a moment when you fall from your goals and then just shrug your shoulders and say, “Whelp, that’s it then!” Knowing that you can restart the very next day allows you to realize it’s okay to have a cheat day or cheat meal. A diet doesn’t always have to be healthy to be effective – contrary to belief. A health diet just has to be consistent and easy for YOU to do and keep up with. If you eat out three times a week, maybe limit it to once a week and replace those other meals with healthy alternatives, or if you eat out once a week, maybe move it to every other week or once a month! Overall, this allows you to adopt a healthy lifestyle, not just a short-term thing.
2. I Can Do This: Believe You Can Do It and Find What Motivates You to Feel This Way
Is it money (paying for a gym membership or healthy food that you won’t let spoil)? Deadlines (a set/fad diet that gives you structure and an ‘end’ date you can count down to)? Weight goals? Being able to see/track your progress? Stickers? Accountability (posting updates on Facebook/Instagram, sending pictures to friends, or writing it down on a calorie/exercise tracking website)? Or perhaps it’s having someone who will be on the journey with you? No matter what it might be, figure what will motivate you to stick with your lifestyle change and use it. If you need ideas, you can search Google or Pinterest for different ways to keep you motivated.
3. It’s Okay: Be Realistic and Kind to Yourself on Your Journey
I call it a lifestyle change, because it’s a change towards a healthier diet and lifestyle. This sounds really big and drastic to some people, but it doesn’t have to be! Take it one small step at a time and keep in mind that you’re human. So if you’re eating healthy the majority of the time (or just eating better than usual), don’t beat yourself up for that one chocolate bar or unhealthy meal. Allow yourself to eat out on occasion or have that slice of pizza that you’ve been craving. Trying to give up all your favorite unhealthy foods isn’t sustainable for the majority of people. It’s why people allow a ‘cheat day’ in their diets. The idea is that on cheat day, you eat what you want, but still in moderation. This doesn’t jeopardize your overall goals for your body, weight loss, or healthy lifestyle. Better yet, find healthy versions of your favorite foods! This way you don’t really lose out. What about exercise? If there’s a day that you really can’t fit in your exercise, that’s okay! Promise to pick it back up the next day.
Overall, be kind to yourself and recognize your limits. I guarantee that we all have them.
4. Remember, Food is Fuel
They say that you are what you eat, but I never found this phrase helpful or motivational. If I am what I eat, heck, I’m fine with being french fries or grilled cheese… or pizza! Who doesn’t love pizza? Changing your mindset to thinking about food as being fuel for you body allows you to look at food you’re eating with a critical eye. Know what’s going in your body and what it can do for you. More sustained energy? Increase vitamins? Help your GI tract due to fiber? If you know what they do, you can modify food to what you want to accomplish and also see what food can do to help your body. Instead of the general knowledge that vegetables are healthy, why are they healthy? What do they contribute? Can they help reduce your weight? Keep you full longer? Knowledge is power, and power means that you can decide what can benefit your body the most.
These are just some of the mindsets to help you get started on your healthy lifestyle journey. Stay tuned for my next post on what tools you need in your toolbox to help you stick with a healthy lifestyle in the long run.
Disclaimer: Before attempting any lifestyle changes, diets, or strenuous exercise, make sure to talk to your primary care physician to see if those changes are right for you.