It’s difficult to make that first step into fitness if you want to be healthier. It takes a lot of determination and courage to change your eating and fitness habits. You already know that if you’re here.
You also know that the results are worth the effort. However, you can lose this progress quickly after an injury or if you get back to your old habits. And it’s even more difficult to restart your journey.
Most of us have been in that same boat. And it’s easy to tell you to start eating better or to get your bum off the couch. But we know that paralysing, unexplainable fear that keeps you from reaching your goals.
We’re here to kick its butt, so read along!
How to Start
You have to accept that it’s going to be hard. You also have to accept that you can do it. This part is the most difficult because you have to quiet down those voices in your head that bring you down.
Meditation helps somewhat. It also helps to do some soul-searching to identify what’s holding you back.
We’ve been where you are and this little exercise helped: just imagine that you’re on a mountain. Imagine that mountain in full sun, as well as rain, thunderstorms, wind, and snowstorms. The mountain still stands. Now, imagine you are that mountain. It’s going to be hard, but you won’t let that stop you.
You can do it.
Lower Your Expectations
You have to be realistic and lower your expectations. Otherwise, you’ll enter a self-blame cycle that’s difficult to get out of.
For instance, you may be completely disappointed in yourself if you indulge in an extra piece of cake at your friend’s birthday. You may also be disappointed if you skip a workout.
Some people punish themselves with stricter dieting and exercise. Others punish themselves with more junk food and no exercise because they feel they’re not good enough to make it.
Which one are you?
Studies show that self-blame hinders your success, so don’t fall into that trap. Your journey may have ups and downs, but you will reach your destination.
Find Your Inner Motivation
Inner motivation is better than external motivation if you want to get back on track. So if healthy eating and exercising feel like a chore, it means you haven’t found your inner motivation yet.
However, inner motivation requires a lot of introspection. It may not happen in a day, either. Taking your time is essential because if you find your true reasons for starting again, you’ll make it. If you hurry, you might not.
Some people do well when they have an exercise or weight loss buddy. Others thrive with professional assistance, either for the mind, or body, or both. Other people may need that friend to complain to.
The point is to find the support you need, whether that’s your physical therapist, your shrink, or your best friend.
Plan vs. No Plan
Some people reach their goals easier when they plan what to eat and when to exercise. You may even find it’s a good solution to pick a date in the calendar and to tell your friends. That way, your support group can motivate you and hold you accountable.
Other people prefer not to plan. You might simply wake up one day, throw your junk food out the window, and start a challenging exercise.
Know what works for you, and get on with it.
What to Eat
When you’re starting again, you face this huge temptation of jumping into a diet fad or weight loss pills. However, studies show that overly restrictive diets don’t work in the long-term. And even the best weight loss supplements only work if you also do your part.
So, the best thing to do is to eat nutritious and balanced meals. According to Harvard University, your diet should include healthy fats and carbs, plus enough protein.
Stay away from saturated fats and processed carbs in junk food that increase your glycemic index. Good carbs from fruits, veggies, and whole grains keep you satiated for longer and improve your digestion.
Foods like fish, poultry, beans, and nuts are also a good addition to your diet. They decrease your appetite, but also conserve your muscle mass as you’re losing weight.
When to Eat
Starting again brings out a new temptation: avoiding food so that you can lose weight quickly. However, research shows that food restriction leads to binge eating. Take this article about starved prisoners for example. It’s a powerful metaphor because when you’re starving yourself, you’re actually becoming a prisoner of your high expectations.
If you have this need to punish yourself, get back to step one. Find out why you feel that that’s the case. And consciously practise self-love.
Start by eating three regular main meals that nourish your body. You can also add a couple of snacks to help you. The best snacks are about 200 calories and are a combination of proteins, fibres, and healthy fats.
For instance, you can enjoy a few strawberries with peanut butter or a slice of toast with avocado. If you’re not a vegan, Greek yoghurt is great in combination with fruits and veggies of all kinds.
How and When to Exercise
Choose workouts you like and that challenge you. Remember that playing ball with your kids, walking, or simply contracting your muscles while watching TV count as exercise too.
Take your fitness level into account as well. If you’re mobility challenged, know that working out doesn’t just mean doing laps around the park.
You can start by just moving your fingers or lifting off the couch. Remember you have to challenge yourself, but also listen to your body.
If you lack motivation or time, consider a home fitness machine that fits your needs. A vibration plate or elliptical is a good choice for total body exercise if you want to increase your mobility. If you want to add more cardio to the mix, consider a treadmill or exercise bike.
But remember that you should focus on building lean muscles, not just weight loss. You can get some resistance bands for most of these machines but, if you can’t afford that now, even soup cans work.
How to Stay on Track
Everyone is different, but accountability and planning are two great tools to stay on track. As such, some people prefer to use calorie-counting apps. You may dislike this option if you find yourself obsessing too much about your macros and stuff, though.
But you still need to plan and reduce your portion sizes. If you want to lose weight, don’t go below 1500 calories per day or you can mess up your metabolism for years.
As to exercise, remember to pick the best time of day and the best exercise for your needs. You don’t have to squeeze in an hour-long workout every day to get quick results. Even short 10-minute workouts throughout the day will help.
The point is to do your best with what you have.
Final Thoughts: How to Start Again
Intrinsic motivation, good planning, and no self-blame are the key ingredients of starting again. Remember that your fitness journey is unique. You can do it if you set your mind to it and if you get enough support.