With the new year coming up, I’m sure many people are planning on swapping out their fries for veggies and putting their running sneakers to use. But planning on doing something and actually doing it are two completely different things. I mean, how many January firsts roll around where you set dozens of health and fitness resolutions just to completely forget them by January 20th? No, you’re not alone, and no, you’re not a bad person. It’s difficult taking on such an arduous goal! Where do you even begin?
Well, that’s what I’m here for. These are my top tips for embracing health and fitness for the longterm. And no, you will not find the basic only drink water and don’t skip breakfast tips on this list (although I couldn’t agree more with them). I wanted to give you less obvious tips you might not have necessarily thought of.
If you’re just interested in a temporary fix, then feel free to ex out now. These tips are for people who want to create a lifestyle; not a fad diet.
1. KNOW YOUR GOALS
How can you achieve what you want if you don’t even know what you want? You might be saying, “uh…yes I do. I obviously want to lose weight.” But that’s not specific enough. That’s not a goal that will work. That’s like saying, “I want to be a millionaire.” Anyone can say that, but without a very specific plan to get there, it won’t happen.
Make goals and don’t be afraid of them. Do you want to fit into a specific dress by next month? Put it on the list! It can be scary because you don’t want to feel like a failure if you don’t get there, but you certainly won’t fit into that dress without trying.
Know why you’re doing this. Get deep. Get personal. Find specific reasons. I promise you that this will make it 50x easier. And if you can’t think of any good reasons? Then maybe this lifestyle just isn’t for you…
2. FIND AN INTEREST, GET INSPIRED, & MAKE IT LAST
This one is HUGE and so underrated. I do realize that not everyone is interested in health and fitness, but find a way to get interested. Find an angle.
Maybe you’re one of those people who enjoys a good Buzzfeed list. Perfect. There are a gazillion of them. Or maybe you enjoy human interest stories. Great. There are entire TV shows dedicated to people’s weight loss journeys, such as The Biggest Loser and My 600 Pound Life (although admittedly, I can’t stomach the latter). And then there are the people who are genuinely interested in science. In that case, I’ll pay you to do my biology homework…
No matter what your preferences are, you can find a way to get interested. Personally, I enjoy it all.
Next you need inspiration. And you need to keep it coming. Finding this is easy on days you’re motivated, but what about when you’re just not in the mood? What about then? Well, set yourself up in a way that you’ll be given motivation on your worst days. Follow a bunch of health and fitness Instagrams so that whether you like it or not, your inspiration will pop up everywhere. Pinterest. Twitter. YouTube. Facebook. Do people even still use Facebook? I don’t care. Use it.
This allows your inspiration and motivation to always be right in the palm of your hands…because let’s be real, when is your phone ever not with you?
3. GRAB A NOTEBOOK
This one is for true beginners. Write it all down! Your food, your exercise routine, how you feel; everything. I know this might seem tedious to some, but I’m telling you from personal experience that it makes a big difference. Not only does writing force you to truly examine things that you might otherwise not have even noticed, it also leaves you accountable. When I did this there were so many times I didn’t want to go to the gym, but I literally thought, “I don’t want to write down a big DID NOT EXERCISE in my notebook” and got my butt on the treadmill.
4. CREATE A VERY SPECIFIC SCHEDULE/ROUTINE
We are creatures of habit. We get up every morning, eat breakfast (YOU BETTER BE EATING BREAKFAST!), and go to school without even thinking about it. Well, how great would that be if you could hit the gym with such nonchalance? You can; just make it a habit.
I personally think the whole “it takes 21 days to form a habit” thing is BS. Every human is different and there is no one size fits all. Nonetheless, pencil gym time into your schedule. The same way you just have to go to class at 1, make it so that you just have to go to the gym at 5 (or whenever).
While I realize that everyone has crazy schedules, I do highly recommend making “gym time” the same time every day. It makes things more routine. I did this freshman year and I went to the gym almost every single weekday. It was just normal for me; it was routine.
5. LOOK AT NUTRIENTS; NOT CALORIES
Before I got into health/fitness, I didn’t even know what a macronutrient was, or that it even existed. (If you don’t, fear not! That’s why I’m here.) There are 3 macronutrients that comprise the foods we eat.
CARBS – They’ve gotten a bad rep throughout the years, but all carbs should not be feared. Bad carbs (think French fries, chips, and cookies) should be kept to a minimum, of course, but what many people don’t realize is that there is such thing as good carbs! These include potatoes, quinoa, and fruits & veggies (yes, these are carb-dense!). But carbs give you energy and a banana won’t make you fat.
PROTEIN – Good ol’ protein. This is found most commonly in fish, chicken, and other meats. There’s a huge debate in the health industry as to whether or not humans need this (vegans say no, basically everyone else says yes), so I guess it’s preference. Personally, I don’t know where I’d be without it.
FAT – Right now you’re probably expecting me to warn you of the weight gain effects of fat. Well, that won’t be happening. Certain fats in moderation can actually be good for you. Heck, they can be great for you! And we need fat to survive. Avocados, which are rich in the healthy kind, are my life. The problem is that fat must be eaten in moderation (more so than the other macros) because it contains 9 calories per gram, compared to the others, which contain 4. But fat is still a vital part of the diet!
I really hope I didn’t lose you up there with all that science talk, but now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s discuss calories. All 3 of these macros will make up the food you eat, and therefore the calories you consume. Personally, I don’t really pay too much attention to calories. In my opinion, they’re for uninformed people who don’t know much. Why do I say this? Because calories tell you nothing. I can eat 3,000 calories of fruits and vegetables while the person next to me eats 2,000 of nothing but cakes and muffins, yet I’ll be much healthier. Calories are a meaningless guideline.
6. PREPARATION IS KEY
We’ve all heard it before, so why wouldn’t we apply it to our health & fitness journeys? Bottom line: if you don’t plan out what foods you’ll be eating or what exercises you’ll be doing, you’ll end up eating twinkies after a “workout” where you aimlessly roam around the gym like a lost puppy.
A lot of people who are too busy to prepare their foods each and every day meal prep. They cook all their food at the beginning of the week, distribute it into little plastic containers, and eat from each container at designated meal times. I’ve never done this, but I know it helps a lot of people.
Planning is also important on a day-to-day basis as you really need to think ahead of time for each and every individual situation. Say, for instance, you have a party one night. Showing up with an empty stomach probably isn’t the best idea. Eat a filling dinner beforehand and pack a banana in your bag so you won’t be tempted to devour every cookie in sight. (And yes, there will be cookies because let’s be real, it’s not a party without cookies.)
7. BRING ON THE VEGGIES
You’ve heard it since you were a little kid. Broccoli is good for you. And not just broccoli. All vegetables have amazing health benefits and are not only full of nutrients, but also fiber, which keeps you full and satisfied.
If you’re not willing to incorporate vegetables into your diet, then you might as well throw this whole health and fitness thing in the garbage. I don’t know one healthy person who neglects vegetables, and for good reason! They’re easy to prepare are so unbelievably good for you (and your tastebuds!).
8. SAY GOODBYE TO THE SCALE
Now, I’m not telling you to throw away your scale and never step on the thing again, but daily (and even weekly) weigh-ins have got to go. Yes, I understand that you want to see progress, but this just isn’t an accurate measurement of that. How you look and more importantly, how you feel, are way better indicators of how you’re doing.
Of course, it’s good to weigh yourself every once in a while to have an idea, but you just can’t rely on how much you weigh to dictate your level of health & fitness success.
If you’re truly in it for the long haul, then numbers don’t matter.
Well, there you have it. Those are my 8 tips for getting into this whole health & fitness thing. The most important thing to remember is that it’s a lifestyle; not a fad. Make it last.