That’s a question I often get from people who ask me how I stay motivated to keep up with my health, fitness, and nutrition goals. Let me begin by telling you it’s a challenge – struggle – it’s not always easy. It is truly quite difficult to follow a consistent, structured, healthy eating plan and remain on target. If you really know me, you’ll know I try to plan and organize most things. When it comes to food, it’s hard for everybody.
But I have a few tips and tricks that I like to use, and you may like some of them too. So, here you are:
• Pay attention to and keep track of everything. I happen to use MyFitnessPal, have been using it for about seven years or so, but you can use another method if you choose. Some people I know use the old fashioned methods, such as pen and paper. But do what works for you. I like MyFitnessPal because you can tailor it to your own eating and set your goals for calories, protein, carbs, fiber, etc., and it tells you how you’re doing throughout the day. When you keep track of it, you realize how easy it is to go overboard. If you’re not paying attention, you can quickly rack up hundreds of empty calories. So, track everything, even a 5 calorie stick of gum.
• Plan all of your meals ahead of time. Some people call it meal prep. But whatever you call it, just do it. I know, I know. You’re thinking how that’s easier said than done, right? Well speaking from experience, I agree that it definitely can be easier said than done. But I also know that the reason most things are easier said than done is because we don’t do them often enough. The more we do things, the better we get at doing them — the easier they become. People sometimes laugh at me because I’m always thinking about or talking about food. If you and I are having lunch, it’s not uncommon for me to say something about dinner. That’s because I like to plan out all my meals and snacks ahead of time. On most days, when I first get up in the morning, I already know what I’ll be eating for the rest of the day, including my between meal snacks. Usually in the morning, if you were connected to me on MyFitnessPal, you’d see I have entered everything for each meal. Sometimes I may alter it, but generally I have it mapped out. If I don’t plan it, I’ll grab the wrong things in a mindless, rote sort of way. You get me? Also, be not deceived. MyFitnessPal is good for tracking your meals and nutrition. Don’t let the name fool you. It isn’t only for fitness.
• Next, keep healthy snacks with you. Raisins, nuts, or grapes are good snacks. One of my favorite snacks is blueberries. I also am into cherry tomatoes. Just one cup is filled with fiber, iron, niacin, vitamin K and loads of antioxidants. How about that: snacks that are good and good for you. You can’t beat that.
• It’s also important to focus on portion sizes, particularly snacks. I portion out a serving size of various things and keep them in baggies in the fridge or the pantry – or in my desk at work. Here’s another tip: you don’t have to have a full serving in order to be fulfilled. One of my favorite crackers list a serving size as 15 crackers. I usually have half that amount and I’m satisfied. The full serving is 150 calories. By having only half a serving, I free up 75 calories. That may not sound like much, but believe me, calories add up.
• If you really need to visit a vending machine, be careful at what you choose. Nowadays, many vending machines have a section dedicated to healthier items (i.e., the top row, the left side, row B, etc.). Other times, healthier items are dispersed throughout. Look out for those items, and be sure to portion them out.
• Don’t eat as soon as you feel hungry. You won’t pass out from starvation if you hold off for a half hour or so. Drink a cup of water or green tea, do some stretching, or go for a walk. If you eat as soon as you feel hungry, you’re more likely to overeat or eat the wrong things.
• Last but not least, don’t allow friends and family members to derail your progress. I don’t talk about it a lot, so not many people realize this, but I’m a vegetarian. Truth be told, I follow a vegan diet most of the time. I’ve been eating this way since 2004. In the beginning, people weren’t very supportive. They teased me, scoffed and ridiculed me, and if I weren’t a very confident, thick-skinned chap, I might have given up. I’m not advocating for you to take the vegan plunge. But, just be aware if you choose a grilled, boneless, skinless chicken with a garden salad. You might find your friends or family members mock you while they munch on a cheese steak with cheese fries. Those closest to you can be very discouraging or uninspiring. Many people trying to embark on a healthy life have to face the challenge of an unsupportive inner circle on a daily basis. If those in your inner circle are not being supportive, shame on them. When they try to impede your progress and say things to hinder you, try to just let it go – like water off of a duck’s back. It’s up to YOU to follow your plan.
Give these things a try. If they don’t work for you develop your own. The important thing is to find ways to help you succeed and keep achieving your goals. Don’t give up just because you didn’t make it today. So what if you ate three donuts this morning. That doesn’t mean you should just say “never mind” and eat whatever you see the rest of the day. It’s never too late to begin again. It just requires a little effort.
Stealing the Nike slogan, “Just Do It.”