Everyone is busy trying to fit more into their days. We are all told we need to exercise more, eat less processed foods, eat more healthy food, focus on our careers, be there for our kids, our partners and our friends, develop ourselves, help the community, school, kindergarten, charity….
No wonder we’re all exhausted!
All of these expectations can make us feel overwhelmed. And even if we get our head around all of the things we need to do, knowing where to start is a challenge.
I believe that the journey (and it is a journey) to feeling healthier should be guided by the following few principles.
1. Keep it simple.
Look at the many parts of your life and ask yourself, “can this be done in a simpler way?” We often make life much more complicated than it really needs to be.
For example, find a healthy breakfast that you like and eat this same breakfast on most days of the week (particularly on those days that you need to rush out the door). On less crazy days when you have more time, experiment and try different foods for breakfast. But at least on those busy mornings, without spending too much thought or time on it, you know that you’ve started the day healthfully.
Exercising doesn’t need to be complicated either. You don’t have to join the gym or buy the latest abdominal machine advertised on late night television to work out your body. If the thought of exercising feels too overwhelming, simplify it. Take the stairs, instead of the elevator. Park further away when going to the shops. Run around the park with your children. Any movement can be exercise. Just pick something simple that you can do most days.
2. Just start.
When you don’t feel like exercising, or eating healthier feels just too hard, just start. Put your shoes on and walk out the door to the end of the street. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find you’re happy to walk further than you thought.
On those days when I don’t feel like going to the gym, I commit to just ten minutes. I tell myself that if after ten minutes I still don’t feel like it, I can go home. In the 20 years that I’ve been going to the gym, I’ve only gone home once after being there for ten minutes. Just once.
3. Start small.
We’ve all seen it (or been guilty of it) – a friend, colleague or family member gets all fired up to start exercising or lose weight and throws themselves into exercise or begins a new diet. All junk food is banned in favour of salads for every meal (for two or maybe three days until they can’t take it anymore). Or they start going to go the gym five days a week but stop after a few sessions because either their bodies are too sore or tired from over-exertion or they injure themselves because this is the first time they’ve exercised in a long time.
It’s great that our friends/colleagues/family members (you) are so enthusiastic and motivated to start exercising or eat healthier, but please start small. You can always do more, but it is really de-motivating when you have to cut back or stop because your initial plan was a bit extreme.
If you haven’t exercised for a while, how about starting with 30 minutes once a week? Or if that seems a bit daunting, try ten minutes. Do this for a few weeks and then when you feel that this has become a comfortable, regular part of your week, add another exercise session.
Start eating healthier by eating one piece of fruit each day, or drink an extra glass of water. I struggle with drinking enough water each day (particularly during the winter months) and sometimes go a whole day without drinking a glass of water! So I’ve made a commitment to drink one (yes, just one) glass of water each day. Sure, it’s not the required two litres I’m supposed to drink, but at least I’m drinking one more glass of water each day than I used to.
4. One thing at a time.
This can be applied to many facets of life, but in relation to getting healthier, just pick one thing to work on at a time.
Yes, you might want to drink more water and less soft drink, eat more vegetables and less processed food and go to the gym five times a week (whilst still working, being a parent, running a household – and whatever else you have in your already at capacity week). In reality, if you try to do all of these things at the one time, it is unlikely you’ll do any of them for very long.
So just pick one and work on that for a few weeks until it doesn’t feel so onerous and only then add a new healthy habit.
Many of us know what we need to do to get healthier. The challenge is usually how to do this. By keeping in mind the above four principles, we can start the move towards a healthier us. It might only be a small move, but at least it’s a start – and that’s a move in the right direction.