As they say: old habits die hard. Sometimes, they don’t want to die at all, unless they are replaced. That’s exactly what I found on my journey to get fit and healthy. It wasn’t about dropping the old habits. It was about making a habit change, replacing the old, bad habits with new, healthy ones.
Two years ago, I decided to shed the last, few, unwanted pounds, that I couldn’t get rid of after having my kids. I also wanted to improve my quality of life and my lifestyle in general. I wanted to have the energy to do more things, eat healthier, and be overall fitter and stronger than before. That was a tall order, if I say so myself.
Many books dedicated to our psychology and habits, talk about the difficulty of dropping bad habits. They also all seem to agree that you can’t just drop an old habit. You need to replace it with a new one. So that’s exactly what I tried to do. It wasn’t easy, and within the last two years that I have been working on myself, I have fallen off the proverbial wagon more than once. Often times I manage to get back on track, however, certain habits are much more difficult to break then I expected.
So here are a few things that I have been trying to changed in order to lose a few pounds, get fit, and to improve my quality of life.
Habit Change #1: Lemon Water Instead of Morning Java
I have never been big on soda, so cutting it out of my diet was not much of an issue or an accomplishment. But my guilty pleasure and the first drink of the day used to be coffee. I couldn’t live without my cup of java first thing in the morning.
So my first, and surprisingly the easiest change was to replace my coffee with 750 ml of water and to drink it before breakfast. I hate drinking cold water. So I drink warm water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of honey. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still need my coffee. Except, now I have it after breakfast. Drinking a bottle of water every morning keeps me hydrated, full, and provides me with energy to get through to breakfast. As I mentioned before, this was the easiest change of habits so far, and I have been able to keep it up consistently for the last two years.
Habit Change #2: Meal Plan Instead of “What’s in the Fridge”
This one was easy and difficult at the same time. I have no problem cutting out junk food or fast food and replacing them with healthy homemade meals, as long as I’m organized. So when I make a meal plan on Saturday and shop only for the produce, meats and ingredients that I need for my meals for the entire week we all eat healthy. But as soon as I get lazy and don’t put together a meal plan, or when I go shopping without a definite shopping list, it all goes to hell. Then the frozen lasagnas, hotdogs, and pizzas are suddenly part of my menu once again. So I realized, that the main habit change here is dropping the “let’s see what’s in the fridge” mentality and replacing it with planning my meals ahead of time.
Habit Change #3: Natural Fructose Instead of Refined Sugars
This was the most difficult habit to change of them all. To this day I ‘fall off this wagon’ very often and revert back to eating sugary treats. Yet each and every time, I pick myself up and go back to sugar-free (or at least sugar-less) diet. When I decided to cut out sugar, my first thought was to replace my sweets with fruit. When I crave chocolate, sweet pastry, or any other sugary treats, I have some fresh berries, banana, apple, or some grapes. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t refuse a piece of cake at a birthday party and I will have that Lindt chocolate once a while. However, replacing sugar with fruit helped me cut the refined sugars and replace them with natural fructose.
Habit Change #4: Drinking Instead of Eating
Evening snacking is definitely another one of those little habits that creep back when you’re not looking. And when you add intermittent fasting to the mix, it amplifies your cravings. If you’re not familiar with intermittent fasting, it comes in a few different forms. I chose the one where I eat within an eight hour window, and don’t eat anything over the next 16 hours. On a regular day, I don’t eat breakfast until 10:00am and stop eating after dinner, around 6 o’clock. If I get hungry during those 16 hours, I don’t eat. Instead, I drink water or tea. The truth is, eating breakfast late is not a big deal for me, but not being able to snack in the evening, can be a nightmare. So I cleared out my cupboards of all kinds of junk food and stocked them with wonderfully smelling and tasting teas. Now, I do my best to drink instead of eating in the evening.
Habit Change #5: Moving Instead of Sitting
Well, I never had any habits when it comes to exercise, so there was nothing to replace. Rather, I had to replace sitting on my butt and actually moving.
One big motivator for me was to answer the question why am I doing this? At the time, I had a very short-term reason. I was going on a once in a life time kind of vacation and I wanted to look good. So I started to exercise twice a week. Once I got used to that, I started to exercise three times a week. I won’t lie, it took a lot of determination and perseverance to get moving and attend all my workout sessions, but I had a very clear goal and a deadline to keep me motivated.
Once I got to my ideal weight and body fat percentage, I bought myself a pair of jeans. Yeah, you heard me right. It was a perfectly fitted pair of very expensive jeans that I wanted really, really badly for a long time. Why? So that I had a new motivation to stay in shape. I wanted to stay fit, so that my jeans would fit me! I wasn’t going to spend any more obscene amounts of money on a silly pair of pants. Shallow? Perhaps. But hey, whatever works to keep me going to the gym!
To add to my motivation, I also got myself a Fitbit tracker, and signed up for MyFitnessPal. I tracked my calorie intake and my exercise.
All of these changes took some time and a lot of dedication, determination, and commitment. Nothing happens overnight. I revert back to some of my old habits quite often, and have missed many workout sessions as well. I’ve even gained a few pounds, and my once perfectly fitted jeans barely fit me now. So even though I’m not totally back to square one, I need to get back to those good habits, organize myself better, get my meal plan in order, commit to the gym sessions, and cut out of those sugary summer drinks. And I bet you, that with only those few changes, I will be able to fit in my wonderful jeans once again within the next few months.
How about you? What good habits have you acquired lately? What motivates you to become more fit and to live a healthy lifestyle?
NOTE: I am not a nutritionist or any kind of health professional. Tips mentioned in this blog post are based on my own personal experience and what worked for me. It does not mean that they will work for you (though I hope they do 🙂 ).