Changing your lifestyle to a healthier one can be extremely beneficial, but there are many obstacles you can put in your own way if you are not careful. Perhaps the way you approach this metamorphosis will make the difference between success and failure.
Everyone has it in them to make the best of the body and environment they have been given, even if the stresses of life make it seem impossible that it can be true.
The largest irony of this – which is almost a paradox – is that a healthier body and mind will serve to make life much less stressful. Initially though it seems easier to reach for the comfort of junk food and television. Make it through that early phase and you are on the path to greatness.
The points below might help with that.
Introduce One Thing At A Time
Many people who decide to change their lifestyle to a healthier one do so with such enthusiasm that they set themselves up for failure. Don’t get me wrong; some will adjust immediately and handle everything and every change their body throws at them. In my opinion, however, those people are rare.
The most unfortunate thing to happen to somebody with all these great intentions of life, body and mind improvement, is that they try to do too much too quickly. And, because of this, they can burn out before they have really experienced the benefits of what they were doing.
This situation can happen for many reasons, but if exercise and nutrition are at the core of the plan then it will usually be one of the following causes:
- Body’s rejection of complete overhaul of dietary intake
- Fatigue and injury due to training at full throttle compared with sedentary life before
- Time constraints of new plan disrupting previous schedule
- Sudden financial changes from healthier food, gym memberships and clothes all at once
There are more of these but it’s easy to see that a combination of the 4 points above can shut-down a health kick before it’s really even begun.
The solution: Don’t put pressure on yourself to change everything overnight. A much better approach is to see this as a series of small adaptations that can be made over time. After all, this is a sustainable plan you are probably hoping to continue in perpetuity. And don’t forget that the alternative is to go back to what you were doing before, so every small change is positive.
It might be easier if you change your diet in increments before starting more intense exercise sessions. The boost in vitality you will feel after a couple weeks of healthier nutritional intake will most likely make you crave more exercise.
Tweak As You Go And Compromise
Even what you do change, you won’t always get right from the start. Stay open-minded and you will realize that there are no fixed rules, and as long as you are still making positive changes and healthier choices, you can vary the degree and type of change to suit.
I have one small example of this myself: When I first started making healthy smoothies, which are a great way of increasing your nutrient density intake in a tasty way, my research led me inevitably to Kale.
Kale is a dark green (purplish hue also), leafy vegetable full of vitamins, minerals and health-improving properties too numerous for this brief example. So, I felt compelled to put it in my daily smoothie. The only problem was that my blender at the time was not fantastic and it didn’t really liquidize the kale too well; it being rather tough.
I like kale to eat, and it’s ok when fully liquidized provided you are adding other delicious ingredients to your Smoothie. Chunks of non-liquidized kale, however, is another story all together. You have to chew your smoothie, the texture of the wet leafy bits are not pleasant and it tastes pretty bad.
I struggled through this for a while until I really thought about it and said, ‘you know what…kale can wait until I have a good blender.’
And so it did. Spinach, which is a bit like kale light, became the temporary replacement. And, fair enough it doesn’t get the health gurus foaming at the mouth quite as much as kale, but it’s still a darn sight better than a donut. And, when I got a blender powerful enough to liquidize a horse if I wanted to, the kale returned.
That was a rather long example of a small tweak but hopefully it can be extrapolated to all of your diet and exercise compromises.
Procrastination and Overthinking – Resist Both
These are two enormous obstacles people place in front of themselves every day. In fact, they can be applied to almost any aspect of everyday life, and they are closely related.
Specifically for people trying to initiate the switch to a healthier lifestyle, the planning alone can be daunting. That’s why at first it’s best to try and outline the very basics of what you will need to get through the first few days. Then you can move to weeks and months, and after that it gets fairly intuitive.
A couple of meal switches in the first week is a good start. Also, resisting the urge to eat junk snacks, take-away and fast food a couple more times is adding to that. Do not try and plan the next 3 months of meals and also cut out everything junk-like overnight. You will take so long planning that you will lose patience and you will crave the bad stuff even more.
The same can be said for overthinking exercise: if you are really planning on a lifetime of exercise, then don’t worry about scheduling the next few weeks. Try some new things out in the gym or park, and read blogs like this one to discover some interesting ways to improve your physique.
Procrastination is equally applicable, to both exercise and nutrition. Deciding whether to go to the gym or not today…or whether to cook a chick pea curry or not…just start the process. You’ll realize how freeing it is to simply start doing things instead of worrying about doing them after a few times of, well, just getting on with it.
Do What You Enjoy
This might sound a bit counterintuitive – “well, I enjoy eating pancakes and bacon every morning, so…”
Okay, the spirit of what I mean is this: if you enjoy cooking and eating one meal type then don’t be worried about having it 2 or 3 times a week. If it’s good for you then it’s good for you.
The same goes for exercise. If you prefer cycling to running or lifting weights then get stuck into cycling. Just because there’s a lot of supporting evidence for resistance training helping your overall health, cycling is still one of the best sports you can do.
I personally subscribe to the notion that variety is the spice of life. And, I think you will when you get really rolling on this healthy turnover.
Start Small And Build
This might sound much like the first point – Introduce One Thing At A Time – but it’s actually more of a philosophical approach to viewing what you are doing.
Seeds can grow into huge trees. Huge engineering projects are spawned from a single thought. Massive building projects start with a single brick. So why should lifestyle changes be any different? Why would you be able to adapt to the full concept all at once?
Nothing makes sense if it hits you in complete entirety simultaneously. We just aren’t built that way. The seed is planted, the first brick is laid. Let it grow and build. And if you hit some problems along the way, don’t forget that those foundations are already there and you can build from them once more.
It’s a reward in itself when you start feeling the benefit of your lifestyle change, but it would be idiotic to say that it is going to be easy the whole way. With that said, it’s a good idea to work towards a reward. Whether it’s a meal out, a holiday, or a gift to yourself, a reward can spur you one enough to get the job done.
If you do this though, you must actually succeed in whatever milestone or timeframe you have set out for the reward system. Otherwise, you will start descending the slippery slope of rewarding failure.
Supplements and Other Products – Why Not Help Yourself Out?
If you really want to adopt a healthier lifestyle, then try not to become your own obstacle to success.
Remember these things to help yourself sustain and gradually build upon the improvements you make as time goes by:
- Introduce one thing at a time
- Tweak the plan as you go, and make compromises
- Limit the time you spend over-thinking and procrastinating and just do something
- Do what you find that you enjoy
- Start small and grow from there
- Remember to reward yourself for success and not failure
- Don’t forget to give yourself a helping hand with a supplement or health product