The following are 10 lessons that I believe really work for living and maintaining a healthy and fit life. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or invest in a fancy program. They are simple and yet they are not always easy. Over the years I have found these lessons to be faithful and true. They are anchors for helping me make healthy decisions.
Lesson 1: Slow down and pay attention. Be mindful. SLOW DOWN! You may be busy with work, family, volunteering, and social activities. And for the most part you have some control over these situations. Choose carefully and stay true to your values.
- Focus on right now – this moment is all you truly have
- Eat your nutritious foods for the day. Slowly and mindfully and if you slip up, clean the slate and start again
- Be grateful and repeat!
“The secret of health for your mind and body is not to wish for the past or worry about the future – but to live in the present wisely and with earnest.” (Buddha)
Lesson 2: Live your values.
We all get the same 24 hours a day. What we do, who we spend time with and what we commit to shapes us.
- If you schedule time at the bar after work – it’s what you value
- If you schedule time with family each day – it’s what you value
- If you schedule time Sunday evening to prep food – it’s what you value
- If you schedule time to workout each day – it’s what you value
Take time to reflect on your schedule right now. What is occupying your time? Do your daily actions reflect your core principles and values?
Lesson 3: Focus on behaviors, not outcomes.
You can’t control what your fat cells will do, nor the exact number on the scale. All you can truly control is your behavior – right now.
- Don’t wonder and worry about the future. Focus on one habit at a time. Focus on what you can do right now.
- Consistency equals success. Forget perfect, it will drive you crazy! It is okay to be good enough. Continue to work on improving and getting better.
- Celebrate each victory, no matter how tiny. You are worth it!
Lesson 4: Change what is around you
When you change your environment, change is easier. It removes your means to not change. Willpower and motivation then become optional. Plus willpower tends to be fickle.
- If you want to eat more veggies, keep veggies in the house. Have some ready to go.
- If you don’t want to be tempted by the bakery on your way home, find another route home.
- If you want to eat less take out food, get less take out food and get rid of take out menus and numbers so they are harder to find!
Make your environment support your health and fitness journey.
Lesson 5: Live as a fit and healthy person
Think of someone who you know is fit and healthy. How do they live? What is their environment like? What do they do? Now think of someone who is unfit and unhealthy and ask the same questions. What type of person do you want to be? Fit people live a fit lifestyle, hang around others who are fit and support them and surround themselves with things, systems, and structures that make it easier to be fit. And they do things that help them – where they choose to shop and eat for example.
Lesson 6: Be flexible with food
For every strict diet there is a rebound. The more stringent, restrictive “food rules” you come up with, and the more rigidly you try to stick to them, the more likely you will binge. Ironically trying to gain iron fisted control usually results in losing control. Instead be more flexible with food choices and compassionate with yourself. Eat slowly and mindfully. Consider the long term implications of your choices. Acknowledge when there is a family or social gathering. Maybe holiday traditions. Plan and think what they mean to you.
Lesson 7: Think on a continuum.
All food choices are on a continuum from better to worse. Decide if you can and should make a better choice.
- What foods do you consider bad and why? Could you find a way to make them more healthy or good?
- Is a certain food good under the circumstances?
- When deciding alternatives ask… What is the alternative? Is that alternative worse or better? How can I make this choice just a little bit better?
Lesson 8: Focus on adding healthy foods.
A lot of people focus on what they “can’t” eat or “shouldn’t” eat when they are trying to get healthy and lose weight or maintain. Instead we should focus on what we can and should eat. When we focus on what we are avoiding or resisting, that is all we think about. We miss the wonderful delicious health promoting abundance of food choices that nature provides us. Instead of focusing on eating less “junk” food, focus on eating more of the good stuff. Stuff that satisfies you and earns it’s rent. Foods that nourish your body and your soul.
Lesson 9: You won’t always feel inspired.
Even fit people don’t always want to exercise or eat super foods! They do it anyway, because that is what fit and healthy people do. Sometimes we gotta do stuff we don’t want to do. We have to put on our big people pants and just do it! Many of us learned this early in life from our parents or teachers.
- We didn’t want to take the trash out or do homework – but we did.
- We didn’t want to eat steamed broccoli – but we did.
- We didn’t want to stop picking on our brother or sister with the Nerf gun – but we did!
This does not change after elementary school. It continues thru life. Even if we like exercise and eating well, we won’t always feel excited about it.
Lesson 10: Find and build social support. Seek support.
Behaviors and attitudes are contagious. Who is in your support network? How do your friends and family shape your mindset?
- Do they criticize your food choices?
- Do they push bigger portions or substitute foods for love?
- Do they choose active or inactive hobbies?
- Do they share your healthy habits?
How can you get the social support you need to be your best and healthiest?
If you are getting started, pick one or two lessons to focus on. And if there is one that hit you as your stumbling block, see how you can improve in that area. Above all, give yourself grace and compassion along the way. Saying and doing hurtful things to yourself is damaging and so unhealthy.
Wishing you a fit and healthy life!
Beth Dean CPT, CES, pn1
PS: This is my last blog. I have enjoyed writing the blogs and have learned a lot about myself along the way – funny how that works! Life is calling me to try other adventures and so I am listening! Thanks my friends for reading these blogs. I wish you Godspeed (you know it is going to be slower, don’t you!) 🙂