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Beginners Guide To A Healthier Lifestyle

Have you ever looked at “fit” people and just thought to yourself that they were just born that way, and think you didn’t have it in you to be one of “those” people?  I have!  At a young age, like grade school, I never felt like I fit in with the athletic group.  Same with eating healthy or having willpower, I just thought it was a genetic thing that some people had and others didn’t.  With me, being on the opposite end of that genetic trait.

I played sports in grade school, but it was never my thing.  I was never the best or even close to being good, and once I went to high school being involved with any type of physical activity basically became a thing of the past.  I could never understand how people would wake up early and have this willpower to keep pushing through even when they didn’t want to do something.  Honestly, it’s one of the things I admired the most about my husband when we first started dating.  I was amazed how no matter what he wanted, if he wanted it bad enough he would go get it.  This especially started ringing true the more I saw him start running races.  He had/has this ability to dig so far down inside to keep going, keep pushing, where my mind would have started to tell me it was time to stop.  That it was okay to stop because of some excuse or another.

My Why

I often hear people talk about their, “Why”.  When you’re just getting started, it is SO important to figure out what your why is.  You need to dig deep when trying to figure this out, because more often than not it’s not because you want to look good.  I’ve always been a yo-yo dieter and very rarely even tried to take up working out, but that all changed once I figured out my true “Why”.

When I found out I was having triplets, which later turned to twins (read more about this in my miscarriage post) I thought to myself, “How am I going to do this?”  We don’t live close to any family so everything was going to be completely on the two of us, and my husband was going to be at work a lot of the time.

Once our boys were born, I quickly found a routine that worked for all of us and things just started to fall into place.  On top of juggling two newborns at the same time, I also had a 6 year old who I was trying not to let down.   Then, there was the need for me to exclusively pump (ugh!).  For almost a full year, until I had enough milk stored to make it to their first birthdays, I pumped every 3 hours around the clock.  I despised those pumps with every ounce of my being, but knew it was best for my babies, as they were struggling to gain weight and formula just made them sicker.

Fast forward to when our boys were 8 months and I decided it was a good idea to go stay in Florida with my family for a few weeks because they rarely get to spend quality time with our boys and we were able to so why not?  My boys and I headed to FL for a few weeks without my husband.  During that time, I started to realize that these boys were becoming more and more active and my oldest could already run circles around me.  What was I going to do once I had THREE running circles around me?!  I was definitely not in any shape to be able to keep up, and I was so tired ALL.THE.TIME.

These boys are my why!  In the year after I gave birth to the twins I realized that everything that was being thrown at me I could handle.  I ld figure out a way, as long as I stopped letting myself give in to the excuses.  Figuring out my why is what helped me deter those excuses which is why it’s so important to dig deep and figure out what’s going to motivate you.

I can’t tell you how many times the thoughts of, “I’ll start again next week, or Monday” crept in, but I wanted to be the best version of myself for my boys.  They deserve that much from me, I’m their mom!  They deserve to have a mom that can get down on the floor and play with them, chase them around the park playing tag, example what it means to take care of themselves and live a healthy lifestyle.  Most importantly, they deserve a mom who takes such good care of herself that she is happy and has the energy to keep up instead of letting excuses creep in!  So, anytime an excuse would start creeping in, I would take a good look at my boys and remember what I’ve been through with them, what I am capable of, and that I want to be the best version of me for them!

Mindset

As I’m sure you can gather from my “why”, I believe that you need to get that mindset down first.  If you’re still making excuses for yourself, you’re never going to be able to stick to a healthy lifestyle.

I have had people ask me to help someone with their weight loss, and I just tell them that I can’t!  Firstly, because they aren’t coming to me themselves and I would never offer unsolicited advice to someone especially on this topic.  Aside from that obvious reason though, I wouldn’t because you can’t make someone live healthier.  You can’t make someone eat certain foods or workout every day, and if they aren’t there mentally, they aren’t going to succeed.

Aside from figuring out your “why” you also need to learn to start shifting your mindset to a more positive outlook, which I talk more about in my mindset post.  The biggest key here is to stop getting discouraged so quickly, and stop telling yourself that you can’t.  Instead start telling yourself you can!  For example, instead of getting discouraged and being hard on yourself because you can’t even run to the next door neighbor’s house without being completely out of breath and cramping, start being PROUD of yourself because that’s another workout in the books.  It’s another time you didn’t let the excuses of why you shouldn’t work out takeover, and that is something to be so proud of!!!  It’s just a small shift in how you let your mind look at things that is going to make or break you when it comes to doing a lifestyle change.

There is a reason so many people call their healthy lifestyle a journey; it’s because it’s not something that can happen over night.  It’s not something that you do for a few months, reach your goal, then go back to your old ways.  If you did that, there’d be no point in starting in the first place, because you’re just going to go back to where you started, and all your handwork will have been for nothing!  It’s something that takes time and that may have ups and downs, but the key is to figuring out how to just keep moving forward even with things that would have, in another life, set you back.  Nothing in life is ever easy, but the HARDEST part of starting a healthy lifestyle is getting your mindset right.  Once you have that, the rest is just out of breath and sore muscles, which is easier to push through once you’re cheering yourself on, instead of telling yourself how horrible you are at it.

 

The other piece which is important to learn and realize, is that every single person is on their own journey so you need to stop comparing yourself to others!  A year and a half ago, I would never have stepped into a gym because I was so out of shape and embarrassed. Over time I have learned how silly that was, and realize now that everyone started somewhere.  When I see new people struggling in the gym, I don’t judge them (half the time I’m struggling myself and don’t have time to judge), but I also am just so proud of them for taking the plunge because it’s not an easy thing to do.  You can’t get into better shape if you never start!

It also doesn’t make sense to compare yourself to others because you may have different goals than the person working out next to you.  There are people who are strictly working out for mental health, weight loss, overall health, strength, etc.  If you’re on a weight loss journey why would you compare yourself to someone who is trying to add weight through muscle?  You’re obviously on two very different paths, both trying to better yourselves but through different methods.

Diet

Once you have the mindset piece down, then the next most important thing in my opinion is the diet portion.  So often people over complicate their diets by thinking they need to stick to a certain fad diet or make elaborate meal plans.  Let me be clear, NONE OF THAT IS NECESSARY!  In fact, while you’re making the adjustment I would urge you to keep it as simple as possible.  That means while you’re getting your bearings around a new way of eating, maybe eat a lot of the same foods and slowly over time add new foods in.  You need to find out what will work best for you, and what will help curb any cravings you may have while also learning about new foods.

I am the pickiest of picky eaters, but I have given a lot of new foods a try and have even liked a lot of them.  With this being said, it made it a little easier for me to start out slow because I was okay taking my time to figure out the foods that worked best for me.  I never liked meal planning, and I often failed at diets because by the time I was hungry I just ate whatever was quick and easy instead of the better option.  To combat this, I realized how important meal planning was.  I am not an extravagant person, so that means neither is my meal prep!  I love chicken and salmon so I simplified my meal prep by cooking up a whole package of boneless skinless chicken breast once a week.  Then when I’m ready for lunch I add it to a salad, a wrap, a stir fry, whatever and it takes no time and is so easy.  I no longer have excuses to eat something else because a healthier option is just as easy!

I don’t do diets.  For the most part I don’t believe that they are something that anyone can stick to long term.  It wasn’t until I started doing research and learning about how specific foods benefitted me and which nutrients I need to support my lifestyle that I started learning that I needed to kiss the fad dieting goodbye!  Once I did that, I started feeling better, feeling fuller, and seeing results.

There are some diets out there that people have real results with, the problem with these diets is that you need to know how they are benefitting you, how they are hurting you, and how to do them correctly so that you don’t do more damage than good.  Take Keto for example, I have heard multiple people say that they are doing the Keto diet because then they can eat all the cheese and bacon that they want.  Yes, it’s true that those foods are approved on the Keto diet, but that doesn’t mean you should eat as many of them as you want.  As with any diet, you should eat everything in moderation.  (***Disclaimer: Keto can be a very good diet, if you do the research, work with a nutritionist, and do it correctly).  This is why I think so many people fail, they see quick results with a fad diet but typically those results don’t last because people don’t fully educate themselves from the beginning and over time they just can’t keep up.

This is why I have learned about intuitive eating.  I eat what I want, when I want, but I’ve learned how to listen to what my body is craving, know what my body needs to support my fitness, and to know when it’s time to push my plate away.  I don’t like “wasting” food, but it also doesn’t make sense for me to eat food, even though I’m full just because it’s on my plate.  This was probably one of the hardest things for me to start doing when I started on the diet piece.

Fitness

Lastly, comes fitness.  This is the area that I have struggled with the most from an educating myself aspect.  I can do the exercises, I can push through and stay motivated, but I am just not as knowledgeable when it comes to what exercises work best for me which is why I have found a love for running and a gym to call home.  Like I said earlier, everyone is on their own journey, and for me the fitness piece comes last which is why I’m still learning how it all works.

When I started on this journey I set a goal to run a 5k (3.1 miles) with all three of my sons in tow.  Within, 7 months of making that goal I crossed that finish line with them.  Keep in mind, I had not been living an active lifestyle or been an “athlete”since grade school and had since then been somewhat lazy so this was no easy feat for me.  I traded my super nice baby carrier for a double running stroller and decided it was time to start.  I wanted to do a Couch to 5k program, but when I started I was so out of shape that I couldn’t even do that.  Instead, I started walking a slow 5k almost every day, which took me well over an hour (For reference, I can run a 5k in 27 minutes today).

Once I started to see an increase in my time, I decided it was now time to try the Couch to 5k app and get started.  Essentially, this program takes you from being a couch potato to training you for a 5k.  The first workout was “easy”, but so incredibly difficult for me, but I did it!  With each milestone I made in the app I felt like I had accomplished something big, and celebrated that it was another step toward my goal!

As with all things I do, through research I learned that weight training was important for your health and that it could improve my running.  I found some accounts on Instagram that posted free workouts and every day when I got home from my runs I would do a weight training workout.  I had already started to lose the weight, but once I started weight training I started to really start seeing the results in my muscles too!  One of the accounts I followed hosted a game called StepBet, through this app you put $40 into a pot and if you make your daily step goals for the 6 weeks of the game you get your money back.  I don’t like losing money so this was a great motivator for me, and it kept me going even after I had completed my workout for the day.

I am a person who likes to write things down and loves lists and analysis.  With this being said, I started writing down how long each walk/run took me.  I was amazed how quickly my time improved in such a short amount of time.  With the app and my own tracker, I was giving myself more motivation to keep moving.

This brings me to finding out what keeps you motivated.  I like to see the numbers, and I don’t mean on the scale, in fact I would urge you to not even pay attention to the scale.  I like to see the times going down on my runs, my heart rate going down, how quickly my heart rate recovers, etc.  These things matter to me, but again everyone has their own goals, and their own motivators.  Aside from the numbers, I had learned that the more active I was the better I felt and the more successful I was in achieving my goals.  Whether that means joining a game, linking your smart watch to friends, or posting your workouts on social media.  Find what keeps you going, so that when you’re not feeling it, you still push through!

Conclusion

Remember, this is a lifestyle change, which means you want it to stick and that it’s not something temporary.  Why is this important to remember?  Because anything that should last a lifetime and should be successful isn’t going to happen overnight.  It’s something you’re going to have to work towards and that means starting slow.  It means practice and learning just like all other things you’ve accomplished in your life.  You can’t be a doctor, just by waking up and saying, “Today, I’m going to be a doctor!” You can make that decision today, but you won’t actually be a doctor until you’ve studied your butt off and done years of schooling and practicing.  Not to sound cliche, but good things DO come to those who wait.  So figure out your why, set your goals, and start learning.  Teach yourself how to become a better version of you, and ALWAYS remember to celebrate the small victories, the small milestones because they all matter and they will all help motivate you!

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