Through my own journey from a slightly overweight, beer guzzling, high carb and sugar eating over exerciser to where I am now, I’ve picked up some tips and tricks and hints for success. Change doesn’t happen overnight and depending on where you’re coming from, it can be quite a challenge. Along the way I’ve made mistakes, I’ve been resistant to certain aspects of change, I’ve had periods of strong will and periods of week will, but bit-by-bit I’ve read books and been ‘coached’ and have made the right changes that have brought me to this healthy lifestyle that I hope I’ll keep forever.
Some of these tips might save you time, help you reach your goals quicker and stop you from making some of the same mistakes that I made.
- Have confidence in your ability to change. ANYBODY has the ability to change themselves for the better. All you need is the desire to do so and the confidence that you can.
- Set your goals. What it really is that you want to achieve? Weight loss, fat loss, increased fitness, increased immunity, lower blood cholesterol or blood pressure, to reduce your chances of developing diabetes…? Write it down if you think it will help. If you reach your goal, set yourself a new one!
- Track your progress. Whatever your goal is – track it. If it’s cholesterol reduction, get a reading before you start and then get it checked again a few months later. If it’s fat loss, take measurements, your weight (although this can be deceiving if you are losing fat and gaining muscle) and take photos. Try not to make measurement taking an obsession but check in every few weeks or so to make sure you are going in the right direction. It can be a great motivator when you see the improvements you’re making and if you’re not making any do you need to reassess something you’re doing – or not doing?
- Plan ahead. Don’t just tell yourself you are going to change your ways and then do nothing about it until your next meal is due. Take a bit of time out and plan what meals and snacks you are going to eat over the week, write your shopping list and fill your cupboards with healthy food.
- De-clutter your kitchen. Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit with your new healthier lifestyle because if it’s there you will eat it! Now I HATE to throw food away but think about it like this – if its something that is going to be detrimental to your health wouldn’t you rather give it to your bin than to treat your body like a bin??
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. If you know you are going to be getting home ‘Hank Marvin’ can you prepare a meal before you go out in the morning, or at least have all the ingredients ready to go? I’m a big fan of food that can be made ahead. Also make sure you have lots of healthy snacks to stop you reaching for the bad stuff for a quick fix. I bake or whizz up some balls of some sort once or twice a week to keep the snack cupboard on the go.
- Double up. If you’re making a meal that can freeze, make double then you have something that can be ready at the drop of a hat for those nights when you come home and need something ASAP (or when you just can’t be bothered to cook).
- Think about your portion size. I am not talking about calorie counting – if you’re eating great food then you don’t need to. BUT it is still possible to overeat. We’re all different, with different energy requirements but a good guide for our portion size per meal is a ‘palm of your hand’ sized portion of protein; a ‘clenched fist’ sized portion of carbs and an ‘open hand’ of fibrous vegetables.
- Limit snacking. Even healthy snacks can be surplus to requirements – if you’re reaching for a snack in between meals ask yourself if you really need to. I am the world’s worst for this whilst I’m pottering around the kitchen. Our bodies are designed to be able to fast in between meals (within reason) and I’ve recently discovered that there is nothing nicer than enjoying a nice meal when you have a hungry tummy!
- Enjoy your food. This brings me to a great point – take time to really appreciate and enjoy your food. Eat slowly and thoughtfully without just shovelling it in. Give your brain time to process that you are eating and chew it properly to aid digestion.
- Don’t over-exercise. Exercise is great to support your nutrition status – if you want to tone your body and increase your fitness levels, but research now shows that in terms of fat loss, nutrition is where its won and lost. So, the good news is there’s no point in pounding the pavements 7 days a week and battering yourself around the gym for hours on end as in actual fact you will do your fat loss potential more harm than good. Putting your body under too much strain like this will send it into stress mode and actually make you hold on to your fat. 30-45 minutes 3-5 times a week should be enough and the intensity is dependent on your ability and lifestyle.
- Be generally active. Having said this, incorporating gentle exercise into your general lifestyle is a great way to improve your general health and fat loss. I only ‘workout’ 3 times a week as a general rule but I walk EVERYWHERE I can. Even if you drive to work and sit at a desk all day there are little changes you can make that will add up to make a real difference.
- Surround yourself with likeminded people. At this point, all my fit foodie friends are thinking ‘ah I’ve got you’re number’ But seriously, if you’re living with someone who is tucking into the take-aways and chocolate bars then it’s not going to be that easy to sit their munching on your almonds. See if you can persuade others in the house to get on board too.
- Bulk buy. It’s no secret that healthy eating can be expensive, but there are things you can do to limit the expenditure. Shop around for your different products and foodstuffs (markets and greengrocers can surprisingly be a lot cheaper than supermarkets – plus you’ll be supporting smaller businesses). I find Asian food shops are great for large bags of nuts, grains and things like almond and coconut flour. If you can get some friends on board you may be able to take advantage of buying from wholesalers and make great savings.
I hope that these little nuggets can help you to stay strong in your quest for optimal health 🙂 If anyone wants to add any other good tips please feel free.
If it helps to motivate you, take another look at some before and after photos – if I can make the change I really believe anyone can. The first one is the picture that shocked me into switching up my lifestyle – remember, I didn’t diet or restrict myself to achieve these results I simply changed the food I eat – and still eat plenty of it!!