Creating Healthy Habits

What’s the best way to start getting into a healthier lifestyle?

Slowly.

How many times have you tried jumping into a new way of living your life, whether it’s a new exercise routine or diet, only to find its too much of a change for your mind and body to handle and give up? I know I’ve done it a few times in my life.
I’ve found the best way to make positive changes in my life is slowly, one change at a time.

When I first had to push myself to get back into shape after neglecting and abusing my body with over consumption of alcohol and poor food choices, I began by doing a very simple and basic ‘workout’ as soon as I got a out of bed.
This might not sound like easing myself in getting at it as soon as I wake up. But that little routine was all I did for a few weeks.
I kept a step machine next to my bed and did 2-3 minutes at whatever pace I felt like, then some bodyweight squats, some push ups and some crunches, not even a lot like 10-15 of each then on with my day. I didn’t even come close to breaking a sweat.

Did this little morning workout get me buff and ripped? Not even nearly. But what I did get out of it was building a habit of moving everyday and on top managed to turn me into more of a morning person, you’d be surprised how much more energised you feel after getting the blood flowing in the morning.
So I pushed myself to get through this morning routine for about a week or so until it got to the point that I no longer had to push. I just got up and got on with it, it was now a habit.

Over time I built one new habit at a time, first the morning workouts, then afternoon workouts twice a week, then three times a weeks. The afternoon workouts also started off like the morning ones, nice and simple and not too exerting, then built up in intensity over time.
I did the same with my diet. I was one of those kids that never ate his vegetables, ironic as I’m now vegetarian.
The only time I came close to eating anything vegetable related was having salad on my kebab. So I started there, lettuce, onions and peppers. I had them on almost every sandwich and I ate a lot of chicken fajitas as that’s all I could think of that had them in the recipe.
Over time I added more vegetables into my diet to the point that they’re now the main staple of my diet. I made eat vegetables a habit.

So how does all this help you make healthier habits?

I believe the best way to integrate a new habit into your life is to just do it and do it without focusing too much on the outcome.
For example, when I started those morning workouts my only goal was to do them consistently. That was my only metric for success. Not how much weight I lost after doing it for a week or how strong I got.
Once I’d gotten into the habit of exercising on a regular basis then I could worry about what was most effective.

So if you’ve decided you’re going to start going to the gym twice a week, go to the gym twice a week. Even on those days you don’t feel like going, if it’s one of the days you’ve designated as a gym day just turn up, do the bare minimum when you’re there if you have to.

But where do you start?
Well that’s up to you ultimately, but I can recommend a few good things to start with.

Water being the first.
Most people just don’t drink enough water.
I’d start with aiming for 1-2 litres a day, getting yourself a litre bottle helps with keeping track of how much you’ve drank or any size really so long as you know how much you can fit in it.
If you find it difficult remembering to drink you can set reminders on your phone or there are even apps available that both track and remind you to drink.
Once I’ve gotten to the point that getting 1-2 litres doesn’t feel like a load of effort then is the time to up it to 2-3 even 4 litres a day.

Vegetables next, something else that is under consumed.
5 a day anyone? I’ve never understood how that works other than it let’s fruit juice drinks seem healthy by being able to put ‘counts as 2 towards your 5 a day’ Oh please.
Personally I think a portion of vegetables should be about a cups worth, that’s probably between 100-200g of vegetables.
Start with that, what veg you decide to eat is entirely up to you. Frozen mixed vegetables is a good place to start though. Just boil some up and add them to your evening meal, or you could start where I did with onions and peppers with everything.
Either way the point is to make eating vegetables a habit and eating enough too!
As with drinking water, once getting this one portion of vegetables a day becomes less of a chore, increase the amount and/or variety of vegetables.

Move every day.
This does not have to be vigorous exercise.
Simply taking a 20-30 minute stroll around the block is enough. Although I recommend a bit of stretching or yoga too. I’ve taken to performing an adaptation of the sun salutation, a very basic yoga flow, every morning instead of my old morning workout and I find it sets me up for the day. I shall put a video up on the youtube channel demonstrating my adaptation.
Again once you’ve gotten past the point of this being an effort to do everyday, then is the time to consider adding going to the gym or working out at home a couple days a week.

So that sums up my advice on building healthy habits and making lasting lifestyle changes.

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