At least once a year, you probably vow to commit to an exercise program. If you’ve had some trouble with the follow-through, though, you’re certainly in good company. But there are so many reasons to make the commitment again and stick with it.
Everyone has a different reason for losing momentum. The bottom line is that if getting fit is important to you, it’s never too late to begin a fitness regimen. You can fit in a day’s work out in less time than it takes to scroll through your Facebook feed.
In fact, some can be done while you watch TV. If you follow the recommendations of experts, all you need to improve your overall health and reduce your risk of many diseases is healthy eating and a total of 150 minutes of exercise per week (1). When and how you fit these minutes into your regular routine is entirely up to you.
So start today, and use these tips to help you make healthy eating and exercise part of your daily routine.
1. Set Realistic Goals and Expectations
Switching to a healthy and nutritious diet and exercising are good and will offer several benefits.
Set a SMART goal. Stick to a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. These will give you focus and structure to what you want to accomplish. Meeting goals is satisfying, and it helps build momentum. Focus more on the “attainable” part of this equation.
If you pressure yourself to make the big switch too quickly, your plan to get better health may backfire. Instead of challenging yourself to exercise daily for 30 minutes every day of the week when on some days you can’t even get in 15, look at your schedule and find two days where you can realistically boost your workout time to 30 minutes.
2. Eat Breakfast
Starting your day with a healthy breakfast can help you stay on track and decrease your risk of binge eating later in the day. As mentioned earlier, following a regular eating pattern can help! A high-protein breakfast can reduce ghrelin levels to a greater extent as compared to a high-carb meal (2). Eating protein-rich oatmeal can help in appetite control too (3)! So, combine fiber-rich foods with a good source of protein to stop overeating!
3. Practice Mindful Eating
Evidence shows that mindful eating has greatly improved overweight and obese people’s relationship with food, especially women (4). Binge eating severity and episodes were also decreased from 4 to 1.5 weekly when mindful eating was practiced (5). Taking time to enjoy food and appreciating its nourishing capacity increases your chances of keeping good and lasting eating behavior.
4. Use Smaller Plates
The size of your plates can affect how much you eat. Eating from a large plate can make your portion appear smaller. Evidence shows that people tend to eat 30% more than usual when their food is served on a bigger plate (6). Eating from a smaller plate can help trick your brain into thinking that you had enough or more, making yourself less likely to overeat.
5. Eat More Fiber
The way that soluble fiber works is by absorbing the water in your gut and forming a gel-like formation. This gel-like formation is bound to keep you feeling fuller so that you do not feel hungry and you are eating less at the same time. By doing so, soluble fiber promotes weight loss, which has been scientifically proven (7). In fact, soluble fiber helps you reduce your belly fat which is the dream when one is trying to lose weight and look better, especially when it comes to women (8).
Try to introduce more fiber in general to your diet by adding avocados, flaxseeds, legumes, blackberries, and Brussel sprouts which are all natural sources of fiber.
6. Consume Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
According to a study published in the Obesity Reviews, eating fruits and vegetables on a daily level will help you lose weight efficiently (9). Most fruits and vegetables contain very few calories and a ton of nutrients in them, focusing on vitamins, minerals, and fibers the most. There is a variety of fruits and vegetables that you can enjoy in each season of the year. You can use them as a snack, or you can add them to improve the taste of your daily meals. The choice is up to you!
7. Take More Clean Protein
Anyone who is interested in getting more fit should be introduced with the importance of clean protein, as the single most important nutrient when it comes to healthy and effective weight loss. A high protein diet has been proven to boost the metabolic rate by 80-100 calories on a daily level, which is purely amazing (10).
In addition, the clean proteins will help you build lean and strong muscles faster than ever while you are losing weight at the same time. Some of the biggest natural protein sources are tuna, salmon, chicken, soy, beef, legumes, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and many others.
8. Get Healthy Fats
I am sure you have been told that fat will cause you to gain weight. While trans-fat and saturated fats are really bad for your health, there are heart-healthy fats such as avocados and nuts that can help you feel full and reduce your cravings.
Get a handful of mixed nuts as your afternoon snack. You can also make a home-made salad dressing with vinegar and olive oil. Adding fresh guacamole or fatty fish such as salmon to your daily diet is also a good way of incorporating healthy, filling fats.
9. Count on the Right Carbohydrates
Thanks to low-carb fad diets, carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap. But carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. Approximately 45 to 65% of your total daily calories should come from carbohydrates (11). This is especially true if you exercise.
Consuming the right kind of carbohydrates is important. Many people rely on the simple carbs found in sweets and processed foods. Instead, you should focus on eating the complex carbs found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
Whole grains have more staying power than refined grains because you digest them more slowly.
They can help you feel full for longer and fuel your body throughout the day. They can also help stabilize your blood sugar levels. Finally, these quality grains have the vitamins and minerals you need to keep your body running at its best.
10. Eat Slowly
The pace at which you eat can influence how much you eat and how likely you are to gain weight. Studies show that fast eaters are up to 115% more likely to be obese (12). Other studies also show that eating slowly may help reduce the number of calories you consume and help you lose weight (13, 14). Eating slowly also requires thorough chewing, which has been associated with better weight maintenance (15, 16). So eat slower and chew more often to decrease your risk of eating excessively and gaining weight.
11. Plan Ahead
There is no better way to handle your cravings than planning your meals and snacks early. If you have a healthy meal or snacks packed and ready for you during lunch and in the afternoon, you are far less likely to order fries or pizza. You will reduce your susceptibility to being influenced by how food smells, their ads, and the conversations surrounding you daily (17).
Try planning out your weekly meals every Sunday or the day before your work week starts. Shop for what you need. Prepare large batches of easy foods such as brown rice, beans, roasted veggies, or cold salads. Use suitable food containers, jars, or foil to pack up a good serving size, which you can easily grab early in the morning on your way out for school or work. Fruits such as apples, bananas, and oranges travel well, making them perfect for afternoon snacks.
12. Shop the Perimeter
The perimeter of most grocery stores would normally include the produce, dairy, meat, and fish sections. This is where you will see real foods instead of highly processed products. When you go shopping, try going straight to these sections and purchase from them only. If a product has more than a few ingredients on its label or the ones you are not familiar with, skip and don’t buy. This is a key step in transitioning your diet to whole foods.
Soon enough, your body and palate will get used to eating fresh veggies, fruits, grains, and proteins. You will get all the nutrients you need, so your cravings for unhealthy treats will start to disappear. It may take a few weeks, but eventually, it won’t taste the same for you!
13. Keep Your House Free From Unhealthy Foods
It is quite hard to eat healthy if you see junk foods! To keep them out of your mind, you have to keep them out of sight! Displaying unhealthy foods at home has been linked to increased consumption and obesity (18, 19).
14. Always Bring Healthy Snacks
Sticking to healthy eating habits can be extremely difficult, especially when you are not home. When you get hungry on the go, it is more likely that you’ll grab whatever is available. Most often than not, these are processed foods that are not nutritive and will not satisfy your hunger.
Bringing healthy snacks like hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, cheese, peanuts, or almonds, can help keep your hunger in check until you get a full, healthy meal (20).
15. Understand the Basics of Building Muscle
Talk to any personal trainer and they’ll tell you there are certain muscle-building basics. First, increase your caloric and complete protein intake, so your body has enough building blocks to get bigger. Then, when you enter the gym, focus on your form. Perform compound movements and train with weights on average around four times a week. Never underestimate the importance of rest. Remember, muscle tissue grows outside of the gym when you’re giving your body time to relax and recover following your workouts.
16. Work Your Full Range of Motion
Don’t take any shortcuts. Aim for the largest range of motion you can achieve in your exercises. Your muscles will do more work per repetition, and it will result in your breaking down more tissue by the end of the workout.
17. Carefully Consider Cardio
If getting huge is your goal, then throttle back on your cardio workouts. Chances are, you’ll be burning far too many calories. So what should you do if you still want to get in some cardio? A light jog a few days per week for 20 minutes is adequate. If you’re aiming to burn fat, of course, then focus on getting enough protein every day, usually one gram of protein per pound of ideal body weight, while still keeping your overall caloric intake low.
18. Prepare Yourself for Endurance Training
When it comes to training for endurance, you’ll need to be hydrated and be sure you’re eating properly because, by its very nature, this form of training is very demanding on your body. You should be doing a good mix of cardio and weight training. To increase your aerobic capacity, you should incorporate high-intensity interval training or HIIT. You’ll likely be sweating buckets and burning calories galore, so be prepared.
19. Do Yoga
Yoga uses specific breathing techniques, poses, and meditation to eliminate stress and promote relaxation. Studies show that it can help encourage healthy eating habits too and prevent emotional or stress eating (21, 22). Yoga can also decrease stress hormones like cortisol and prevent binge eating (23). Join a yoga class now or practice at home using online videos!
20. Fight Stress and Fatigue
Stress will almost always induce food cravings and influence eating patterns, especially in women (24, 25). Women under stress tend to eat more calories and experience more cravings as compared to non-stressed women (26).
Practice redirecting yourself when you feel the urge to reach for food instead of doing the things that need to be done. Healthy stress management tools may include:
- Leisurely walking at the park
- Yoga and meditation
- Talking to a friend or a family member
- Doing something you like painting, planting, etc.
Experiment and find what will work for you. If your stress feels overwhelming, ask for professional help. Health professionals can offer emotional support and suggest other effective, healthy, not food-related coping techniques.
Fatigue may also be your biggest enemy when endurance training, but there are some ways to combat it. First, drink beet juice, which is packed with healthy nitrates that can improve your cardiovascular functioning. Beets can actually increase stamina by up to 16%, and it helps your muscles produce more energy, more efficiently, making exercise less exhausting.
Another way to boost your performance is by carefully selecting your music. When people listen to favorable music their blood vessels expanded 26%.
21. Rest and Sleep
Not only does sleep affect appetite and hunger levels, but deprivation can also cause binge eating too! One study found that BED patients have significantly greater insomnia symptoms (27). Shorter sleep durations were also linked to higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and less leptin, which promotes fullness. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep to your appetite in check!
22. Drink More Water
Hydrating is very important for your health. Studies have shown that drinking water may benefit weight loss and maintenance and slightly increase the count of calories you burn daily (28, 29). Drinking water before meals can also help curb your appetite and calorie intake in middle-aged and older adults (30). There is evidence showing that people who drink mostly water have consumed 200 fewer calories daily (31, 32).
23. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Despite the fact that a glass or two now and then has some health benefits, excessive alcohol intake will only do your body and mind harm. One of the aspects of your life that are easily influenced by your alcohol intake is the weight gain process. In fact, studies have shown that excessive alcohol intake has been linked to the increased risk of central obesity which is a term that refers to the presence of belly fat (33).
This does not mean that you should give up on alcohol altogether, but limiting your alcohol intake to one glass of wine in the evening would do the trick at reducing your waist size. And while we are at it, beer and cocktails might not be the best choice for an alcoholic beverage since they are known to contain quite a lot of calories.
24. Keep a Mood and Food Journal
Journals can be an effective tool to track what you eat and your exercises. This makes you more responsible by identifying potential triggers and promoting healthier behaviors. One study proved that the use of an online self-help program that allows you to keep a food diary led to fewer episodes of binge eating (34). Start writing what you eat, your activities, and how you feel daily!
25. Seek Professional Help When Needed
If you are still struggling with diet and exercise after trying some of the tips listed above, it is best to ask for professional help. Talk to a fitness trainer and a dietician to help you come up with a personalized plan that is best suited for your overall health condition, needs, and abilities.
As you settle into a healthy and active lifestyle, you’ll probably discover which foods and exercises give you the most energy and which have negative effects. The key is learning to listen to your body and balancing what feels right with what’s good for you.
Find the motivation to exercise and start carving out time in your day to make fitness a priority. So, the next time you’re thinking about ditching your workout, try these hacks.