Preparation is everything.
Is your freezer filled with meals from that expensive diet you abandoned a year ago?
Or maybe you saw the perfect piece of exercise equipment in an infomercial and spent a small fortune on it, only to see it now languish in your guest room.
Or perhaps valuable storage on your phone is still being taken by the fitness tracker that only serves to tell you data you no longer want to know about your sleep, diet and exercise habits.
Those items are wonderful if you use them as part of a comprehensive plan to get and stay healthy in mind, body, and spirit, but living a healthy lifestyle involves more than buying into the latest gimmicky product or fad.
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If you want to know how to be healthy, it’s important to recognize that no specific diet or piece of equipment will be what gets you to your fitness goals, but rather your determination and intention to be in it for the long-haul.
Whether your fitness goals is to lose weight, get in shape or simply be healthy, here are three important tips to keep top of mind.
1. Beware of fad diets and questionable wellness trends
- If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Consider the claims made by those touting the recent crystal water bottle trend, notably popularized on Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous website, GOOP.
These reusable glass water bottles contain a giant crystal said to infuse the water with special healing powers of some kind, with one retailer stating that “each crystal possess its own unique frequency known to help with certain ailments and enhance desired qualities in one’s life.”
If only a rock could do that, right?
Is a jade egg going to balance your hormones? Even if if could, have you seen a doctor to determine whether they even need balancing?
Mari Kondo is awesome, but the tuning fork with rose quartz she allegedly uses in her everyday life — and which will cost you a mere $75 — is unlikely to “restore a sense of balance,” in this writer/psychologist’s humble opinion.
- Use your common sense.
Does a daily celery juice detox make sense?
As stated by the Cleveland Clinic, “Our bodies all actually have their own built-in detox machine — the liver. If you treat it right with healthy food, physical activity and a healthy body weight, it can do the heavy lifting in eliminating toxins from your body. Drinking juice won’t magically fix it or enhance it.”
Much like the diet pills involved in the fen-phen scandal back in the 1990s, any magical quick fix, be it vegetable, mineral or other, should fail to pass the common sense test.
- Seek moderation.
Any diet that has no protein, only protein, no carbs, no fats, only carrots or anything else that is extreme and immoderate is highly questionable.
Check with a physician or nutritionist before embarking on an all-or-nothing plan, or ask yourself if it passes moderation muster.
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2. Start any new healthy eating and fitness plans mindfully
- Choose plans that fit your personal goals.
Is your goal to lose weight or eat healthy? Do you want to build muscle mass or be more fit? Are you trying to improve your concentration or check off the sleep box?
Considering what you really want to achieve helps you keep those important and motivating goals in mind. It also helps you choose a plan that is likely to get you to those goals.
Do not let someone else define your goal. If you don’t want to quit smoking, you’re not going to be able to do it for someone else. When you decide you want to quit, you can put your heart into it.
- Pick a plan that’s sustainable.
When deciding on a program, ask yourself if the time, money and effort are going to be worth it to you.
Fads are appealing because the quick fix is so tempting, but when it comes to meeting health and wellness goals, you can’t just phone it in.
Prepared meals cost money, but food prep takes time. Gyms cost money, but relying on YouTube workouts may not give you the motivation or structure you need.
Think it through and try a plan you think you can stick with long-term.
- Make sure whatever new habits you take on are enjoyable for you.
If you hate running, don’t start a running program. It’s as simple as that.
There are plenty of ways to exercise, eat and engage in some type of spiritual practice, the cornerstones of wellness. There are certainly workouts, healthy foods and relaxation or calming practices out there that you’ll like.
Try something. If it doesn’t feel positive, try something else.
Like your last boyfriend, sometimes if you give it time it grows on you. But if it doesn’t, move on and find something that feels right.
- Be flexible and adjust your plan as needed.
You decide on a gym that seemed great on your trial days, but after a month, it doesn’t feel right.
You plan to work out after work, but after a week you notice you’re not sleeping as well or you’re too tired to get important things done.
Changing things up and tweaking a plan is a great way to make it your own.
The healthy meals you bought may cost too much to continue forever, but if they worked, find a way to make them yourself on the cheap.
It’s not a failure to decide to try something different. It’s an opportunity to be creative and come up with something new.
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3. Avoid an epic healthy eating, weight loss or fitness fail by preparing yourself in advance
- Accept that this is going to be hard.
Changing entrenched patterns is difficult. You must choose health and wellness every day.
One day it may seem like you can totally do this. The next day, inexplicably, it seems so much harder to skip that caramel latte.
Remind yourself what your goals are, and why they’re important. Text your bestie and wail about how desperately you do not want to go out in the cold and run, and then, not even be able to eat your favorite, totally unhealthy meal.
But keep at it. It’s worth it to move toward your goals.
- Don’t be too rigid.
Sticking with your plans for eating, exercise or spirituality daily is fantastic, in theory.
The day someone brings your favorite dessert to the office, maybe give yourself a break. Eating it will probably cause less stress than depriving yourself, as long as it doesn’t happen frequently.
If you miss a day of exercise, that’s okay. Just don’t skip workouts all the time.
Ruthless adherence to new wellness plans can be helpful to get you going at first, but when overplayed that kind of rigidity is more likely to lead to failure than a short detour from the path.
- Reinforce your effort by building in a reward system.
Making healthy changes is often self-sustaining. When you feel better, look better and function better, you will want to do more of whatever got you there.
That said, it doesn’t hurt to build in rewards for effort. Putting aside money for something special, or making time to do something you’ll enjoy, are great ways to self-reinforce.
Using cheat days on meal plans and skipping classes or gym days as a reward can be worrisome, because it’s a slippery slope. It’s more effective to do something positive for yourself when you’ve achieved two weeks at the gym or on a new meal plan.
Fitness apps that track progress are also reinforcing because you can the results of your effort concretely.
- Plan ahead for eventual relapse into old habits.
It’s normal to slip up on new health and wellness goals. There’s no need for self-criticism, belittling or whatever it is you do when you realize you’re not perfect. A lapse doesn’t have to be an epic fail.
Evaluate your slip up, decide if you need to make a change, and start again.
Lapses give you good information about your weaknesses. You can come up with ideas about avoiding pitfalls, like not allowing the breadbasket on the table in a restaurant, or making sure you don’t avoid the gym because you’re avoiding the ex.
Lapses also give you confidence when you see you can regain momentum.
- Don’t get taken in by the next shiny object.
Use your common sense. It’s a long and winding road to health and wellness, complete with roadblocks.
Focus on planning your path forward, recovering from setbacks and enjoying the journey.
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Judith Tutin, Ph.D., ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. Connect with her on her website, where you can request a free coaching call and find out how to bring more passion, fun and wellness to your life.