Round and round we go: Here comes another shorts and bathing-suit season. Are you in need of some new fitness tips to throw into the mix? For many of us, it's really not about the list, since we already know what to do. It's about getting inspired and re-energized to tackle those two lifestyle habits we know so well: eating and exercise. Think of it as being reborn anew just in time for some fun in the sun, and consider this your starting point.
1. Hit the restart button
I could care less how you have eaten in the past, what you weigh today, or how long you sat on the couch watching TV yesterday. Moving on, this is your rebirth. Don't let the past stop you from embracing your future.
2. Assemble a crew
No woman or man is an island and NO ONE can do it alone. The days I get to workout with friends are so much more productive than the days I have to go at it alone. It's like night and day. Exercise has been a big part of my life for over 22 years, and I am not going to lie, I still need inspiration and people to help me be accountable. In other words, I need a good kick in the butt. Sound familiar? Find a few friends who you can schedule exercise with, and I recommend more than one in case someone flakes. If you're watching what you eat, find friends who are attempting to tackle their food issues, too. You can swap easy and tasty recipes or just have someone to call when you want to make a pit stop at the emotional drive-thru.
3. Believe in your goals
To successfully reach a large goal, you've got to believe it's possible. Look to the future and visualize your destination. Continue to drive this image of success home and imagine the feeling when you reach your goal. Eventually, you crossing the finish line will be part of your belief system. Do this visualization once or twice a day; it's a reprogramming of the mind, body, and heart.
4. Eliminate obstacles
Before you can move on to the technical part of eating well and exercising, you have to look at some of the things in your life that may be stopping you: depression, bad relationships, high stress, little time, or feeling lazy. I know them all. Whatever it is in your life, can you find a way to minimize its impact, begin dealing with it once and for all, and break the old habits to make room for the new?
This statement was said to me and really resonated: "There are no victims, just volunteers." At a certain point we all have to decide, are we going to let the past keep us from our future regardless of how painful or difficult it has been? I'm not trying to be insensitive; I am merely saying you can get beyond the past that is not serving you now.
5. Put it down on paper
Now that we have talked about some of the abstract parts of making our summertime change, it's time to tackle the nuts and bolts of our plan. The key here is to make a plan. You know where you want to be, but how are you going to get there? Write down your goals and then create a strategy for each one of them. For example, if you are not exercising at all, then your plan might be to get moving 3 or 4 days a week for at least 30 minutes a day. (Walking is a great exercise that anyone can do.) If you are overeating, then begin by cutting your meals and snacks in half. There is no magic pill, and, yes, hard work is still a key part of your success.
6. Just say no to stress
We all have stress in our daily lives and experience more severe stress from time to time. It's important to find ways to minimize the effects of stress on our bodies. Among other negative health consequences, stress can make you gain weight or keep you from losing it (especially around the mid-section). My favorite stress-busting techniques include deep breathing, meditation, prayer, screaming into a pillow, psychotherapy, and boxing classes. This is my challenge to you: Can you push the stress away and find ways to keep it from sneaking in?
7. Give nutrient-poor foods the boot
This may be too restrictive for you, but these are the rules I find most effective for losing or maintaining weight:
- No fast food
- No white, processed foods (white sugar, flour, pasta, rice, bread, dairy, and any other WHITE food). Is brown rice okay? You bet.
- Watch portion sizes
- Avoid snack foods in bags, wrappers, and microwavable packages
- Eat only until you are full, and only when you are truly hungry
- Avoid reaching for foods in a times of stress, loneliness, depression or boredom. When you feel yourself arriving at that place call a member from your crew or go take a drive.
- Eliminate alcohol. Alcoholic drinks tend to be full of calories and also can lead to careless eating when you get a little buzzed.
- Reach for water. Sugary drinks (diet and regular sodas, juices, and even the "healthy" beverages) make up 20% of the average American's daily calories.
8. Find your caveman
You can't just turn on your thin switch; I wish it were that easy. A body in motion stays in motion, and since the beginning of time, humans were meant to move. It's not just about sweating and suffering -- I believe we feel better on many levels when we are doing more physical activity. Not everyone is a professional athlete, but we are all capable of picking up the pace. Find your own way, at your own fitness level, with things you like to do; but find that caveman or woman inside of you and move!
9. Enjoy the moment
We all want to get there right away, but try to enjoy the moment wherever you are. Even for the challenging stuff you are dealing with, try to embrace it and learn from it. Look ahead to where you want to go, and stay inspired to strive. But, be careful not to get so overwhelmed with the endpoint that you pass by where you are right now.
10. Have some fun and reward yourself
If you get into a good rhythm for a few weeks, congratulate yourself and celebrate. Throw a dinner for your crew and honor each other for work well-done. You don't have to go so far as to give out mini trophies, unless you really want to; it feels good just to celebrate as a group and to be recognized for your hard work.
Go get it, and good luck!