Life’s busy. You’re in school or working full time, have a family or mounds of homework, you keep the house tidy, you pack your lunch, you get 8+ hours of sleep and you even manage to squeeze in a few social obligations. You’re pretty much Superwoman. And, on top of this mountain of life, you’re expected to workout? For those of us who don’t wear capes, where does that even fit in?
Through my personal and professional experience in fitness, health and weight loss, I’ve found that these are the main keys to achieving and maintaining a fit and healthy body:
1.) Do not adopt the ‘all or nothing approach’
Because it will fail you. And if it doesn’t now, it will, eventually. There’s a reason why the ‘fruit diet’ or the ‘juice cleanse’ doesn’t work and it’s not just because it’s gross or unhealthy to live off one food group, it’s because it’s unsustainable. Same goes for crazy workout binges. Sure, it’s great you’re hitting that spin class twice a day everysingleday for the month of May because you’re dead set on scoring Adriana’s waistline, but you’re setting yourself up for failure. Or at least an expiry date, which you will encounter after you go one hundred miles an hour with a fitness plan.
And since we all know that the “nothing” counterpart is an ineffective tactic, let’s try ‘balance’. With balance, you’re in the gym, but you’re also on the couch when you need to be; you listen to your body. You’re eating Tupperwear veggies, but you’re also ordering dessert. You’re at your 6am spin class three times per week, but you’re sleeping in on Saturday. With the ‘balance’ mentality, you’re far more likely to adhere to a fitness plan because when it’s impossible to fall off the wagon, you’ve got nowhere fall. And on that secure wagon of long-term habits is your sweet spot.
2.) Limit your sugars and grains
Firstly, public enemy # 1 is sugar, and it’s highly addictive. When we digest foods high in sugar, it disrupts the body’s ability to experience satiety. This means your brain will not register that you are full, and will encourage you to (unnecessarily) eat more.
Throw in some wheat, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a roadblock when it comes to achieving your fitness goals. Grains, like the ones found in bread, also add to the excessive sugar we eat everyday. Carbohydrates are broken down by our bodies into glucose (sugar), and whatever isn’t immediately used to restore glycogen is stored as fat – and not the good kind of fat, either.
There’s no need to completely omit these either, just try reducing them. Remember, ditch the ‘all or nothing.’
3.) Drink plenty of water and get your beauty sleep
Studies published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet advocate that sleep loss may increase hunger and affect the body’s metabolism, which may make it tougher to lose weight. So there’s another reason to catch your zzz’s tonight — lack of shut-eye is associated with increased appetite and fat storage.
On the flip side, water is a natural appetite suppressant and actually boosts your metabolic rate. Aim to down at least two to three litres of water per day (your bladder will adjust), and even more if you workout. Grab a S’well bottle and stash it in your bag at all times — it keeps your hots hot and your colds cold and in a world of hustle and bustle, It. Makes. Life. Easier
4.) Check yourself
And not in the mirror. Like really check yourself. Take a breather and make note of how you are. What have you done for you lately? One in four Canadians will develop some sort of anxiety disorder in their lifetime and it doesn’t need to be ignored. If you’re feeling anxious, talk to someone. If you’re feeling unhappy, make adjustments. If you’re constantly stressed, do something.
As a natural introvert, I find yoga is great therapy for me. But so are bubble baths, reading, and watching movies alone. If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and you’re an extrovert, you recharge your batteries by being around people. You’ll need to schedule in friend time or social gatherings in the same way you would schedule in your sleep or workout sessions. Mental health is inherently linked to physical well being, so stop and assess yourself: in terms of “me” time, what am I lacking?
5) Ditch the mindset that weights make you bulky
In fact, you are more likely to become bulky if you do not lift weights. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
The female body simply does not have the hormones it takes to achieve that muscly, Schwarzenegger look you are so afraid of. And it won’t happen ever unless you accidently trip and fall into a barrel of anabolic steroid needles. EVER.
However, with consistency and in combination with a sound nutrition plan, a good weight training program can add shape for you. Shape for rounder glutes. Shape in your back and shoulders for nicer posture. Shape to smooth out cellulite. Shape. Is. Good.
Weight training (slowly and with immense, consistent effort) does increase muscle mass. But, muscle takes up less space than fat does, and fat is less likely to survive in a muscular environment. Another crucial fact paramount to my case is that higher amounts of muscle mass increase metabolism. Now, if you’re trying to shed body fat, doesn’t a high metabolism seem like a wise objective?
So goodnight, get balanced, and get to lifting XO