Health, fitness, and wellness is a lifestyle. So many people start dieting and exercising but struggle to maintain these behavior changes. Behavior change is hard. Starting a new routine is hard. However health, fitness, and wellness is for everyone. Try these 10 things to make health, fitness, and wellness a lifestyle.
1. You cannot out train a bad diet.
You can workout for hours in the gym and burn hundreds of calories but if you are not eating well you may not see the results you hoped for. Progress is what will keep you motivated and enjoying your new lifestyle. People are more likely to give up when they do not see results. And if you want results, you will want to change your diet. A study looked at weight loss for three different groups. One group only consumed a low-fat diet, one group only engaged in physical exercise, and the other group engaged in both. The low-fat diet group lost more weight than the physical activity group and the group that changed their diet and engaged in physical activity had the highest weight loss of the three groups (Foster-Schubert, et al., 2012). Sure exercise and its many benefits will lead to some weight loss but it may be slow. Eating a nutritious diet will support weight loss efforts and improve overall health and wellness. Below is a sample meal plan. This meal plan can be adjusted to meet personal preferences. But eating for a well-balanced and nutritious lifestyle includes 5-6 meals a day and each meal will include a protein, carbs, fats, fruits, and vegetables. Please see myplate.gov for additional information. Eliminate sugars, processed foods, sodas, and fast foods 80% of the time in order to maintain a healthy diet. Jennifer McDaniel, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that eating well 80% of the time will help keep the body toned and allow for you to enjoy less healthy food some of the time, and you won’t have to worry about weight gain.
2. Be active everyday.
If you are going to start eating better you are going to start feeling better and you will have improved sleep and increased energy. Use this increased energy to be physically active. Physical activity includes a walk around the park, a swim, a bike ride, playing soccer with your kids, or dancing. Everyone varies in the type of exercises they enjoy. Everyone also varies in the amount and intensity needed to meet fitness goals. In order to lose weight you will need to engage in more frequent and more intense physical activity. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that individuals that want to maintain weight need to engage in 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity and 75 minutes of intense physical activity a week. Moderate means your heart rate has increased and you may be breathing heavier but you can still talk. Intense physical activity also increases your heart rate and breathing but it is more difficult to talk. Moving every single day for about 30 minutes should be ample time to start, maintain, and live a physically fit life.
3. Set goals for yourself.
People that set goals are more successful at starting and maintaining healthy eating and weight loss (Mann, de Ridder, & Fujita, 2013). There are different types of goals. There are long-term goals and there are short-term goals. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle is a long-time goal. It is OK to set an established goal weight. Perhaps your goal is not about weight loss but rather on a physical endeavor, like running a marathon. These types of long-term goals keep you focused. However progress to these goals can be slow at times and there will be many struggles along the way. Therefore I encourage you to also set short-term goals. Set a daily goal for hours you will workout or exercises you will complete. Set a weekly goal for consuming fast food only 2 times. Set a monthly goal to lose 5 pounds. The smaller goals will build to help you reach your ultimate goal.
4. Once you have goals set you can make a plan.
People that made a plan were more successful maintaining healthy behaviors than people that did not make a plan, even though all had a desire to be healthy (Van Osch, et al., 2010). If you want to be successful you need to plan. To develop a successful plan you want to plan for where, when, and how you will engage in the healthy behavior. Write in your calendar or set a reminder on your phone to alert you that at a certain time you will go to a specified gym and you will perform the specified workout. Specifically state what you plan to do that day. The same goes for healthy eating. Pack your meals the day before, or a few days before, and take your food with you. Set a reminder on your calendar to alert you it is time to eat so you will not miss a meal. Fail to plan and you plan to fail.
5. Eliminate “I can’t”, “I don’t have time”, and “I’m scared” from your vocabulary.
What you speak, you believe, and what you believe, you do. Saying these things to yourself will make it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. These phrases will hold you back. Start saying things that make you feel encouraged, excited, motivated, and empowered. Say “I can”, “I can make time”, and “I can do all things” and you will find that this becomes your truth!
6. Do not be afraid to add strength training to your healthy routine.
Did you know that people with health issues like chronic pain and stroke have greater recovery benefits when they employ a strength training routine? Furthermore people with physical disabilities are using strength training to improve and rehabilitate the body. Not to mention that strength training is also associated with an improved mood. The human body was designed to move, build, go, and grow. The body is strong. Strength training will not make you look like a bodybuilder, trust me, bodybuilders go above and beyond strength training. Strength training will help your body move better. When the body can move better you start to feel better.
7. Educate yourself about foods and nutrition.
Awareness is key to change. There is a lot of research out there that demonstrates that simply having awareness is not enough to change behavior. In one of the studies above a group of people were only provided education about healthy eating and physical activity. Although education increased desire for change it was not enough to make people actually start (or stop) new behaviors. But education can be powerful if it is meaningful. Find an area of health and fitness that interests you. Perhaps you like to cook then read about how to cook healthy foods. Perhaps you like to know how things work then watch documentaries about athletes. Education will help you know which choices are right for you. Education can give you confidence to make the right decision.
8. Find a hobby you love.
This does not have to be associated with health at all. Perhaps you love to paint, sew, or scrapbook. Maybe you are an animal lover. People watching is a hobby one can love as well. What is the thing that you like to do that relaxes you, takes your mind off things, and makes you feel complete? Find ways and make time to enjoy these things. One study suggested that individuals that are engaged in more leisure activities were also more physically active (Taylor, et al., 2012). Go out and have fun!
9. Take a Self-Inventory.
Ask yourself, “on a scale of 1-10, how motivated are you to workout 30 minutes a day for 3 days a week?” 1 is not very motivated and 10 is very motivated. If you pick a number under 7, ask yourself “what do I need to get to (the next number)?” Then see how to attain that resource needed to increase your motivation. Once you have this resource, ask yourself the question again and repeat the process. If you initially pick a number that is over a 7 that is pretty motivated. But you may need to ask yourself “why am I not more motivated?”. This question can help you identify excuses for decreased motivation and can help you decide how to overcome the excuse.
10. People that are fit have balance.
Balance is necessary to have fun, enjoy time with family and friends, and enjoy yourself. Only athletes and models live a life of strict diet and workout plans. And they do not live that lifestyle all year long. During the offseason athletes will loosen their diets and workouts. You will not be successful if you are in the gym for hours every day. You will miss out on things with family and friends. It is OK to have cake or ice cream if you are making healthy choices most of the time. Enjoying life requires you to enjoy food and enjoy others. Enjoying life also means making decisions every day that impact your body, your diet, your interactions with others, and your mood. There are days that will be harder than others and days that you will feel like a Rock Star. Both are OK! Both are Normal! Take life one day at a time and this will help you stay focused, healthy, and fit.
Health, fitness, and wellness starts with one positive behavior change. This behavior change will lead to others because when you become better in one area of life, you start to feel better in all areas of life.
Sample Meal Plan – please click this link to access a sample meal plan
Foster-Schubert, K., Alfano, C., Duggan, C., Xiao, L., Campbell, K., Kong, A., … McTiernan, A. (2012). Effect of diet and exercise, alone or combined, on weight and body composition in overweight-to-obese postmenopausal women. Obesity, 28(8), 1628-1638.
Mann, T., de Ridder, D., & Fujita, K. (2013). Self-regulation of health behavior: Social psychological approaches to goal setting and goal striving. Health Psychology, 32(5), 487-498.
Taylor, S., Ward, P., Zabriskie, R., Hill, B., & Hanson, C. (2012). Influences on active family leisure and a healthy lifestyle among adolescents. Leisure Sciences, 34(4), 332-349.
Van Osch, L., Reubsaet, A., Lechner, L., Beenackers, M., Candel, M., & de Vries, H. (2010). Planning health behavior change: Comparing the behavioral influence of two types of self-regulatory planning. British Journal of Health Psychology, 15(1), 133-149.