Let's be honest - most of us know what we need to do in order to get in better shape. Eating a few less processed foods and getting up and moving around a bit more is usually a good place to start.
Here's the catch. Life is kind of frantic.
With everything you have going on right now, how on earth are you going to get through a 60-minute workout or prepare an Instagram-worthy buddha bowl?
Well, you don't need to do those things to start living a healthier, fitter life...but you do need to start doing something.
Here are 7 tips to get you there.
1. Find your "why"
Figuring out exactly why you want to start eating better, moving more and embracing a healthier lifestyle is pretty important.
After all, how are you going to make time for a 10-minute workout first thing in the morning (when that snooze button looks oh-so-tempting) if you don't know why you're actually doing it?
And I don't just mean "I just think it's time to lose a few pounds."
You're going to need to dig a little deeper than that. That's why I ask clients to complete the "5 Whys" exercise. It can look a little something like this:
Me: "Why would you like to start exercising more and eating better?"
Client: "I'd like to lose some weight - a stone would be nice."
Me: "Ok, so why is losing weight important to you?"
Client: "Well, there are some dresses I have that I haven't been able to fit into in a while...and I'd kind of like to wear them again."
Me: "Why would you like to fit into those dresses again?"
Client: "Well, there's one dress in particular that I used to look pretty good in, and it makes me feel better about myself."
Me: "Why would you like to feel better about yourself?"
Client: "Because when I feel better about myself, I'm more confident and I'm able to express myself more clearly."
Me: "Why's that important to you?"
Client: "Because there have been a lot of situations lately, at home and at work, where I haven't felt heard - like decisions are just being made for me. And it's time for me to start taking back control of my life again."
Do you see how this exercise helps you get a clearer idea of what it is you really want to achieve - and why? That is going to drive you a lot more than the goal/reasoning that you may have started with.
2. Decide on your priorities
Everyone's priorities are different. For some, watching My Kitchen Rules is a non-negotiable part of weekday evenings that must take priority over all other things. For others....not so much.
Either way, you only have a limited amount of time every day. So you need to choose what you want to do with it.
Think of your time as a jar. You can fill your jar with rocks, pebbles and sand.
Your rocks should represent the things most important to you in life - the things that are most fulfilling. For most, these tend to represent family, friends, earning a living and (hopefully) health.
Your pebbles? Well they're important, but they're secondary to the big rocks, and can be sacrificed where needed. These might include hobbies, passion projects and personal/professional development.
Finally, we come on to the sand. Sand is full of the activities we might enjoy, but bring little to no true value to our lives. We're talking social media, TV (sorry aforementioned MKR fans), going out on the lash and watching our cats rolling around like psychopaths after we give them a little too much of "the old nip".
Ultimately, everyone's priorities (rocks, pebbles and sand) are going to be different. But if we spend too much time filling our jar with sand, we can't fit the pebbles - let alone the big rocks - inside it.
3. Track your time
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It's all too easy to tell ourselves we're spending our time on our big rocks when we're really just playing in the sand. Ever had one of those 30-minute social media "blackouts"? You know, when you start scrolling through your feed and all of a sudden half an hour has just...gone?
By tracking your time for a few weeks, you can figure out how you're really spending your time - and whether that's consistent with your goals and priorities.
(Ps. and no, I don't tend to stop people from eating pudding - unless they want to).
Track your time in 15 minute increments, and then analyse it. Here's an example:
Made coffee, checked Facebook
Still on Facebook. Coffee cold.
Still on Facebook - found cool video of cat doing burpees. Coffee gone...
Empty coffee mug in hands of toddler. Some on floor, some in toddler. Toddler is now performing a war dance. Toys everywhere. Sh*t.
The important thing here is to analyse your time without judgement - even if a new TV and carpet are now required. But do be honest about whether how you spend your time right now reflects your real goals, values and priorities.
4. Trade your time
In order to move closer to our goals, values and priorities, sometimes we have to make trade-offs.
These don't need to be big trade-offs, like cutting out all sugar and only consuming organic produce that's been grown at the feet of the most worthy of Tibetan monks, or signing yourself up to the next local half-marathon (unless those are things you want to do). But they do need to represent a step forwards towards what you want to accomplish.
A good way to start is to trade time in increments of 15 minutes, replacing low value "sand" activities with higher value "rock" activities.
For example, you could swap out 15 minutes of Netflix for a 15 minutes of meal prep. Or 15 minutes of Facebook scrolling for one of our awesome 15 minute workouts.
You don't to change everything at once - just focus on one period of time you can change and get consistent. 15 minutes per day can really make a big difference. You can manage that, right?
5. Make things easier for yourself
A lot of people in the fitness industry yell at the top of their lungs about hard work, dedication...blah blah blah.
I call bullish*t.
Why on earth (unless you're a little weird, like me) would you want to deliberately make things more difficult than they need to be?
I'm all about smarter, not harder.
And with a little bit of effort up front, you can significantly reduce the amount of time, effort and dedication it takes to exercise and eat better day to day.
Some examples of things you can start doing right away include:
- Keeping fresh, whole foods like nuts, fruits and veggies in plain sight
- Keeping "trigger" foods like crisps, cakes and ice cream out of sight
- Creating a regular routine to prepare ingredients for healthy meals in bulk (chopping veggies, cooking rice, portioning protein sources
- Keep healthy ingredients (like leafy greens and berries) in the freezer so that they can be added to shakes
- Have your clothes and exercise equipment ready and waiting to go for quick, convenient workouts
- Keep a packed gym bag in the car
- Plan "walking" meetings outdoors where possible
- Hire a local personal trainer or an online coach and let them plan for you and hold you accountable
6. Schedule (and stick to) set times for food prep and exercise
Let's be honest. If we wait until we "feel like it", things often don't get done.
Figure out blocks in the day/week where you have spare time (or, more likely, have time you can trade) and schedule in some time to go for a walk, grab a quick workout and/or prepare your meals.
Then stick to it.
7. Review your progress
At the end of the week, ask yourself a simple question:
Did my behaviour this week lead to progress towards my health and fitness goals?
Answer honestly, and without judgement.
Was it a yes?
If so, celebrate your progress (that's important), explore what worked well and how you can keep doing it, and think about how you could take things one step further next week. Maybe there's a new healthy recipe you want to have a go at, or a new hot yoga class at the local gym you'd like to try? Or perhaps you've identified another 15 minute block of time you can trade. Keep moving forward at your own pace.
Was it a no?
Ask yourself what happened instead. Did your time get filled up by those pesky "sand" activities again? If that's the case, then you have a few options:
- Combine sand activities with your health and fitness goals. Watch TV while you're on the treadmill or prepping your meals
- Remove triggers - lock your phone away, hide the remote to the TV or perform a kitchen makeover. Basically, make that behaviour harder and less convenient to do.
- Get coaching for added accountability, motivation and action plans to help you on your journey
Or maybe it was something bigger - maybe you have other important "rock"priorities that competed for your time and won out. If so, ask yourself if this is something that happens to you often. If it isn't? Then put it behind you and get yourself ready to try again next week.
If it does happen often, here are a few things you can try:
- Set smaller weekly goals and aim to keep improving over time
- Look at where you can make life easier for yourself or delegate tasks - e.g. get food deliveries or hire a child-minder so you can get to the gym
- Combine your other important priorities with your health and fitness priorities - cook while you catch up with your family, walk outside while you take work calls, get your kids involved with your exercise (one of our awesome clients takes her daughters to park run with her and overtakes people while pushing her youngest in a pushchair. How epic is that?).
- Hire a coach that can help you set realistic goals and develop more effective systems for reaching them.
Hopefully, by this point you understand there's a whole lot more to this "healthy lifestyle" stuff than just eating less and moving more.
None of it happens without building all the skills we need to take us there.
Skills like thinking, prioritising and planning are important.
The good news? You probably already have those skills, and have shown an ability to apply them in one or more areas of your life.
And if you don't? Well, like any skill they can be built with practice and guidance.
READY TO Lose Weight, Build Strength and feel 10 kinds of awesomesauce?