For the past 18 years, struggling with fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, low thyroid and recovering from 5 pregnancies has all shaped the way that I look at and approach health and fitness. One of the biggest lessons that I have learned along the pathway to better health is this:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race.Start small, and start simple. Focus on one goal at a time, and strive to make that goal a habit. Then, move on to the next goal, and the next. Whatever your time-frame is, let's say it's one year, if you achieve just one goal per month, by the end of the year you will be healthier, happier and more fit. I would not encourage trying to loose weight, and run a marathon, and become a vegetarian and give up sweets (actually, I don't recommend that one at all!) all in one fell swoop. Strong, proper, vibrant health can be achieved in a variety of ways and sustained as a lifestyle, not just a list of resolutions.
1. Cut back on diet soda, with the long term goal of giving it up altogether. There are a slew of articles and medical journals that warn against the dangers of drinking diet soda, the main ingredient to be wary of is aspartame. After reading a significant amount of research on the toxicity of aspartame, I will not consume products that contain the substance, that includes yogurt, protein bars, energy drinks, salad dressing, or any "low sugar", diet product on the market. You have to be a label reader! If you have to have it, then choose one day per week when you will enjoy it, and keep it to a single serving.
2. Drink more water. In response to #1, the best alternative to soda, or any artificially flavored drink is water. You will be amazed at how Drinking More Water will help your energy, your mood, your appetite, your skin and your hair, just to name a few of the benefits. If you only drink soda or juice, this one will be an adjustment, but water doesn't have to be boring or plain. You can find some ways to kick it up a notch here.
3. Reduce your sugar intake. If you're following #1 and #2 already, then you've been prepped for this one! I cannot stress how important it is to choose your sugars wisely - don't use substitutes, they simply aren't food, and your body is made to recognize and metabolize real food. I try to use honey, agave nectar, pure maple syrup and stevia as much as possible. But, if you're following the 80/20 rule (see #4), and are cooking for a special occasion, by all means use white/brown sugar. It's okay to have a small slice of pie or cake once a week, or at a celebration, just watch your portion size. The great thing about sugar is that the less of it that you eat, the less your body will crave it. You might even become sensitive to it - a little bit of sweet will go a long way.
4. Incorporate the 80/20 rule into your family lifestyle. This is probably the one tip that keeps me on the health track. Some people may say, "It's all or nothing with this whole healthy diet thing." I disagree. If you can strive to eat a clean, healthy diet, drink plenty of water, get rest and exercise 80% of the time, then you have 20% of wiggle room - you can have dessert, a soda, a glass of wine, a piece of fried chicken, french fries etc., just not every day and not all at once. Balance is the key, and if you teach your kids balance now, it will really pay off in their future dietary habits.
5. Begin a gratitude journal and write in it every day. This is a fantastic habit to incorporate half-way through the list, because it's often a temptation to fall back into bad habits. Keeping a gratitude journal will help you maintain a steady focus on what's most important in life. A healthy body, mind and spirit means will enable you to continue enjoying the blessings of life for years to come. This should help you stay motivated!
6. Consider cutting back on meat 2-3 days per week. It really isn't as difficult as it sounds, especially when you discover how many delicious protein sources are available as an alternative to meat. With the plethora of recipes online, especially on Pinterest, it's easy to find delicious, nutritious recipes and tips for fish, quinoa, and beans. If your husband or kids are not on the same page (yet), that's fine, but don't discourage them from at least trying! My husband will eat fish, but never vegetarian only meals. So, I just make sure that I have an adequate source of meat-free protein to enjoy with the same meal that I serve my family. Roasted veggies are a staple in my diet. Adding your favorite beans to them is a simple way to dish up some extra protein. Served with a little rice, it's a fantastic meal!
7. Find a form of exercise that you actually enjoy. If you're not sure where to begin, consider the options of a fitness center. Many gyms offer a trial membership that includes a tour and free advice from personal trainers. If you enjoy your workout, more than likely you will stick with it. If a gym membership is out of the question buy a good pair of running shoes , and get outside and walk or run. Too expensive? Evaluate your weekly spending - more than likely there are some "perks" that you can live without. Put that money toward the shoes, or better yet ask your friends and family to support you by choosing items from your "wish list" for your birthday/holidays that will help you reach your fitness goals.
8. Team up with your kids to get your daily work-out in. Most of us would do anything for our kids, and may even feel guilty for taking time away from them to exercise. Make them a part of your fitness goals! Playing outside in the yard with the kids, riding bikes together or swimming are just a few examples of active play you can enjoy together. When you engage with them, you show them that good health is a priority. Sometimes I literally let my boys be my trainer! They time my laps around the yard, count my push-ups and make up crazy exercises for me to do - it's fun and it's challenging, and we all end up laughing in the end! It's a great 30 minute workout!
(Make a rule that active play must be fulfilled before any television or video games are enjoyed. Kids are tired when the come home from school and want to relax. You are tired too!! Exercise can be energizing, revitalizing and restorative for kids as well as adults. For every 30 minutes of active play, put a quarter or two in a jar, at the end of the year, use the money to do something fun together as a family! In just one year, you'll have "saved" nearly $100!! )
9. Recruit a partner to help you - but, not your spouse! (You're more likely to cheat if your better-half is your fitness buddy.) Decide in the beginning to be honest and sincere accountability for each other. Write your list of goals together, including diet and exercise and work at them together as a team. This workout for busy moms is short, effective and even more fun if you can do it with a partner! If crazy schedules make working out an impossibility, consider tag-team babysitting. You might not be able to exercise together, but you're at least helping each other meet you fitness goals. Besides calling or texting encouragement to each other, plan a "reward" of some sort that you can both look forward to when you meet some or all of your goals, like shopping, going to a concert, a new restaurant etc.
10. Get some sleep! I didn't know until a couple of years ago that getting adequate sleep actually helps you to maintain a healthy weight. Getting the right amount of sleep and going to bed/waking at the same time each day is difficult, but something I'm always striving toward. With a big and busy family, it's hard to get everything done during the day, so I often stay up late trying to finish undone tasks. If you know that you are going to be in bed by 11 and up by 7, then you'll prioritize your tasks and get more done during the day. Also, avoid eating any food after 8 p.m. - you will sleep better and your body's fat-burning mechanisms will not be slowed down by the unnecessary stress of digesting unnecessary food.
Don't be afraid to go for it!! You can do it!!
Remember, slow and steady wins the race, so...