So it’s New Years Eve, and everyone is on the resolution band wagon, right? And we all want a new version of ourselves, right? This year I’m going to become fitter, richer, happier, healthier, or insert any other adjective of our perceived perfect life here….Yeah right…???
So rewind 2 years, and I was a busy working professional in a well paying job that I liked (most of the time, anyway), although it also came with its fair share of stress. I went to the gym regularly (well, I tried to at least) and I thought I was pretty healthy (lets not consider the boozy nights out or those couple of cookies I snuck mid afternoon to keep me going through my hectic job). Back then my biggest fear was becoming a mother for so many reasons – one of which was because I was afraid of what this tiny being would do to my body. I’d be so busy, exhausted and over-run by dirty laundry that I’d never have time to work out again, right??
Maybe because I was so afraid of turning into a couch potato version of myself and never again losing those baby pounds, or maybe because I came up with some very practical strategies for change, or possibly because of the compelling reason I had to ensure I was the healthiest version of myself – but somehow today two years later, I’m 10kg (20 pounds) lighter, and fitter, stronger, healthier and more intentional about my health than when I started out on this motherhood journey. And it also helped that suddenly it wasn’t just me that I had to worry about anymore – others were depending on me – I needed to be the healthiest version of myself I could be.
Here are the strategies that I found helped me to exercise 5+ times per week, lose my baby weight within 3 months plus an additional 10kg within 12 months, become stronger and fitter, become healthier and more intentioned with my eating, drink at least 2L water per day, and spend time focusing on my mental wellbeing as well.
- Know Your Why – and be specific
For me, it seemed almost like a turning point that set me on my path to become fitter and healthier. I’d always been quite active and enjoyed exercising, but when my son was about 6 months old I started to struggle with back pain, to the point where I couldn’t lift my son anymore and I felt pain in my back just getting dressed in the morning. That is what inspired me to make change and to improve my overall well-being. Suddenly my health was a very important and tangible goal for me – and I was trying to improve my overall well-being, not just fit into those skinny jeans.
- Identify the Key Stone habits that will be fundamental to your why in order to create flow-on change.
For me that was pilates – it was the cornerstone habit that I loved, but it spurred me to take on other areas of my life and think about my body, how I felt and where I wanted to go. After I became fitter and stronger I wanted to take on other fitness and health projects – I started to run again, I wanted to explore healthy food ideas and I started to think about how much I could change my physical strength, and what other areas of my life could apply this same philosophy to.
- Know when to call in an expert or pay for professional support – and when not to!
As I started out on my journey towards improving my well-being – I started by calling on professionals who I thought could help me improve my physical health – I tried all kinds of different areas – massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, pilates. By testing out different professionals, I could find someone who fit for me (because they certainly all weren’t a good fit for me and my condition). But also by engaging professionals – they could set me up with a program and hold me accountable to make progress towards my goal of improving my physical strength.
- Find something you enjoy and do it
What I loved about pilates was that it was challenging me, but also completely customizable – when I was spending time on the reformer there were days that I wanted to push myself, and days that I just wasn’t feeling it – and I could still have a great work out on both types of days. But regardless of how I felt that day, I just kept showing up, and it became a habit – a part of my week that I really looked forward to. But then once I got stronger, I decided to go to the gym at lunch time. I don’t mind the gym, but it doesn’t inspire me. But what I enjoyed was getting away from my desk and listening to inspiring podcasts for an hour – and this is what got me going to the gym instead of eating lunch at my desk.
- Set small targets, and start out with small steps.
When I started out to improve my health – I didn’t start with a goal of eating a clean diet that excluded gluten and refined sugar, to exercise 5 – 6 times per week and lose 20 pounds. Even though this eventually became where I got to on my health journey – if I started out with this goal, I would have given up in 2 weeks. Instead, I started out with the goal of doing pilates two times each week for an hour. This was simple, it was doable. And I did it. And from there I was spurred on to other things, and my health journey grew from there.
- Schedule the change you want into your day or week
Change isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen without effort. So if you don’t schedule time into your day or your week to make your life the way you want – it won’t happen. My pilates time became sacred, it was a non-negotiable part of my week. Then other aspects of exercise became scheduled into my week – going running became part of my Sunday morning time with my son, my gym days got pencilled into my calendar several lunch times per week. And even time to prepare healthy food at the start of the week got carved out to make sure that I was ready for the week.
- Find a way to hold yourself accountable (friends/family, public declaration, sign up for something, support groups)
My pilates instructor became someone who held me accountable – she made sure that I showed up each week. In addition, as I started to go the gym, I found some ‘gym buddies’ – other ladies who worked in my office and also liked to work out at lunch. We pounded through circuits together – and they encouraged me to keep going to the gym at lunch time – when I saw them in the elevator they’d ask me if I was going to gym that day, or tell me if they hadn’t seen me there in a few days. They held me accountable and kept me showing up to the gym. I read that the fastest way to change your life is to change your environment or change the people you associate with – by associating with people who are encouraging and supporting your health journey is a positive way to help create the change you’re looking for.
- Find short-cuts that make it easy for yourself to be successful (e.g. shoes at the front door, be organized)
We’re all inherently lazy. For me, even if I have the best intentions to get up and exercise, or to get home from work and go out for a walk, or to eat healthy every day. But its easy for these things not to happen – there are so many other alternatives that are easier.
- Don’t dwell on small setbacks – keep going.
Had a bad day? Got sick? Over-indulged a few too many days in a row? Its not the end of the world, only a chance to keep going, and try again tomorrow. Keep at it. Tomorrow is a new day, so start again.
- Monitor your progress and celebrate wins!
Be proud of your success and find ways to celebrate and reward yourself. Its those little wins and small that become big progress towards big goals in life. I also invested in a set a digital scales – and became religious about weighing myself to track my progress towards weight loss. I used to believe that health should be more about how you feel about yourself and how your clothes look/fit. It is these feelings that are important to me, however, its easy to kid yourself over how your jeans fit (really – they must have shrunk….) but the scales never lie. I found that by being objective and monitoring my progress it made it easier for me to stay on track, and to make small adjustments to keep me on course to eating healthier and exercising regularly. But I had to remind myself not to expect amazing results overnight, but it was the slow steady progress that I was looking for, and just to make sure the scales were moving in the right direction.
Happy New Year! Here’s to the best version of you in 2016!