So you’ve come to the realization that you need to work on your health and you don’t quite know where to start. Maybe you’re like me and your doctor told you to change your diet and exercise habits or you would be at a higher risk for a lot of scary medical conditions.
Or maybe you just had a baby and want to get back to feeling like your normal self. Or someone close to you had a serious health scare like a heart attack or stroke and you want to reduce the chances of that happening to you. Or maybe you got dragged into making a health pact with your spouse or a friend.
However you got to the point of wanting to get healthier, good for you! It is never too late, or too early, to start creating a healthier lifestyle to improve your quality of life. Here are 10 tips to starting a healthy lifestyle – the beginners guide!
We all begin somewhere
I grew up in a family with three brothers. While us kids were encouraged to be physically active and involved in sports and clubs and things, I didn’t frequently see my parents “working out” or putting their health first, necessarily.
We had a rowing machine, a treadmill, and some exercise mats and small handheld weights but they didn’t really get used. I only knew workout videos existed because we used them at school. And I had no idea gym memberships existed until after I was married.
So for me, once I reached adulthood, it never really entered my mind to have a regular exercise routine or worry about what I ate. As a college student I ate in the cafeteria and walked EVERYWHERE. During my broke single and early parenting days we ate a lot of top ramen and noodles and sat around a lot.
Sometimes my husband would drag me to the gym for a few months here and there but then it would get too expensive and we’d quit. Overall, the older I’ve gotten, the less active I had become and the less concerned I seemed to get with my diet. I just got lazy and lax.
Then around my 38th birthday, me doctor proclaimed I need to lose weight by changing my diet & exercise or he could prescribe me diet pills on my next visit. That started my journey to a healthy lifestyle.
You may have something similar, or completely different, that is motivating you now. The point is, YOU have to start where YOU are, wherever that may be.
Self-Assess, Where Am I Now?
Before getting started with making changes to put yourself on a path to a healthier lifestyle, you first have to know where you are now. It’s like asking the GPS for directions to Cleveland, OH but you don’t let it access your current location. You’re never going to get there!
The quote to the right is perfect to remember when creating a healthy lifestyle. You need knowledge, motivation and persistence!
Let’s start with knowledge. Take a few minutes and self-assess. Ask yourself the following:
- What is my current level of activity? Am I primarily sedentary? Active in short spurts? Constantly moving?
- Is there anything I CAN’T do that I probably should? Like touch my toes or walk around the block without getting winded?
- What is my current diet like? Not what I would tell people I typically eat, but what do I ACTUALLY eat?
- How is my energy level? Am I typically tired? Can I make it through the day without caffeine?
- how do I feel? Am I mostly happy? depressed? anxious?
We all start somewhere, so now you should have a better idea of what that starting point is for you.
Where are you going?
We’ll talk more about goals in another article. But for today, think about why you want to start a healthy lifestyle and what you want to accomplish. Ask yourself these questions:
- Why do I want to make changes?
- Am I doing this alone or with someone?
- What do I want to accomplish?
- What’s the endgame? To get ready for a special event or develop a long term healthy lifestyle?
- How am I going to meet my goals? Diet? Exercise? Prescription or medical procedure? All the above?
- What are my limitations or restrictions? Physical limits, health conditions, mental struggles, environmental factors, allergies to foods?
What are some of your actual goals that you want to start with? Are you trying to lose 5 pounds or 50 pounds? DO you want to feel stronger? Have more endurance? Are you trying to add more servings of fruits and veggies to your diet or eat fewer carbs? Are you trying to be more confident about who you are and your body image? Do you just want to be able to keep up with your kids or spouse? Or not feel so tired?
Any goals you have towards becoming healthier physically, mentally and emotionally are good! Just make sure that the goals are YOUR goals, that you know why you have them, and that you can keep yourself motivated to work towards completing them.
I’ve had many a goal that I have set that I wasn’t really attached to. I just set them to set them. Then when something came up or I felt unmotivated or lazy I quickly abandoned those goals because they didn’t really matter to me. Don’t set yourself up for failure like that! You need proper motivation!
One of my first goals, when I started my current healthy lifestyle journey, was to walk for 30 minutes a day for 30 days in a row. A simple, obtainable goal that my dogs were more than happy to help me work on. A year later I completed a 5K run (mostly walk for me) with my husband in 45 minutes.
10 Tips to Get You Started!
- Start TODAY, not tomorrow, not next week, TODAY!
- Set reasonable goals that you can achieve! Achieving a goal boosts confidence and helps keep you motivated. Set a 7 day challenge or a 30 day challenge for yourself. When you meet one goal, set a harder goal to keep you progressing.
- Walk daily. Get up and walk for a set amount of time. Start small, maybe 5 minutes, then build up.
- Park further away and take the stairs. Get in extra steps by parking at the other side of the parking lot instead of the closest spot. Or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Try yoga (see my Yoga benefits post here). Yoga is a low impact workout with amazing benefits, doesn’t require expensive equipment and can be done at home.
- Think HEALTHIER when you are planning meals. Some people can jump in and complete overhaul their nutrition and stick with it but a drastic nutrition change can be difficult for most people. Focus on making healthier options. As you adjust to those, move to the next level of healthier choices. For example, don’t throw out pasta altogether. Switch from regular pasta to the veggie pasta noodles at the grocery store, then move to making your own noodles from fresh veggies like zucchini and carrots.
- Prepare your snacks and lunch beforehand. In other words, meal prep! If you wait until you’re hungry to figure out what you’re going to eat then you will grab what is convenient and fast. I’ve eaten too many hot dogs and chips that way! Wash and separate veggies and fruits into snack bags at the beginning of the week. Put hummus and salsa into small Tupperware containers. Make a few fresh salads with chopped, cooked chicken and veggies for lunch.
- Find an accountability buddy or group. Combined efforts and someone to report to can help keep you motivated. It can help when someone is asking you “Hey! Did you get that 3 mile jog done yesterday?” or “How was the food at the dinner party? Did you stick to your plan of skipping dessert?” Plus when you want to give up you will have someone to turn to who can encourage you and remind you why you are doing this in the first place!
- If you fall, get back up! Nobody is perfect all the time. Just start each day and worry about that day. Don’t stress if the day before didn’t go as planned.
- Share your successes! When you feel good about making progress, share it! It feels good to have other people cheer you on.
Consistency repeated! Persistance!
The secret to creating and living a healthy lifestyle comes down to knowing that there is NOT a magic pill. There’s not a way to do something good for your body a couple of times and then relax the rest of your life. Living a healthy lifestyle takes consistent effort and work for the rest of your life.
Give yourself some grace and allow some wiggle room. What fun would life be if you NEVER ate a cupcake or brownie again. Or if you ALWAYS skipped watching a movie to walk the dogs or go to the gym? Give yourself a little grace and let yourself enjoy life.
I live by an 80/20 rule. I’m 80% strict on nutrition and fitness so I can be 20% free to enjoy whatever pops up. When going by this rule I do try to keep in mind that you don’t want to destroy ALL your hard work while enjoying the 20%.
Or as my doctor told me, don’t work hard all week to have an entire cheat day when you gain it all back and have to start from square one again on Monday. You want to be heading in a forward direction- toward being healthier, one step at a time!
Did you find the above tips helpful? What goals have you thought of that you can start TODAY to help get you on track with creating your healthy lifestyle? Leave your comments below! I would love to hear from you!