6 Simple Ways to Make Healthy Changes in Your Life
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.” – Lao Tzu
The quote above is one of the most important I have come across, and relates to one of the key principles of The Fit Parent Project (“Simple changes and small steps lead to life-altering results”).
As parents, we all know the miraculous physical progression our children make from when they are first born to when they are able to cause general chaos and destruction at the drop of a hat. While to us this seems to occur overnight… the process from helpless infant to energetic toddler is actually a series of small steps and gradual improvements. If a newborn had the ability to consider the daunting physical task ahead of them, they would surely be so overwhelmed at the thought that many of them wouldn’t even try.
Thankfully, young children don’t know any better. They believe anything is within their reach and have not been clouded by negative self-talk and doubt. Children simply take it one step at a time… literally. Their diet slowly changes, little by little, month by month. They also start small with physical gains like rolling over, lifting their head, crawling, standing, walking, etc.
As parents, when we talk about our fitness goals and making changes in our lives, we can somewhat relate to the daunting tasks ahead of a newborn. For example:
- Our nutrition routine may be set, but it isn’t conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
- We have neglected our fitness for years, and it is a long road to get back to where we would like to be.
- Our schedules are hectic and there seems to be no time for an all-out fitness overhaul.
- We don’t even know where to begin. It has been so long and there is so much information out there.
- We have an idea of what our health and fitness goals are, but they seem to be too lofty and may require more work than we can put in.
My suggestion…… plan your health and fitness like a newborn.
I’m not saying forgo your ability to make it to the restroom on time, or display your frustrations in life by screaming at the top of your lungs. However, I am suggesting you start with small changes. A meaningful and lasting change of any kind doesn’t happen overnight. Much like the progression of a child from newborn to toddler, the process takes time and involves a series of small changes that add up over time.
To support this idea, here are 6 ways to get you thinking about how to start small and make healthy changes in your life starting today:
- Reduce your Sugary Drinks. Sugary drinks are a major source of empty calories and sugar each day. Instead of giving up sugary drinks all at once, cut back one a day or one a week depending on how many you typically take in. After a week or two, eliminate another drink from your daily or weekly routine. Eventually, you won’t need them anymore or even know you don’t have them around. Try to substitute them with non-sugar flavored water or green tea. The same technique can be used for alcoholic beverages or sugary cocktails. My wife went from several sodas a day to none at all using this technique. In fact, even if she has a sip of one, the syrupy taste is more than she can handle.
- Cut Back on the Bad Foods. Based on the same premise as above, rather than giving up fast food or unhealthy meals all at once… reduce them one at a time each week. Start by taking a healthy lunch, or clean up one meal per day. Nutrition is hard to tackle, and if you go from 0 to 100 right off the bat, you will have a hard time keeping up with the changes and sticking with them. Also try to eat several smaller meals throughout the day to help keep hunger at bay while eating healthy snacks instead of sweets or overly-salted foods.
- Find the Right Workout. If the thought of jumping into a rigorous fitness program is so intimidating that you are afraid to start, change your focus to help get you moving. Instead of taking on an intense daily workout program, or setting out to run 5 miles every day… start small. Begin a daily walk after work or pick a basic workout to perform 3 days a week. As your fitness improves, increase the distance, frequency or intensity of the workouts over time. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is your fitness plan and should match your fitness goals and current fitness level.
- Have Fun with It. To help you get the ball rolling, focus on the activities that you enjoy first, so they will be easier to incorporate into your lifestyle. Instead of picking the latest fad or whatever workout your neighbors are doing… choose an activity that gets you going and that you enjoy. For example, if you hate running, try cycling, biking, swimming, your favorite sport or even plyometrics instead. The best workout for you is the one you are going to do consistently.
- Change Your Routines. As parents, routines make our world function each day in a somewhat sane fashion. The same is true for our children. That being said, try to mix a few things up each day that will help you improve your health and fitness. Maybe every morning you have to take the elevator to the 8th floor. Instead, take it to the 6th, then walk two flights of stairs. Each week or two, increase your flights of stairs gradually. Before long, taking on eight flights of stairs will be no problem. Or perhaps do something as simple as parking in the back of the parking lot and walking a little further each day, or even walking to lunch from the office. Little changes add up over time, and it may be nice to break up the monotony of a daily routine.
- Combine Fitness with Family Time. Family time is important to all of us, and squeezing in those few hours each evening during the week may be all the time we have with them. Why not use that same time to add fitness to your daily family time? Instead of watching TV together after work, go for a walk or play sports outdoors. If you have sports practices or games in the evenings, walk the sidelines or even jog while you are watching. Setting an example for your children is one of the most important reasons for you to live a fit and healthy lifestyle. Show them early and often how important it is, while also enjoying your quality time together.
The amazing thing about making small changes is… as you reach small goals and set new ones; the momentum of your success carries you forward like a big-headed toddler running downhill. Once you make the small changes and institute them as part of our lifestyle, you can make another change that builds on to the first change… and so on. Before you know it, you are miles away from where you started and have instituted a lifestyle that may have seemed impossible months before. Make sure to track your progress also so you can look back on what you have accomplished and realize that all of your small adjustments have added up to big changes.
Don’t let the obstacles ahead of you keep you from moving forward, no matter how large they may seem. Use the suggestions above, start small, build momentum and change your life today.
I provided you with 6 ways to make simple changes in your fitness routine, but maybe you have found other ways to improve your health and fitness with simple steps.
How have you instituted small fitness and health changes in your life, share below in the comments?