There are generally two schools of thought in the fitness world.
One goes something like this: “Go hard, no pain, no gain”. Ouch.
The alternative sounds like this: “It took you a lifetime to get where you are, so don’t expect to change in a couple of weeks.” That’s hardly inspiring either.
After over a decade of guiding normal, busy people to great results, my belief is that real change exists somewhere in between. Changing your behaviour in a big way takes time, but we are all capable of making incremental and lasting change. And this does take some level of effort.
The biggest barrier to change? People always want to go all in, or not at all.
There’s a prevailing mindset that unless you make a huge upheaval and start on a really strict diet or hardcore fitness routine, you won’t get results. The general response after a few of these efforts is to not do anything at all, and continue on a path of decline.
That’s just not how habit change works.
Here’s the boring, unsexy truth.
To create lasting health and change, you have to implement changes that you’re willing to do just about every day, for the rest of your life. Otherwise they just won’t stick.
I like to recommend small shifts in behaviour. Changes that are a small step up from where you are now, but just one step at a time.
The shifts I recommend are all geared towards managing the most important pillars of your health that make a real difference to how you feel and look. Changes that create not just a longer life, but make the days in that life more enjoyable and fulfilling.
As your coaches, our ultimate wish for you is that you:
- Stress less
- Eat better
- Move more
- Sleep better
- Enjoy life more
Any change is going to create some level of discomfort as you break a current habit and replace it with a better one. Our bodies and brains are always going to resist this because we have a natural bias towards staying the same.
That’s why we invite you to start with small, incremental levels of discomfort and allow yourself to adjust to that as your new normal. Soon, what was once hard becomes just what you do. Then you also feel proud of yourself knowing that you CAN make changes, and you become inspired and motivated to expose yourself to further small levels of purposeful discomfort.
As you move through the different changes, you practise each behaviour by repeating it daily. As you stack other healthy behaviours on top of each other, soon you develop your very own system that takes the stress and decision making out of looking after yourself.
Take a look at the behaviour changes listed in the Levels below and ask yourself: Where can I start that is a small step up from what I’m doing now?
Level 1 Changes
- Eat slowly and mindfully – this will help you discover what hungry and full actually feel like in your body. Eat less with no feeling of deprivation. Slow down, breathe between bites. Put your cutlery down.
- Set a bedtime and wake time.
- Add vegetables to one extra meal a day. For example, if veggies currently don’t feature in any of your meals on a regular basis, start adding them to your dinner. Our guide is half of your plate, but I’ll settle for any if you’re currently eating none. If you normally eat veggies at dinner, start eating some at lunch too. If you’re already doing both, add some berries or wilted spinach or tomato to breakfast.
- Add 10 minutes of walking to your day
Level 2 Changes
- Develop a simple nighttime routine. You already have a set bedtime, so you might decide an hour before that you switch off all screens, have a bath, and read a book before lights out. I know this feels like we’re treating you like a child, but these routines work on kids for a reason!
- Establish boundaries eg no email or social media scrolling checking after 8pm.
- Trouble-shoot stressors. Identify one or two habits that add stress and work towards reducing or eliminating them.
- Some common culprits:
- Too much booze
- Too much social media
- Constant email checking
- Too much caffeine
- Some common culprits:
- Automate one daily health decision. This reduces your cognitive load by taking a decision off your plate, and freeing up that precious brain power for other things! For example:
- Have the same breakfast every day
- Exercise at the same time daily
- Add a protein source to each meal: palm-size portion
- Aim for 30 minutes of movement most days of the week. Walking is the best exercise that most of us can do.
Level 3 Changes
- Add some stress-relieving practices to your routine. These shouldn’t feel onerous, so pick things you like. You might have to step out of your comfort zone and do some unfamiliar new things. Set aside just 10 minutes a day for a stress-relieving practice that works for you. What you enjoy isn’t what I enjoy! Some ideas:
- Reading fiction
- Warm bath with candles
- Nature walks
- Positive affirmations
- Listening to music
- Pick once practice to try. Commit to spending 10 minutes on this activity for a week and notice how you feel. Writing down your mood and energy levels in the morning and evening is a great way to track this.
- Lock in 10,000 steps every day.
- Add some resistance training to your weekly regime. This can be as simple as completing a routine of body weight squats, pushups and some core exercises. This can also be a great time to seek the advice of a personal trainer to design sessions that will get you the most bang for your time buck in the gym.
Level 4 Changes
- Use our plate model for every meal. Try to stick to three solid meals a day and one healthy afternoon snack when you need one
- On top of your 10,000 steps daily, aim for 3 resistance training or gym based sessions a week
- Schedule all your health behaviours on a Sunday for the week ahead. Plan some basic go-to meals ahead of time, put your gym sessions and walks in the diary. You should already have your bedtime and waking times locked in, but make sure around these times you’re allowing for the morning and evening routines which set you up for productive and relaxed days.