Changing your lifestyle for the very first time can be incredibly overwhelming. Changing your diet and getting active can be daunting when you’re not even sure where to start. Overhauling your lifestyle overnight may seem like the right answer, but in my opinion, gradually making changes is the key to long lasting success. Changing everything at once – your diet, activity level, and overall lifestyle can be too overwhelming, and far too difficult to keep up with. However, by gradually making changes, you are far more likely to stick with them, which in the long run will lead to a successful, long-term lifestyle change.
So if you’re just starting out – whether you’re changing your eating habits for the very first time, or you want to start exercising for the first time (or for the first time in a long time), here are my major keys (*DJ Khaled voice*) to long lasting success:
🔑 FOCUS ON MAKING SUBTLE CHANGES, RATHER THAN DRASTIC CHANGES
By trying to change everything all at once, it can become far too overwhelming. If you’re someone that eats fast food every single day, and you decide immediately that you’re going to cut out fast food and drink juiced kale – chances are you won’t stick with this. Why? Because it’s too drastic of a change. Start by making gradual changes. Instead of having fast food for dinner, make something at home. It doesn’t need to be a salad or something absurdly healthy, the idea is to get you into the habit of preparing your own food at home, instead of hitting up the nearest drive thru.
🔑 GRADUALLY INCORPORATE EXERCISE
If you haven’t stepped foot in a gym in years, don’t immediately try to go from working out 0 days a week, to working out 7 days a week. Why? Your body will have a very difficult time adjusting to the change, you stand risk of injuring yourself or overdoing it, and you are unlikely to stick to such a strict routine. Start by incorporating exercise a few times a week. If you live a very sedimentary lifestyle, start with walking before you try running. If you haven’t lifted weights before, start with a lower weight and fewer reps, while you gradually increase your strength and endurance. If you haven’t exercised in years, start with 30 minute sessions, don’t jump in head first by trying to exercise 2 hours a day. With time, you will build strength and stamina, and exercise should start to become a routine for you.
🔑 NARROW IT DOWN
Narrow down the exercises that you’re going to do. When I first made the decision to change my lifestyle, I knew I wanted to exercise, but I didn’t know where to begin. I would take exercises out of magazines, take screenshots of some from Pinterest, find a few on Instagram, and before I knew I had like 40 exercises that I wanted to try. I was so overwhelmed, and I had no idea which ones I was supposed to be doing. Should I do cardio? Should I do squats? Should I lift weights? I was clueless.
Thankfully, I stumbled upon Kayla Itsines’ BBG program on Instagram, bought it, and I’ve been using it ever since. It helps to have a plan. If you can find a workout plan that interests you, it can take away a lot of confusion and uncertainty. With BBG, I didn’t have to decide which exercises to do, or which days to do them on, or how often to train – because the guide does all of this for you. All you have to do is follow it. So, while I definitely recommend BBG, I’m not suggesting that you need to purchase a workout plan, but I am suggesting that you have a coherent plan. Whether you purchase a plan, consult with a professional, find a free workout plan online, or come up with your own combination of exercises – it helps to have a set plan as to what exercises you will be doing, rather than stepping into the gym with 30 different exercises that you want to try all at once.
🔑 SET ACHIEVABLE GOALS
Start by setting small, simple goals. For example, “I’m going to workout for 30 minutes twice this week.” Or, “I’m only going to have take out once this week, as opposed to eating it daily like I usually do.” If you haven’t worked out in years, or ever, and you set a goal of “I’m going to go to the gym every single day this week and workout 2 hours each day” you’re likely setting yourself up for failure. Your body won’t be able to adjust to such extreme changes, and after a day or two you’re likely to feel overwhelmed or discouraged by your new goal. Set smaller, more achievable goals. The more goals that you achieve, the more motivated you’ll be to continue.
🔑 TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR SERVING SIZES
If you never measure your portions or serving sizes, this is a good place to start making changes. Pay attention to serving sizes, read the labels on the foods that you are consuming. If you’re someone who never measures portions when you make pasta or rice (just 2 examples), start measuring these things. It’s easy to eat far more calories than you think, so, measuring foods and paying attention to serving sizes is a good way to learn portion control.
🔑 OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND
If you’re someone that eats junk food every single day (no judgement, I used to too), start by removing these foods from your home and grocery list. You don’t need to replace every single item in your fridge or pantry with fruits and vegetables, but try to stop buying foods that you know you cannot eat in moderation. Remove any trigger foods or foods that you have a tendency to binge on, from your home and grocery list. If these foods aren’t immediately accessible to you, you are more likely to learn to find another option for them. For example, if you have a pantry stocked with Oreos, you are likely to eat them. But if you stop buying them, and instead buy a “healthier” replacement, you will learn to eat that instead. Out of sight, out of mind. If I don’t have junk food in the house, I’m less likely to eat it. And chances are you will be too.
🔑 LIMIT LIQUID CALORIES
One really simple and super effective change is your liquid consumption. If you’re drinking soda or juice everyday, try to swap those beverages for water. If you have a beer or cocktail with dinner every night, try to limit the amount of times a week you do this. Liquid calories add up very quickly, so why drink 600 calories a day when you could instead eat those 600 calories? If soda or juice is a big staple in your diet, start by switching to lower calorie options, as you slowly phase those beverages out. Also, water enhancers like “Mio” are great ways to add a dose of flavour to your water, without adding any calories. By switching high calorie beverages for water or lower calorie options, you will automatically decrease your calorie consumption.
There are some people that may argue that you should just quit all of your bad habits “cold turkey.” However, based upon my own experience, I believe that small, gradual changes are the key to long lasting success. Focus on progress, as opposed to perfection. Be patient, significant changes will never happen overnight. And take things one step at a time, one change at a time, and one day at a time.