Diet and exercise advice is everywhere. Atkins Diet, Insanity workouts, South Beach Diet, and 90 days to ‘the best shape of your life’ are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s overwhelming to say the least.
The intense 90 days of crazy workouts will end and you’ll soon discover that you like to eat a potato every now and then. They just aren’t that realistic. There are no quick fixes.
Here’s the secret of healthy people: create moderate healthy lifestyle habits that are sustainable. Whether you’re starting from scratch, getting into shape (again), or just trying to lose a few pounds it can be challenging to know where to start and what to do.
Here are five non-gimmicky habits of people with lifelong health:
1. Make moving fun
I’m always trying new and exciting sports. This winter I took up cross-country skiing. I went every week. It was challenging, got me outside and was always fun. It was never about burning calories or working my core. I did it because I loved it.
This summer, I’ll be riding my bike everywhere. Nothing puts a smile on my face like riding my bike. You get to see the world and feel sunshine on your face. It’s the original convertible.
I do these activities because I love them. It’s never about a ‘workout.’ If it’s fun, you’ll want to do it again. And again. And again.
Don’t worry if you’re not athletic. Take a dance class, swim at the community pool, practice yoga or start martial arts. It’s not about working out at the gym anymore, find things that you love to do.
2. Have a buddy
We all need support. An exercise buddy will challenge you, keep you accountable and will make moving a lot more interesting.
I learned this lesson the hard way. When I first opened my fitness studio, I became overwhelmed at running a business, and my workout time fell by the wayside. So I arranged for a workout buddy to come and meet me for our own workouts together. We go for runs, wrestle (!) and are always finding new and exciting ways to get sweaty. Also a close friend, we use this time to catch up on each others lives.
Being active with friends is one of the best ways to reinforce a lifelong commitment to moving. They’ll challenge you and invite you to try new activities, and it’s an excellent way to spend your leisure time together. Also, there’s something to be said about a little friendly competition.
3. Eat real food
Meal plan and grocery shop regularly. Quick food is rarely healthy food. You have to plan to eat well. Get inspired with a new cookbook. Bring fruit and vegetables for your 3 pm snack. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. The fewer the ingredients, the better the food for you. Get away from cooking out of a box.
You can’t get healthy without some adjustments and work. There is no magic pill. There is no fad diet. It’s just cooking and preparing real food.
4. Schedule your workouts
This lesson goes hand in hand with having a workout buddy.
My workout buddy meets me every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 am. I do not schedule any meetings, clients or appointments at this time. This time is committed to working out. Similarly this winter, another friend and I went skiing every Sunday morning at Bird’s Hill park.
We schedule everything in life. Why not our workouts too? This is one of the reasons why people who take classes or play sports are consistently healthy. Their activities are scheduled for them. All they have to do is show up.
5. Keep it real
There is no such thing as perfectly healthy. Go easy on yourself.
I will eat a hot dog at my nephew’s birthday party. I will have a beer at the Jets game. I will not feel guilty about either of those things.
Feeling guilt or shame about not being perfect is one of the least motivating thing you can do for your health. It often becomes a downward spiral of other bad habits. You go on vacation. You get sick. You ate a giant bag of M & M’s. You’ve missed a few weeks of workouts.
No big deal, that’s life. We’re not perfect. Shake it off and get back at it. Call your workout buddy and reserve a tennis court. Go for a bike ride and BBQ some delicious shish-ka-bobs.
It’s not all or nothing.
You’ve only got one body in this life, take care of it.
By Lindsay Hamel
Lindsay is a wellness advocate for everyday healthy habits. She’s always running, hiking, swimming, skiing or biking in the great outdoors. She likes kale and struggles to drink enough water. She is a Can Fit Pro certified Personal Training Specialist with a training studio in the Exchange District. She does not have rock hard abs.