Are you ready to see your training pay off? Set a new PR? Lose weight? Enjoy an active lifestyle well into your later years? I would imagine most of us would answer these questions with a resounding yes, in which case, change is probably the best prescription for making that happen. Doing the same thing you’ve always done and expecting to get different results, well, it just doesn’t make sense. What you did yesterday, last week, last month, and last year, all add up to where you are right now. As we get ready to head into the new year, why not focus on making lasting changes? With that in mind I have laid out 3 key steps for creating a foundation that will get you to your goals and make change stick.
1: Change Your View. We look at exercise all wrong. Do you exercise to eat, or eat to exercise? The former puts all the focus on calories, without any regard for the quality of calories, the latter means we are making a conscious decision of how we fuel our bodies, so that we may live an active and fulfilling lifestyle. We love to celebrate our cookies, cake, pizza and beer using exercise as a justification, but our bodies need more than just the macro-nutrients (protein, fats and carbs) that come from those kinds of foods. Our bodies cannot function properly without the micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals), that come from our fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and quality meats. These micro-nutrients are needed for a wide range of bodily functions, from metabolizing food to tissue repair. Without these nutrients our bodies start to break down. Through my years coaching athletes, it’s not uncommon to see a “skinny” athlete that “eats whatever they want” get sidelined due to injury. It’s easy to forget, much like beauty, skinny is only on the outside, true health is on the inside. Without proper nutrients our bodies can’t heal and repair from activity as they should. Our food, if nutrient dense, can help reduce inflammation, maximize energy and accelerate recovery.
2: Create Consistency. Rigid rules don’t work. Please, for the love of everything delicious, please read that again. Consistency is key, strict diets don’t make lasting changes. Yes, you can have great results on Whole30, Keto, Paleo, etc. but going into those with a temporary mindset means you ultimately plan on going back to your old habits. By shifting our focus and eating to support our activity instead of being active to justify our eating, we can begin to create healthy lifelong habits, which is the only truth path if you plan to be active your entire lifespan. The choices we make today, the ugly truth is, they matter in ten years. We want to create healthy habits, ones that keep us strong, injury free and give us plenty of energy for years to come, but the question is, how much do you want it? In my experience, the easiest way to create consistency in your health is to start with one small change at a time. I promise you this will add up over time and some day you’ll look back and think to yourself, “Wow, I can’t believe how much my habits and health have changed for the better.” What does one small change look like? It looks like starting with something simple (but challenging!), such as putting your fork down between bites of food, or focusing on one meal a day and making it as healthy as you can. Eventually this will become your new normal.
3: Cut the Crap. No, I’m not telling you that you can never eat a doughnut. Are you surprised when you eat a doughnut to find out that it’s full of sugar and fat? Yeah, me neither. But what about that organic, gluten-free, fat-free, all-natural meal you picked up to take as lunch? Oops, we might want to check that. When I say cut the crap, it means the unnecessary crap. I’m not surprised to find sugar in my doughnut, but I certainly don’t need it in my condiments, beans, bread, frozen vegetables, “healthy snacks” and everything else in between. Don’t be fooled by the outside labels on foods, read the ingredients. If you start reading labels, I promise you you’ll be very surprised at the garbage put into supposedly healthy choices. Read enough labels and you might even decide you would rather have the real, whole version of that food.
And a friendly reminder, by reducing your sugar intake you will help lower your triglycerides (which are linked to heart disease), reduce your risk for Type II diabetes, boost your energy, level your moods, and improve your performance. Taking the road less traveled is not always about exercise, but about small, healthy, daily choices that other people aren’t making. Once you start down that path, you may find you can never turn back.