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Creating Sustainable, Healthy Habits

It’s nearly that time of year again – the tinsel and lights are going up, shops everywhere are blasting out festive tunes and we’re all stocking up on our favourite wintery treats (deep-filled mince pie, anyone?). 

For even the most health-conscious of us, at this time of year, good habits tend to go out the window for a few days. Extra glass of wine? Sure! Chocolate for breakfast? Totally acceptable – it’s Christmas after all! (is that just us? Oops…). Which means that after Christmas is done and our bellies are round enough to rival Santa’s, our thoughts often turn to the new year and how we can start it off as we mean to go on*.  

While the start of a fresh calendar is a great time to set some goals, the “new year, new me” attitude that often rears its head at this time of year probably isn’t the right way to go. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of making an unrealistically long list of things we want to achieve or change, only to feel disheartened when we don’t manage to stick to them a few weeks (or, let’s be real, days) into January.  

In reality, we can decide to make small, sustainable changes at ANY time of year – even in the run-up to Christmas, although it might seem tricky what with it being office party season and with yummy treats piled up high in every shop. 

So, how do you go about making sustainable, healthy habits – at any time of year? Fitness Lab’s trainers have shared some useful tips to creating good habits that will last a lifetime.

Be patient

One little nugget that is useful to know is that – apparently – for the average person, it takes 21 days to create a habit, and 90 days to create a lifestyle. So, if your ultimate goal is to work out 3 times a week, don’t let yourself feel bad if this proves to be a struggle at first. Stick at it and according to the science, you’ll get used to it in 3 weeks and if you’re committed, it will become a way of life within 12 weeks. 

Focus on behaviour, not numbers

It’s all too easy to get caught up in obsessively measuring your progress, for example weighing yourself all the time to track how many pounds you’ve lost in your weight loss journey. But since progress is rarely linear (i.e. your weight will fluctuate a little day to day depending on different factors, even if it is still ultimately going down), this can lead to you feeling frustrated and dampening your motivation. A more sustainable approach is to focus on changing your behaviour in a way that fosters achievement of your goal. So, aim to get in all your workouts and give 100% effort every time, and stick to your nutrition plan – trust the process. Set a regular “check in” day where you weigh or measure yourself, but on other days, forget about the numbers and focus on your actions. 

Enjoy the process

Make sure you enjoy what you’re doing. So when it comes to exercise, do things you actually like doing! If you hate running, but force yourself to do it, then working out is going to feel like a chore and you’re less likely to stick to it. Find a way of working out that works for you, that challenges you but still lets you have fun.

When it comes to nutrition, eat things you like. Don’t make anything off-limits – if you want chocolate, have it, just be sensible about it. Refusing yourself something you enjoy will make healthy eating seem like a punishment. If you tell yourself you “can’t” have something, then chances are you will just crave it even more (yay, psychology). Knowing you’re “allowed” to eat anything you want – in moderation – reduces the likelihood of you bingeing on your favourite treats that you miss out on if you adopt a really strict diet.

Make yourself accountable

Sounds a bit dorky, but bear with us, because this really works – write your goal down somewhere visible in your house (e.g. the mirror in your room or your kitchen fridge), so that you are regularly reminded of them. When you see them, try to remember that your actions that day should in some way contribute to this goal (no matter how small). Let your family, friends or partner know what you’re aiming for, so that they can help to encourage you. If you can convince your partner, a friend or sibling to join you for a workout, even better – that “friendly” competition is often the best thing to drive you to work your hardest. 

Be realistic

Be honest with yourself about what you’re capable of achieving and break your goal down into small steps. Always have the long goal in mind, but week-to-week aim on achieving the smaller goals that will help you to get there. Having a huge goal looming over you can seem like a lot of work, which can hinder motivation, so breaking it down into bite-size pieces can be a huge help. 

There you have it – five simple tips, that should hopefully help you to create healthy, sustainable habits to optimise your fitness. If you need some more personalised guidance, why not book in for a free initial consultation with one of our Personal Trainers? As well as designing workouts with your goals in mind, they can also work closely with you to optimise your nutrition, too. Get in touch today to set up a free consultation.

Any other tips? Send them our way!

*Little disclaimer. Too many people stress out over the festive period, worried about losing their hard-earned progress. They don’t want to put on weight, but also don’t want to miss out on all the fun, and think that the two are somehow incompatible. All too often, this leads to us saying “f*** it” and bingeing out over the festive period, regretting it as soon as we’ve polished off that last lonely chocolate in the Celebration tin. 

This guilt surrounding food is wholly unnecessary. We’re not saying that you should see Christmas as a green card to eat yourself silly. What we are saying is that in the same way that your fitness progress wasn’t achieved over a couple of days, it also won’t be undone over a couple of days, either. If your weight does fluctuate a little, it’s just water weight resulting from eating a little more than usual and moving a little less – it’s not fat. In fact, for 1kg of weight gain to be fat, the average person would have to eat about 7,700 calories OVER their maintenance calories. That’s a hell of a lot of food!

As soon as you get back into your normal routine, you’ll get back to normal in no time, no worse for having gone slightly “off track” for a couple of days. And let’s be honest. When you’re 90, will you look back and say “Damn, I reaaally shouldn’t have had that extra helping of Christmas pudding back in December 2020”, or will you regret letting your concerns about nailing your nutrition 100% of the time put a dampener on what should be a fun, relaxing time with your loved ones? Our point is, Christmas is not the time to worry excessively about your diet. Enjoy treats in moderation, stay active, and get back into your normal routine as soon as you can.

Simple.

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