Everyone wants to be healthier, and never is that desire greater than on the cusp of swimsuit season. If you let your healthy eating and fitness goals fall by the wayside during winter, not to worry. These tips will help you make simple lifestyle changes that you can start today to create new healthy habits to improve your well-being so you can look (and more importantly, feel!) great this spring and summer.
1. Set Achievable Goals and Write Them Down
Many highly successful people swear by the practice of writing down their specific goals. It’s an effective strategy not just for your professional life but for your personal health and fitness goals as well. If you’re trying to lose weight, set a realistic goal of losing one to two pounds per week – and write it down. Trying to ditch caffeine? Write it down.
Some people are also motivated by vision boards. Flip through a few magazines and find pictures and words that represent your ideals. Hang your collage in a prominent place where you can look at it and visualize what your life (and your body) will look like if you keep working towards your goals.
2. Think Outside the Gym to Increase Physical Activity
Committing to get fit means making a daily trip to the local fitness center for many, but a lack of time and motivation often makes this an uphill battle. Plus, getting sweaty in a room full of buff bods isn’t exactly everybody’s cup of tea. If becoming a regular gym rat isn’t your style, that doesn’t mean you can’t be physically fit. There are many ways to increase your activity level and even tone your body without ever stepping foot in the fitness center.
Skiing, swimming, hiking, biking, and even gardening are all options that appeal to different personalities and get you off the couch. If you enjoyed playing tennis in high school, dust off your racket and hit the local courts with a friend. Instead of taking the elevator, opt for the stairs. Take a dance class or walk a few miles around a nearby mall and then reward yourself with that new sweater you’ve had your eye on. Or, get some home workout DVDs and give working out at home a try. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard pool, install a heater so that you can squeeze in an early morning or evening swim in water that’s a comfortable temperature, regardless of the time of year. The bottom line: Find something you love doing, and it’s easy to make fitness a habit.
3. Meal Planning Helps You Stick to Your Healthy Diet Goals
One of the biggest reasons it’s so tough to stick to healthy eating goals is that many people work 40+ hours during the week. Coupled with hectic school schedules, sports, dance, board meetings, community service, and the many other demands on your time, quick meals become a necessity and healthy goes out the window.
Meal planning helps you stick to your healthy eating goals by allowing you to determine precisely what ingredients you need to make each meal and plan your grocery shopping trips accordingly. When everything is planned in advance, you don’t need to stock up on unhealthy snacks and quick, less-than-nutritious box meals that you can whip up in a few minutes. You might also try preparing ingredients ahead and storing them in bags in the freezer. Pop the ingredients in the crockpot in the morning and you’ll come home to a nutritious, delicious meal.
4. Shop Smart, Not Hungry, and Skip the Junk Snacks
One of the biggest challenges anyone can face when trying to eat a healthier diet is the many temptations that exist at the grocery store. Never go to the grocery store hungry, and always go with a list. Don’t buy anything that’s not on your list (that’s why meal planning is so important).
When you don’t purchase snacks and junk food, you won’t have these temptations around your house. If you can avoid temptation at the grocery store, you’re two steps ahead of yourself. It’s much easier to cheat when the nearest cupcake or bag of chips is a few steps away in the kitchen, but you’re far less likely to drive all the way to the convenience store to satisfy a sugar or salt craving.
5. Enlist a Buddy for Emotional Support and Motivation
Chances are you have at least one friend or family member with similar health and fitness goals. Develop a buddy system to provide mutual support and motivation. Hold each other accountable and check in regularly.
If your buddy is also trying to eat healthier, plan a day each week to shop and prep meals together. Swap recipes and meal planning tricks. If you’re both trying to develop an exercise habit, plan to work out together a few days each week or take a walk together after work every day. If you have trouble finding someone dependable, your dog can be an excellent workout buddy. He’ll always be excited to exercise, won’t judge you for going at your own pace, and easily adapts to your schedule. And if you’re looking to make some extra money and get great exercise become your neighborhood dog walker. Human or canine, having a partner to support and encourage you can keep you motivated when you feel like giving up.
Your new healthy lifestyle won’t come easily overnight, but by taking simple steps to modify your lifestyle you’ll soon develop positive habits that come naturally. By planning meals ahead and keeping junk food out of your house, finding creative ways to build more physical activity into your daily routine, and developing a buddy system with a friend or family member, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier you starting today.
Jennifer McGregor has wanted to be a doctor since she was little. Now, as a pre-med student, she’s well on her way to achieving that dream. She helped create PublicHealthLibrary.org with a friend as part of a class project. With it, she hopes to provide access to trustworthy health and medical resources. When Jennifer isn’t working on the site, you can usually find her hitting the books in the campus library or spending some downtime with her dog at the local park.