5 Things You Need to Do Before Starting Your New Healthy Lifestyle

Updated on March 19, 2018
Darleen Barnard profile image

Darleen Barnard is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Specialist, Behavior Change Specialist, and John Maxwell Certified Coach.

Do You Know?

How many calories do you consume every day? How many calories should you be consuming? How much protein do you eat daily and how much should you be eating? How many steps do you take daily on average?

These are all important questions that everyone should be able to answer, yet many of us cannot. When I start working with a new client, my first objective is to always get a solid baseline of where the client is starting. We need to know where we are today before we can set goals for the future.

Reasons a baseline is important

Taking a few days to establish a baseline is important for several reasons.

First, establishing a baseline focuses our attention on things we may not even be aware we were doing. Many people are shocked to see how many calories they are mindlessly consuming between meals or how few steps they really take on a daily basis. We need to know this so we can change it.

Second, a baseline helps to identify activities to increase non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Instead of just focusing on calories expended during exercise, it is also critical to look at calories expended on “everything else” – grocery shopping, walking the dog, housework, etc. NEAT can be even more effective than regular exercise when it comes to losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle. Establishing that baseline is an important first step.

Third, a baseline identifies unhealthy habits we want to stop and prepares us for healthy habits we want to start. Habit formation is critical to any lifestyle change. We are creatures of habit and 88% of our activities are done unconsciously without us even thinking about it. Identifying opportunities to change habits is essential.

Finally, a baseline can help to increase motivation. We may be surprised or even shocked once our awareness is raised. This can be a major motivator for us to begin making some healthier choices going forward. Motivation and discipline are critical for our success.

5 Things to Do to Establish a Baseline

What do we need to do BEFORE we get started with a new weight loss or fitness plan? There's a lot of different advice out there to help you get started with a new regime, but it really all comes down to arming yourself with knowledge. These five steps will not only educate you, they will support or enhance your motivation to begin.

1. Weigh in and log your starting weight. Take your measurements and calculate your BMI. BMI estimates your body fat based on your height and weight. This calculator will tell you if you are underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese. Because the calculator only uses height and weight to calculate your BMI, it may not be a good indicator for bodybuilders or individuals with a higher muscle mass, but it is a good starting point for the average individual.

2. Create and set up a Myfitnesspal account (or other tracker). Begin logging your food - what you typically eat, before you make any big changes. I know you are anxious to get started, but eat as you usually do and log EVERYTHING - even that Hershey kiss that you popped in your mouth when you walked past your coworker’s desk!

3. Use a calorie calculator to determine your calorie requirements. This number is just what you need to MAINTAIN your weight – not LOSE weight. Once you know this number, you can subtract 500 calories per day to lose an average of 1 pound per week. Keep in mind, both calories consumed AND calories burned through exercise should be considered. For example, if the calorie calculator tells you that you need 1,800 calories NET to maintain your weight and you want to lose 1 pound per week, you would need 1,300 calories NET per day. You could either consume 1,300 calories OR you could consume 1,700 calories and burn 400 calories through exercise.

4. Make an appointment with your physician for a physical. Get approval before you begin a new weight loss or exercise program, especially if you have any special health concerns or you haven't had a physical in a while.

5. Begin wearing a pedometer or activity tracker (Fitbit, Apple Watch, etc) and get a baseline of the steps you take. Log this information into a tracker (Fitbit, Myfitnesspal, etc). This will help you determine your average activity level, which is important for NEAT that was discussed above. Moving forward, a good goal will be to increase your steps per week by 10%. For example, if you take 5,000 steps per day on average when establishing your baseline, then shoot for 5,500 steps per day in week 1 of your new regime.

Although you may be very anxious to get started with a weight loss or fitness program, it is important to properly prepare. These steps will give you a baseline of where you are starting, so you can better plan and navigate your journey going forward.

© 2018 Darleen Barnard

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