Let me guess, your New Year's resolution is to lose weight and get in shape.
You've vowed to go on a diet and go to the gym. How do I know this? It was my resolution for like 20 years running. I can also see it at my gym - every January it's overrun with people, by March it's the usual regulars.
So what is it about the usual regulars? That's the secret to this whole thing - the usual regulars have made going to the gym a habit. Not something they are going to do until they lose those 20 pounds, it's something they just do. It's a habit and that habit makes them feel better, it make them more productive and it gives them peace of mind that they are caring for themselves.
Here's the funny thing. Right now, unless you already HAVE the habit of working out - DON'T START. Yes, you heard me - don't start. There are more important habits to start with if you're goal is weight loss ( and to my mind the more important goal is health), and those habits have to do with what you eat.
So where do you start? Baby steps - change one or two habits at a time. Research shows it takes at least 21 days but probably more like 2 months to make a permanent change. Once you change the habit of what you eat on a day to day basis, what the "normal diet" is for you, to healthier options you will see the weight drop off without a herculean effort.
The problem with herculean efforts and willpower is that there is a finite amount available. After that amount is exhausted you will fail. It's why you've failed every other time you have tried to lose weight. Eventually you just couldn't sustain the feeling of being deprived all the time and you gave up, or you had a crisis at work, or at home, and ended up thinking - enough is enough already, this is impossible, I can't do it. And you were right. To jump in full bore and change everything about what is "normal" to you is, quite literally, impossible. Just a few small changes will reap rewards, you don't have to overhaul your entire life. Just make a few consistent changes in your habits and see where you get.
Ok great so I have to change my habits- where do I start?
Start with 2 habits - just 2. Once those 2 are ingrained and easy add 2 more. Here is a list of habits you could change. Pick the 2 you think you could reasonably accomplish and start there or make up your own. My top 2 favorites are numbers 1 & 2 - if you just did those 2 things for the next 3 months you will be amazed.
Log your food - Use Myfitnesspal (which is generally regarded as the easiest and most popular) to log every morsel of food and every beverage that goes into your mouth. They have apps for both Apple and Android. Set your goal to log 5 out of every 7 days. Why is this a good habit? Because it gives you data - most people underestimate the calories they eat in a day and even what they eat in a day. By the mere action of logging your food you will most likely drop some weight because you will become acutely aware of what you're eating. Time investment per day: 20 minutes (if that).
Choose your vegetable first and eat them first - That means for every lunch and dinner you eat (5 days out of 7 - take your weekends off) decide what vegetable(or salad) you're going to eat before you decide the rest. Why? Because then you actually will eat a portion of vegetables with each of those meals - do you now? No, right? You will get all the health benefits of eating vegetables and then the added benefit of not being as hungry for the starches and other weight promoting foods. Eat your veggies and meat first. Say no to the bread basket before dinner and ask for it to be delivered along with dinner.
If you drink "regular"Coke (Pepsi, Mountain Dew, etc.) cut it by half or cut it out completely - You drink 5 cokes a day? drink 2 or 3. You drink 2 cokes a day? drink 1. Eventually you will be able to cut this to zero. In later posts we will get to why sugar is health enemy #1 - (which you already know) but for now let's just look at decreasing Coke consumption as a good health habit and a way to drop a few pounds.
Cut down on the fast food - McDonald's, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, etc. If you regularly eat at these establishments you're feeding your body crap. There's just not much in the way of benefit here - from the quality of meat to the deep fried whatever to the trans fat laden oils and the soda. Just nothing good here. Tastes good? Yep. Killing you? Yep. So same idea as the Coke - cut your use in half. Once you cut in in half without feeling pain - cut it out or at the very least cut it to food of last resort.
Eliminate/reduce High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). This can be can be a tricky one - you actually have to read your food ingredient labels to find it. It's in a lot of things you wouldn't think of like ketchup and salad dressings. If you eat out you probably will be exposed to some so make it a habit to not have any of it in your house - none...nada. Step 1 - go through your panty and refrigerator and read all the food label ingredients. Make a list of all your "normal" foods that contain HFCS and note you have to find a different brand. If you're willing - throw all that stuff out. Step 2 - Every time you go to the grocery store read the ingredient label before it goes into the cart - everything you don't already know is HFCS free (because you already read the label) check. You will be surprised where this stuff pops up. Why is it bad? "HFCS is almost always a marker of poor-quality, nutrient-poor disease-creading industrial food products or "food-like" substances" ~Mark Hyman, MD
So there you have it. Pick 2 from the list above. The 2 you think would be easiest and put them into practice until they are no brainers. Along the way notice how you are starting to feel better. Notice how a few pounds have magically disappeared.
Is that really ALL I have to do? No! No it's not. It's just the beginning but it's a beginning that you will be able to sustain and not feel like you're suffering or overly deprived. Once your first few good habits are firmly in place you will add your next good habit and your next and your next. And then maybe next year or possibly the year after that or even 5 years from now you will be wondering - how did I used to eat like that? Wow, I feel better now than I have in my entire life! I'm never going back to that place. This is not to say that a fast food burger isn't going to sound delicious (or that you'll never eat one again) it just won't be a regular habit in your life. If you do decide to have that burger out of necessity or as a "treat" you will have it and enjoy it and then probably feel like crap 1 hour later. This is a journey into health and it takes time. Along with that health will come a healthy weight.
Please comment: What are the biggest obstacles to changing your habits? What other habits do you think should be on this list?
I look forward to this journey to health with you.
~ All Photos compliments of Pixabay