March 2020. This was the start of hearing about Covid but not fully understanding it. I had a good routine where I could break up my workday and actually go to the gym during lunch and get in a good workout. I was fit, happy, healthy and my routine worked. Furthermore, this routine helped me be a productive team member at work.
Then April comes and throws my world upside down. We are now forced to work from home, scared and unsure to what the future will bring and have to adapt to being in a different work environment. Thankfully for me and my family, everything worked out but one thing that did not…staying healthy.
I started to realize that you cannot eat whatever you want just because you are at home. The ease of going to the kitchen multiple times a day to grab a snack was now daily life. More so, eating became a stress reliever, a way to take the mind off what is going on in the world around us. Work, marriage, kids, politics, sickness, supply shortages, there were so many circumstances that allowed me to feel sorry for myself and drown my sorrows with food. I had not only gained weight but lost any shred of muscle that I had worked so hard for the year prior.
It was time for a change. I accepted the cliché “New Year’s Resolution” for 2021 and set my goal to lose weight. But how was I going to do it when over the course of 2020 I had tried to get back to being healthy and had failed? What was going to make this time different?
Planning, Process, and Execution. We live our work lives with these processes. What is the difference with our personal lives? I adopted 5 key fundamentals that not only helped me to correct my path but to stay on that path.
Get Your Mind Right
I viewed eating like an addiction. I need food, I want food, it tastes good, it makes me feel good. But beyond that, I was taking it to a new level of “eating to eat”. As a way to pass the time. I needed to not only make up my mind that I was committed to getting healthy but address the underlying issues of why I was eating. This will be different for everyone, but I was allowing the stress of life, in general, to get to me and food was my outlet.
I set goals for myself to achieve on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. I let others that are close to me know what I was trying to achieve in order to have a support system. Then the most important, putting in my mind that I would not be swayed, derailed or forced off my goals. This time I was going to invest myself fully and I was convinced that it was going to work. Staying positive was the driving force because let’s face it, the process of losing weight is no fun!
I have found one thing to be true about diets, EAT LESS. I am a firm believer that you don’t need to cut food groups out of your diet, but rather eat in moderation. I am not a doctor nor a dietician, but I have a medical and sports background. If you deprive yourself of certain foods, your body will want them more. When I speak of diets, there are no “fads” or “scientifically proven” methods that I live by, more so that I need to monitor my intake of food and make sure that I am eating healthy. What does that mean? Smaller meal portions, eating lean meats, fruits, vegetables and limiting eating large amounts of carbs and fats. Did you hear what I just said? “Limiting” I did not say CUT OUT!
One fad that you hear of is “Cheat Day” to which you can eat huge meals and whatever you want. This has been made popular by a few very active celebrities. For the average person, we do not operate at the same level so taking a day (or weekend) off from our diet can be detrimental. Not only are we putting all the calories back in our bodies that we worked so hard over the week to burn off, but it also allows our mind to go back to the “It’s OK” mentality where we can eat whatever and whenever we want. Have the cheat snack, so eat a cookie (not the entire sleeve), eat a small bowl of ice cream (not the entire tub). MODERATION is key and if you want to have the junk foods, limit it to one day a week, not every night.
I live by this methodology: “You have to burn off more than what you put in to lose weight”. Having the correct diet is a start, but you have to supplement that with working out! Get your blood flowing, and most importantly…start sweating. Working out could be lifting, cardio, plyometrics, you name it, but the goal is to get your body to a state of being uncomfortable with itself in order for you to burn the calories and actually lose weight. Going back to goals, mine is to lift Monday/Wednesday/Friday then Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday do cardio. That is just my routine and I have found that it works for me. The reason for the mix of lifting and cardio is that I want to not only lose weight but gain muscle. I have also found that staying active in this way helps me mentally throughout my workday.
People find that they don’t want to work out because they get sore, have muscle aches, can’t get out of bed the next day. Some use that as an excuse to then not work out consistently. I say change that mindset. Your body is sore because you got in a good workout! The body likes to be in a state of homeostasis which is the comfort zone. You are only sore because the body is trying to repair the muscles, remove the lactic acid and get back to a state of normalcy. View it as progress and success.
Overcome the Plateau
One pitfall that many develop is “hitting a plateau” where you simply become comfortable with your workout and then start to not see any recognizable results. Going back to the term of homeostasis, the body will now have a new norm or comfortable state at which it functions. It will take longer to become out of breath, to start to sweat or to feel sore. In a sense, this is good because it’s a sign of being fit. But if you have not reached the goals that you have set or if you want to continue pushing yourself, it's vital that you push through and find ways to become uncomfortable.
Arnold Schwarzenegger says it best, you have to “Shock” your muscles to see the gain. If you are not happy with a certain body part, you have to focus on that muscle and push it to the limits in order to see gain. I see people walking on the treadmill for 2 hours and wonder why they are not losing weight. Their calves are huge, but they still have that spare tire, as they say. The reason is that their body is used to walking, to doing that motion and so they hit the plateau and will not see any real positive results from that workout. To keep with that example, now try running, walking on an incline, do variable speed, etc. to shock the body and keep it from getting used to the same old workout.
Lastly, why do people fail at keeping to a diet, workout, overall healthy lifestyle? More times than not it’s not having a SUSTAINABLE plan that fits their lifestyle. Going back to eating, don’t cut out foods that you really want, just be disciplined to eat less. Create a workout that allows you to work out multiple times a week, something that can be fun and that you look forward to. Don’t get frustrated if you are not seeing results as fast as you want. It’s a new lifestyle, not just a short stint. Even if you pull back a bit from working out as time doesn’t allow you the ability to, focus on other areas to make up for it like eating right and then trying to do smaller things like situps, pushups, and no weight squats right before you go to bed. The overall goal here is to find the balance that allows you to live a sustainable healthy lifestyle.
Eating right is a start, but from what I have listed, there are multiple areas that need to be addressed when getting back to being fit. Making the right decisions and staying with them is hard. To get back to being fit does not mean you are on the front of Fitness Magazine, but overall living a better life and pushing yourself to be a better person. This healthier lifestyle will not only help with personal health, but it will make you feel better. You will become more productive in all areas of your life. I know in 2021 everyone is looking up and trying to leave 2020 in the past and all that went with it! Getting healthy for me helped in both home life along with work. I am now more alert, ready to take on more during the day and want to motivate others. If you can take away anything from this, being healthy is a lifestyle and one that can really give you a new refreshed outlook on life.