The Correct Approach to Health and Fitness: A Life Long Journey
The "Quick Fix" Mentality
One of my biggest pet peeves in the health and fitness world is the "Quick Fix" mentality that is out there. Everywhere you look you can find the advertisements: "Lose 10 pounds in one day," or, "How she lost 75 pounds in a month," or, "Six pack abs in one week." I find these advertisements very misleading for multiple reasons. First, most of them are completely unrealistic and impossible for the majority of the population to achieve. Second, if it is possible to actually succeed in one of those goals, it's a very unhealthy approach to losing weight, and the idea of reaching all your goals in less than a month teaches no perseverance, lifestyle change, or work ethic to achieve something that you desire.
It seems the majority of people today want to look like the world's top fitness model without working for it. The world is trying to cater to our lazy lifestyle in which we want to work as little as we can while gaining as much as possible. Unfortunately, this approach doesn't work for your health. Those beautiful actors and actresses that you see in your favorite movies did not get the bodies they have overnight. They have very strict diets and exercise routines to achieve their fitness goals, and many of them pay trainers a lot of money to help them maintain their health and fitness. There isn't a health coach or trainer in the world that will say overall health is only a part time job. It takes discipline and perseverance. If you want to reach your goals, and make them last, the best way is to create healthy habits in your life.
The Right Mentality
The first step to achieving your fitness goals is having the right mentality. It has to start with the right motivation, realistic expectations, and a commitment that will last a lifetime. It always saddens me to see how quickly people give up when they aren't seeing the results they want fast enough. When someone gives up on her goals after only two months of working out, it makes me wonder if that person ever considered that being healthy requires a complete lifestyle change, or if she thought three months of eating healthy and working out was going to be all she needed for the rest of her life. What if that person did, by some miracle, get the perfect body after only three months? Would she have any motivation to continue that lifestyle, or would she wait until she was no longer comfortable with her appearance again, knowing she could get her perfect body back in only a short time? If it was that easy, commitment wouldn't mean anything, and everyone would be fit and healthy. However, like I said, this quick fix just doesn't work.
I think it's good that our bodies take time to adapt to new lifestyle changes, that it takes time to get the results that we want, and that we have to make choices every day of our lives to be healthy in order to continue to get closer to our goals. I love the fact that I can look up to fitness role models who have been working out and eating well for 10 or 15 years longer than me, are stronger and leaner than me, and they can tell me that they didn't get their results over night. They say in ten or fifteen years, I can be like them, or better, if I continue to live the healthy life that I am now. That's great encouragement! It takes time, commitment, and dedication. It is a lifestyle, not just a season of our lives. I like this for two reasons.
First, it means I will continue to see positive changes in my life overtime, even if it's small gradual changes, if I stay committed to a healthy routine. Second, I know that someone can't simply workout and eat healthy for three months and achieve everything that I have been working towards for ten years. This is more of a selfish reason, but it's true. I like that it is a journey. There are obviously ways to get results faster. There are more efficient ways to eat and workout, but even if you do everything perfect, it's not going to be an overnight fix. However, I can promise you that if you have the mentality that you are going to make daily choices for the rest of your life to pursue healthiness, you will see results that satisfy you. Whether it takes five months or five years, it really shouldn't matter, because your mentality should be one that lasts a lifetime. Decades down the road, you won't care how long it took for you to start feeling confident about yourself those first couple of years. Instead, you'll be thanking yourself for staying true to choosing a healthy lifestyle that continued to pay off over time.
Create Healthy Habits
Now that we've discussed what your mentality should be, and hopefully you agree with me that this is a good mindset to approach your life with, let's talk about what habits you should make. There are so many different workout routines and nutrition plans. Some of them work really well. Some of them don't work as well. So, how do you know which one to choose? Well, unfortunately, you don't really know until you try something and see if it works or not. That's a lot of pressure on chance, and I, personally, am not one who is looking to spend time on things that don't work. Because of that, I would suggest staying away from investing your life savings into just any fitness or nutrition plan. There are some simple proven methods that all trainers agree on that work pretty well.
It's as simple as eating healthy and having a consistent workout regime. Like I said, some routines work better than others. I've attempted, through my experiences and studies, to find the most effective ways. If you want to lose weight and build lean muscle, I've given you my advice on what I think is the best way to do this is: Weight lifting and High Intensity Interval Training combined with smart and simple nutritional choices. There is not, however, only one way to reach your health and fitness goals. What works for me, may be unenjoyable for you, and you'd like to try something else. The most important thing you can do is create healthy habits. So, here's what I believe you should strive to do.
Exercise at Least Four Times a Week
I believe you should perform some type of physical exercise at least four days a week. And when I say at least four days, I mean at least. I know that may sound like a lot at first, but bear with me. I workout intensely five days a week, but if I didn't enjoy exercising so much, I'd at least try to make sure I was doing some sort of physical activity five or six days a week. You don't need to destroy yourself in the gym every day to reach your goals. You can go for a bike ride, run, walk, perform yoga, or anything that can burn a few calories, even if it's just for 20 minutes. Just do something. Now, I'm not saying that all you have to do is walk for 20 minutes every day and all your fitness dreams will come true. I'm am saying, though, if you can't make it to the gym or really aren't feeling like performing at your usual intensity, at least do something. Work on creating the habit first, then, eventually, you won't have as many days where you don't feel like exercising, because it will have simply become a part of your weekly routine.
I believe your goal should be to get into the habit of exercising five or six times a week. Start with four, but try to work up to something even more consistent. Remember, we want to create a lifestyle change, not just find the easiest and least amount of work necessary to do things for a short period of time. If you don't think you have time to workout five or six days a week, I would push back on you with a couple questions. Where does your overall health and fitness place on your priorities list? Are you managing your time well enough to make space for the things that you value most in your life?
I have a friend who wakes up five days a week at 4:30 am in order to workout and pray and mediate before his wife and children wake up. He is then able to have breakfast with them before he goes to work for the day. After work, he is able to spend all of his time with his family, because he already took care of his fitness and spiritual goals so early in the morning. His routine is quite intense, but I am in complete support of what he does. He has fitness goals, spiritual goals, and family goals. He has found a way to succeed and flourish in all three, working around his work schedule. We are able to do more than we give ourselves credit for. With time management and priority setting, we can accomplish almost anything we desire.
Make Healthy Nutritional Choices
Next, I believe you need to make healthy nutritional choices. You were probably expecting this one. A lot of people are trying to figure out how poorly they can eat and still get the physical results that they want. With that mentality, it will take a long time to reach your goals. If you desire to reach your goals as fast as you can, you should, instead, try to figure out how healthy you can eat to compliment the exercises you are performing. You don't have to only eat vegetables to do this, as I've seen some people fear. You can eat things that you enjoy. You can have your favorite dessert or pizza dinner every once in a while too. What if you rewarded yourself once a week with your favorite dessert after having that greasy bacon cheeseburger for dinner, instead of having your daily junk food intake at the end of every day? We call this a cheat day. If you implement a controlled diet into your life for six days a week and splurge on some of your guilty eating pleasure one day a week, the percentages will be in your favor. You can take that cheat day, knowing that you made greater progress in the other six days than that cheat day can take away.
Enjoy the Lifestyle
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I think it's important that you find ways to enjoy this healthy lifestyle. If you're truly going to make eating healthy and exercising regularly something you do for the rest of your life, you better enjoy it. I like using reward systems to do this. Reward systems can consist of anything you'd like. Just make sure you don't reward yourself too often or not often enough. You want it to be special, but you don't want it to be so spread out that you give up before you get to reward yourself.
One reward could be having that cheat day each week if you didn't cheat on any of your meals during the week. Maybe for every month that you don't miss a scheduled workout, you let yourself indulge in an activity that you really enjoy, such as going out to a really nice restaurant, taking yourself on a shopping spree, spending a short weekend vacation at a Bed and Breakfast, or something as simple as going to the movies or having a day to yourself at the beach or park. What do you enjoy doing? Reward yourself with those things. This will make you want to continue to stay true to your promise of living a healthy life. Eventually, you will notice that your lifestyle will reward itself. You will start feeling more energized in your daily life, you will be stronger and more able to perform different adventures that life throws at you, and you will start getting the physical results that you dreamed of having before you began implementing healthy choices into your daily life.
The Greatest Benefit
I hope you'll find someday that physical looks aren't everything. Though I enjoy what my body looks like, now that I have been working out and eating healthy for years, the looks are not the greatest benefit to me. In fact, what I look like is simply a small added bonus to something greater that I've received from pursuing a healthy lifestyle.
The greatest benefit to me is my overall enjoyment in life. I have taught myself what it means to be committed to something, I have proven to myself that I can overcome temptations of laziness and giving up, I am able to enjoy many activities that require some sort of fitness to perform, and I am able to help others who are striving to reach specific health goals by motivating them to go on the journey with me. The greatest benefit to this lifestyle is that I get to enjoy life to the fullest. I am physically, spiritually, and emotionally primed to live the life I desire. With my routine, I will only grow in all three areas for the rest of my life. The benefits go so much farther than simply being satisfied when you look in the mirror. Give it a try, and you will see.
© 2017 Micah Reum