I’ve long been an advocate of the ‘baby steps’ approach to health and fitness. Unless you are super-motivated and have cast-iron willpower, overhauling your diet or exercise regime will probably give you 2 weeks or so of smug, but I can almost guarantee that soon you’ll be right back where you started, possibly even a few steps behind, back on the ‘quit and start over’ train.
So, what to do – you want to improve your health, but where do you start? Try making smaller changes which don’t dramatically change your life to start off with. These 5 things will help you make the first steps. Bit by bit, you can implement tiny changes and before you know it you’ll be in the smug-zone for good, without feeling like you’ve sacrificed your life to get there.
1. Drink 1 less caffeinated drink a day.
Now, my eyebags tell me that sometimes caffeine is necessary, but if you are a steadfast coffee lover, try cutting down by a cup a day. Once you’ve cut down by one, and are used to it, try another one, then another (if you really do love your caffeine fix) until you reach a recommended level
2. Do an activity which raises your heart rate 3 times this week, for 30 minutes or more.
Note that I don’t say ‘go to the gym’. The best type of exercise is an activity you enjoy. There’s loads you can do – use your lunch break for a brisk stroll, get on your bike and commute to work, try an at-home workout or go to a group fitness class.
3. Swap one processed item a day for a non-refined (or less-processed) alternative.
We all know pre-packaged and processed foods aren’t the best in terms of delivering nutritional value, but if they feature heavily in your life, going cold-turkey might be one step too far. Try switching one item a day for starters, so a handful of nuts or piece of fruit instead of a packet of crisps or chocolate, water instead of squash or lean meat/fish instead of ham or cheese in your sandwich.
4. Swap your whites for wholegrains in one of your meals.
I’m talking the likes of rice, pasta and bread. Do this for long enough and you’ll probably start to prefer the more wholesome option.
5. Introduce protein to your breakfast 5 times this week.
If you don’t already do so, having a protein-rich breakfast will keep you fuller longer and stabilise your blood sugars. Tricky if you have breakfast on the go, but you can give overnight oats a shot (also nice cold, or baked as biscuits), or if you can have breakfast at home, go for super-quick scrambled or boiled eggs.