Today’s topic I’d like to touch on is a frequently asked question I get: “How in the world do I start a healthy lifestyle?”
Well, to address this question, here are six simple and effective tips to get going and stick with it.
1. Ease Into It
I can’t stress how important this is! New healthy habits don’t happen over night. In fact, when Kent and I first met, we went out to eat several nights a week for dates. Kent had healthy habits when I met him, so he was the good influence on me, but I also influenced him to go out to eat. We decided early on to support each other with our goals, so we eased into changes versus trying to quit “cold turkey” or all at once.
For example, we started choosing one night a week to go out to eat and committed to cooking at home the other nights. As a result, we started saving a lot of money. We went shopping and bought groceries together so we had healthy meals to cook at either apartment (mine or his). We also joined the same gym so we could go together. If you don’t have a significant other to share this with or someone who is supportive, don’t worry. You can still achieve your goals.
Even something as simple as sending an email to friends and family explaining your goals is a great idea. That way you are not explaining yourself 100 times. Don’t tell people you are “dieting.” That means “temporary.” Just say that you are making changes for a healthier lifestyle.
Focus on making small changes each week. Here are two small changes that lead to BIG results.
- Drink 3/4 or 1 gallon of water a day (helps with fat burning).
- Eat small meals every 3 hours, 5-7 meals a day (start off with 5 because it can seem like a lot of food). This increases your metabolism.
2. Know Your Weaknesses and Avoid Them
You have to learn to support each other (as a couple) or support your friends or family members when they have a goal. I know Kent’s weakness is chips with salsa, so I don’t try to tempt him with that. He knows I love sweets and lots of peanut butter, so he would never try to tempt me to eat bad when I’m trying to achieve a fitness goal. There is nothing wrong with a fun “treat” meal, but know your weakness. If there is a certain food that sends you into a downhill spiral, don’t eat it. Choose another splurge food instead. Choose something you can eat, feel satisfied with and move on. For example, some people tell me if they eat sugar (like a cupcake), then they have cravings all week. Instead of having the cupcake and torturing yourself for a week, choose another fun meal once a week. I have found that one “cheat meal” a week works for me and my goals.
Your results are 80% nutrition, 20% exercise. With that being said, you know where you should focus to get the results you want. If you are just starting off on your weight loss journey, start by going grocery shopping. Stay away from the inner aisles of the grocery store and stick with the outside aisles. I have attached my grocery list to help you.
Avoid processed foods when possible. In order to increase your metabolism, start by eating every 3 hours, 5-7 meals per day. You might just want to start with 5 meals at first because it can seem like a lot of food if your body is not accustomed to this meal frequency.
Each meal should consist of a lean protein, complex carbohydrate and veggie. Healthy fats are great in moderation. Fruit is a simple carb so you can choose fruit at a meal instead of a complex carb source. Keep in mind, fruit contains quite a bit of sugar, so I tend to limit fruit to once or twice a day. Kent and I cook about two days a week, preparing a lot of food at once (aka cooking in bulk). This ensures we have meals on hand and we can always reach for a healthy snack. This keeps us from being tempted to go out to eat when we don’t feel like cooking or we’re feeling less motivated.
You may have to adjust your portions to find what’s right for you. Usually just by looking at the serving size on a package or container, you can figure out a starting point. For example, a serving size of chicken is usually 4 oz. This would be a great starting point for a woman and maybe 6 oz for a man.
If you feel starving at the end of the day, even though you ate every 3 hours, you probably under-ate. Under-eating can actually cause you to hold weight, just like over-eating can. It’s finding that balance for your body and activity level that is key. Once we got married, we hired a nutritionist to help us with portions. It took out all the guess work. It turns out, I was frequently under-eating and I never saw any ab definition until I started eating enough. Funny how that works.
4. Stay Active
Exercise makes us feel great but we can’t out train a bad diet. You can work out every day of the week, but if you don’t change your nutrition, you’ll never see the results you want. A combination of strength training and cardio can yield great results. Lifting weights creates shape and cardio makes you a smaller version of yourself. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn all day.
Don’t worry, ladies. You won’t get bulky from lifting. You only feel bigger when you eat junk AND lift weights. When you do that, you will be adding muscle to fat and that can make your pants fit tighter for sure. That’s why nutrition is SO important. Whether you workout at the gym, home or exercise outdoors, just focus on staying active. If you feel intimidated by the gym, take an exercise class. Even hire a trainer for a few sessions. There are tons of options. Your health is so important, so make fitness a priority now by being proactive.
You do not need to spend hours in the gym. 30-60 minutes is plenty of time for a good workout. Sometimes I lift weights and jump rope between sets for 30 minutes for a high intensity workout. Other times, I lift for 30 minutes, followed by cardio for 30 minutes.
5. Vision Board
When I was first starting out on my weight loss journey, I bought a bulletin board and put it in a place where I would see it every single day. On that board I posted motivational quotes, photos and goals. This was a daily reminder of where I was going and who I wanted to become. One of my favorite quotes is, “Start to think of yourself as the person you want to be.” It worked and kept me focused.
6. Set Realistic Goals
Don’t tell yourself, “If I don’t lose 10 pounds in two weeks, I quit.” That’s not realistic. Know that by eating clean, you’ll typically see a slower pound loss, depending on your body and how much weight you have to lose. Keep this in mind: the scale does not know if you are gaining muscle and losing body fat. So why would you weigh yourself every day? It doesn’t make sense. Pitch the scale. It’s only going to discourage you if you don’t meet the number you’re expecting.
I encourage you to set goals based on measurements or a clothing size rather than a specific weight. I could care less what I weigh as long as I have lean muscle and a strong and healthy body. A certain weight does not tell you if you are attractive. If you are confident and feel great about yourself, that’s attractive.
Fact: when I started eating clean, I was about 24% body fat. I had my nutritionist measure me. Within just three to four months of consistent eating, I was down to 15% body fat. I still weighed the same: 140 pounds. I love telling people that because if I had only gone by scale weight, I might have gotten discouraged and given up early. Instead I took progress pictures and measurements. I went from a size 8 in jeans to a size 4. It was quite a transformation!
Best of luck with all of your goals! Don’t get discouraged when changes don’t happen over night. Know that you are doing things the healthy way and it’s going to take consistency. The good news is, time flies! Before you know it, you’ll have a NEW body and you’ll have complete strangers asking you what you do! That’s what happened to us and we love helping others.
Eat clean and follow your dreams!