Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life
One of the biggest obstacles you are going to face when trying to create a healthy lifestyle change is your own mindset. Don’t think of your new goal to eat healthier and exercise regularly as a diet; think of it as a lifestyle you’d like to live.
A lifestyle change is lifelong. Fad diets might work while you are actively working on the specific diet. Maybe you’ll lose 10 pounds, but then what happens when the diet is through? You might gain back 20, which doesn’t help your body or self-esteem.
Remember that everyone has off days, so don’t beat yourself up when you encounter one here and there. You are in this for the long haul. The process to become healthy and exercise more regularly doesn’t happen overnight.
Take your new healthy lifestyle one day at a time. You don’t have to do everything at once, and trying to might get overwhelming. Then you might burn out, binge eat, or ignore the goal completely.
Change one small thing today and then keep it up for a week. You can add a new healthy habit daily, weekly, or after you’ve accomplished your current goal.
A quick habit to begin is to start parking in the back of the parking lot when shopping or doing errands. The walk only takes a few minutes extra, but if you’ve got a few stops on your list, your step count for the day will accumulate.
Or try 5 minutes of yoga, stretching, or walking in the morning to get you moving in the right direction. Get up a few minutes before the kids and stretch. Do what feels right for yourself and your body.
Now that we have exercise taken care of, what about healthy eating? The easiest habit to start with is drinking more water. Again, start small. Try drinking 20 ounces of water every day. If that isn’t enough, or when you’ve successfully kept it up for a week, try 30 or 40 ounces. Keep increasing until you are drinking at least 60 ounces a day.
Making small commitments and keeping with them every single day might not seem like you are doing a lot, but you are getting into the habit of being more mindful of your health through eating and exercising. One small habit today turns into a bigger habit tomorrow. By the end of the year, your 5 minutes a day has turned into 30 minutes 4 or 5 times a week.
Experiment in the Kitchen
Be a little brave and experiment in the kitchen with healthy recipes and different spices or ingredients. You will find new ones your family will love. There are ways to make delicious and healthy food, so a choice to change your eating habits doesn’t mean having to give up on flavorful food.
Don’t go crazy and get rid of all your family’s comfort food at once — they might not appreciate that, which can hurt your morale and motivation. Instead, gradually change your go-to recipes for ones that are healthier.
To get more flavor, use more spices and herbs. Spices change an entire recipe and how it will taste. Try new recipes that call for spices that you don’t usually use or have a stronger flavor than others. Whenever possible, use fresh herbs for more flavor.
Herbs and spices to consider are cumin, curry, bay leaf, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, chili, cilantro, oregano, parsley, and thyme.
Cut back on the amount of salt that you use. Most processed foods have a lot of added sodium. Canned soup and pre-made meals often have more than the recommended amount per serving. Be careful and look at the labels.
Another way to make your food healthier is to sneak in more vegetables. How? Whenever you are cooking, add some extra chopped vegetables to the recipe.
A food processor makes the job easier, but you can also dice the veggies really small. Only add a few vegetables to start. You can do this with sauces, soups, and casseroles.
Substitute fatty meats for leaner ones. Instead of buying the ground beef that is 75/25, buy the extra lean at 93/7. Or better yet, go to a local butcher shop and buy their ground beef.
Extra lean is more expensive, so watch for sales and stock up. Use half ground beef and half ground pork, chicken, or turkey. These meats have less fat, so find a combo that your family enjoys.
Since pork and chicken are better for you and have less fat than beef, plan more recipes with them for the month. Plus if you make recipes like shredded pork, you can make several dinners after you’ve cooked one pork roast.
Healthy recipes are everywhere, so keep an eye out when you’re flipping through magazines, websites, or cookbooks. Check out recipe sites or blogs dedicated to cooking healthy.
Sometimes you can find wonderful recipes on cooking shows or during the local morning show. The local shows are a nice resource because they will show you what vegetables are seasonal in your area.
Kitchen Strategies to Support Your Healthy Lifestyle Goals
Slowly Replace Your Side Dish Options
Instead of using white rice, use a grain that has more fiber, like brown rice, quinoa, barley, or spelt. This will fill up everyone quicker and make them more satisfied after they eat.
Some of these alternatives to white rice will have different textures and tastes, so only use a portion in the recipe to begin with.
Make Snacks Healthy and Easy to Grab
Prepare snack bags of healthy choices instead of ones that are full of fat and have no nutritional value. Carrots and grapes fit easily into snack bags and store for long periods of time without being in the fridge.
Pack nuts such as almonds, pistachios, and walnuts instead of chips. These are easy to throw in a purse, backpack, or lunch bag.
Make Freezer Meals Ahead of Time
Making freezer meals doesn’t have to be time consuming. Pick recipes that are easy and quick to make. Or make extra when you prepare your nightly meals to store some for later.
Find recipes that are healthy or substitute ingredients to make it healthier for you. This will eliminate grabbing a pizza or takeout on the way home or when unexpected events occur.
Use Flax Seed or Chia Seeds in Meals
One major tip you can immediately start implementing is to use flax seed or chia seeds in your meals. How? Put a small amount in casseroles or ground meat.
These seeds are small and can be easily added to meals without being noticed. They need to be refrigerated, so put a sticky note by the stove to remind yourself to add them while cooking.
By making a few flexible adjustments to your cooking, you can make great progress towards your health goals over time. You don’t have to get overwhelmed by all the changes you think you should make. Small changes slowly work just as well if not better than drastic changes all at once. Plus they are easier to work around your family’s desires and needs, so it’s a win-win situation for you.
Creating an Exercise Plan You Can Stick With
Wanting to exercise and get healthier is the easy part. But finding the time to exercise regularly and creating a workable plan can be the downfall for many busy moms. Motivation has to be aligned with the reality you’re dealing with for meaningful change to result.
When you first start an exercise routine, one of the hardest challenges is to just get started. Thinking about everything you think you should have to make your exercise a reality, like new shoes, special workout clothing, a gym membership or home exercise equipment, can take you from excitement to overwhelm pretty quickly.
So how do you get motivated? You start with something so small that it takes no time and you can do it easily. Small exercises could be 25 jumping jacks (or even 10) twice a day, walking for 5 minutes, or stretching in the morning.
By themselves, they may not seem like much, but they get you started with good habits you can build on while reinforcing your optimism to continue. You don’t have to lace up some fancy running shoes and finish a marathon today; just lace up what you have and get moving!
Make It Fun
Moving your body and creating a habit doesn’t necessarily have to be about going to the gym. Especially if you don’t like the gym.
Find an exercise that interests you. Do you like to dance? Then take 5 minutes a day to groove to your favorite music. Turn it up loud and get your kids involved. They will absolutely love your exercise breaks and start looking forward to them.
Love the outdoors and hiking? Then go. Start with the parks around your house and go for a nature walk. Enjoy the scenery and fresh air and it won’t even feel like exercise.
The purpose is to find something you enjoy that brings you pleasure rather than feelings of drudgery or sacrifice. It doesn’t have to be the same activity all the time either. Dance one day, and go for a walk the next.
Change How You Phrase Things
What does your phrasing have to do with getting fit? Everything! Your mind operates on how you say things just as much as the content of what’s being said. Focus on words that genuinely motivate you toward your goals rather than making them seem like a chore. Instead of saying, “Oh, I have to exercise today,” change the wording to, “I get to do [the fun activity I’ve chosen] today!” People don’t usually have good feelings about what they have to do, but being reminded of their personal enjoyment plus personal choice makes them not only feel happier, but also more empowered too.
Make exercise a priority and commit to it regularly, but in way that really works for you rather than causing stress. Start small and develop good habits over time, remaining flexible where needed, to create a lifestyle that is supportive and sustainable around your other responsibilities and challenges.
Start with Your “Why”
Discovering your purpose in making any goal should be your first priority. Doing this will increase your chances of success tremendously because you’ll understand your motivation and won’t inadvertently undermine yourself by pursuing methods that may address the goal but be counterproductive to your reasons behind it (like planning to go out by yourself to a gym a few nights a week when your underlying reason for wanting to get fit is to be able to do more with your kids).
Don’t skip this step because it gets hard or you can’t figure it out. You’ll find it — just keep searching yourself until you do. By figuring our your “why,” you’ll be getting fit and healthy for the right reasons that are important to you. Like many things, if you try to do it for someone else or from a vague notion that you just “should,” chances are that it won’t work out and may cause more problems than it solves.
You need to find your own reasons to be able to truly commit yourself and feel positive and empowered in the process. You may need to dig deep inside to discover your why. When you get to an initial answer, ask yourself “Why?” again. Don’t settle for a surface answer. You’ll eventually get to the heart of your true why.
Finding your passion and aligning your goals to your deepest personal values will help you through the tough times and motivate you to do what needs to be done, or to get back on track when something throws you off.
Some days will inevitably still be a struggle, but your “why” keeps you reminded why the struggle is important in the first place, so take the time needed to really check in with yourself and write it down where you won’t forget about it in the times you may need to remember it most.