We’re tricking ourselves in to thinking our time and options are limited. Even if our time is (which is a separate post entirely), our options don’t have to be. We need to be a little better at starting small, balancing our needs, and planning. The benefits of a healthier diet and active lifestyle are well-documented, stimulating both brain power and productivity. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg names exercise one of the keystone habits that empower a healthy, productive life. Exercise fuels the ability to make other habit changes in your life possible, including diet.
The first and biggest lie is the mindset that you need to make life-changing, wholesale changes to make a difference. Not so! Even if your diet and fitness habits are non-existent, you can begin to make small changes which can snowball in to big results. Consider snow, or rain. One flake or drop of water isn’t going to make a big difference, and is easy to dismiss. But compounded by consistency and quantity, they accumulate in to a force of nature.
Here’s a little sub-list for you, little ways you can start small in fitness and food. Start with any of these once a week, or every 2-3 days. Starting small will keep you motivated for the next opportunity.
- Go for a 10 minute walk or a 5 minute run
- Swing a kettlebell 10 times
- Do 10 squats, then 10 pushups
- Drink 1 liter of water instead of soda
- Eat 1 salad a week
Move in a way that’s fun
If you don’t enjoy running, don’t run. If you don’t enjoy lifting weights, don’t lift weights. Move in a way you enjoy, and you’ll see the benefits much quicker. Your exercise won’t be a burden because it’s fun! Maybe it’s a dance class, yoga, hiking, canoeing, martial arts, cycling, soccer, or tennis. If you stop forcing the workouts, following what you’re “supposed” to be doing, then the habit won’t take hold. I enjoy running, but only on trails. I enjoy lifting weights, but not in slow, uni-directional ways (bench press). I also enjoy mixing up my workouts, keeping them fresh and interesting by trying new things.
Bottom line: Do what moves you.
Follow the Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 Rule
This isn’t the Pareto Principle exactly. But the 80/20 mindset is helpful when figuring out what kind of grace you can extend to yourself when your food and fitness isn’t measuring up. Basically, if you’re eating well in 80% of your meals, you can be flexible in the other 20%. If you exercise most of the week, don’t stress out over taking a couple of days off.
CrossFit offers a pretty solid principle for their workouts. 3 days on, 1 day off. Not quite 80%, but close enough. If you’re taking care of your body and mind 75-80% of the time, you’d have to do a lot of damage in the remaining time to screw it up.
One more suggestion though, from my own experience. Mix up your rest and cheat days so they don’t occur at the same time. Being able to workout on a day you’ve eaten some unhealthy food will help negate the bad calories, and eating well on a day you’re resting will increase the benefits of your rest.