There are lots of pitfalls that can sidetrack those trying to achieve weight loss and fitness goals. Let’s face it, life tends to get in the way when we try to start a new fitness routine or diet plan. This reality is the inspiration for this month’s One Small Step. Last month, I laid out the Portion Control Plan. It’s time to add Planning Ahead to your fitness toolbox.
Plan Ahead Concept
Just as we can’t “wing it” when it comes to work, parental obligations and important appointments on our calendars, so it is true with fitness. To say, “I will go to the gym 3 times a week and eat 3 healthy meals a day,” without a concrete plan for how you will accomplish that is to set yourself up for failure. We must have a plan for exercise and healthy eating if we are to have a realistic chance of living a lifetime of fitness.
Planning Ahead for Exercise
Here’s the tricky thing about converting yourself from a person who doesn’t exercise to one who exercises regularly: exercise usually isn’t enjoyable until one is doing it regularly. The first month is critical. What happens many times is that motivation is high for the first two weeks and then a workout or two are skipped. Eventually, an entire week goes by without an exercise session and the person gives up. To combat that, come up with a concrete plan for when you will workout, how long the sessions will be and what you’ll do for your workouts. Most importantly: schedule them on your calendar. Schedule them at times when they’re not likely to get bumped. Aim for a workout every-other-day. It may seem like a lot but this regularity will jump-start your exercise routine and you’ll begin to see and feel positive results in short order. These results are what converts the sedentary to regular exercisers. Any type of exercise counts as a workout: brisk walking, yoga class, strength training workout, martial arts, dance. Do exercise that you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick with it.
Planning Ahead with Your Diet
What diet and health studies have shown is people tend to consume fewer calories and eat more nutritionally balanced diets when they prepare their own meals at home. Our busy lives make it very difficult to accomplish this on a regular basis. Which is probably why Americans eat a large percentage of pre-made meals at restaurants and from take-out and store-bought processed foods. A little planning and effort done on your least-scheduled day of the week (Saturday or Sunday for most people), can go a long way to accomplishing a full week of home-based, healthy meals. Plan out meals, especially for the evenings that are your family’s busiest. Create a shopping list based on your plan and stick to your list at the grocery store. Be sure to plan quick and healthy foods for breakfasts, snacks and lunches (including those that need to be portable) and include those items on your list. See my list of healthy pantry items and original recipes (including kid-friendly ones) to give you some ideas and help you get started.
When you do have the time to make a big, healthy meal from scratch at home, make extra. Leftovers can be refrigerated and saved for a super-busy weeknight, packaged in one-serving sizes and frozen for a quick meal in a pinch, or packed for lunches the next day.
This month is a tall order but I know you can do it. If you can plan out your exercise and meal plans each week this month, it will be easy to keep doing it week after week throughout the year. The more thorough your planning, the more likely you’ll be able to follow through with your plans. Remember to keep your plans realistic. These should not be pie-in-the-sky wishes, they should reflect your abilities, likes and dislikes and, most importantly, your unique family schedule and lifestyle. What works for someone else may not work for you. Make a plan that works for you.
My One Small Step Philosophy: A fit life is attained by making small, manageable changes in food consumption and exercise over time. This allows a person time to create and hone new, fit habits that then become adopted and integrated into her everyday life. The result is a person who is living a fit lifestyle each and every day, making her healthy and strong for a lifetime. I have used this philosophy to create my One Small Step blog series. Each month, I give you one healthy change to work on for that entire month. Sometimes it’s a diet change, sometimes an exercise change and sometimes one of each. The idea is to concentrate only on that one change for a month so that it becomes ingrained into your daily meals or weekly exercise routines, making you able to take on another small change at the beginning of the next month.
Author’s Note: Always consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program.