Thursday, April 24, 2014

Starting from scratch

Anyone who's ever tried to get healthy and fit knows that getting started is the hardest part, especially if you never were very active or concerned with health. I was one of those people. My decision to become healthier was a new one for me, and let me tell you, getting the ball rolling was really hard. So here's some things I learned along the way that may help you first timers out there!

First of all, you have to actually make the decision to change your lifestyle. And here's the kicker. All those doctor shows and health magazines tell you to make that same decision every single day, so you can't talk yourself out of it, but I'm telling you to only make it once. If you really have made the decision, there shouldn't be any other question about it. You've decided, so you're going to do it. You should have to make another decision to stop doing it! So before you begin, make sure you've actually made the decision to get healthy, because that choice means you're committed.

Once you're on board, I challenge you to give up one thing in your diet. For me it was soda. I actually stopped drinking it because I read somewhere that soda was really bad for your skin and was a strong contributing factor to breakouts. My skin was really bad at the time, and I was desperate to try anything! I went from drinking two or more cans a day to none at all. What I didn't know was that the sugars in soda also cause belly fat. I mean, so do other things, obviously, but the sugars used in soda go straight to the gut, so when I stopped drinking it, I lost a lot of weight! It was a total surprise to me, but I think that was really my turning point, and what got me inspired to do more.

Now, if you can't give something up cold-turkey like that, I suggest you try severely limiting it instead. It could be anything that causes you to be unhealthy. It could be soda, it could be rice, it could even be too much tv. When I gave up soda, I didn't want to be a debbie downer at parties, so I told myself I would only drink it when I went out to eat, etc., but the longer I went without it, the less I wanted it. Now, even when I eat out, I generally order water, not because I know it's good for me, but because I want it! And, bonus! Soda tastes REALLY good now, especially with pizza, which is basically the only time I drink it. A lot of people don't want to give up something they love, but I've found that I enjoy those things more now. It's a treat!

By giving up(or severely limiting) one thing from your current lifestyle, you are kick-starting your journey to health not only by eliminating bad calories, but by strengthening your self control! You may not know this, but self control is a muscle, and it needs to be exercised daily, or it will backfire, especially with my next tip. Eat the recommended portion size. I sure hope you were sitting down for this one because that little gem of information probably blew your mind. But I'm serious. When you're making food at home, read the packaging, and see what they recommend be a serving size. Make as much food as you want, leftovers are yummy, but only eat the proper serving size. And not just for one food, or one meal, but all your meals! If you're eating out, google is a lifesaver. There are SOOOOO many resources out there that tell you what a serving size should be for pretty much any food you encounter. And don't think that just because you're at a restaurant you have to clean your plate. No one is going to judge you for taking a box home.

If you've had your properly portioned meal and you're still hungry, by all means, eat more. Your body is telling you it still needs fuel. But be careful, because chances are your body is used to larger portions, and is just telling you you're still hungry because it's used to getting more. Eat until you're satisfied. Candace Cameron Bure says in her book "Reshaping it all", that she will stop every so often during a meal to reevaluate her hunger status. Is she still hungry? Yep. Cool, keep going.

Also, eat slowly. So often we shovel food in as fast as we can, and our bodies keep telling us we're hungry because it hasn't registered that we just fed it. If we eat slowly, we give out bodies time to realize it's getting fed, and it will act accordingly. And the best part is, your body WILL tell you when it's full. You just have to pay attention.

The calorie counter I use is called myfitnesspal
On the subject of food, I suggest getting a calorie counter app for your phone, or if you don't have a smart phone, find a calorie counter website and keep track of what you're eating. I'm not a huge advocate of counting your calories. That just seems like too much work for me, and frankly one giant guilt trip. But knowing what you're eating will really change the way you think about food. I actually started out just writing down everything I ate(and drank) in a day, not worrying about calories, and if you're just beginning your weight loss journey, I say that's a good way to go. Just knowing what you ate that day will help you in making good choices for the next day, and I know that knowing I was going to have to write down that I had three brownies really worked as a deterrent for eating those things. I didn't want that on my record!

I do suggest a calorie counter as the next step, though, because you may not know what you're eating. So many things that seem healthy, especially the "healthy" options at restaurants, aren't as great as they claim, and some of the "unhealthy" or "bad" foods we're told to steer clear from really aren't that bad. Did you know 4 marshmallows is only 50 calories? I didn't. And that's why a calorie counter is so important. Losing weight and eating healthy doesn't have to mean you give up all the things that taste good! It just means being more aware of what you're putting in your body, and making choices accordingly.

I'm gonna blow your mind again. You NEED to make time for exercise. I cannot stress this enough. A busy schedule is the biggest excuse in the book for so many people, but it doesn't have to be! Obviously, my best recommendation would be to workout a minimum of 30 minutes a day, either at the gym or at home, but, being a student with a job and some shadow of a social life, I understand that we all have those days where a full workout plus shower and getting ready time just isn't going to get squeezed in, no matter how you try. HOWEVER, just because you can't fit a full workout into your day does not give you the excuse to not exercise at all.

A great way to fit exercise into your busy day is to multi-task. Ladies, this is our speciality, so let's make it work for us! Do calf raises or squats while you're brushing your teeth. You're just standing there anyway, you might as well make it doubly productive! Another great one is to do counter pushups, squats, calf raises, standing crunches, etc. while you're waiting for that microwave minute to be over. See how many squats you can do before the timer beeps! Butt clenches are great to do in the car on the way to work or the store. And speaking of that, try parking a little farther away. I'm not saying find a spot in the nose bleeds with the tumbleweeds, but don't try to muscle your car as close to the handicap spots as possible. Someplace in the middle should be just fine. That way, you get a bit of a walk in, but if it rains, you don't have to make the dangerous trek through the elements to your long forsaken vehicle.

I'm sure this next one is going to sound funny, but just go with me here. Stand up. Just stand up, move your legs, stretch your arms, whatever. Then, sit back down. At work or at home, remember to stand up every once in awhile. So often we forget to move, and our bodies begin to settle, and we're sore and tired and cranky. My mom has a desk job, and so several times a day she'll just stand up, stretch her arms, maybe walk to the door and back, and then she'll sit back down and continue her work. Not only will this get the blood moving again, but you just did a squat. Now imagine doing that 20 times a day!

That's 20 squats! I'm not saying 20 squats or counter pushups a day are going to make you skinny, but it's a great and easy way to kick-start your new healthy lifestyle and get it incorporated into your daily routine. The hardest thing to remember about getting fit and healthy is that change doesn't happen over night. So many people will start a diet and then quit after a month when they aren't seeing results. You have to give your body time to get used to this new way of living! Give it time....lots of time, but, if you've made the lifetime commitment to a new healthier way of life, you'll be able to push through it and before you know it you'll be healthier and happier!

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