So it’s the start of another New Year. Congratulations on making it through the grueling past 12 months.
Now that everything from the past is in your rear mirror, it’s all about to start over again and if you’re like most people, you want to push the trauma of the previous year to the background and welcome the hopes and promise of a new year with open arms and preferably tighter gut.
Presumably you’re doing that thing where you introduce a “new you”, “new experiences”, “new adventures” and new everything else, convinced that if you reject negativity and embrace a positive attitude, and with a little bit of luck – nothing! Absolutely nothing can hold you back!
Well, except of course that little problem of the reflection in the mirror which highlights the gaping disconnect between “how you feel” versus “what you actually see”.
On the inside, you’re an emotionally buoyant, spirited, dainty, sprinting, jumping, lively, healthy person that can’t wait to get out there and embrace life; but on the outside is quite a different story, with the podgy, blotchy and slouchy “old you” staring back in dismay.
You will be the first to acknowledge that your thoughts and perspectives regarding your body dysmorphia are probably exaggerated and very subjective, but you long for the day when your positive thoughts dominate to shut out any negativity – and the fact that you’re not there maybe a little disheartening.
The new you wants to be out there, seeing and experiencing things, but every time you catch a glimpse of your reflection, all that euphoria evaporates bringing your enthusiasm to a crashing halt..
You don’t even know how much you weigh, because you swear your bathroom scale needs an exorcism to get your weight right.
“Being out there” enjoying life means being in front of people, and inevitably photos, which could end up anywhere – especially social media, where no amount of twisting or sucking your gut in or good lighting will save you.
Social media criticism can be pretty honest and harsh, or even worse silent – which is harsher.
So in order to avoid all that anxiety, you’re just going to have to suck it up and tackle your weight loss like a champ.
You’re going to be focused, committed, disciplined and definitely stay away from the miracle working Adderall, which works wonders at first and then attempts to murder you afterwards; been there, had the panic attack – no thank you!
You will experiment with everything from keto and Intermittent fasting to water fasting, while getting into the habit of health and fitness improvement.
You know that in addition to losing weight, you are going to need the mental focus and emotional balance required to see things through to the end, because you’ve been there, repeatedly trying to shed pounds and failing; Throwing everything into the first few couple of months only to give up for the rest of the year.
So what will be different this 2019 ?
How will you get into the habit of being the healthy person that you’ve always wanted to be?
How will you ever be able to take a picture and strike a daring pose instead of recoiling into the background?
How will you choose summer outfits and swimsuits that do not double as an evening party floral dress?
How ? how? how? Will this transformation happen?
Well, fear not because the following ten tips have been collated specifically for you.
We aren’t promising a “fittest person on the planet” award, but it should at least point you towards good habits and tactics to improve your fitness and get started on a healthy regimen that you can sustain.
Are you ready? No? Well I’m going to tell you anyway, so here goes …
1. USE DATA
First offs, in today’s data driven society, you have no reason to guess anymore. The technology is out there and it can help you track your food, water intake, measure your activities including heart rate. Some gadgets even go further to measure and record your blood pressure and blood sugar.
With accumulated data, you can store a history of all your health activities, make timeline comparisons and adjust future activities accordingly to improve your fitness, using the metrics as a guidance and reference system. Some manufacturers of these gadgets are Fitbit, Garmin, Apple, letscom, Samsung
2. DITCH THE GYM
For a long time now, most gyms have fine-tuned their subscription models to ensure you keep paying them whether or not you make it to the gym.
They realize the hassle in keeping your gym appointments and know that a few weeks after you’ve signed up, you will give up and disappear once life obstacles takes over – but not before they’ve signed you up to a year’s contract, with no refund policy in some places
There are hundreds of online workout programs that could help improve your
health and fitness and you can even find free programs and trainers on YouTube
by searching keywords like “fitness trainers on youtube ” or even google search, to avail yourself to a plethora of fitness literature – all from the comfort of your living room.
Abandon the time wasted in commuting, changing attire,
waiting in line to use machines and all the other gym fails; Instead swap it for the ease of rolling out of bed
bleary eyed and disheveled but with enough time to get into a push-up or squat, or my favourite “burpees” or any workout that tickles your fancy – and all before kick starting the day.
The online methodology is not suited to everyone, and you should utilize the gym if you feel it’s the best platform to assist you in attaining
your fitness goals, as long as you realize that there are options.
3. Change your mindset
Most of the things you do in your life tend to revolve around your mindset.
The human mind subconsciously plays out scenarios ahead of time in a bid to prepare us for what is to come.
For most people, the mind will anticipate an event or experience by repeatedly replaying imagined scenarios borne out of our intentions and expectations.
Ordinarily, this is an ideal situation where we can react to pre-empted scenarios by exhibiting some abstract, pre-determined role-play behaviour we already conjured up in our subconscious.
An instance of this would be like the 1500m sprinter who decides that the bell which the race officials usually ring to signal the last lap of the race, is the signal to expend the most energy in order to win the race.
By anticipating the bell, they program their minds to initiate the action of going “all out” to win the race. Subconsciously, they would have played out this scenario numerous times in their mind, seamlessly pairing the subconscious with the conscious.
In contrast, an athlete that perceives the bell as a signal for negative pressure to win a race might whittle and lose motivation instead.
In both scenarios, and assuming both athletes are of similar performance levels, the mindset becomes the dominant factor, as it can trigger our best or worst instincts.
When associated to physical fitness, our triggers could be ‘dreading the early morning alarm, the frustration of food preparation and cutting out junk food, the reluctance to commit to two or three days of physical exercise or even the avoidance of an early night in order to be refreshed in the morning.
All the components mentioned above are necessary in order to achieve health and fitness goals; and yet, mindset, among other variables, will interject to boos enthusiasm or diminish it over the course of time.
Our anticipations are things that “have not occurred yet”, but we use them in prepping the mindset to adjust to what is to come.
When it comes to health and fitness or anything else in life for that matter, you must reinforce the positive mindset and adopt a “I am going to do it” attitude.
This will help you overcome the negative conversations that tend to occur in the mind.
It is crucial to retain this attitude at all times, and especially when the task results in failure, so you can develop the habit of a strong, impenetrable, and resilient mindset which you will need to overcome challenges and prime yourself for success in achieving your goals.
4. DEVELOP A SCHEDULe
Think about it – everything in life is scheduled to start and
end at a specific time. It doesn’t matter if it’s work or play, even nature
rules the sun to rise and set at a particular time, so it’s an inevitable fact
of life that without scheduling, everything goes awry.
So similarly, you must setup a schedule and mold that into a routine for work, play and relaxation and try not to let one interfere with the other.
This way you can completely focus on one task at a time, without associating any guilt about neglecting one priority for another.
This is to say that when you schedule time to workout, your entire focus should be harnessed into getting the best intensity you can, without distraction. Everything else can wait till after the allocated time, and this attitude should apply to your life in general, gradually building it into a routine that you can depend on moving forward.
5. LEARN HOW TO SINGLE TASK
You may want to indulge in serial single tasking, and learn how to start and
finish one task before moving on the next; a practise that essentially reduces
the occurrence of mistakes.
The general consensus is that today is that multitasking is the best way to get ahead in the world. In other words, cramming as many things as you can together and attempting to tackle them all simultaneously; but as you may have noticed, this has also increased rate of mistakes and errors generally.
We appear to have gone full circle though, gradually relishing the benefits of
single tasking in producing more quality over quantity, which is a more
desirable result compared to a chaotic amassment of compromised multitasking
Likewise, you must approach your health and fitness with the same attitude. Exercise, nutrition, sleep, and meditation are all components of fitness that positively reinforce our health objectives, but tackling all at the same time is the reason most people derail simply because there is too much going on at the same time.
Focusing on one and mastering it before advancing to the next one, may be a better approach that helps us achieve the results we desire.
Organize your goals with a long-term strategy that can be achieved with a steady pace instead of a crash course that invites additional pressure to an already stressful situation.
6. SLEEP MORE
During sleep, the body pauses most activities and begins a recuperative process by determining what needs to be retained, jettisoned, or repaired before we wake.
Therefore, along with all other activities involved in fitness, we must also adopt and play close attention to the area of sleep.
Sleep should come naturally to an active lifestyle and can be enhanced further if incorporated with a meditative mindset, which is ideal for deep sleep – which is crucial to full recovery from an active lifestyle.
The opposite is bad sleep, which is the kind you get from recklessly snoozing off while binge watching TV, in a contorted body position and awkward neck angle.
That kind of sleep – you really want to avoid!
Instead, practice a routine (that word again) where you prep for bed at least five to ten minutes ahead of time, ensuring you have implemented the optimal relaxation and ambiance that will compliment a goodnight’s sleep.
You can review your day and plan activities for the morning, which can help free your mind from worry and anxiety that can interfere with sleep.
If you have a snoring partner, that disturbs your sleep cycle, that will need to be addressed too by taking drastic actoun like – sleeping in the gusts room while you resolve the snoring issue.
Yes! it’s that serious.
7. Get rid of distractions
A distraction is anything that prevents focus and affects optimal performance; ergo, distraction can be bad for the most part!
Sometimes, a little distraction is necessary to counter serious work or concentration, but we want to focus on the disruptive type that impacts productivity and effectiveness.
Over the past few years, it has become difficult to identify what constitutes a distraction especially with the influx of the Internet and social media, which has been ingrained and nurtured into regular everyday life, and in some instances encouraged as a desirable trait.
The fallout is that we’re now expected to perform tasks in unison with distraction, heralding it as a feat of human productivity, without considering the consequences.
To analyse this further, especially in reference to fitness, I would use the simple act of walking as an example; a low impact, natural means of mobility, and practised by millions. So, if ever there was an exercise that could tolerate distraction with minimal impact, walking would qualify as one.
Yet, if you consider that walking requires that we manoeuvre our body in a specific way, such as engaging our core, straighting our shoulders, with an upward angled neck, and solid contact with the soles of our feet, then most of us would have already failed miserably in executing this simplest of tasks due to poor posture – and this is rampant today.
You only have to observe the way we sit and constantly stare at digital gadgets to comprehend the strain on our necks and spine.
We have extended the use of these gadgets into our exercises as well, impacting our natural posture and further aggravating the problem.
So when it comes to physical exercise, the advice is to ditch the TV, phone, iPad or whatever else might be the enticement and focus on what you’re
There are forty-five minutes to an hour to focus entirely on yourself, and if your workout is so boring that you need to watch something to distract you – then you’re doing it wrong.
8. INVEST IN BODY EXERCISES
I have always maintained that when it comes to exercise and fitness, you really need to be able to lift your own body weight before anything else.
Machines and free weights can be beneficial, but the true test of performance is the use of your own body weight to execute manoeuvres.
Let me tell you what happens when you depend solely on machines or free weights;
the targeted body part will respond marvelously and you may even look fabulous, assuming you apply the correct form and execution.
If you happen to catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, you may very well be
pleased with the results you see.
Now, all of this is true as long as you continue working out, because as soon as you stop, your body gradually returns to its original state with little or nothing to show for all your hard work, and the reason for this is simple;
“if your body can’t support its own weight, it obviously cannot support weights that are heavier”
And if you’re querying how a 5lbs dumbbell in a bicep curl could possibly be heavier than the strength of your arm for instance, then you really need to start question what part of your body you actually lift a 5lb dumbbell with;
Are you using only bicep power or are you compensating with your entire arm, a bit of your torso and legs.
This might explain why some people are able to curl up to 35lbs and still have twig looking arms.
This kind of approach to exercise is the reason why people fail to see any progress in fitness despite their commitment and effort, leading to frustration which if forced can create a worse case scenarios – injury!
Trust me, I’ve been there and I’ve bought the tourniquet .
When it comes to exercising, there is one critical lesson to learn; body weight exercises like push-ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, squats, jump squats, pullups, bear crawls, leg raises and their numerous variations, will mostly deliver better results over equipment and machines.
Machines will generally accentuate what you’ve already achieved with your body weight.
A Google search for body weight exercises will reveal everything from the basics to advanced hardcore programs that will surpass any intensity you’ve experienced with machines and free weights.
There is always a middle ground between pushing your own body weight and using weights to enhance results – that middle ground is where you want to be.
9. ELIMINATE OBSTACLES AND DEVELOP A SUPPORT SYSTEM
You need an individual or a group to keep you accountable.
This should not really stop you from benefiting and progressing from your fitness regime, but sometimes, just having another party that keeps you in check goes a long way.
When the body is subjected to pressure, the mind may struggle to cope and demoralization might set in.
Be rest assured that everyone, including the professionals and experts, experiences this same challenges.
So you should expect similar experiences at some point in your training program.
Most times, it will come in the guise of mental fatigue as the enthusiasm for exercising wanes, and usually for no good reason.
While a few people can deal with this by themselves, some may seek assistance
from a second party. You should determine if you fall into this category or
not, and seek assistance in a support system ahead of time.
It may hamper your progress if you make this realization in the middle of your program, so ideally you want to identify this person or people and develop a relationship towards your needs, so that when the appointed time comes – as it surely will – you know whom to approach.
For some, a fitness buddy to support and encourage you, and you offering to do same, will suffice. I find that people at the same level
of fitness work better than the master and novice partnership, and a confidant
that can motivate you towards your path through simple conversation is also an
If for whatever reason, you do not have any of this, and you find yourself alone in your fitness program, then you could at least rid yourself of toxic friends, partnerships, or situations that may be detrimental to your progress; and if you cannot do this instantly, at least begin to plan.
The reason for this is simple; the energy required to focus and attain fitness goals tend to be mental and emotional intensive, and therefore depends a lot on mindset, as we discussed earlier. You will need every ounce of positivity to move forward and what you don’t need is anyone or anything residing in your mind and creating bad energy. Protect your mind at all costs!
There will be numerous challenges that will arise once you start pushing yourself and situations where your biggest battle will be self-doubt and negative thoughts that will challenge your mind and require all your mental ability to push through.
So keep some emotional energy in reserve and eradicate any external factors that generate negativity around you.
You have enough to deal with!
10. SIMPLIFY YOUR MEALS
There are three major categories of food, namely Carbs, Fats and proteins and most of your major food sources will fall within these parameters.
Your source of energy comes from Carbs and Fats and the protein is a repair component that carters to growth and maintenance of the muscle, tissue, bone, cartilage, skin, cells.
So if it’s energy you’re looking for, Carbs or Fats are your best options, while your protein intake is a more of a muscle repair component among other things, with the appearance of your hair, nails and skin, serving as loose indicator of your protein sufficiency. Of course protein synthesis goes a lot deeper than that, but we’ll keep it simple for the purpose of this blog.
The amount of protein you need has been a debated topic for years, but ultimately starting at 1gm of protein per body weight is a good start, and then you can eat more or less depending on the results you get.
The symptoms of excessive or deficient protein intake are well documented and easily sourced material especially on the Internet, but you should always consult a physician before embarking on any nutritional change to be sure.
To obtain the health benefits from all your food sources, a meal plan is an ideal practice to engage in, but if the thought of numerous Tupperware littered with brown rice and broccoli is the first image that pops into you mind – don’t fret! It doesn’t have to be too complicated if you do the following;
- pick a meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Repeat the same meal for a week.
- At the end of each week, you have the option to prepare a new set of meals for the coming week.
I followed a similar pattern and simplified my meal plans by identifying the foods I eat for breakfast lunch and dinner and stuck to them indefinitely.
For variety, I would dabble in other meals by swapping one meal with something else, see if it agreed with me and then decide whether to stick with it or revert to my old meals.
This may seem drastic at first, but with consistency, you would be amazed at the simplicity, quickness and efficiency this brings to your food choices and even pertinent is the fact that this practice encompasses more food variety than you would anticipate.
11. BONUS TIP:
IF ALL FAILS, KEEP AT LEAST ONE FITNESS GOAL CONSISTENT
In my opinion, there are four vital areas you must invest in to achieve optimal health namely; Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep and Meditation.
If everyone had the time to plan their lives the way they preferred, most would be experts in these four aspects and live healthier, fitter lifestyles with minimal effort.
Unfortunately, whatever time we used to have to ourselves a few years ago has completely vanished in the current “always switched on” world we have now.
The pace of life has become hectic and unrelenting, which means we have to find a methodology to develop better lifestyles and wellness despite the time crunch.
First, we must start with the acceptance that the challenges we face – be it poor health or excess weight, did not suddenly materialize out of thin air, but rather a result of poor cumulative choices that put us in our present predicament.
The acknowledgment that we were at least partly implicit in causing the problem should serve as encouragement to pace ourselves and try to walk back the mistakes by developing better life decisions and habits for the future.
There is a theory that suggests that it takes about the same amount of time to undo the harm we inflict on our minds or bodies, making it necessary to adopt the mindset of a marathon runner, rather than the sprinter when we are trying to rediscover our health and fitness.
Accept that it will take time and abandon the expectation of a quick remedy.
A good way to practise this is to pick one area from the areas mentioned earlier – Nutrition, Meditation, Sleep and Exercise – and focus on mastering it, preferably over a 3-month period, which is the length of time purported to convert behaviour into habit and assist you in prioritizing your efforts more efficiently.
When you have mastered one area, you can then add another, devoting
another three months to it and continue with the pattern until you have practiced all four areas, by which time, you twelve months would have elapsed.
A whole year to get healthier and fit?
Some people can do so in shorter time and if that is the case, then kudos
to you, but remember the time crunch and try not to add more pressure on an already strenuous situation. The reason you are doing all of this in the first place is to alleviate pressure and stress, so you will need to swap haste for longevity, while maintaining your urgency.
“Don’t do too much too soon, but when it’s time to do it, do it hard and
Overdoing it is a recipe for failure, which is why a slower but steady pace of one task at a time provides a better learning structure to succeed. It will teach you what to do for progress, as well as what to do to in failure, as the encounter the inevitable challenges and obstacles during your fitness journey.
Nature never rushes anything; the sunrise and sunset appear consistently every day, like clockwork always within a range of time that everyone is accustomed to, and likewise, as products of nature, we should learn to adopt this same process, realizing that rushing through anything usually ends up with detrimental consequences.
So there you have it!
This is by no means an exhaustive of recommendations, but it is a start to launch into the year with ample time to assimilate the information, research and compare alternative ideas, and modify the suggestions stipulated here if need be.
Ultimately, the approach towards fitness differs between people and tailoring your regimen and program to your individual needs is key to achieving your goals.
The more research you can conduct, the better informed you are to assist you with developing a customized strategy that will work for you.
Not all the suggestions on here will work for everyone, and for some it may the Holy Grail, but the common trend is that eventually, as the body acclimatizes, it will need new stimuli to improve.
This process is the journey of fitness that never ends as the challenges constantly keep changing with age, environment, emotionality, circumstances, and a whole list of variables.
Once you hit a certain level of fitness you are satisfied with, there will always be another level to attain, and while the choice to pursue or reside in a maintenance mode is entirely up to you, the chances are that there is more to learn to achieve.
It never really stops – hence the term “Lifestyle”; it is how you live your day to day, and not one magnificent moment of effort that matters.
It never stops; and neither should you!