Five Steps to turn “healthy” into “normal”
The end of May is always a time of deep conflict. On the one hand, we are blessed with rising temperatures, patio season, more pleasant commutes and a lighter closet. On the other hand…we have to start thinking about wearing a bikini.
Have no fear, I’ve devised a list of 5 important and drawn-out steps that were designed to inspire and guide you towards a healthier body, and most importantly, a healthier mind.
And if you’re thinking “It’s almost June, there’s no hope for me now” or “I am way too busy for this”, I promise you, you’re wrong. You probably won’t turn into a fitness model overnight, but you are actually one step closer to that dream bod.
1) Find some form of exercise that you love (or learn to love it)
Everyone is different. Maybe you love yoga, maybe you like to box, or maybe you just like talking about exercise. You aren’t going to enjoy everything, and you’re probably going to avoid high-intensity/high-cardio activities if you’re just starting off. And that’s ok. But try it out. Try it all out. There are so many different options available here in Toronto, and so many of them offer free trials. And if you absolutely hated spinning, that’s totally fine! I hate spinning too! But, find something (or somethings) you enjoy, something you can challenge yourself to get better at, and keep at it.
2) Be realistic
Unless you’ve just decided to completely uproot your life, you’re probably not going to drop 20lbs in a month. You might lose 5, or even 10lbs (or think of it as 5-10% of your body weight), but nothing too drastic. And I don’t say this to discourage you, I say this to celebrate your 5-10% and encourage your very normal and very real results. The truth is, it’s incredibly difficult to make long-lasting exercise and diet changes, and even more difficult to see those changes. Shifts in your body composition occur slowly. It takes time to notice a difference, and THAT’S normal. Unfortunately nowadays we are bombarded with doctored images of incredible “transformations” that intimidate us and make us feel inadequate (shout out to every Transformation Tuesday that has made me want to kick myself). These are often edited or twisted versions of the truth and represent a very small percentage of the population (who, by extension, have the means to dedicate abnormal amounts of time to their body image). This is in no way a commentary on the men and women who work and strive to better their bodies, but be very, very wary of what you see. A juice cleanse won’t rid your body of a decade’s worth of toxins, a no-carb diet won’t give you the flat stomach you’re seeking. Be reasonable with your new demands: maybe cut down to one high-carb meal a day, maybe try upping your exercise routine to twice instead of once a week. And if you’re already on the road to transformation, don’t stagnate, change up your routine or modify your diet!
But, be reasonable in your expectations as well.
Most importantly, find a balance between challenging your norm, and maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself and your body. Dietary restrictions and obsessive exercise are not generally sustainable, so don’t go there!
3) Make a schedule
I cannot stress this enough. You’re busy, I get it. You don’t want to get up at 6am to hit the treadmill before work, and the last thing you want to do is treck out to an exercise class halfway across the city at 8:00pm. I. Get. It. So draw out a schedule of your month (or your week, if your life is as unpredictable as mine) and pencil in your gym days, your pilates classes, your free swim, whatever it is. But write it down and make sure it is convenient and reasonable. Being vague about your exercising, or leaving it to “when you feel like going” will never work. When is the last time you got home from work and spontaneously felt like going to a bootcamp class? Please. When you put it down in writing, it becomes a part of your life, a part of your routine. It is no longer “extra”. It is also incredibly satisfying to check it off your list, and keep track of your hard work and dedication.
4) Make it a priority
This should happen more or less organically if you’ve followed the first 3 steps. But just in case, here is a reminder: your lifestyle changes should never (ever) feel like a burden or worse, a punishment. You should be able to enjoy your exercise(s) of choice and look forward to that time. Your mindset can no longer be “I could go for a run orrrr…go for a 5-7 after work”, and must become “I am going for a run after work tonight, but tomorrow I’m free!” If your choices have been honest and sensible, you’re less likely to cheat, or “treat yourself”, and you’re more likely to see consistent and lasting results.
5) Cultivate discipline
Ok so here’s the sucky part. So far I’ve remained fairly positive and kumbaya about this whole process, but the truth is, it’s hard and it can be really discouraging. No matter how reasonable or realistic your goals might be, life is complicated and you might not be able to stick to that healthy diet or you might break your ankle and become immobile for weeks. And although I don’t necessarily advocate the reward system, I do encourage you to give yourself a giant pat on the back EVERY SINGLE TIME you go to the gym, or finish a set of crunches, or get up at 7:00 to attend that yoga class that turned out to be pretty boring and redundant. Because you did it, you went when you could have stayed home, slept in or eaten pizza. That is discipline. It’s incredibly difficult to develop, and you’ll probably never achieve military levels of discipline like the word so often suggests, but you will surprise yourself, and quite frankly, feel like the boss you can be.
I hope this list has been at all helpful, and if it sounds repetitive, I apologize (but that also means it’s probably unavoidably true). Good luck everyone! We’re all in it together.