Consistency… the most underrated element of a healthy lifestyle
Do this exercise! Eat this food! Live this way! It seems everyone and their dog has an opinion on how to stay healthy. With so many different opinions, it’s no surprise that staying consistent can be difficult. Fad diets and workouts are infamous for being inconsistent and too demanding. We can all eat a vegan-ketogenic-low calorie-super food diet for a few days or weeks but it’s difficult to sustain, especially if your partner, family, or friends don’t prescribe to the same principles as you. The same applies to the hundreds of “cookie cutter” workouts that aren’t designed for your unique needs. If and when you start to struggle the “All or Nothing” nature of these rigid programs often results in a complete failure of a healthy lifestyle.
How can I start being more consistent?
Try making small improvements instead of big changes: switching to whole grain bread or having vegetables with your meal or choosing home cooked meals vs. take-out are all small habits that have relatively large payouts. Smaller habits are naturally easier to maintain because they don’t require a lot of effort and don’t change how you live your day to day life. When these small habits become a part of your lifestyle, you can start making more improvements. Success breeds success and ultimately leads to a healthier lifestyle!
You can apply this strategy to any part of your lifestyle not just nutrition. Try taking the stairs instead of escalators and elevators, or park further away from your destination. Try changing how you approach your stress and see if it makes you happier.
Turning “I can’t” into “I CAN”
We all have excuses as to why we struggle being healthy; a first step to turning excuses into actions is looking at ourselves objectively. Before you can start making changes to better your health, you need to understand why you are finding excuses not to change.
Are you tired or fatigued? Maybe your workouts are too intense or too long. Perhaps your nutrition is holding you back. Of course, your emotional health can also affect your energy.
Boredom can also kill your motivation. Mix up your workout, try a class, or even switch up the times that you exercise. If you find yourself in a food rut, find new interesting recipes or try using different ingredients.
Taking the time to care about what you’re doing to or putting in your body is a great way to start improving your health. Increase your health awareness by comparing nutrition labels on foods to find the healthier choice, practice better posture more often, and make time to get some exercise, or find healthy ways to de-stress after a bad day.
What happens when you have a bad day or relapse back into old habits?
Nobody’s perfect and even the most consistent people make some poor choices every now and then. Bad days happen for everyone! Realize that there will be peaks and valleys in your health and also acknowledge that it’s ok to have bad days; you are still making progress towards your goals. Maintaining your health is a dynamic process and the path to your goal is rarely a straight line. When it comes to health we all have different needs; this is why we all react differently to exercise, food, and stressors.
Remember that staying healthy is a commitment to yourself. Can you remember what ate and how much you exercised yesterday? What about last month? The point is that relying on your memory is a really hard, not to mention most of us conveniently leave out unhealthy choices. You can try journaling as a way to keep track of your habits, successes, and failures. Don’t forget to record things like emotions or other events that shaped your day. When things start to go off the rails, it’s a lot easier to make adjustments when you have something to look back upon.
If you can consistently perform a variety of fundamental healthy behaviors your long term health should flourish. Try the following checklist to see how consistent you are:
Eat 6+ servings of fruits and vegetables?
Exercise or do a physical activity every day?
Avoid smoking or vaporizing tobacco?
Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each day?
Keep alcohol intake moderate?
Actively reduce stress?
Spend time with people you love and/or who support you?
Your health is complex; you don’t need to make it more complicated.
Paul Bradshaw l Kinesiologist