It is important to note: I’m no expert on the topic of health and fitness, but I have kept and can keep it simple for the casual busybody and workaholic alike to be able to make both priorities in their busy daily lives.
Fair or not, we live in a superficial world, and our ability to play that game factors into our survival and success. One can never have too many things going in their favor, and having a handle on your health and fitness helps for a multitude of reasons. A handle on these facets of life is one of many factors that can play into how you are perceived but also how capable you are of carrying out your daily mission of being the best version of you.
At some time or another, it is fair to say we have all likely struggled with our personal image. Considering how much emphasis is put on looks in our society, considering how we all pass through awkward stages in our growth and development and we reach points when our body reacts differently to changes in activity, stress and diet, the health game has importance across many components of life.
There are a variety of conditions and occurrences we have no control over, such as genetics or forced inactivity due to injury, yet an approach to controlling what we can control from a health perspective is beneficial on numerous levels. Like anything else, consistency, tweaks when necessary and tracking aid greatly in this essential part of living.
We’ve all come up with excuses or reasons why we disregard various parts of our health: we don’t work out because we don’t have time. We don’t eat right because we’re always on the run. Sure – coming up with a system that works for you, for your body and your life will be challenging. But like my dear mother always told me, we make time for what matters.
The gains in energy alone are enough of a reason to sell yourself on becoming more active in a way that benefits your body and lifestyle. The energy we can get from natural foods like fruits and berries and from activities like running or walking or weights are healthier and more impactful than your cup (or carafe) of coffee. (Though, believe me, I haven’t stopped buying my Folgers.)
For, that is what is comes down to, right? Selling yourself on the change?
Many of us are able to buy a gym membership, eat well for a few days, go for a couple of jogs…but then we run into a night out with friends, a holiday with family or just a TV marathon on the couch and the whole thing goes to pot. But I have news for you: it’s easier than you are making it, you’re not a bad person for taking a day or two off here or there and doing the same old workout every single day is a bore.
There is a fix.
I was 26 years old, no longer privy to playing sports regularly, not working out, married to my career and the nightlife and coming home to raid the fridge. I had not worked out in years and I peaked at 213 pounds on my 6’1” frame (and I’m aware it could have been worse). I looked at pictures of myself and said, “That can’t possibly be what I look like. Must have been a bad angle.” It wasn’t until Christmas with my extended family where an uncle pointed out my weight gain that rather than continue to just let it slide, I decided to take action.
You do not need some special diet you pay money for. You do not need some gruesome workout routine you hate. In fact, unless you want to be a bodybuilder or model you will not be devoting every second and every thought to this endeavor. Like anything, the trick to change is having a gameplan, charting a course and being consistent in the approach.
The advent and prominence of the Internet and Smartphones have made it worlds easier to track your progress in this day and age. I started in 2005 with an Excel spreadsheet and used an online website to look up how many calories were in the foods I was putting in my body.
When you start anything, you have initial momentum and drive. It will wear off; you just have to be prepared for that and tweak your process or revisit your motivation to ensure you stay on track. You will encounter bumps in the road and brick walls in your journey; but remember – it’s not a diet. It’s a regimen. It is a way of life.
The first part is selling yourself: your increased confidence, stamina, energy and perception of yourself will make an enormous difference that those around you will notice. Frankly, the differences it makes within you are the most important ones: you feel better. And what you exude to the world because of that fact will be what makes the biggest difference in your life; people will perceive you as happy with an energy they want to be around.
The diet piece does not have to be as difficult as we make it; many of us have a perception that we will be eating nothing but fruits or vegetables or salads. We think we will always be confined to small portions. We believe we will get bored very quickly with the foods we can choose from. Not so.
Pick a plethora of foods that are good for you that you enjoy eating. Again – the Internet comes in handy because you can research how many calories and how much fat is in the foods you are eating now (and see why they are taking such a toll on you) and you can find foods that you are able to eat (in case you have any allergies) that you enjoy and recipes with these foods so you can change it up and prevent boredom with this regimen.
If you have a Smartphone, download an application that will interact with you on your diet and exercise; there are countless these days that will help you in figuring out those very items. They will also track how many steps you take and allow you to input exercise activities and foods and beverages you intake.
Portion control is not as important as simply not eating to be full. Eat to be satisfied. Your body will soon adjust to this new sensation; it will also feel a lot more comfortable than being so full after meals that you are unable to be your best.
A good analogy I have heard on this topic is like feeding wood to a campfire; you do not throw more logs on the fire at any given time than it can handle or that can be burned or processed. You feed the fire as it needs to be fed; you may very well transition from eating six smaller portions of food per day than having three huge meals. This keeps your body burning food, processing it into your energy and you will lose weight rather than bogging down your body.
There are also so many great gains to be made that we may not give a second thought to. Take the stairs instead of elevators and escalators. Find excuses to walk more and become active. Choose activities that you enjoy doing and make them more of a part of your daily routine. Finding foods and activities that you actually enjoy remove the stigma of “having to” diet and exercise because you will find yourself looking forward to them. And they will pay dividends.
Furthermore, making your new food choices and exercise activities enjoyable and desirable will make it easier to sell yourself on making the time to make this important. There are 24 hours in a day; 168 in a week. Let’s say we work 50 and sleep 56; this still leaves 62 hours for the other items on our agenda. We all have additional people and tasks to attend to, but find me someone who cannot allocate 5 of those 62 hours toward exercise activity.
Face it: we make excuses not to make the time. But if you get a taste of how great it feels after a solid workout – specifically the next day when you have that good pain – or a week of healthy eating and a visit to the scales, you know you want to replicate that feeling. The difficulty comes when you pass the doughnut shop or your cubicle neighbors are ordering pizza for the fiftieth day in a row or everybody wants to do beers and shots after work every night. Here’s the deal: you do not have to jettison everything you enjoy from your life. You just have to be consistent in your new choices.
I still indulge from time to time in things I wouldn’t on a strict diet, but I eat pretty much whatever I want whenever I want. That is where the consistency and the tracking come in; you will have bad days. Many diets brand this your “off day” (though I have seen some take the off day just a little too literally). My proposal: don’t focus on an “off day” per se as much as you focus on some “off meals” with the commitment to consistency. Sure, I’ll have a little bit too much stuffing and potatoes on Thanksgiving, but I’ll run a little bit harder and eat significantly fewer calories the next day to bring balance back to my world.
Like business, like sales – consistency is key. The day after Christmas 2004 I started a regimen that continues today: I have averaged 1,760 calories per day and 3 workouts per week. It has not broken me. My caloric intake has fluctuated from time to time. I’ve had years I was not as diligent working out. But I lost 6 pounds the first week, 18 the first month, dropped to 165 pounds and have added 20 pounds of muscle since to reside at 185 as weights have become a very prominent part of my workout.
Finding your mix of caloric intake and workouts boils down to your height and weight, ideal weight, typical activity levels and calories burned during workouts. My average workout will burn between 500 and 1,000 calories depending on the activity involved and I attempt to net around 1,500 calories on the days I work out (after subtracting calories burned). Research or consultation with a physician is recommended to determine your perfect balance; I derived mine through online research and interaction with my calorie monitoring websites and applications.
My workouts have also had several different incarnations. I’d be remiss not to warn you that you will reach many points – probably beginning at just a week or two or three in – where you have no desire to work out and you just want to eat an entire pizza. Take some time off – that’s perfectly fine. I’ve taken as many as three months completely off from my workout routine. But I always found my body wanting to continue the calorie tracking and exercise longterm, even if not in the immediate short-term.
One of the most important things to realize in this process (outside of the fact that yes – it is a process) is it takes time and it is a longterm decision and regimen. You may not see the immediate changes you want; you may not drop ten pounds right off the bat. Your body will make adjustments to compensate for the changes you are making that can preclude you from seeing the end result right away. Just like we never ask for the sale (the end result) immediately because we nurture the relationship and build toward the close, we make our new eating patterns, our exercise activities and holding ourselves accountable a permanent fixture in our lives.
It does not matter how many reps you do in your workout or how far you run in the early going; what matters is hitting your limits and reaching exhaustion – whatever level that may be. As you continue in your journey, as you temper it with rest, your limits will increase and you will be able to do more and more. Rest is key to your body’s reactions to workouts. Work to exhaustion as often as you can but when you need a day or two off, take them.
Just as you will hit brick walls with your newfound eating habits, you may with workouts as well. Keep things fresh; add new activities to your program, change it up, swap workout notes with friends or research new techniques online. Determination of what you enjoy doing and can perform physically that burns the most calories – running, sit-up’s and crunches, jumping rope – and integrating it into your routine makes the most significant impact against your overall plan.
Finding and changing up food selections in the major food groups like your cereals and grains, utilization of steamed white rice, fruits, vegetables and roughage in the midst of your dietary regimen will provide the body the necessary fuel and energy while keeping it running smoothly.
Once you are able to find a system that works for you on a caloric intake level and exercise activity level, you have ingrained this process and your responses to the roadblocks into your daily life and you have consistently adopted and practiced this process, you are well on your way to mastery of the health and fitness game.
Its benefits will be reflected in every area of your life and career.