Starting Your Healthy Lifestyle and Sticking with It

One of the biggest holdups to starting an exercise plan is that people are too preoccupied with the person they imagine they should be. Rather than focusing on starting a healthy lifestyle, people imagine themselves in unrealistic shapes and sizes. With expectations that are too high, and attempted to be reached within short timeframes, it is no wonder that start-stop diets and exercise regimes fail to get most people off of their feet.

The first step to getting healthy is to take an honest look at what you normally do. Try taking note of everything you do right, and then everything you could improve upon. If you are already eating an apple a day, then consider what other food groups you might be neglecting or overdoing. Think about all the activities you do in a day, and in a week. This “inventory” of your lifestyle will help you create an accessible plan. The closer your plan is initially to your current way of life, the easier it will be to stick with it.

Now that you know what you are doing right and wrong, you can begin to slowly incorporate healthy lifestyle changes. This process is a lot slower than most people think. Going from a couple walks a month to working out six times a week will only burn out your body and willpower. Mark on your calendar one or two days out of the week which are mandatory workout days. Mark a second or third day which is optional. On this same calendar, you can mark down which healthy foods you are going to have each day. For example, “two servings of whole grains” or “one serving of green vegetables.” Yes, this is still underachieving as far as the food pyramid is concerned! However, keep in mind that these are in addition to what you are already doing, or not doing at all. Acquire the taste for activity and fresher and healthier foods. Most people say that they quit a diet because they got tired of it. If you are adopting healthy changes into your life, then give yourself time to adjust, so you don’t give up.

Picking out your activities can be as simple as revisiting some of your favorite sports. If you used to enjoy swimming, rollerblading, or hiking, then find ways to get involved with these once again. Making your new lifestyle fun is one of the best ways to keep it going. Get friends involved, or make new friends at clubs, classes or gyms. The saying goes that surrounding yourself with the kind of people that you would like to be is one of the quickest ways to transform yourself.

Beginning your lifestyle changes will take a few weeks to get used to. Luckily, the body will reward you each day with more energy, clear-thinking and muscle tone. Taking things slowly will let the body begin to crave more activity. Pay attention to how your body feels on a day when you exercised, and then on one when you did not. The first week will be the most difficult, even with this slow incorporation, but be patient and vigilant. Soon, your body will reward your efforts.

Now that you are building yourself up to the guidelines recommended by your doctor, or the FDA’s food pyramid, and you are getting into a new routine of doing your favorite, active pastimes, you can set your goals a little higher. Your body has had time to adjust to the physical exertions which you are placing upon it, and your digestive system is appreciating the extra nutrition. You probably already feel a little better. You may have made new friends or work-out buddies. The excitement of eating fresh foods, rather than processed ones is more appealing now. Processed foods will begin to taste bad, bland or too salty or sweet, compared to their healthy counterparts. This is when you can trust yourself to take things up a notch which will make more of a difference in your physique.

Your growing confidence in your healthy lifestyle will now allow you to branch out. Sports that seemed out of reach will seem more exciting to try. Signing up for a step, yoga or weight-lifting based class will be a great addition to your new routine. Try to incorporate a few different activities a week so every part of the body gets worked. For example, walking two days a week can be complimented by a half hour on a rowing machine, or a treadmill. Start to challenge your diet a little more as well. Write on your calendar that you will now drink eight glasses of water a day instead of six, or have three leafy green servings instead of one. As the months pass, exercise and a healthy diet will become less of something you think about, and more of something you just do.

Too many diets and experts tell us to do a hundred different things right away before our bodies penalize us. Of course, one should always listen to their doctor, and keep them informed of their plans. Let them know that you want to try the slow approach so that you can change your lifestyle forever, not just a month. Unless your body needs immediate change because of a physical condition like diabetes or heart disease, a slow incorporation of diet and exercise is often the only way to get yourself to stick with it. Instead of saying that you’re going to get in shape over the next two months, tell yourself that you are going to day-by-day incorporate healthy lifestyle habits into your routine.

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