As we start the new year, it’s important to remember that there is no short-term meaningful approach to healthy living. It’s a purposeful and consistent act of self-improvement. Improving health and wellness is an endurance race. It starts now and continues throughout your life.
Nowadays, there’s no limit to the amount of quick-fix, 30-day summer body advice from “professionals.” As an actual fitness professional, I will divulge the industry secret: consistency. A healthy lifestyle is a concerted daily effort to make healthy choices.
Let’s begin with making a schedule and setting realistic goals. Goals need to be both realistic and achievable. Create goals that are meaningful to you, but also measurable and time-oriented. Here are four tips to keep in mind when you are goal setting:
- Set achievable weight-loss goals.
Losing weight is one of the top goals among my clients. I don’t generally care about weight — it’s a number on a scale, and the scale will betray you. If you lose a few pounds of fat and gain a few pounds of muscle, the scale won’t budge a whole lot. It won’t show the hard work you’ve put in. If fat loss is your goal, consider reducing carbohydrate intake after 3 pm and don’t eat large meals immediately before bedtime. Also, consider adding more physical activity. Between these two changes, you’ll have created a meaningful caloric deficit that can help reduce fat.
- Know that gaining strength takes time.
Increased strength will occur slowly over time, so don’t expect to hit new “personal bests” with each day at the gym. This approach tends to result in injuries that outlive the temporary bragging rights. Instead, try lifting a certain weight through a full range of motion for a given number of repetitions. In a few weeks, the weight that started off challenging will now be a warmup. Building up muscle will take time. Remember, consistency is the key.
- Set specific healthy-eating goals.
Eating healthier is essential to overall wellness. However, while “eating better” is a great goal, it’s too generic. Be specific with goals, such as “I will eat more whole foods” or “I will take more time to eat and not rush through meals.” A simple starting point is to change one thing about one meal. For example, replace low-fat, high-sugar yogurt with a high-protein alternative. Each week, continue to make similar small adjustments to other meals.
- Feeling good is the real goal.
Remember that feeling good is an immediate and often overlooked fitness benefit. When we exercise and eat right, we actually feel good. This should be a goal for all individuals. The benefits of physical activity go far beyond flat tummies and tight glutes. You won’t have bigger muscles at the end of today’s workout, but you will feel better. To help this feeling sink in, after you’ve participated in the day’s activity, write down a small note for yourself about how you feel, such as “Today I feel happy and energized.” Over time, watch how your mood and general disposition will improve.
Around this time of year, we are bombarded with unrealistic “miracle” workouts and diets that don’t factor in actual life obligations. Few people have the time to be an exercise enthusiast as well as a responsible family member, community member and productive employee. By setting small, achievable goals, you can live a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. But like all great things, progress takes time.
Learn more about the Sewell Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital, currently offering in-person and online workout classes.