I am a person who requires some structure and order in life. I work well under conditions where there is routine and organisation. There are always going to be times when it is challenging to have a set plan, especially when circumstances change. I used to let myself get super worked up when times were changing. I would try to do absolutely everything in my power to fight the change and keep everything else in its place. Unfortunately, that path usually ends in disappointment.
When starting a healthy lifestyle, I believe that some routine is necessary to keep you on track with your goals. If you are just starting out though, there are a lot of new considerations that now need to be slotted into your life.
In my psychology class last week we briefly touched on Sigmund Freud’s concept of ‘secondary gain.’ He used it to describe why patients can be resistant to treatment or almost appear as if they don’t want to get better. For example, say someone has a sore back and has had to take a lot of time off work. Subconsciously that person knows that when their back is in good condition again they will have to return to work. This person may not actually like their job and might be enjoyed time away from it. Therefore, they may not engage completely with their health care professionals because they do not wish to return to work.
I think I can apply Freud’s same theory to starting a healthy lifestyle. Consider this thought process: “If I start going to the gym I will have to wake up an hour earlier. I would have to start pre preparing meals. I would need to be more conscious of what is inside packaged food items.” This could be all too much pressure for someone starting out. It may mean sacrificing time with loved ones, time chilling and watching Netflix, learning a new skill such as cooking. These factors need to be taken into consideration.
How many times in your life have you wanted to start something new. You tell yourself (and sometimes others) repeatedly that you want to move house, want a new job, want a new car but never do anything about it. I believe that anything is possible if we fully commit to it with our hearts and minds. Without total commitment, however, we remain stuck.
I have people ask me questions all the time about gym motivation, how I can be bothered making my own food to bring to uni or even why I spend so much time on my studies. I think the reason why is because I make them a priority because of the way they make me feel. I know for me personally if I don’t exercise, I am grumpy. If I don’t eat well, I feel sick. If I don’t study, I feel anxious. I need to make these things a priority not only for my own sanity but for the sanity of those around me too. So much of the energy I have inside of me emanates onto other so I want to be radiating positive vibes as much as I can.
It is very easy for me, a nutrition student who has had a healthy and active lifestyle for three years, to say how easy it is to incorporate healthy habits into my daily routine. However, I am well aware that isn’t the case for every person. People have demanding jobs, young children and the thought of introducing new habits could throw everything out of balance for them.
It takes time for health related routines to develop. You need to become aware of the times you like training, the types of exercise you enjoy doing; and the foods you (and often your family) enjoy eating. I have found that overtime these things have become second nature to me. The lifestyle doesn’t have to be as strict and limiting as you think and you don’t have to do everything all at once.
If I am aware that I am embarking on a new journey or incorporating some different things into my life I like to do it in stages. I will give you a recent example of the last few weeks in my life and then give you some tips I think could be useful if you’re just about to start something new.
About three weeks ago I started a new job and uni went back with a completely different timetable to last semester. These were two pretty big changes. What I decided to do was take a deep breath and do my best to make healthy choices where I could. I just lived. I learnt how long things took to do; when I would have time to fit things in; and how organised I would have to be.
After two weeks of trial and error I developed a plan. I realised that I am able to train four days at the gym, fit in a walk or two; and when to prepare my breakfast and lunch for uni and work. I made sure to make time for my family as well. I needed to give myself a couple of weeks of grace just to adapt to the situation.
Australian clinical nutritionist and author Jessica Sepel believes that the key to good health is preparation. I couldn’t agree more. Setting aside time on the weekends or in the mornings to plan some meals and allocate time to exercise can be so helpful in improving your health. I am aware that this advice is quite vague so I am going to give you my top five tips that you can try implementing this week if you want to kick start a healthier lifestyle so you can FEEL your best. I truly believe that if you take care of yourself that you can better care for the others in your life too. You will have more patience, be more energetic and have a significantly improved mood and thirst for life.
Gel’s top tips:
Write a shopping list: This is super important when it comes to sticking to your goals. Write down fruits, vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, milk, nuts, nut butter and the proteins you enjoy. Write anything you need for the recipes you want to make during the week. Once you purchase these foods and load up the fridge you will be more inclined to want to eat them, rather than going out. I don’t believe in deprivation so make sure there is some chocolate on your list too!
Prepare your snacks and meals where you can: I love a good fruit and nut mix so I will make a big batch of this, I chop up lots of root vegetables (sweet potato, parsnips, pumpkin) and get it ready in a tray with some olive oil, rosemary and salt to roast. I marinate chicken and fish and set it aside so that it is ready to go when I get home in the evening. I make my overnight oats and lunches for uni the night before so it is all done. Little habits like this really help me mid-week if I am struggling to stay organized.
Leave out your gym clothes: This is a big one for me. I love to train in the early morning (about 5:30am). In winter this can be quite the challenge if I am cold and tired. So what I do is leave out my gym clothes before I go to bed. The next morning I see them sitting there and have no excuse but to put them on and get to the gym. The feeling I get after exercise is amazing and I never regret the workout. Sometimes you just need to grit your teeth and push through it. I am a gym person but for those of you who aren’t, leave out yoga pants and plan what flow you might do the following day or leave out a big jacket and go for a walk.
Call a friend: I find it easy to maintain an active lifestyle when I have others I can share it with. I am very fortunate to live near a river and I love going for walks around it. I love messaging my friends and family in the mornings to see if they would be keen for a walk in the afternoon. Something about good company on a walk that puts me in such a good mood.
Get a gratitude journal: I think that it is so important that we are always grateful for everything that we do have. We need to give ourselves grace. No one is perfect and we need to appreciate the beautiful things we have in our life. Whether it is your family, friends or even the fact that the sun showed itself on a winters day. There is always something to be thankful for. If we appreciate and value the things that we have we are more likely to want to do things that support and nourish the relationships and other things we have in our lives. Keep a notebook on your bedside table and before bed write three things you're thankful for. I find it so enjoyable to go back and read them on days I am feeling a bit down.
Ultimately it is important to remember that the things we do for our health and out wellbeing is our choice. We can’t blame others for the things we decide to do for health and well-being. That is something that we need to acknowledge is for our bodies and our mental health. Health is about balance, it is about getting active some day and eating cake on others. We need to be grateful for our bodies and what we have. We need to treat ourselves with love always and cherish the beautiful lives we have been given.
Family walks with these crazy cats....