Do you ever have days or weeks when you feel like you’re doing pretty well in terms of fitness and healthy eating?
You’ve been eating well, exercising, getting fresh air and drinking water, and feeling pretty good with it. You’ve found a groove and are maintaining progress, even if that progress is gradual.
I hope you do.
However, we probably all also go through days, weeks or even longer periods when we lose focus, motivation or become overwhelmed with other things. We comfort eat, we get lazy, we notice the pounds creeping on, and feel a bit uncomfortable.
Some people swing back and forth in unhealthy ways from one extreme to another, and I don’t have too much experience of that myself. There have been times during periods of depression when things were more noticeably difficult for me, at one point I was too thin, and then some years later I noticed I was putting on weight after starting on medication. But apart from that, the pendulum hasn’t swung too far in one direction or another for me.
That being said, even for relatively healthy people we do notice the subtle changes in ourselves that leave us feeling ‘sluggish’, unhealthy and not so great physically. We know when we’re beginning to lose focus, motivation and when our health, wellbeing and weight isn’t quite what we know it should be, even if that isn’t particularly noticeable to other people.
So what happens if you find yourself in such a position? The key is consistency. Overnight transformation doesn’t happen. It takes regular, consistent and intentional changes in our lifestyles in order to maintain progress.
Maybe you’ve ‘fallen off the wagon’ a bit with your health and fitness. Maybe you’ve been inconsistent during seasons of celebration, holidays, festivities, or conversely low mood, depression and difficult circumstances. You’re not on your own.
Don’t beat yourself up about it. Remember you have to start somewhere, and once you’ve started just keep going. If you’re overwhelmed, make some small steps forward, start with 5 minutes of exercise if you’re struggling, and build up from there, keep consistent, keep moving, keep eating well, don’t be demanding or obsessive with yourself and your habits, but just try to maintain consistency and you’ll make progress.
There are no shortcuts, but try not to be overwhelmed by thinking about how far away you are from where you want to be with your health and fitness. Just do one small thing today and if that’s all you can manage for now, that’s ok. Start again tomorrow, and just keep going. Small steps in the right direction all add up, so stay positive, you can do it.
If most of your working day is spent sitting at a computer, then it is important to be intentional about being active, even if that activity is simply short and regular walks along the corridor, or gentle stretching, for example arm or leg stretches which you can do while sitting at your desk. If you think about your health in the long term, then a sedentary lifestyle can be very detrimental on a number of levels. Even if you are already fairly active, it’s beneficial to keep moving throughout the day and not just waiting until the end of the day or the week to go to a gym, or for a run or some other type of exercise.
Find ways in which you can ‘step it up’ in your office environment, and you can be subtle about it. Walk up and down the stairs if you are able to – this is good for the body, mind and heart as well. Take a short walk at lunchtime. If you are going to a meeting within your building, and have the option of using stairs or a lift, take the stairs where possible. Do some simple leg stretches under your desk, or whatever movement you are able to do with your physical abilities. Your body will thank you for it in years to come, and you will be fitter, more focused and healthier to also be more productive in your work tasks. And one last thing…ladies, if you wear heels, remember to keep a pair of flat shoes at the ready! 🙂
Happy 1st of June peeps! 🙂 I hope the month is going well for you so far, and if not, that you are finding the resilience, hope, strength and support you need to persevere.
I’m excited to share with you something I did today that I haven’t done in years, many, many, many, many years! And even when I did it before it was on rare and sporadic occasions. I went *outside* to do some exercise.
This might be matter of fact to some or maybe even a lot of you. You literally and figuratively take it in your stride to perhaps go out jogging, running, or whatever other sport or exercise you might do. But not so with me.
I grew up feeling very insecure, shy, fearful and intimidated by people, most likely largely influenced by my early experiences of bullying in school. In school I was kind of average when it came to sports, I definitely wasn’t ‘good’ as there were some very sporty and athletic people who had their little sporty and equally academic clique. I was academic, but not sporty, and not at all self assured. I had anxiety and panic attacks in public places, and even now as an adult I have been working hard to overcome these.
I don’t know about you but taking part in sport in school was highly stressful for me. There is a lot of comparison and ranking and being picked last or not being good enough and being bossed about by gym teachers no matter how scared, nervous or frightened or out of your depth you might feel. There were things I enjoyed, not competitively but from time to time I’d actually enjoy a little bit of hockey, netball, rounders (is that even a sport? at least it’s exercise) and I absolutely loved riding my bike (another thing I haven’t done since childhood) and the hurdles out in the playing field as I was good at that and felt for some brief moments like I was ‘flying’….and that I had accomplished something. But overall, on the whole, I kind of hated sport, PE, gym class and felt that the kind of exercise presented to us was something I was pretty much ‘allergic’ to. It was just something that was forced upon us, some people were naturally great at it, and others like me were average and struggled and muddled along, feeling self conscious, not good enough and like we were not in our natural habitat! I’m sure this is a very common experience.
As a teenager and an adult I’ve been only to one gym, a small one, and that only lasted about a year. I’ve done exercises at home, and I love and feel very much at ease going out for walks in nature. But as an adult I had the idea and impression that I was pretty much ‘allergic to exercise’! It was not an appealing thought to me.
However, I realised that I needed to start more regular exercise to help me overcome the depression (and it has helped massively), stay fit and healthy, keep my heart strong, and feel good about myself. For the past couple of years I have been exercising regularly at home doing workouts from various videos online on YouTube. One in particular that I love is Leslie Sansone’s walk exercises as they ease you into exercising and help you to build up gradually overtime, so that was ideal for me. Yet, the thought of going to a gym for an anxious, self conscious person who doesn’t like busy or noisy places where there are a lot of people has been pretty much something that I don’t want to do. And that’s ok. I feel comfortable at home, I can do things at my own pace, and I can have encouraging people guide me, even if that is through video. I have grown to love my little routines at home and miss exercising if I don’t do it. It has helped to lift my mood and keep me positive which is in stark contrast to the worst times of depression.
I think part of the reason I enjoy it so much is that there are no other people, no one judging, comparing, showing off or intimidating, no fears of what other people might think or not looking ok in this sports wear, or whatever it might be. I am just free to simply work on my health and fitness at my own pace from the comfort of my own home with encouraging input from people who can’t see me and don’t know me but are still a positive influence.
So, the thought of going outside to exercise was very intimidating to me. It didn’t really appeal to me, especially the thought of doing so in front of other people. But today, and I’m not sure why, I decided, why not just go and give it a go. Start small. Walking, jogging, running. Ok, so sportswear is not your natural clothing choice, but that’s ok, put your headphones in, listen to some encouraging music, and give it a go….be brave.
And I did give it a go, and I was brave. And I did not have one single anxiety or panic attack.
I walked for a bit, down by the riverside where many walkers, joggers, cyclists go as well as couples, families, people just going for a stroll. I admit I was self conscious. So I walked, and walked until there were less people around, and I set myself a modest target to jog to. And then I walked, and jogged and walked until I got to a less busy place where although there were people about, it was somewhere I felt I could just ‘get on with it’. So I went from walking to jogging to running to sprinting. And then I did some HIIT – high intensity interval training. And I did it all for an hour in total, including a walk ‘cool down’ which allowed me to walk past people on my way home and not try to have to jog or run.
It was a start. And there were some really enjoyable ‘bursts’ where I ran past people and past my self consciousness. Minor victories, perhaps, but don’t you think sometimes the smallest steps, like that first step out the front door, can turn out to be the biggest?
It was a big step to me, but I did it because I decided to not make it such a big deal. ‘Why not?’ Exactly, ‘why not?’ So what is on your mind, my friend, that you like the idea of giving a go, but are feeling afraid or anxious or nervous about? What is the person like that you’d like to be in the future, and what are the steps that you’d have to take to get there? Why not you? Why not today? What’s stopping you?
Yes, that smallest first step in that new direction can often feel like the biggest…but I know you can do it. Is there anything new or out of your comfort zone that you’d like to try this month? Maybe the biggest first small step is getting out of your head and sharing it with others. What’s stopping you? xx
Sometimes I find incremental changes to be far more effective and sustainable than sudden energetic efforts to drastically change a particular area of life. Of course sometimes a large project needs to be planned and undertaken (such as de-cluttering you home, for example), wherein such energetic efforts for a short-term project are necessary and helpful in order to sustain new habits, a new system and new daily routines that will be sustainable in the long term.
However, unlike some, I’m not one to approach healthy eating in this way, and I wouldn’t jump on the January “New year, new start, new diet” bandwagon. From observation, such efforts often seem short lived, ending in discouragement, disappointment and a lapse into old bad habits.
I prefer to make incremental changes gradually and throughout the year, taking time to research healthy options and what will work for me in my life and routine. Overall, I find, small and consistent changes are more sustainable and can lead to a healthier lifestyle, rather than finding oneself struggling under the guilt of not achieving a particular diet or lifestyle goal.
And yet, they busy-ness of life does mean that at certain times of the year, and under certain circumstances, I do better than at others. Therefore, I find January and a new year to be a wonderful opportunity to think afresh about whether I can approach things differently to sustain positive changes and intentions on a day to day basis.
So, with that in mind, a new purchase I have recently introduced into my life is this lovely stainless steel “Bento Box” or compartmentalised meal tray.
Psychologically: For some, perhaps idiosyncratic and childlike reason, I love airplane tray meals. Therefore, it gives me a little burst of joy to look forward to eating from this whether I’m at work, or at home curled up on the sofa while watching TV.
Portion Control: I am more aware of how much food I am eating, and these compartments certainly help visually in seeing this more clearly than on a standard plate.
Preparing and Maintaining Healthy Eating Habits in a Busy Lifestyle:
As a young, single woman, who works full time, 5 days a week, I often only get home from work after 7pm. This can mean falling into bad patterns of getting ‘quick’ options for food, including ready-meals for the microwave, or occasionally even takeaways when I don’t have the energy to cook a full and healthy meal for myself. This is fine in moderation, however, I’d like to choose the option intentionally, rather than by default because I’m too tired or not organised and prepared enough. However, now I only have to think of 5 things to put into the compartments, which means it is easier to have a healthier variety of food, eat well and be mindful of portion sizes, and save some money. I used to ‘meal prep’ for the week ahead on some weekends, however, this takes time and is something I tended to stop and start as I found it hard to maintain on a regular basis. This way, ‘meal-prepping’ feels far easier and more manageable – at least for me – you may have different and better ways that work for you.
This little investment has already helped me to make healthier and manageable changes in my day to day life and I feel that I will be better able to sustain these changes than with good intentions alone. What about you? What fun things can you introduce into your life to help make and maintain positive changes? What things do you already do that you can share with the rest of us? xx
Life as it happens to be today has included getting in a couple of workout routines.
Now, let me clarify…amongst my friends and people I know, there are a lot of very sporty, healthy and fit people. Their pursuits range from swimming, skiing, snowboarding, long distance running, rock-climbing, weight training, hillwalking, playing football (‘soccer’), canoeing, assault courses, working out at the gym and cycling! They do sponsored events….for fun! The point I wish to clarify, is that I am not one of these people. I like walking. I like cycling, but in a leisurely way, and it would help if I had a bike, which I haven’t had for years. I also very much like the idea of being a cool pole vaulting, rock climbing, mountain biking, snowboarding chic – but as much as I like the idea of it, my body doesn’t seem quite to have a natural inclination towards sports and fitness in the competitive sense. Ok, I hated gym class in school – not so much because I didn’t like the exercise – I loved the hurdles, because I could do that well, and I felt as if I was flying. But because my fitness and stamina was pretty average, and with sports in school there is quite a competitive edge, or there can be, and average doesn’t really stand for much. There are also all of the ‘cliques’ that go along with that kind of world. Well, my school days are long behind me now, but I do wonder if perhaps my inclinations towards sport and exercise as an adult have been influenced by the certain dread felt in those younger days?!
Now that I have the freedom to be my own person in the adult world, I find that fitness is a very personal thing, and a personal journey. And it really doesn’t matter where you are starting from. What matters is that you have decided to take better care of your body and physical health, which in turn has a positive impact upon your mental health. I went to the gym for a while several years ago, but I don’t go now. Growing up I’ve always been quite ‘petite’ in my frame, but as the years progress I find that I can no longer take that for granted, and I will have to work at it to keep in shape and stay as healthy as I want to be.
For me, one of the things that keeps me motivated is breaking big goals down into smaller more manageable pieces, and making lists! I’m a big ‘list-maker’, me. I find that that helps me to focus. And while I don’t go to the gym, as perhaps I have the ‘self-conscious bug’, I have set myself tasks and goals that I try to keep a track of.
I do walk a lot, however, and I have also started skipping (‘jump rope’) and keeping a track of how many I can manage over time. I love being able to exercise at home without all of the social fears and anxieties that go along with being in a gym environment and the natural self consciousness and comparison traps that result. I love the fact that there are so many health and fitness videos on YouTube and I have started to do some simple weight training and cardio amongst other things. I am not well versed in the world of fitness, but I’m making a start and keeping going.
Of course, there are days and weeks when I don’t actually manage to get anything in. And I think that’s ok. What works for me is to have a goal, write it down, break it up into smaller steps, have a way of encouraging myself and tracking my progress. So the fact that I might metaphorically slip off the treadmill from time to time isn’t such a big deal, the main thing is I got on to start with and will keep going and if I slip up here and there, I’ll simply get back on and aim to keep going, without external pressure.
I know we all work differently, and some people find the external pressure a driving force and a catalyst for change. I don’t think I’m one of those people, but I’m sure there is still so much more for me to learn about myself and maybe if I stepped further out of my comfort zone I would find that that actually helps.
I know someone who wasn’t particularly fit, but took up running and participating in marathons and now does them with alarming regularity! 🙂 Initially he trained on a treadmill in the gym but thought that he didn’t like running outside or with other people (the marathons being the exception), but later joined a running group and is loving the mutual encouragement and meeting people at his own stage and fitness level when previously his mind had been closed off to the idea. So …who knows…we learn and we change and new opportunities can take us to new places.
I believe that the process of habit formation, for me at least, is most effective by incremental gains. Small and consistent changes building up over time. Some people like to throw themselves into things, and take on big challenges, and find that they do great that way.
You might be a ‘super fit’ person, someone somewhere in the middle like me, or someone who feels very unfit and wants to make a change. I think an important thing is to be kind to yourself. To know that who you are right now is wonderful and although there are changes you want to make in your life, you are no more or less deserving than the next person of having a healthy life. Start from where you are, find out what works best for you, and encourage yourself and other people.
And don’t worry if you’ve slipped off that treadmill….you can always get back up on it again, or leave the gym and take a walk in the park. Whatever works for you…find it, start it and keep going. You can do it! 🙂
And if you’d like to share, I’d love to hear what works for you, so please feel free to comment below! 🙂