"I got to get in shape...." we tell ourselves all the time. And often, this isn't the first instance of us looking at ourselves in the mirror and making that statement. Studies show that the biggest factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle is motivation and dedication. But as we all know, it's harder to believe ourselves when we say "From now on, I'm going to get up everyday and run two miles" than it is to stay in bed another hour. We can look at the paunch obscuring the view of our toes and exclaim with sincerity "From now on, it's strictly vegan for me," but how often do we find ourselves calling the pizza place down the street come dinner time that very same day? Willpower is never enough; you must identify habits you can feasibly maintain and make these behaviors a part of you.
Every doctor has said that it's not diet pills or a magical piece of exercise equipment that brings consistent weight loss and better health. It's the same thing you've heard all your life: diet and exercise. If you try to find the right diet and exercise habits that you also enjoy, then it is so much easier for you reinforce behaviors that will bring a lifelong commitment to fitness with your grasp.
Re-train your brain with delicious vegetarian recipes
What always happens when you go on a diet low in saturated fats and high in veggies. You steam some broccoli and carrots for a few days and then you begin to hate broccoli and carrots. The main difficulty people have when transitioning from a diet high in fried and fatty foods to one consisting of vegetables is that feeling of satisfaction.
According to The Compass of Pleasure by David J. Linden, there are neurological/chemical reactions in the brain that make the consumption of fatty foods so pleasurable to us. When you switch to kale and quinoa, it's like trying to quell a drug addiction. Your brain is so used to positive reinforcement when you eat starchy macaroni and cheese that it reacts negatively to something different. Why do you think it's called comfort food? But if you start to look for vegetarian recipes with a variety of ingredients and textures that still aim for great taste, you can re-train your brain into deriving pleasure from low-calorie, vitamin-rich food the same way it craves cheeseburgers. The more imaginative, the better.
Dishes like baked spaghetti squash with parmesan and herbs, zucchini fritters with Chile jam, eggplant lasagna, spinach and ricotta ravioli and any number of vegetarian risotto variations are not only nutritious, they are delectable. The more you experiment with vegetarian ingredients in the kitchen, the more you palate will look forward to healthier options. Congratulations! You've just re-trained your brain.
Find healthy alternatives to your favorite heavier dishes
Many people in the U.S. love hamburger, pizza, and fried chicken. But it's just impossible to eat them on a regular basis if you want to stay healthy. But who says you have to make them the same as fast-food restaurants. Try making homemade pizza with whole wheat crusts, available at most supermarkets. Have you ever tried fontina, caramelized onion and pancetta pizza? How about arugula, bacon and mushrooms? These and even the classic Margherita pizza are all under 300 calories.
Ground turkey, seasoned right, makes an excellent burger alternative to the kind you find at Wendy's. Grill smoked turkey burgers on whole-wheat kosher buns with baby goat cheese and lemon honey mustard and watch your craving for greasy brown bags disappear. And most slow roasted and seasoned-to-perfection chicken breasts and thighs are just as good, if not better, than what you find at KFC.
Set gradual attainable exercise goals and make a schedule and goals
In his book The Power of Habit, author and business reporter Charles DuHigg makes the argument that “Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.” He even explicitly discusses exercise, saying “Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work."
Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.” So when it comes to creating an exercise routine you can reliably build good habits and start seeing weight loss from, it's best to start small. For example, if you intend on a jogging-intensive workout, start modestly (a half a mile a day) and begin increasing your distance the easier it becomes. If you want to weight train, don't over-exert yourself.
Don't be ashamed that you can only handle 20 lb. arm curls when you start. You want to make this a regular part of your life that you improve upon, so pushing yourself too hard will only kill your willpower, not increase it. According to Philipe de Souto Barreto, a researcher at University Hospital of Toulouse in France and author of a new paper in The BMJ, “Getting inactive people to do a little bit of physical activity, not just meeting research recommendations might provide greater population health gains,” he writes.
So just a small change in your lifestyle is better to build a lifetime of fitness than a new gym membership and costly personal trainers who makes you pass out after twenty minutes on the stair master. This is why it's important to set attainable goals for yourself. Say to yourself "By ________, I'm going to go________ as long/far than where I begin. From one mile a day to three by the end of a 2 month period, for example. It's not massive change you want to aim for, but observable shifts in your lifestyle that you can build upon and improve.
Find fun ways to exercise without realizing it
Rock climbing, swing and salsa dance lessons, and Martial Arts. What do they have in common? They are a great workout even though you may not realize it. The biggest problem people have in maintaining an exercise regime is becoming bored with the monotony of a 5 mile jog for a couples of hours of squats and weight training at the gym. You are so aware that you are putting your body through something hard that it becomes work.
There are so many activities you can do instead that not only get your heart racing, but also are a lot of fun. Paintball is great for your leg muscles and crouching and cardiovascular health. Attempt learning about Parkour, the practice of traveling around urban area using nontraditional methods such at grappling, swinging over obstacle and vaulting over picnic tables.
There are even video games on the Nintendo Wii and Xbox and even Hulu plus that make working out less like actual work and just plain fun and help with weight loss. If you forget you are exercising, you look forward to repeating your health regimen rather than dreading it.
The main thing to remember is you are trying to build better and healthier habits in order to make maintaining a healthy lifestyle part of your intrinsic behavior. Once a healthy diet and a steady means of enjoyable exercise become a part of you, then so will a lifetime of physical fitness.