IT’S NO SECRET to anyone on my Facebook or Pinterest feeds that I’m a big fan of motivational quotes. After all, a deep immersion into a six cassette goal setting workshop by Zig Ziglar did literally change my life back in 2005, so I’m always keen to check out the pithy quotes and pictures that are all over the net these days. Lots of them emphasise the importance of action, which makes sense because all the good intentions and proper planning in the world are utterly worthless without some kind of action.
And so it is with health and fitness. Action is essential, but making a substantial change in lifestyle can seem daunting at best, impossible at worst, especially if you’re starting from a base of poor health and zero motivation. It was well-known motivational speaker Tony Robbins who said something about major change not happening until you got sick of the status quo and finally said “enough!” – which is entirely true. Until you draw a line in the sand and just refuse to accept things as they are, you’re not likely to make anything more than a token effort to change the things you’re not happy with. It’s also worth noting that without some serious motivation, anything you do isn’t likely to be consistent or long-term.
Rushing off in a wave of energy and self-belief with that line in the sand firmly drawn is a wonderful concept, but unfortunately, that kind of “Eureka” moment is rare. The good news is that there’s another way.
So instead of dwelling on the negatives and waiting for “that magical day” while things just get worse and worse, it’s far better to just do something, anything. And sometimes, the most subtle and easy changes are the ones that lead to great things because once you see and feel progress, the motivation grows, and like a properly stoked fire, it glows hotter and hotter the more you feed it.
From a fitness perspective, if you know that you’ll never use the gym membership because you truly do hate going to the gym and there’s not enough time in the day right now, then flag that and just start doing something you actually enjoy. Walking is a great start. Just about anyone can go for a walk, especially in the gorgeous New Zealand summer evenings, and if you can fit in a couple of 30 minute walks during the week and a nice long one on the weekend, you will definitely notice the effects. You might just feel so good that the walking turns into fast walking and then running.
Haven’t got time for a walk? Then search the net for simple exercise charts like the ones below – working through a basic series of exercises at home doesn’t need to take more than 15 or 20 minutes, so you can fit it in around a hectic schedule. The options here are vast – find some second hand exercise DVDs or watch something from a trainer on YouTube that revs your motor and go for it – twice a week is better by far than zero times per week.
Diet follows exactly the same process – I know a young couple who transitioned from eating KFC and other junk at least four nights a week, to vegetarian to vegan to raw vegan in just a few months, and while the health benefits were profound, that type of transformation is unusual to say the least. Given that I’m a vegan who’s experienced massive improvements in my health since dropping dairy, I’ll always advocate moving towards a plant-based, whole foods diet, but again to be clear, I’d definitely say that it doesn’t have to happen overnight.
Cut down on the junk snacks and junk food
This stuff is always heavily processed, filled with stuff you don’t really want to put in your body and is loaded to the roof with empty calories (or artificial sweeteners) so cutting back on junk makes great sense from both health and weight loss perspectives.
It’s easy! Just replace chocolate bars and soft drinks with good stuff like fruit and flavoured water type drinks, swap the burger or pie for a sub sandwich or a salad wrap. You don’t have to go cold turkey, that’s not the plan – any effort in this regard will help; even dropping a couple of cans of Coke, a burger and a pie from your week and replacing them with healthy options will make a big difference over the course of a year.
Add in more raw and unprocessed food to your diet
Slipping in some extra raw and unprocessed food into your meals is far easier than you’d think and it’s great for the whole family. Choosing a rougher option over a more processed one always makes sense – brown rice over white rice, multigrain bread instead of white bread, green salad on the side instead of an extra source of carbs. Fresh instead of tinned or frozen – the healthier choice is usually obvious and if you’re doing it once or twice a week, it’s not going to be a major mission.
When you’re eating out, drop the side of fries and replace it with a salad or something else that’s not a deep fried carb. You don’t have to do it all the time, or with every meal but keep making small changes and you’ll find it increasingly easy to make even more changes.
Reduce your sugar intake
The multinational food brands will happily add sugar to anything and everything they make from yoghurt to canned fruit, and you certainly don’t need to be adding your own sugar to food and drink.
So where you can, check out the food label and choose the option with less sugar. At the same time, try to cut back on your own added sugar – if you can tell a major difference in sweetness between two teaspoons of sugar in your coffee and one a half teaspoons, then you’ve got a refined palate. Drop from two to one and a half to one and so forth and eventually, as your taste adapts, you’ll find that you don’t actually need or want that much sugar in your tea or coffee or on your grapefruit. Getting rid of four teaspoons of sugar a day for a year can make a big difference.
Which is of course the whole point of the exercise. Without the sacrifices and deprivation that put most people off, you can keep up this kind of simple stuff for ages. And that’s when you get the results because this kind of behaviour is the holy grail of health and fitness – a lifestyle change, and that’s exactly what you need to be healthy for the rest of your life. It’s also precisely what the roller-coaster diet industry, and modern medicine for that matter, don’t want you to know about – so feel free to stick it to them by just saying no (occasionally).
Making small changes to diet and exercise levels has a synergistic effect, and is much more effective than concentrating on just one aspect. This approach is also extraordinarily effective at breaking bad habits forever. If you do one thing a day to reach for a better, healthier, fitter you, and keep doing it, eventually you’ll find doing two things a day easy, then three, and so forth. The sky is truly the limit… and it’s stress free to get there. ASHLEY KRAMER