These are the key areas of your focus:
1. Addressing 'Why?'
2. Transforming Your Diet.
3. Knowledge of Your Body.
4. Mental Resolve.
1: Changing the Perception of What You Want & Why:
It goes without saying that mental clarity and physical wellness go together hand-in-hand. Success starts with your own perception of yourself, as weight-loss and fitness depends entirely on your mindset. The psychological part of weight loss is something you never hear about, but it'll become the source of your powerful strength or crippling kryptonite. You need to figure out your reasoning for losing weight and/or putting on muscle, and it needs to be a compelling enough reason to be the driving force behind your want of transforming yourself.
It needs to be bigger than something like "looking good in a swimsuit" or trying to look like someone else. Even the thought "I want to lose 10 pounds" isn't good enough. Lose 10 pounds for what? These are empty reasons that are weak motivation in the long run, and you'll inevitably end up giving up with your diet and exercise within a few weeks. One hundred percent.
|Why do I want to do this?|
Your "why" should be emotional, something you feel, it can't just be for pure aesthetics. That the thought of not having "it" can steer you away from temptation and shock you into action when you slip up. Let me make it clear, you are going to slip up, a lot. That's nothing to feel guilty about. In order for you keep trying over and over again, you need a good enough reason to. It needs to be something that can be measurable, with a clear finish line. Things that are a good "why?" are:
- So I can FEEL strong!
- So I can BECOME confident!
- So I can ENJOY watching my kids grow up!
- So I can TEACH others how to do what I've done!
- So I can have ENERGY to do the things I've always wanted to do!
- So I can FINISH my goal to lose enough weight to run that marathon!
For me, it was the thought of wanting to be stronger and having more confidence in myself and feeling good in my skin that drove me to getting into fitness. I was never over-weight, but I was tired of being that flabby, weak girl with no strength or stamina. I repeated this mantra of motivation, and it worked very well. Really think about what yours may be.
2. Building a Positive Relationship with Food:
The easiest way to segway into a healthier lifestyle and get in shape is through the food you put in your body. It's a lot easier to lose excessive fat first, then build muscle afterwards. So let's tackle what it means to be build a positive relationship with the food you eat: it simply means finding healthy foods you actually like eating. This is the biggest factor I find people struggling with! People have this weird assumption that you have to eat like a bird to lose excess body fat, or that you're putting yourself through self-torture if you have a healthy diet. You don't.
Skipping meals is out of the question. (And we're not talking about intermittent fasting body builders use, my guess is you're not a body builder.) Starving yourself does nothing, and even if it makes you lose weight, you gain absolutely zero strength or muscles while you deprive your body of essential vitamins and nutrients. It's gonna throw your entire metabolism out of whack and once you stop, you can gain back your body fat very easily since you have no muscles to burn it. You have no idea how many people have asked me where all the food I eat goes; building muscle is part of the process. For that, your muscles need fuel.
This may come as a no-brainer for some people, but when it comes to eating well, it's not realistic to torment yourself by eating something like steamed broccoli everyday for dinner, if you absolutely hate the taste of broccoli. For example, my boyfriend dislikes tomatoes and peppers, so he's not going to force himself to eat them. But he does like things like carrots, asparagus, spinach, bananas, grapes and apples, so he'll eat those on a regular basis. He makes up the healthy things he doesn't eat with other healthy things; his diet remains balanced. This is where you need to start.
|What are thoooooooose?|
It's alright if you don't eat those one or two things you absolutely despise, but unfortunately for those desperately picky eaters, you may have to challenge your own prejudice towards the healthy foods you don't eat, or your diet is going to remain stagnant. I personally come from a household where we were served everything, and if you didn't eat what was served, tough. We didn't get coddled and as a result, I'm the least picky person out there. I'm also lucky having grown up in a culturally diverse community; I've grown a love for many different kinds of cuisine from around the world. Nowadays the only things I still don't like eating are whole olives and pickled herring.... sorry mom.
It's time to get adventurous and try as many whole foods as you can to discover a list of healthy things you actually love to eat! Vegetables, fruits, meats, legumes, whole grains and lentils etc. are all weight-loss friendly. Grab a piece of paper and make a list. I'm putting an emphasis on healthy because I know that the average person doesn't go out of their way to know if what they're eating is good for them or not.
For a slap of common sense: don't eat an excess amount of processed food that is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates like: white bread, white rice, pastries, sodas, snacks, concentrated fruit juice, pasta, sweets etc. You know exactly what I'm talking about:
|What do you mean pizza isn't a vegetable??|
To start the transition, don't buy food that falls in this category on your next grocery trip. If it's not in your house, there will be less temptation for you to consume things of this nature. The biggest "its not rocket science" fact no one likes hearing: No amount of working out will do anything if you keep putting an exorbitant amount of unhealthy food into your body. (Weight Loss is on average 80% Diet & 20% Exercise!) Make it easier on yourself by weaning yourself off all the extra sugar and carbs. Once you've established healthy eating habits it'll go MILES once you start exercising.
|It's time for us to spend some time apart.|
Cutting down on eating out is also a big one. This includes buying drinks, which also means alcohol. Alcohol is the definition of empty calories: it doesn't do anything for you and is a gateway for putting on those extra pounds in your gut. Even if you think you're ordering something that looks healthy, you have absolutely no idea what is put into their food and beverages. Restaurants are businesses whose goal is to make their food taste as delicious as possible, so the amount of things like sugar, butter, oil, msg and preservatives are unknown to you. It's just easier to cook your own meals when you know exactly what you're putting in.
Which leads me to the next point: It's important that you learn how to cook! Throw out the strawman argument that it's too expensive or time consuming to eat healthy. If you're an able-bodied person who works, it really isn't. I'm saying this from a family background where a single parent raised three kids on their own, while feeding them home cooked meals on a tiny budget. And even as a broke student living with roomies, I still managed to cook myself meals everyday. I actually lost weight pretty fast cause I was eating so clean and basic. You need tenacity and the willingness to budget your grocery shopping properly, and to cook your own food. Many people lack the urgency to do so.
There are so many resources online and off that can help you have a more wholesome diet, so start looking and do your research. On a local level, go to bulk barns because you end up paying less for more, study weekly grocery flyers/websites for the cheapest prices that week, use match-the-price systems, coupons, even look up fresh food banks if you're lacking in funds.
It's easy to say "I don't know how to cook/I'm a bad cook" but all you need to learn is how to make one healthy dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and build from there. Take the time to sit down one night and look up different recipes online with the healthy ingredients you compiled previously. I personally love to follow various fitness youtubers and bloggers to constantly give me inspiration! For example, my favourite food Instagram is Minimilist Baker who shares recipes requiring "10 ingredients or less & 30 minutes or less to prepare." They're all plant based, but you can easily change or add things depending on if you like to eat meat. For the record, I'm not either vegan or vegetarian, but a lot of my favourite dishes are! It's also a lot cheaper if you want to save more.
Here are some of my favorite meals on a typical day that you can try out if you're interested, and get the ball rolling for brainstorming ideas for yourself:
Breakfast: Plain rolled oats topped with mixed berries, greek yogurt and coconut flakes.
Lunch: Quinoa Salad with diced tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, mixed beans, fresh cilantro leaves, cumin & marjoram, dried cranberries, sliced almonds OR pumpkin seeds, topped with poppy-seed dressing. (Vegan Friendly if it's a dairy-free dressing variety!)
Dinner: Sauteed beef with zucchini, carrots, celery, diced scallions & garlic, and marinade of your choosing, topped with sesame seeds. You can also add some tofu or rice to make it heartier!
Snack: Fruit Smoothie with a banana, a handful of frozen fruit, avocado and almond milk. Optional: add your favourite protein powder to make it into a meal.
On-the-Go Snack: an apple or a baggie of salt-free, roasted mixed nuts.
Lastly, once you got your favourite healthy meals down, you can stay on track by meal planning. This is a great way for someone with a busy schedule to be prepared with what they're going to eat ahead of time. What this means is you're either going to make a to-cook list for a meal everyday that week, or going to meal prep by making a large enough quantity for the next few days by packing it away in go-to individual containers. It's the same concept your parents might have had by cooking a large crock pot of food that would last the family more than one day because you had leftovers.
Having your healthy food ready to take with you to work will also get rid of that temptation to stop by that fast-food place. Start on your next meal, and don't look back. [Guide to get you started.]
3. Understanding Your Body: Type & Shape
You want to change your body, but you're going in blind and have no idea where to start. Perhaps you have tried working out before, but you weren't getting the results you wanted so you gave-up. It's easy to make mistakes and getting lost within an era saturated with so much information.
Learning what your body typing and shape will be the first steps to point you in the right direction.
There are three basic human body types: the endomorph, the mesomorph, and the ectomorph. To oversimplify these categories: thin/difficulty in weight or muscle gain, average/normal metabolism, heavier build/tendency to put on weight and keeping it. [Click for more info.]
|Genetics play the biggest role in body type, but you don't have to be stuck in your category.|
Besides body types, there are also different body shapes you fall under as an individual. Some insight on my stats is that I'm a petite mesomorph type at 5'2 with a pear/triangle body shape: small rib-cage, with my waist being in smaller proportion to my hips. I have barely any upper body-fat as it's mostly stored in my butt & thighs. The way body fat is distributed on my body can look completely differently on someone else. Body types and shapes are a combination of both skeletal body structure and natural fat distribution.
Body-type specific workouts for both men and woman will help you work with, not against, your body for faster results and to add strength and shape to your frame. How do you find out what to do? Doing research in what would work best for YOU is crucial. Get naked, study yourself in the mirror, and lead yourself to the fountain of knowledge you actually want.
Lastly, you also want to get your Body Mass Index (BMI) and you can calculate yours here. The "normal range" is around 20 for your weight x height. Knowing this gives you an estimate on how much excess weight you really have (or if you're underweight) and what is considered healthy. This is only an estimate, since again everyone is a different body type to begin with.
Now you've got a foundation on which you can start to build workouts/diets that address these needs. This really only applies to the average person who may have excess body fat or is underweight. Once you're starting to build muscle, it's important to remember weight doesn't mean jack squat because muscles weigh more than fat. That's right folks.
|"I have never
had more muscle and less body fat than I do now. |
I have never been healthier than I am now." - Fitness Blogger Kelsey Wells
Notice that there is only a 5lb difference between her starting and end weight, but the composition of her body has changed drastically? This is something you need to be aware of, especially if you're someone who likes to weigh themselves on a scale. You may have been there, weighing yourself after weeks of healthy eating and exercise only to be disappointed when the number hasn't shifted much. Forget what you've been told about weight and being dependent on the number you see on the scale. This is especially geared to any woman who are afraid of building muscle or believe they're gonna get too bulky. This is a myth!
4. Staying on Track:
Now that we've addressed all the knowledge you can use to start your journey, there's one last bit of important advice that I can give you to stay on track: take baby steps.
If you expect to change your whole lifestyle overnight, I've got some bad news for you.... it's not gonna happen. You will make mistakes. Take small steps to make changes in your lifestyle. What are all of the small things you do on a daily basis? Can you walk or bike to places instead of commuting? Are you able to walk up the stairs instead of taking the escalator? Do you sit all day at your job? Are you a smoker, or drink a lot of alcohol or caffeine? Do you stretch at all or have considered doing yoga when you have some downtime? Do you play any sports? What kind of hobbies do you have? All of these little decisions you make throughout every day add up in the long run. Think about your current lifestyle and break it down.
Once you have healthier eating habits down and you start to implement your personalized exercises, it'll go a lot easier than doing everything at once. And for the love of god, don't start by trying to exercise every single day. If your body is out of condition, it needs time to build up strength. I would recommend by exercising only 2-3 times a week MAX when you're starting out, at 30 minutes each. And when it comes to exercising, don't expect that you can do the same amount of reps as the jacked person whose demonstrating in a youtube video. Try by doing half the amount of sets. If they do 30, you do 15. If they do 2 reps, just do 1 instead of going twice. You're gonna burn yourself out if you don't take the time to do a little bit more each time. I did the same thing myself. Trust me!
At the top of my fitness game, I was working out 5 days a week which is honestly unnecessary. I personally felt like it made me lose a bit too much weight. Nowadays, I exercise every other day, approx. 3 days a week. I do all of my workouts at home. On my rest days I do yoga to stretch out and build my flexibility. I alternate my exercises as well. This is what works for me. Building your own foundation requires you to do your own research. I can only tell you what you can do to get started.
|"Don't let your dreams be dreams!"|
As I just said previously, try not to track your progress with the number on the scale, especially if you're just looking to tone your body. If you're greatly overweight, this may be a motivational booster because losing those extra pounds will be quicker and easier, but just like for everyone, those last few pounds will be the most stubborn. Measure your progress by things that matter like your strength building, ability, endurance, overall health and how you FEEL. How many reps were you able to do today, are you closer to your goal? Did you manage to run a few more minutes than the last time? Remember to always go back to your "Why" ! What was it you were doing this for?
You will start to see progress after a few weeks, understand it won't happen in a few days. After a few months you'll surprise yourself with all the new-found energy you gained and how much it was worth pushing through every day. When you receive encouragements and compliments from other people you'll wonder why it took you so long to get started! Positive feelings will keep leading you to work harder and then leading to more progress. It's okay to fall down, just get right back up!!
I believe in you!