With the end of “Resolution Month” I am always eager to hear how you are all going in your quest for better health and fitness. January is a booming time for gyms, diet centers, and magazines touting the latest “weekend detox” plan. But, as we all know January comes and goes in a flash and we are often left wondering why our “quick fixes” weren’t so quick! The truth of the matter, and yes you already know this, is that great health is not a short-term proposition. It requires long-term thinking and long-term action to effect real change to our health, and to maintain that positive change.
One of my clients who has achieved a great and lasting success in her weight loss and health endeavors – on her own in her own home gym – told me that after many years of achieving quick success with short term actions, and then just as quickly returning to her old weight and state, she finally came to the realization that what she did to lose weight was going to be pretty similar to what she had to do to maintain that weight loss and fitness level. And, she was right. We can’t just exercise for a few weeks and then enjoy the benefits of that exercise for the rest of the year from the sofa. Exercise, to be truly beneficial, must make a space in our lives for the long term. Thus, when we are creating our own health plan, we must consider making a plan that we can stick to (and enjoy) for the long term. And, of course, the same is true for our nutritional choices. We will see no success in our health endeavors if our approach is short-term and short-sighted. A few weeks of healthy eating will result in great improvements to your health and your weight. But, if not sustained, this change will also not be sustaining. So, as we enter February perhaps it’s time to start thinking about where you want to be in December, and what steps you can take to arrive at December with a healthy body, relaxed mind, and fulfilling lifestyle.
I recommend making a long term plan, like at least 6 months, and taking some time to really reflect on what techniques and programs will really fit into your lifestyle and have staying power. One of my clients who travels a lot for work and couldn’t set out a specific day and time for exercise had a brilliant idea. He decided that he wanted to run a certain number of kilometres in the year, and then broke it down into monthly and weekly averages and then if he missed a few days, he could always make it up. With this kind of plan, no matter what happens in your life, you can make exercise fit into your lifestyle, rather than trying to fit your schedule around exercise.
Another very inspiring exerciser told me that she and her husband had created a “points” system. Each session of exercise added a point, and each “extra” in their diet, like wine, sweets or fatty foods removed a point. They figured that if at the end of each day they came out in the positive, they were reaching their goals, and from what I hear so far they are doing great.
A client I worked with many years ago lost 15 pounds and was freed from his asthma inhaler by creating a “lead weight” list. Anything he ate that felt like a lead weight in his stomach, he put on the list and didn’t eat any more. Over time this removed all the foods from his diet that were not being digested well and upsetting his system, and he found great health and vitality through this simple step.
My point here is this, you don’t need any more information, education or exercise trends achieve a healthy lifestyle. But, perhaps with a little creativity and a longer-term vision you can make all the nutritional and exercise knowledge you already have work for you. Look at the issues that are holding you back, and then try to plan around them. Planning ahead for exercise, grocery shopping, cooking healthy meals and taking some time for relaxation is an excellent way to begin to develop healthy habits for the long term. And, adding an element of flexibility is essential if your plan is going to work in today’s hectic lifestyle. Setting out your goals in writing will make them more present in your life, and will help you to regularly re-assess how your plan is working for you. Here is a sample:
Goal: Lose 10 pounds in 6 months
Walk 3 hours each week (this can be broken down into segments that fit your ever-changing schedule)
Eat only 2 extras each day (and plan for them so that you can look forward to your favorites!)
For one of my meals each day I will have a large fresh salad.
I will re-assess my plan every month to determine any changes to my program, and re-evaluate my plan.
This type of planning allows you to think long term, and will help you to achieve long-term benefits while allowing for changes in your schedule, and giving you a chance to regularly assess your progress. I hope that February brings you great inspiration for long term health and vitality, and I look forward to hearing your success!
First Published in the Mind Body Messenger Newsletter 2007