Have you ever gritted your teeth, set your gaze straight ahead and made that determined step to finally make fitness, a healthier lifestyle or weight loss a key priority in your busy life? If the answer is yes – then you are by no means a lone soldier fighting a solo battle on distant hill far from the reality of life. Sadly, many of these ‘battle of the bulge’ attack strategies have been shot down in flames because of the difficulty in wading through the endless trenches of the weight war trying to find the correct ammunition, let alone the right weaponry, to start the fitness fight!
If that sounds like you, come join my battalion! I have discovered that much of the advice out there takes a University Masters or Doctorate to understand and in many cases is rather impractical in today’s busy lifestyles. My aim in this article is to present a number of ideas, that have in my opinion, made understanding and applying knowledge a whole lot easier.
This article voices very clearly – in fact almost yells loudly, – that it is possible and not that hard!
I encourage you to take some of this that relates personally to you and your time schedule and apply it over time and see if it doesn’t change your situation for the better. The suggestions and advice here may not suit or be safe for some people due to health situations or age. I therefore, strongly recommend checking with your medical practitioner before undertaking any fitness, dietary or weight loss program. As a health educator and long time sports coach, I have often found that the simple basics are given little airplay and in many cases disregarded and replaced with the latest new fad. Yet it is the simple things, when done correctly, that lay the foundation for the great.
If as adults we can do the basics of ‘staying healthy’ well, it cannot help but lead to a better lifestyle where we are not restricted from activities that should be within our capabilities. The added benefit to such healthy habits for parents is that our children learn a huge proportion of their habitual repertoire from watching the people around them and then modelling that behaviour. Let me ask you, “Are you model material?” Allow me to suggest the ‘basics’ that you probably already know well and deem as common sense and may even roll your eyes at! However, a simple reminder can often be the trigger for change.
I call this the F E W E R method. Maybe because FEWER people are doing it or because there are a lot FEWER things to remember than most health programs.
Firstly, F is for Food!
Eat a well balanced diet. This doesn’t mean that it has to be so carefully planned that the planning takes more time than the eating. It is possible to eat a well balanced diet that allows for flexibility and spontaneity. Limit yourself to meals that are of adequate proportion and that are not ‘fat’ heavy. Some people find using smaller plates helpful. Eat at least 5 different vegetables and 2 pieces of fresh fruit per day. Remember, green is usually good! (If your local hamburger place starts dying their burgers green you may need to reassess this!) Just eat slowly and savour every mouthful. Also, drink water with your meals. It does help fill you up.
Try eating your nightly meal several hours before going to bed, then brushing your teeth straight after dinner: doing this can deter those late night cravings! If unhealthy snacks are a killer for you and you have trouble resisting – don’t buy them and have them sitting there staring at you from the cupboards! If you don’t have them you’ll find yourself eating fruit instead. Promise! Have containers of cut up fruit in the fridge ready to go, and put them at the front so they are the first to greet you when you open the refrigerator to say hello! Many people opt out of the fruit snack because they can’t be bothered to take the time to cut it up when the munchies come to visit. If it’s ready to go the kids will head for it too. In my experience kids love blended fruit and water or milk that has been made into iceblocks so give that one a go. Never grocery shop at mealtime when you are hungry: you’ll buy twice as much. And do not organise all your social events around food as we are in the habit of doing. Instead of the coffee shop meeting, try meeting for a walk. A talk and walk is a lot better for your health than a lunch and munch.
When heading out to social or sporting events, pack healthy food before you go. Most venues stock fast foods that are high in fat and you’ll buy it if you’re hungry. In our modern busy lifestyles, most of us are not getting our dietary requirements every single day. In this case, I would highly recommend a reputable, proven dietary supplement such as protein drinks/shakes. These are also fantastic for those on a weight loss program as they are designed as satisfying meal replacements. This in the only brand I’m prepared to endorse as it guarantees that no banned substances are contained and has the approval of HACCP Australia Food Safety Accreditation Programme and Australian Sports Drug Administration.
Next in our `FEWER’ principle, E is for Exercise! This ‘basic’ does take some forward planning and consistency. However, it does not have to take hours out of every day. There are a number of brilliant daily exercise DVDs that take just 15-20 minutes and that amount of time is managable. Exercise has to become a habit, not just hit and miss. Again … plan! Try if possible to make it a planned daily activity. And whatever else you do, make it enjoyable. If something has to be endured rather than enjoyed it probably won’t last. Walk with the kids, play squash with a friend, ride bikes with the family and so on. Find physical activities that you look forward to. Find the right time. If you’re not a morning person, then dragging yourself out of bed in the dark probably won’t last that long! Make a resolve now that from now on you will always take the stairs! That alone can make a significant difference to your fitness. Find a local sporting competition that you can participate in. It’s amazing how we feel we can’t let others down and turn up to play even when we don’t feel like it. Or find an exercise buddy. Accountability is a great motivator. Whey Protein-based products can even assist in burning fat as energy and greatly aid exercise in building muscle tone. There are a number of wonderful products on the market that actually help the body recover after exercise.
W is for Water: this is our next step. Drink 8 cups a day. At home, restrict the contents of your refrigerator so temptation and unhealthy choices are reduced. If you have trouble drinking water, keep it chilled in the refrigerator as many people find this more appealing. Put it at the front of your fridge at home and at work and make sure a water bottle is the first thing you see when you open the fridge. Have a water bottle at work, on your desk, on the work site etc. Sipping regularly will get through those 8 cups a lot more easily than drinking a whole cup at a time, and it will become habit, a healthy habit. A water bottle in the car for longer trips encourages consumption. Start young. Get the kids used to drinking water at a very young age by buying the kids a water bottle each and encouraging them to take it everywhere and sip it regularly. (It’s cheaper, too!) Even when dining out, you can drink water, especially in between alcoholic drinks. As we know, alcohol dehydrates the body and brain. But do not fall into the trap of replacing alcohol with soft drinks or soda: these are killers too! They are high in sugar and detrimental to weight loss.
Now, we are up to E and E is for enjoyment! Take time out to enjoy life. Our health is just not all about the physical aspects of our make up. A sense of contentment in life does reflect in our physical wellbeing. So go ahead, plan activities with family and friends. And if you have a partner, make sure you plan a date night at least once per month. It doesn’t have to be an expensive event to be enjoyable! Try a picnic or a massage. Have at least one hobby that is totally unrelated to your usual work. Plan holidays well in advance. That sense of expectation and ‘looking forward to’ is a wonderful way to lift the spirits. Here’s another idea: send at least 1 email, card or letter to someone per week that thanks or encourages them for something. Thinking beyond ourselves keeps an outward focus.
Find something to volunteer for, either a one off event or a regular commitment. Doing so is a wonderful role model for kids (if you have them) and a great way of helping others and giving ourselves a sense of purpose. Also, read! Inspiring biographies can be wonderful motivators that can help you realize that you can do it! Plan a weekly timeslot to play some games with others you live with. Board games are great and cause interaction. Simple games that cause laughter are a must. Remember – it isn’t about who wins! Laugh often and out loud. Laughing releases much needed endorphins that benefit your whole body. Try playing comedy CDs on the way to work as starting your day laughing can make the world of difference to your attitude during the rest of the day. Prayer and meditation provide a chance to `turn off’ the noise of our hectic modern lives and think outside of ourselves. Many find there is untold benefit in these disciplines.
And finally, R is for Rest & Recuperation. So sleep! Make sure you get enough to suit you. Different people require different amounts of time, yet at least 8 hours is a good benchmark. Many experts suggest that the hours before midnight can be a lot more beneficial than those the other side of midnight. Is your sleep environment conducive to sleep? Consider temperature, linen, darkness etc. If you are a light sleeper and hear every sound at night, try having a pedestal or ceiling fan in operation to provide a constant whir which blocks out other small sounds. Consider having an outdoor relaxation area, which may be as simple as a comfortable chair under a tree. The fresh air will help you relax. Rest and recuperation is doubly important after strenuous exercise as the body needs time to replenish and recover. A recovery supplement can be highly beneficial. Learn to read your body and its needs and respond accordingly. Don’t ignore what it is telling you. Oh, and by the way, R can also stand for Red Wine! One glass per night is considered medicinal in our family!