Start strong (and finish even stronger)
When it comes to health and fitness goals, consistency is what really pays off. Here’s how to stay motivated.
Every January, you promise yourself that you’ll get healthier and fitter and lose weight. You start the new year off on a good note, but barely a month later, you find yourself back at the fast food drive-through.
So how can you finally see your resolution through? It’s time you put your health back on top of your priority list. As the years go by, you can no longer afford to neglect your body. Your weight isn’t the only issue: there are other health risks, like developing high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
Preparation is key
The morning school and work rush is always chaotic, so packing yourself a healthy lunchbox is probably the last thing on your mind. However, buying lunch every day is not only costly, but often unhealthy. ‘Unfortunately, bad lunch choices are driven by the lack of control we have over what our bought meals contain, especially when it comes to their sugar content,’ says Greig Jansen, founder and CEO of Pura Beverage Company.
‘Even when trying to be careful, we unknowingly choose foods that are exceptionally high in sugar. Pre-made wraps, sandwiches and even salads can all contain high levels of sugar, mostly due to sauces and marinades. And it doesn’t stop there: seemingly healthy cereal or protein bars, pre-made soups and even bottled smoothies are also all high in sugar,’ he explains.
Ultimately, preparation is key, says dietician and nutritional consultant Lila Bruk. ‘It’s important to pack yourself a lunch if you’re going to be running around doing extramural pickups in the afternoon. Pop an apple or a small packet of lean biltong into your bag so that you have a healthy snack available. Schedule workouts into your diary like any other commitment you have during the day, so you’ll be more likely to stick to them. It’s also useful to plan your meals for the week so that you have all the ingredients you need to prepare healthy meals.’
Make Sundays your meal prep days, when you cook a variety of lean, healthy proteins, veggies and good carbs like brown rice, quinoa and potatoes.
Studies reveal that few people keep up their well-intentioned resolutions. The latest research – conducted by Strava, a social network for athletes – found that by 18 January 2019, most participants had given up their fitness goals. The network analysed over 98 million uploaded workout activities.
So what’s the difference between people who achieve their objectives and those who give up? Discipline and consistency are obviously crucial, and Lila says the trick lies in not setting your goals too high.
‘People who succeed generally have realistic goals. They’re not trying to lose extreme amounts of weight in a short period, but understand that it’s a process which requires a permanent lifestyle change, rather than a quick fix,’ she explains.
Make moving fun again
Children love being active and spending hours playing outside. Learn to see your own workout routine as fun and you’ll find it easier to stay committed. Whether your goal is to improve your overall health, complete a triathlon or just keep up with your kids, ‘enjoyment is the biggest factor in compliance’, says Lila. ‘If you do exercise that you enjoy, you’re more likely to keep doing it.’ According to the World Health Organisation, adults should be getting a minimum of 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate to vigorous exercise per week. This includes everyday activities
like gardening, walking and housework (cleaning those windows can do your heart loads of good!).
Simple ways to get more active each day:
- Get a step-counter and start off with a daily goal of 10 000 steps (about 8km), which equate to about 30 minutes of exercise. If you reach your daily target of 10 000 steps five times a week, you’ve already done
your 150 minutes.
- Find new ways of keeping fit. Team up with a friend and join a dance class or take up a new sport together.
- While on the phone, stand up and pace, or do squats, leg lifts or toe raises. Your colleagues will probably think it’s strange, but you’ll benefit in the end!
- Instead of sitting watching your kids’ soccer practice, gather up the other moms and walk around the school grounds or sports field.
Make it last
‘The key is to make sustainable changes along the way, so that your new way of life is easy to keep up. Downloading food app that allows you to keep track of what and when you eat is an excellent way to instil and sustain healthy habits.
‘Weighing yourself regularly also helps to prevent kilos from creeping up on you, but don’t put too much importance on the number on the scale, as this can lead to an unhealthy obsession,’ says Lila.
Healthy on-the-go snacks
Make snacking easier by including these low-kilojoule, ready-to-eat nibbles on your grocery list:
- Flavoured mini rice cakes.
- Lean biltong, dried fruit and kale chips.
- Yoghurt and fat-free drinking yoghurt.
- Hummus and carrot sticks, or a matchbox-sized piece of cheese with wholewheat crackers.
Help is at hand:
Although home-cooked food is best, you don’t always have time to prepare meals at home, especially during the week. Try these healthy on-the-go meals you can order online and have delivered to you:
- Fitchef: delivers to Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free Sate, North West, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. Visit: Fitchef.co.za
- Plated convenience: delivers nationwide. Visit: Plated.co.za
Does this mean no more G&Ts with dinner!?
Alcohol is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to giving up a diet plan. Apart from the fact that most drinks are loaded with sugar and empty kilojoules, alcohol – which is a toxin – changes the way your metabolism works. Your system starts burning the kilojoules from the alcohol first, before breaking down fat in your body. However, Lila says you can still have the odd drink, provided you do it in moderation. ‘Limit your intake to a few drinks per week, rather than every day. In addition, choose lower-kilojoule drinks such as wine, whiskey and other spirits. Avoid cocktails and
liqueurs.’ (Say goodbye to those Margaritas and mojitos!)
If you need a guardian angel
If you’re struggling on your own, enlisting the help of a dietician or personal trainer could be very helpful, especially if you battle with discipline. ‘A dietician can develop an eating plan tailored to your individual health and weight needs to achieve the best possible results. They’ll also help pinpoint eating habits which may be holding you back from achieving your goal, as well as provide you with useful tips, tricks and recipes. Additionally, you’ll have someone to keep you accountable, motivated and supported,’ says Lila.
FEATURE: NOLWAZI DHLAMINI PHOTOS: STOCK.ADOBE.COM