When you decide you want to create a healthier lifestyle, it is tempting to force massive changes upon yourself initially, but this is a recipe for disaster. If you want to change your habits for the better, you will be more likely to find success taking it at a slower pace and making changes one step at a time.
As you move through your health and wellbeing journey, make sure you track your progress so you can see how great you are doing. You could think about keeping a food diary, recording your weight once a month, taking body measurements, or tracking fitness goals, such as timing your run or noting down how long you are working out.
These records will show you improving, demonstrate that your efforts are paying off, and motivate you to keep going.
Step 1: Couch potato
The very first thing you need to do when setting out on your fitness journey is to find your “why.” Work out exactly why you would like to get fitter and healthier, and make this your mantra.
It could be because your unhealthy habits are beginning to take a toll on your enjoyment of life, it could be you want to be around as long as possible for your children or grandchildren, or it could be that you want to fit into the clothes you haven’t worn in years because you outgrew them.
Your reasons will be personal to you, but you will find it easier to keep going if you can hold down why you want this to happen. Before you embark on a new health and fitness regime, it is a good idea to seek medical advice in case your medical history will affect how you can safely proceed.
Your Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) will have carried out a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or similar – a qualification referred to as a BSN to FNP – to qualify them to instruct you in this area.
At this stage, any activity is better than none, so start slowly. If you sit all day in front of a desk, set yourself a goal that you will get up every hour, move around and stretch. If you find your weekends involve mainly sitting on the couch in front of the TV, aim to spend at smallest an hour each day doing something on your feet, washing the car, or mowing the lawn, for example.
As far as eating goes, avoid crash diets. At this stage, try to cut out as much of the nasty stuff as you can. For example, stop eating candy and chips and switch sugary drinks for water. That is a difficult thing to do and will be a massive step in the right direction.
Step 2: No longer inactive
Now you have got into the right mindset, are getting your body moving more, and have started to notice where your worst eating habits lie, you can move on to some goal setting.
Think about what your final goal is and set yourself a loose and realistic timescale to achieve it. Instead of making your goal all about weight loss, why not focus on how active you can be or how healthy you can make your meals. The weight will come off, but it can be helpful not to make it your sole focus.
At this stage, start adding some purposeful activity to your week. Again, don’t overstretch yourself with hour-long crazy workout sessions if that’s not where your fitness level is at.
Simply taking a long walk once a week, doing random activities like dancing around the kitchen, or going for a swim will all get your heart rate up and increase your fitness.
When thinking about what you’re eating, start swapping out unhealthy food choices with better ones, like switching white rice for brown and choosing a side salad instead of fries.
Step 3: Getting there
By the time you reach stage three, you will be getting active more often and eating a lot better. Now is a great time to check in on your goals and see how far you have come so far.
If you find yourself slipping, remind yourself of your “why” and reset your resolve to keep heading in the right direction.
You can start to introduce some higher energy exercise into your routine now. Make sure it is something you can enjoy so that you will stick to it, whether that’s taking a class, finding an online exercise regime, or taking up a team sport.
Create a meal plan that includes healthy, low-fat meals and add favourites to a personal recipe book.
Step 4: Nearly there
Now you can stretch those goals. Take your activity to the next level by increasing the intensity or time spent on it. Go faster and further.
Start adding healthy foods to your diet you perhaps haven’t tried before, like seeds or alternative grains.
Step 5: Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Once exercise and healthy eating are part of your daily routine, it shouldn’t feel as much of a chore anymore.
There will still be days when you overeat, have a lazy day, or make unhealthy choices, but that is okay. It doesn’t mean you have failed, and you are entitled to a treat once in a while; as long as you keep going with your healthy lifestyle most of the time, then you are succeeding.
Make sure you have created a pattern you can stick to and adjust it whenever necessary. Remind yourself frequently how far you have come and how much better you feel now compared to before.
Examining to go from zero to hero in one giant leap will almost certainly fail, so instead, take it one level at a time.
Every positive change you make is a step in the right direction, so don’t forget to feel good about yourself. Allow yourself to make errors, give yourself a treat once in a while and be kind to yourself because trying is always better than not trying.