How to start a healthy lifestyle

Everything starts for a reason and fitness is no exception to the rule. Unless you have a really good reason to start you won't be able to stay committed and follow through with your resolutions. The good news is that most of it is mental which means you can actually put a plan of action in place that will remove all the obstacles standing between you and your fitness goals: 

Start small.

What you really need is to change your habits, and how you feel and look will change on their own. The moment you concentrate on the action and not on the end result is when you truly transform, inside and out. Start with small changes in your diet and exercise habits, start by eating better and adding a few squats and planks into your daily routine or pick up a 30-day challenge. It is important that you stick to the small things first, before you demand anything more radical from yourself. The harder you push from the start the harder it’ll be to stay on track. 

Find the right activity for yourself. 

If you push yourself into something you absolutely hate doing, your commitment however strong to begin with, will very soon wear off. You need to try and find the right thing for yourself, an activity you’ll love or can learn to love. Perhaps running will be the thing for you, or boxing or bodyweight training – you won’t know for sure until you try. So go for a run, do a martial art session, try a routine online until you stumble upon the right one for yourself. The more you try, the higher the chances of finding the one. 

Pick a reasonable eating plan. 

All you need is a guide, something you can easily follow without checking on a list of forbidden food and special instructions each time you want to have a meal. Calorie counting will only stress you out and make you feel miserable every time you bite into anything edible. What you want is something you can maintain your whole life, not just for a month or two. Eating reasonably and mindfully will very soon become the norm if the terms are minimal. Think of it this way, high value foods have to be earned  - candy, baked goods, sodas. Just because you want to lead a healthy lifestyle it doesn’t mean you can never touch any of it ever again, it only means that they can no longer be on your daily menu, better things should. Real food is usually the way to go, cooked food with the fewest ingredients possible. Homemade and fresh is what you want. 

Shop in advance, shop smart.

What you eat is just as important as what you do exercise wise. Most us know how easy it is to fall off track when you get hungry after a workout and you think: well I deserve a treat since I worked for it. Unfortunately we usually overestimate just how much we work and treat ourselves just a little bit too much completely cancelling out all our hard work. In most cases treating yourself as a reward for training is a bad idea. To avoid snap food related decisions make sure you know what you eat in advance and have a clear plan for your every meal. More than that, buy all of the ingredients beforehand and make sure you cook and sit down for every dish. Cooking your own meals will work out cheaper and it'll be a lot better for you than a takeout, plus it doesn't actually take a lot of time to grill some meat and make a salad. Even home-made burgers you can freeze will only take 20 minutes in the oven. Optimise the cooking and eating processes and it'll be half the battle already won.

Go slow.

The slower you go the further you’ll get in your fitness journey. Fast results may be very tempting, but every shortcut comes at a price you won’t be willing to pay. The faster your body changes, whether it is weight loss or muscle gain, the more of a shock it is to your system. And although you may like what you see short term, in the long run your body will try and get back to what it knows, the comfortable weight and shape it had and it will do it in the blink of an eye the moment you get back to the lifestyle you used to have, when the program is finished and when the diet is over. With fitness, there is no end date, you make it part of who you are, the kind of thing you do as consistently as brushing your teeth. So slow and steady is the best kind of speed when it comes to body transformation. 

Get a detailed plan.

It has to be as clear and as detailed as humanly possible. It'll be hard enough to stick to any kind of routine if you are not used to exercise and dietary restrictions, so you shouldn't make it harder by wondering every now and then what's next. Ideally you want something that'll give you day-by-day instructions and if you don't have it ready, sit down and put your own schedule together. The more vague the instructions the more likely you are to stray and give up. Make it easy for yourself to continue on the program you chose or designed for yourself and you’ll have higher chances of showing up. 

Do it for 30 days. 

That’s about how long it takes to build a habit - roughly a month.  And if you can stick to something for as long as that the chances are you’ll get into a routine of making better choices naturally and without thinking about it later on. Don’t think about it as something you have to do for four weeks and just take it one day at a time. It’ll help if you keep a log and cross days out on the calendar to keep yourself accountable. 

Get your family and friends on board.

Working out together is the ideal case scenario and that's something that can be a huge help in staying committed to the program so check to see if someone else from your immediate circle would like to join you. Show them your plan and organise a schedule everyone involved is aware of. You can use a shared Google calendar to notify everyone in advance about the upcoming workout. If your family isn't participating it's important that you let them know when and what you'll be doing anyway so they know that you won't be available at those times. When people in your life aren't supporting you it's very difficult to stay on track, they may even be trying to sabotage or bet against you finishing your program so it is vital that you explain to them why you are doing it and why you need them to be on your side. Once they know it is truly important to you, they will help.

Get equipped.

And this is not just clothes or fitness gear, in fact you can do with pretty basic stuff. At this point the less you spend the better. We very often feel that we are achieving something by spending money when all we are achieving is emptying our bank accounts.  You do need some equipment you can put together with things you already know, however. It can be helpful to have some workout suitable music, comfortable footwear and handy things like a timer (you can get a free app) and a water bottle. Think it through, do a test workout to see what it is you might need before you start. You want to make the whole process as seamless as possible and automate it as much as you can. It's the small things that usually make you skip a workout and are used as an excuse.

Start a log.

It’s important that you write down everything you do and eat and make yourself accountable for every action or non-action during your fitness journey. Record absolutely everything including the small things like when you picked stairs over elevator or when you did extra squats during a TV commercial – these are the small victories that will eventually add up and it’s important that you remember them. They will help you stay strong and keep to your resolution when you’ll be tempted to give up or skip a day or two or a week.  Keep a log where you can see it at all times, set reminder and cross days off a calendar to reinforce your commitment. We very often hide our logs and then it becomes an “out of sight – out of mind” situation. 

Keep post it notes on your computer screen, set Google calendar reminders and flashcards with small things you can do to stay active throughout the day in addition to your fitness program. Every little bit will count: even 10 more squats a day will be 70 more squats by the end of the week. Fitness is a mind game, you get results always – when you show up and only when you show up. That’s how you keep with it and at it and stay on track. You keep on reminding yourself why you are doing this and keep on reminding yourself to get to it and do something today, tomorrow and the day after and when you look back you’ll realise what an amazing journey you have just walked, one day at a time, and how far you’ve come. 

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