Setting & Sticking to Sustainable Goals
I’m sure we all agree that eating healthily all the time can be a bit boring. A lot of the time we can look at eating healthily as something we will do for a specific time to reach a goal, like fat loss or losing weight for a wedding or a holiday, then we plan to return to eating the foods we enjoy and consider to be our “normal diet”. However, it is often these foods and this attitude to food which has got us to the point where we need to lose weight in the first place! Often we can sustain “eating healthily” for a certain period and then lose motivation or feel overwhelmed at having made so many changes that we give up. At Shape My Plan our personal experience has been that making small sustainable changes over a period of time is much more achievable.
Have a look at the list below try to incorporate them into your life one at a time.
One of the most beneficial changes you can make to your diet is to eat more protein. Protein builds and repairs tissues and is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. People rarely have enough protein in their diets. A good rule of thumb to aim for is roughly 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight. Good protein sources are chicken, turkey, beef, fish and lean proteins are best for fat loss (if that is your goal). Eating protein at every meal can be a bit intimidating to people. Habitually they often feel that meats such as chicken are for dinner and it is hard to incorporate good quality protein into every meal. The aim is to make your protein sources more interesting and inviting to the taste buds. For example, omelets with peppers/mushroom; poached eggs and bacon; scrambled egg with spinach or salmon are perfect breakfast options. Lunch and dinner options could include stir-fries using a range of spices/meats/vegetables; curries; burgers; Salads with lots of meat/veg/nuts for texture and balsamic or lemon/lime juices for flavorsome dressings. Spices really are invaluable when it comes to making meats more interesting so learning how to make a good marinade/rub is going to be an invaluable asset as you strive to achieve your goals.
Increase the amount of vegetables & fruit in your diet:
If you want to be healthy and have glowing skin and hair and have healthy bodily functions you must consume at least 7-8 servings of vegetables & fruit per day. While fruit is important, try to keep this to 1-2 portions per day as certain fruit contains a lot of natural sugars and so eating lots of fruit can inhibit your goals, if fat loss is your aim. Lots of vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts etc are excellent if you are aiming to lose fat. Again, just eating plain steamed veg all the time is not going to keep you interested for long so change things from time to time. For example, roast your broccoli with some pine nuts or seeds; stir-fry your cabbage/sprouts with a couple of slices of bacon chopped up, add big handfuls of spinach to curries/stir fries; blend up lots of green veg into smoothies with some berries and avocado and you won’t even know they are in there. Once you switch your mindset, vegetables become so much more exciting and you will come up with so many ways to add them to your diet. Just avoid overcooking them, they lose their flavor and most of their nutrients.
Drink more water:
May seem easy, but initially, people often struggle to consume the recommended amount of water per day. It has been suggested that people should aim for around 1L per 50lbs of bodyweight for optimal performance & results if training regularly. But getting at least the government recommended 2L (female) & 2.5L (male) should be a priority for everyone. We find it is easier to carry around a big bottle with you as much as possible and supplement this with herbal teas. There are lots of delicious herbal teas which do not contain caffeine and are a good addition to water when you are struggling to consume it all. Also, your body will become more accustomed to the increased amount and you will find you won’t be running to the toilet as much after a while!
Increase the amount of healthy fats in your diet:
As we can all see from the media, the positive attitude to integrating healthy fats is pretty much receiving worldwide approval now. In previous years the negative attitude to fats was coming from those which are based in processed foods. In fact, we NEED fats in our diet. It is recommended that we incorporate 2 thumb measures of healthy fats into each meal. For example, this could be some avocado with our salad/guacamole with some lettuce wrap fajitas/ 2tbsp of extra virgin olive oil shaken up with some lemon juice and balsamic vinegar as a dressing for a salad/ a knob of grass-fed butter (Kerrygold) with your scrambled eggs/ eating oily fish such as salmon/mackerel.
Aim to do some sort of exercise most days, with resistance training a priority:
We all know that exercise is habit based. Those of us that exercise regularly wonder how we ever lived without exercise in our life, however, an interruption to this habit such as a holiday/illness/having a baby can sap all motivation to exercise and it can take a lot of time to re-integrate it as a habit. Exercise is vital in our lives FACT. Weight training has numerous benefits, for example, increasing lean muscle tissue helps our bodies to burn more calories and decreasing the risks of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, to name just a few.
Get enough sleep:
Every day people are busy and getting busier, they have so many things on that seem so much more important than getting a few more hours of sleep, but just as everybody is prioritising exercise and nutrition, they are neglecting possibly the most crucial aspect for results. Whilst exercise and nutrition are essential for optimal health and happiness, so is sleep. The quality of your sleep directly affects the quality of your waking life, including your mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, physical vitality, and even your weight, yes lack of sleep can inhibit fat loss. No other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort! According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than seven hours per night. While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person it’s generally recommended that the average adult gets between 7-9 hours of sleep per night but in today’s fast-paced society that is probably a rare enough thing. 5-6 hours of sleep may sound pretty good but in reality, though, it’s a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation which in the long term is not a good thing for physical or mental health. There is a big difference between the amount of sleep that a person feels they can get by on and the amount you need to function optimally. Just because you’re able to operate on 5-6 hours of sleep doesn’t mean you wouldn’t feel a lot better and get more done if you spent an extra hour or two in bed. Think about it, do you really get that much more done in the hour extra that you stay up working? What if you were functioning better through the day and got more done during that time as a result?
Making small incremental changes to your life over a period of time will add up to a much healthier you in the long run. Even trying to remember to stick to the basic principles mentioned above and this will become a habit that you won’t even have to think about.