In an ideal world, every day you'd eat healthy and wholesome foods, get enough exercise and have plenty of energy to spare.
But life happens, and it has a way of getting in the way of being healthy and fit. Somehow, by the time you get around to making and keeping those plans to work out and eat right, it's half past never.
That doesn't mean you should give up on living a healthy lifestyle. Here's how to make yourself a priority.
Set small goals. If you can't spend an hour at the gym, why bother? Right? Wrong. That all-or-nothing mentality will set you up for failure, and make you give up before you even try. Remember that something is better than nothing. If you don't have time for a big workout, even a few minutes of activity can make a difference. Your health can still benefit from doing less than the recommended amount of exercise (150 minutes a week). Focus on small increases, rather than the total recommended number, and you'll be well on your way to better fitness, one step at a time.
Know thyself. Knowing your preferences and abilities will help keep you from giving up—or not even trying in the first place. Just because you see people hitting the gym every day doesn't mean it's for you. Some people find that motivating, while others are bored and frustrated by exercise machines. There are so many ways to get fit. Find what works for you and do it. "Try a variety of fitness activities until you find some you enjoy, then make them a regular part of your life. Whether it's swimming, hiking, biking or doing an aerobics class at the gym, it's important to find the things you like doing and then stick with them," says Sarah Walls, personal trainer and owner of SAPT Strength and Performance Training in Fairfax, Virginia.
Ditch the word "diet." There are only two ways to be on a diet: either you are on it or you are off it. I've always wondered where the sense—or success—is in that word. The concept of dieting is flawed. It makes you more likely to notice food, think about food and crave food. It's no surprise that "I want to lose weight" ranks as the number one New Year's resolution, year after year. Attached to that word "diet" is a lot of pressure: Do the words "rigid," "guilt," "failure" or "deprived" come to mind? The next time you want to take off some weight, lose the word "diet" and tell yourself a different story. "I am making some lifestyle changes" will help you toss the guilt and the pressure and help you lose the pounds in a much easier—and more healthful—way. Guaranteed.
Pay attention. The shape of a glass, the size of a scoop, the convenience of pre-packaged foods—those are some examples of how our minds can get tricked into overeating. The well-known food researcher and psychologist Brian Wansink loves to identify the forces behind overeating and overconsumption, and he's found many culprits. (He's called the Sherlock Holmes of eating for a good reason!) Illusions and cues are at fault for making you think you're eating less than you actually are or for causing you to eat too much and eat mindlessly. From friends and family, packages and plates, names and numbers, lighting and labels, shapes and smells, the influence to eat more is rampant, so it's imperative to be mindful when making choices.
Eat like a child. If possible, order a child-size entrée in restaurants. It's a surefire way to cut calories and keep your portions sensible—and it's usually enough to be satisfying. If the restaurant won't or can't comply, ask the server to bring a takeaway container with the entrée and put half aside before you start, or order a salad and appetizer for your meal. And speaking of being a child, treat yourself to a childhood reward after a workout: chocolate milk. Research shows that it can be very beneficial. It contains between 8 and 11 grams of whey and casein proteins, great for muscle recovery.