So, I had every intention to make this a kick ass post about Independence Day. I was going to talk about the importance of working out on the 4th even though it’s a holiday (let’s face it… I work out for every holiday!) and how to make your celebration recipes a little healthier. As a CrossFit Trainer and a certified personal trainer, I wanted to suggest some sort of Hero Workout created to inspire remembrance for the lives that have been sacrificed for our freedom. But, you know, I had no idea on how to start that. Everything I came up with just kept dead ending. Instead, I kept coming back to an epiphany I had a while back about how I reached my current health success. My healthy success has been comprised of minor lifestyle changes that lead to major results.
I realize that taking the first step in a healthier life doesn’t have to be a 5 mile run or eating 100% paleo. Instead it is literally one, little, tiny step in the right direction, like maybe cutting soda out of your life or replacing one tv show at the end of the day with a walk around the neighborhood with your family. So without further deliberation, lets dig into this concept.
Here are a few facts:
-You need to burn 3500 calories to lose one pound. That also means if you consume 3500 calories (not including the number of calories your body burns to stay alive) then you will gain weight.
-A body with more muscle burns more calories at rest than a body with more fat. So, with more muscle you actually don’t work as hard to burn calories than someone with more fat.
-Studies suggest that an estimated 90 million Americans are sedentary right now. This increases their risk of certain cancers, obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and so much more.
-The benefits of exercise have been documented in as little as 30 minutes of exercise a day.
-Active people tend to be more calm and happier than those you are inactive.
Minor Changes that Lead to Major Results:
There are so many tiny changes you can make to your life TODAY that will start you on your journey towards health and wellness. No one starts out being an athletic health nut, but they take steps in that direction to ultimately end up there (or just healthier without the “nut”). So, let’s talk about a few things that you can do to make changes today to a healthier, happier you. Let’s take a baby step to make a giant change to better your life.
1. Cutting out SODA/POP
This is a very common first step. You don’t even have to cut it out completely. If you are a person who drinks multiple sodas a day/week, cut them down. Livestrong says that “Soda represents the number one source of calories in the average American’s diet.” That is huge!!
Let’s talk about some average calories in a soda. A can runs about 150 calories (give or take based on flavor/brand) and a bottle is about 250 calories (also give or take). So, let’s say you are having one soda a day (either a can or bottle). That’s between 1050-1750 calories a week! That is ½ a pound a week and you haven’t even eaten anything yet! What a waste!
So, if we replace that soda with water or some other non-caloric drink you are saving yourself so many calories! Personally, I drink Zevia which is a zero calorie, carbonated drink that is sweetened with stevia and tastes amazing!! My husband opts for LaCroix which is also super calorie and sugar friendly. But ultimately the choice is yours… replace the soda with a healthier option or just drink water.
2. Be more productive on your work break.
This is one of the personal changes I’ve made in my life. I only get a 30-minute lunch and between driving and work time, there isn’t much time left to get outside and enjoy the weather. Before working full time, I was in the gym on average 2 hours a day and now am forced to cut that time down drastically. Instead of wasting the limited time I do get, I have opted to hit the pavement during my 30-minute lunch. I will either do a quick 10-15-minute run or a nice walk around outside is my go-to.
I am currently in the process of trying to recruit a few people on my walks. I love any excuse to get more social. This is not only good for you to get those steps in but you are also getting out into nature. There have been so many studies on how good it can be for your mental state and internal functions to just get outside with the fresh air and sunlight. Check out this article on why it’s good for you to get outside if you want a few more details!
3. Reorganize your fridge.
This one took me by surprise and I really didn’t think about it until I was reading an article. The article was about ways to lose more weight. Once I read it, I realized that I did this without even thinking; as I got healthier, I started to keep the better foods towards the front and the not-so-good stuff made its way to the back.
Reorganize your fridge so that the healthier options (fruits, veggies, etc.) are seen up front and center! This means using clear containers and putting them up front in your fridge. Put the less healthy stuff towards the back so that you would have to dig to find it. This way, when you go to the fridge to plan dinner or grab a snack, the leftovers aren’t the first thing you see. This is such a simple mind trick to get you to eat healthier. This can also help prevent you from having to throw out so much rotten fruit and vegetables thereby saving you more money since you see them more and know when they MUST be eaten!
4. Prepare for the inevitable snacking hour.
We’ve all been there; 2 O’clock rolls around and you need a snack. Did you bring any? Of course not, you didn’t plan to be hungry. So, you head down to the vending machine and guess what?! They don’t stock it with the healthy options that actually fill you up, instead they have chips and candies and things that will satiate you for a short time and then you’ll be back again! Instead, try preparing for that snacking hour and bring a healthy alternative. Besides, researchers are now saying that a small, healthy snack between meals can assist with weight loss since you are less likely to overindulge from being hungry when your mealtime rolls around.
My go-tos are fruits or nuts and seeds. You can play around with this too and bring veggies and dips or something else. I try not to focus on the fruits too much since there is still sugar in them, but nuts and seeds are great for you. Not only do they help fill you up and make you actually feel full, but they are also good for your brain since they contain good fats that your body needs to create brain tissue and cells! Just remember, nuts and seeds are a higher calorie count so don’t eat a whole bag - a small handful will do the trick!
5. Use a cast iron pan to cook in.
We recently made this switch. Cooking in cast iron has a ton of benefits including: better flavor, less cleaning, and more versatility (have you seen those recipes where you finish the dish off in the oven?!?). The best benefit that I have found is that it increases iron intake. Iron is essential because it helps push oxygen around your body to your vital places like your brain and muscles. Your muscles need oxygen to create energy and to heal from workouts. So, as oxygen increases in your muscles pushed there because of iron, greater energy is produced and fatigue decreases. This will help you not feel as tired and exhausted throughout the day and decreases your chance of wanting a sugary snack to help you stay awake later!
6. Track your food… especially your snacking.
This is an easy and crazy eye-opening small change. There are a ton of apps out there that you can use to track your food. Each one may have something different for you or show you a different view or focus on different things (calories vs. macronutrients). I personally prefer MyFitnessPal. They have an app for android and iPhone, and you can simply do it on the website too if you’d like. There are a bunch of different fitness trackers that will link to it as well so it will also show you your burned calories, how many steps you took, whether or not you exercised on a given day (eye-opening when you want to see what workouts do to your food intake) so you can really see your caloric intake.
I can’t tell you how revealing this is. I pull this trick out each time I start to struggle with my weight loss or with my progress or simply feel like I have plateaued. This makes me actually “see” what I am putting in my body. I also get to see the trends in my life and see what triggers me to eat more or less (usually more and not good things). It makes me more conscious of eating my feelings.
This is something that I personally struggle with really bad so noting what I want to eat and logging it to see what it will do to my daily total really helps me decide whether or not it is actually worth digging into that cookie! Let’s face it though, it normally isn’t worth while so this practice saves me a lot of calories and ultimately makes me feel better! It also really came in handy when traveling in countries where the language wasn’t English because I could scan most labels and see what was in it.
7. Get more sleep.
Who doesn’t enjoy their sleep?!? I know I do and way too many nights I don’t get enough of it. I stay up late and watch TV or get engrossed in my work programming for clients, creating new challenges, or just studying. Sleep is when your body recovers from the day you’ve had; your mind goes over all the information it received that day and resets itself for the next day, your muscles build and repair, and your internal systems get to take a break from keeping you going, going, going all day long. If sleep does all that, why is it one of the most neglected areas of our lives?
It is recommended that the average adult get 7-9 hours of sleep each night so make an effort to get to bed early tonight, every night, and see what big changes that leads to in your life and in your journey to health and wellness. I bet you’ll be more than just well-rested!
8. Drink a ton of water.
This one is along the same lines as sleeping. We need water to survive. This is what the majority of our body is made of and yet, we don’t give ourselves enough of it. A great way to kickstart yourself to getting enough water is to drink 8 oz of water right when you wake up.
Your body is made up of 76% water and you should have just had a good 7-9 hours (see what I did there!) of sleep like researchers suggest which allows your body to dehydrate. So, before you go grab that cup of coffee or have a glass of orange juice, drink up a nice, cold cup of water. I bet you’ll notice some pretty cool changes. Some might include that you end up drinking more water throughout your day, you have more energy, or perhaps you don’t start to crash around two each day leading to your vending machine snack binge and ultimately the downfall of your health journey.
9. Move more!
This kind of goes along with taking your work break to walk but really, it’s just about taking the more mobile option.
Going up or down a floor or two in your building? Do you really need to take the elevator, or can you take the stairs and add a few extra steps to your day? Do you sit at a desk most of the day? Why not set an alarm for every hour or even every two hours and then get up and do a few squats and push-ups or take a lap around the building to get some blood flowing back in your lower body.
What if you took that commercial break to bust out a couple of burpees or to clean up the living room and put things away or better yet, hand wash your dishes? How about you use one of the hours you spend watching that nightly show and instead take a walk with your family around your neighborhood and talk about your day.
Moving more doesn’t have to mean exercise but simply just move. Just to get up off your butt and move your body. You’d be surprised at what that could lead to!
10. Eat dinner at the table.
Back in my family’s unhealthier days, we always had a kitchen table but we used it to just store junk because we preferred to eat in the living room so we could watch TV while we ate. This caused us to eat more than we would realize until we noticed we’d be beyond full at the end! Now we try to eat at the table each night. Some studies have suggested that eating at the table forces you to slow down, be more aware, be more social, and to eat less because you are conscious of when you actually get full! Plus, when you have kids, it gets them to just eat their dinner without taking three hours to do so and you don’t have to go crazy telling them to sit down and eat!
11. BONUS!! If you really want to kick it up a notch, try a sugar detox
This is a great way to just kick the sugar habit quickly. I know - It doesn’t sound like a fun time, but I promise, your eyes will be opened to how many foods actually have sugar in them. I like to recommend trying a sugar detox for 3 days. Read every label and know what your putting into your body and into the body of your family members.
You can go as strict or as lax as you’d like. You can limit foods to having no more than 3g of sugar or say no to it all! You could say that natural sugar is fine like in a piece of fruit but artificial sugar like what’s found in cake is not. You’d be surprised by what you discover has sugar in it. But I encourage you to try 3 days and see how you feel. Keep in mind, you may get a detox headache on day 2 but a shot of pickle juice should clear that right up! And don’t worry about the mood swings… they’ll go away.
So there you have it, 11 small changes that you could start incorporating into your life today that will compound overtime and yield to incredible outcomes. No one likes making big changes. They are scary and hard and in the beginning they all seem impossible. I used to eat out 4-5 times a week, loved any and all sweets there were, never exercised, and was unhappy with my life. I started small with cutting the fast food and opting to eat at home. Not only did I start to lose weight pretty quickly, but I spent less money on food since I was making it all myself. From there I started going for walks, nothing far or long. Before I knew it, 10 minutes of walking a day slowly turned into an hour and eventually led to pushing a stroller on a 5-mile run every day 5-6 days a week.
The Domino Effect
There is a domino effect when you make one small change to your life. Once you see the impact that one little change made in your life you add more and more and soon you’re a calorie-counting, keto-eating, CrossFitter who can get up and run a 10k on any given day or deadlift 200 pounds without a warm-up. I am someone who went from being completely sedentary to being a certified personal trainer, who advocates for making the healthy choice in life with ease. And that could be you too. It’s all about starting small. You don’t need to jump all the way in right away, but you can dip your toes in. Why not make the decision to start small and see where you end up? You may end up surprising yourself!
Originally published June 2019. Edited April 2019.