Why Wait? Get Healthy Today
Many of us have lived it… the constant ups and down of yo-yo dieting. Heck, throughout high school and college I tried every diet out there from Atkins to smoothies, to practically starving myself to death…. only to end up binge eating a month later after feeling completely deprived.
A diet is intended to end. And when it ends so do your results. Here’s my recommendation: DON’T DIET! I don’t often tell people what to do. I mean, it’s your own life and your own body. I also never claim to know it all or know what works best for everyone, but I have never met a person who went on a diet for life and found great results… for life. Diets aren’t fun, so they don’t last.
If you want a lifetime of good results then you will want to have a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is more sustainable because it’s realistic and doable. It’s not depriving yourself, it’s living. The healthy lifestyle I’m speaking of consists of eating real whole foods that fuel the body and moving the body most every day. Although rest is important too (I always rest on Sunday).
Of course, you could wait until January to make healthy life choices (which is fine, sometimes people need a start date and often people wait till after the holidays). However, if you wait, you are only delaying what could be your happiest healthiest you. Why not start today?
No idea where to start? Here are some tips to get you started and through what some people fear are a health obstacle: The Holidays!
Tips to Starting a Healthy Lifestyle TODAY!
Some nutritional tips:
First, decide whether you are going to clean out your pantry of all the junk completely, or make baby steps (either option is great):
If you are like me, you are all or nothing. I do have sweet treats, but usually they are made from whole foods. I decided not to stock the house with “junk” so I’m not even tempted. You may be different and just want to make some small changes to start. While I am “all or nothing” it did take me time to build the will power to make good eating choices consistently. It took me time to learn what foods make me feel best. There is no “one size fits all” way of eating. But the more “real food” you eat, the better you are going to feel.
Some examples of small changes you can make are:
1: Limiting refined carbohydrates: switch to sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats etc rather than white pasta, white fried french fries, buns (you could use lettuce to wrap that burger). Eat zucchini pasta rather than regular pasta. (I love using my Spiralizer to make pasta out of veggies.) Or you can just chop the zucchini and sauté some in coconut oil before adding it to tomato sauce. Yum!
2: Drink healthier. Ditch the pop/soda (and limit your alcohol consumption): I know, these are tough habits to break. I took this single step in college and I have never gone back. I don’t even crave pop anymore, and I used to be a Diet Pepsi addict. bleck! I quit drinking alcohol (altogether) too but that was because I drank WAY too much. But I’ll save that story for another post. Kicking those two habits helped me to get rid of the “freshman 15…or more” I had put on.
Often times if we want to end a bad habit, it helps to replace it with a healthier habit. Switch out alcohol for seltzer water. Or switch out that pop for tea sweetened with stevia or raw honey. Drink more water, or try kombucha as another occasional treat (however, even the sugars in that can add up). This is my favorite brand of kombucha (although I wouldn’t buy it on amazon-super pricey). Most health food sections carry it. I know Super Target has it and so does my local food co op. I like that this brand is relatively low in sugar (sweetened with a small amount of juice).
3: Limit processed sugar: All you have to do is start reading food label to realize how much hidden sugar there is in EVERYTHING! I buy plain tomato sauce and make my own spaghetti sauce by adding my own seasoning. I know, that may seem like a big step but all those sugars really add up.
Even if you don’t cut out all the small hidden amounts of sugar in sauces and other dishes, you could cut out the big sources of processed sugar like cookies and cupcakes. Can’t imagine life without a sweet treat? Then try a dessert made with whole foods. I personally wouldn’t want to exist in a world without chocolate.
Have no idea how to make desserts with no processed sugar? Check out my “sweets” recipe page for ideas. I save my sweets for Sunday night when the kiddos go to bed. Then I can enjoy what I’m eating rather than scarfing it down while my kids are asking me a bajillion questions. It’s easier to have will power all week because I know on Sunday I get my treat. Some treats I make are so healthy you could literally eat them every day and not feel the least bit guilty. Like my high protein “frostie” pudding. I eat this stuff all the time!
4: Eat those veggies. Don’t like em? Roast em. I like just about any vegetable when it’s roasted and so do my kids. Toss those veggies in coconut oil. Add a little sea salt and pepper, and cook them at 425 degrees in your oven for 45 min or so (checking them periodically). This brings out the natural sugars and makes veggies taste amaz-za-zing! The more veggies you eat, the more full you will feel and the more nutrition you can pack into your day. My favorite is roasted broccoli and cauliflower.
5: Don’t forget protein! Many Americans don’t get enough protein (especially if weight lifting is part of their daily workout routine). Protein is so incredibly important. It will keep you feeling full and help you keep that lean muscle mass. Try eating some protein with every meal or snack. Rather than grabbing that bag of chips, eat some apple slices with almond butter. Or eat a couple zucchini turkey meatballs wrapped in lettuce. Need some snack ideas? Check out my snack recipe page or my lunch recipe page.
6: Prepare! I like to prep as much food as possible before hand so that I’m not starving and tempted to order take out or eat mac n cheese for dinner. I make a HUGE batch of turkey meatballs each week. I put 3 days worth in the fridge and freeze the rest for later. I boil eggs ahead of time and chop carrots as soon as I can after I buy them. I stock the fridge with snap peas so I have veggies to snack on whenever I need them. I make sweet potato fries in big batches and toast them up later when I’m in need of a good carb with my lunch. I also like to know what my family and I are going to eat for dinner each night. I write out the menu for the entire week or two and shop and write out all the ingredients I need on my shopping list. Need some healthy dinner ideas? Check out my dinner recipe page.
When you go on vaca try and pack some healthy snacks. I like to buy (or make) nuts roasted in coconut oil. I usually bring my favorite protein packed snack (Nick’s Sticks). I bring super dark chocolate on almost any vacation too so that if I get a chocolate craving I can enjoy some dark chocolate guilt free.
7. Don’t be afraid of those healthy fats. In fact, your body needs them. Coconut oil is one of my favorites. I get the unrefined Gold Label brand from Tropical Traditions. Avocados are a great source of fat. I also love hemp seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts (I eat them in my oatmeal or groats every morning), and don’t forget flax! These are all great sources of Omega-3. It’s the restaurant fried foods and vegetable oils and soy bean oils you want to avoid. Read labels. You may be surprised by how much soy is in our food. I avoid soy due to it’s possible estrogen mimicking effects.
8. Try to eat (and make) more food from scratch… food that’s really food. Read labels and see if you can recognize what’s listed as “ingredients” in that “food”. I remember thinking that if I just avoided fat and stuck with low fat carbs I would be fine. I used to eat lots of processed crap all in the name of “fat free”. I was afraid of burgers. I didn’t realize the processed bun was what made the burger unhealthy or the way the cow was being raised. Now I eat grass fed beef without fear.
9. Don’t deprive yourself. Find healthier ways to make the dishes and desserts you love. Or eat the processed goodies on occasion (guilt free) knowing you are eating healthy the majority of the time. Do what works best for you. If I eat the processed stuff I start craving it again and I feel like bunk. So I try to stick with healthier versions of the processed stuff I once loved.
10. Like I said before… don’t diet. Make changes that you can keep up with for life. Those diet pills are bogus and could even land you in the hospital. And while progress photos are a good way to track your own progress, please don’t buy into the “before” and “after” photos out there. Yes, some are legit but usually those are from people who did it the traditional way (with exercise and eating healthy over time). Anything that sounds too good to be true probably is. And what they can do with photo shop these days is crazy. I took a “before” and “after” photo of myself. Both of these were taken in the exact same day. All I did was stick out my stomach in the first photo and flex in the second. Plus I played with the lighting a bit. I didn’t even use photo shop to trim myself up like many companies do with “after photos”. This just goes to show how unreliable these photos are.
Now for some fitness tips:
1. Lift! If you do anything at all… just lift. Women, don’t be afraid of weights. Heavy weights are your friend. Many women fear lifting heavier weights because they think they will bulk up. While I’m aware that some women are naturally more muscular than others, lifting will help sculpt your body, increase your metabolism, and burn fat.
There is nothing wrong with taking the weight down a notch to help you correct poor form and help you to be sure you are lifting the weights (rather than just swinging them in order to hit that max you have been trying for). When you do lift “lighter weights”, then make sure you are lifting to failure (when you can’t possibly do another rep). If you are able to lift more then you probably need to up the weights a bit.
If you want to get your heart rate up while lifting, do some circuits. Click here for an example of an easy at home circuit. You don’t HAVE to have a gym membership, although I couldn’t squat heavy without one. But there is so much you can do at home.
2. When you do cardio, HIIT is a GREAT way to burn fat. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio is much more effective at burning that stubborn fat than long sessions of steady state cardio. I used to train for long races (a marathon, and many halves). You would have thought I would be a twig from all those miles I trained. Nope. Running long distances can actually cause your body to want to hold onto that fat and often people think they can eat whatever they want since they just ran 10 miles. It wasn’t until I started lifting, and eating clean did I see my stubborn belly fat disappear.
Yes, I do 30 minutes of steady state cardio at times but unless I am training for distance I don’t run longer than that. 10-20 minutes of HIIT cardio will help you kiss your fat goodbye much quicker than crazy long sessions of steady state cardio. There’s nothing wrong with distance running. In fact I think it can be quite fun and therapeutic to do long runs. I just prefer the results of HIIT. And lets face it, not everyone has it in them to go out and run 6 miles or more on any given Saturday. But most people can jump on a treadmill (or run outside) and give it their all for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and repeat. One person’s “all” may be slower than another’s but their speed will build over time.
3. Eat some protein (and some healthy carbs) within 30 minutes of your workout. This is the best time to refuel. If you gave it your all, your body needs the fuel to build the muscles you just worked so hard to make. More muscles = higher metabolism = less fat.
One of my favorite after workout snacks is chocolate protein brownies. I often don’t have time to make a meal as soon as I get done working out. I like to whip up a batch of these so that I have 4 servings to eat throughout the week. Better yet, make a double batch and freeze some in individually portioned bags. Just defrost one the night before you plan to eat it.
4. Make a plan. I do my best when I’m following a plan. Whether it’s my own plan or someone else’s plan. I fell in love with lifting when I first followed Jamie Easons 12-week Live Fit program. Then after the 12 weeks I just didn’t stop. I never thought I would continue to eat that way and continue to lift so much. I loved the results and have made eating clean and lifting park of my every day lifestyle. It was no longer a diet. It just became the way I live. I don’t follow her plan anymore (except on occasion when I want to go back to the basics), but I do always have a plan. I never walk into the gym without having written down what I plan to do that day. It takes out the guess work.
A good plan has:
- A. Long term goals (ex: I want to be stronger than when I started in 12 weeks so I’m going to follow this program)
- B: Weekly goals: I plan to lift 5 days a week and include 3 days of HIIT cardio in those days.
- C: Daily goals: Today I will do: 3 sets of 6-8 squats, 3 sets of 8-10 deadlifts, 3 sets of 8-12 leg curls, 3 sets 12 of one leg glute bridges, 3 sets of 12 dumbbell curtsy lunges, 3 sets of 12 crunches, 3 sets of 20 side crunches, 2 sets of 20 leg raise crunches (this was my workout today by the way).
5. STRETCH! Do some dynamic stretches before a workout or do the lift with VERY light weights to warm up. Then do static stretching afterwards. This is key to a good recovery and to keeping yourself from getting injured. Want to learn about the differences between pre and post workout stretching? Click here.
There you have it. These are my tips to starting a healthy lifestyle today. Don’t restrict your calories like crazy. If you are active you need more real food than you might think. If you cut out those processed snacks you will be able to eat a lot more whole foods (leaving yourself much more satisfied).
There is no need to count calories. Just eat lots of smaller portioned meals throughout the day so that you never feel deprived… or stuffed. Different people eat in many different ways. Some people like 3 big meals, some people prefer to graze throughout the day. I just found small meals throughout the day works best for me.
Enjoy eating real food. Healthy food doesn’t have to taste like crap. In fact, I think healthy tastes better than junk. It’s all about seasoning and variety. Don’t let yourself get bored. Enjoy what you eat. Don’t scarf it down while watching TV or driving (I’m guilty of this myself… especially when the kids are around, and I find myself helping them more than paying attention to my own meal). I like to think of it as “what I get to eat” rather than “what I can’t have“.
These are just some of the things I have learned along my fitness journey. What works for you? Feel free to share any advice and recipes. Or ask any questions in the comments below.