“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
Let’s start off by dispelling some common myths.
There is no one way for everyone to be at their optimal health.
The perception that the big difference between someone you regard as healthy and fit and someone who is not is due purely to genetics and drive is false. The actual difference is habit. Namely, how habits are formed and maintained.
If you’ve ever struggled in your health and fitness goals, the very first place you should look is your own habits. Not someone else’s, not your personal idol or guru – yours.
Someone who is healthy and fit has likely discovered and implemented a series of habits that helped him or her achieve that goal.
In this article, we will discuss some of the ways for you to create the habits that will bring you closer to your goal of being healthy and fit.
1. Define your goals
We’re born into this world and we quickly have to discover what it is we want to accomplish. When it comes to health and fitness, this doesn’t change. If you find yourself floundering in your goal of becoming physically fit, perhaps the best place to start is by re-evaluating your goals.
- Do you want to run in a marathon?
- Are you trying to slim down just to be attractive?
- Do you want to become an Olympic level powerlifter?
The differences between these goals is the difference between you reaching your goal or simply floundering about. A healthy person knows what he or she is trying to achieve and makes the necessary plan.
2. Stick to your plan!
Despite the mythology you may read on the internet, every single person struggles with this same issue in their fitness regimen. It’s not at all unique.
Take careful stock of what you want to do and plot out how you plan to achieve it. This may include some research and exploration to find activities that suit your goal best. It is important that once you have a goal in mind, you stick to that goal.
A common problem many people have is that once they start making headway, they get excited or titillated by the possibilities of other goals. And in doing so, can quickly veer off and get lost.
The key to staying on target is finding activities that you enjoy.
Also, don’t define your fitness objectives based solely upon what you see around you. Each person you see in the gym or your workplace has had to figure out his or her own working regimen. The steps they have taken may not work for you.
You may not be able to squat a thousand pounds in a single go. More importantly, is that your goal?
2. Find enjoyment in what you do
- Getting supremely bored on the treadmill?
- Dreading every single squat or lunge?
- Wake up in the morning and have to muster the where-with-all to do it all over again?
Welcome to the human race.
Now, you may be thinking healthy people magically wake up every single morning and relish in every kilometer of their routine. Some may. But chances are, if they do, it’s because they found something that works for them.
In short, they have found enjoyment in what they do.
Your job is to find something that you enjoy in your fitness routine. And if the word “routine” is your hangup – you’re not necessarily being ADHD. It’s natural for a person to want to explore new fitness techniques and routines. If the idea of getting up at four in the morning and running ten kilometers just simply turns your stomach, it’s not the run that’s limiting you – it’s your imagination.
A healthy person is someone who has come to peace with their body’s need to function at its best. If you see someone getting up at four in the morning and taking their run with a smile on their face – you’re seeing someone who has come to that crossroads and found what works for them.
It would be foolhardy to assume what works for them would always work for you. You’re your own person, right?
3. Try, try, try
As the sage Yoda once said, “Do or do not – there is no try.” And who would we be to question the words of a fictional 700 year old Jedi?
The grand majority of us humans are literal tales of trial and error.
In the previous paragraph, we talked about the need to experiment with finding what works for you – not your coworker, loved one, or the person you see running down the street at four in the morning. You.
Because you’re the person who will be hopefully enjoying the merits of your healthy lifestyle.
And surely there will be plenty of trials!
Let’s say you wanted to just become physically fit for the sole purpose of being attractive to the opposite (or same) sex. Now, day four into your cardio and weight lifting routine, you get sick. An obnoxious head cold has placed you in such pain you don’t want to even look at the elliptical machine.
You take the day off. And that day turns into a whole week. And then knee deep in a pile of comfort food later, you wonder what ever became of your goal?
If you’ve ever found yourself here and feel that aching shame of noticing your coworker never misses his or her opportunity to exercise – realize you’ve fallen off the wagon. And the next step is getting back on.
Trial. And error. But most importantly – trial!
4. Use It or Lose It
The core approach to any healthy living habit is movement. The more of your body you use in that movement, the better.
You have to move your body or you lose it. If you’re ever questioning this, simply go into a local senior citizens’ home and look around. You’ll notice regardless of age or any demographics, there is a higher quality of life for those who are still moving around on their own volition. No matter if it’s with a walker or a cane, those who continue to use their body generally retain its use longer.
If, as previously discussed, you find you’ve stopped, ask yourself if it’s not the goal but the route you’re taking to get to your goal. That’s when you may need to try another approach. Hate running on a treadmill? Try running outside. Hate running? Try stairs. And if the idea of spending forty five minutes doing any aerobic activity ruins your mood, check out High Intensity Interval Training.
5. Change your approach to diet
Congratulations, believe it or not you’ve been on a diet your whole life!
However you eat, whenever you eat – those are characteristics of your diet. And a diet is a function of lifestyle. If your lifestyle is very sedentary (i.e. not moving around a whole bunch) and you have a high caloric intake with lots of sugar, it’s time to ask whether or not that diet is working for you.
Healthy people don’t approach their diet with pseudo-mysticism or sporadic changes in habit. Why? Because the first step to following a diet that works for you is understanding how it helps you.
For instance, if you’re significantly overweight, the only way you’re going to lose that weight is through ketosis.
Healthy people understand how and why their diet is beneficial. Your body needs nourishment. It’s up to you to research how to best provide it. And once you understand the hows and whys – you’ll find it’s no longer an issue of keeping to your diet.
6. The Yin and Yang of your Metabolism: Glycolysis and Ketosis
Your body bounces between two major states of energy usage – glycolysis and ketosis. Don’t let those terms scare you. They are the yin and yang of how your body processes energy.
Glycolysis is when your body processes sugars and starches you’ve eaten and draws upon that for energy. The excess it sends to fat reserves or to waste. If you’re overweight, chances are good your core metabolism is pretty efficient at energy storage. In this modern day of sedentary activity, this results in a significant portion of that chemical energy being diverted to fat reserves.
While your body is in glycolysis, it’s not likely you’ll be using much of your own fat. Quite simply, your body doesn’t need to draw upon its own reserves because you’ve provided it with all the energy it needs via ingested sugars and carbohydrates.
Now, when your body is in ketosis, that’s when you are drawing upon your own fat to power yourself. Likely at some point in your sleep schedule, your body falls into ketosis. When it enters into this cycle, your body is fasting. Thus, the name arises “Break Fast” as the first meal of the day – to break your body’s fast and push it back into glycolysis with lots of complex carbohydrates and sugars, fats, and hopefully proteins.
Back in days where food could be scarce but you needed to be active, glycolysis was considered to be an optimal place for your daily activities. That’s why you have traditional breakfasts rich in complex carbohydrates like oatmeal or toast and jam. If you’re a farmer who needs to till several dozen acres, you’re going to need those sugars and carbohydrates. However, if you plan on spending a significant portion of your day seated in a cubicle – how useful is that?
How all of this plays into your diet is up for you to decide with respect to the goals you’ve set for yourself. And don’t worry, if you need to stay in ketosis longer without fasting – there are endless resources for explaining ketosis and how you can make the most use of it.
And if your goal is to add weight, obviously you have a bit more flexibility.
6. Surround yourself with others who share your passion
We don’t always live near people who share our goals. This is a fact of life. However, it’s important once you’ve begun your grand path towards a healthier lifestyle that you bring in people who share in those opinions.
Thankfully, in the age of the internet, it’s never been easier to find forums and communities of those who share your interests. Whether it be participating in the next 5k Mud Run or losing weight through keto, there is a group that can serve to keep you inspired and motivated.
However, don’t get yourself stuck in an echo chamber. Don’t confuse parroting for motivation. Ultimately, regardless of how much or little support you receive from a community – your health is in your hands.
Communities such as reddit’s /r/fitness can be a good place to start to find peer-reviewed tips and suggestions to finding a community that’s specific to your interests.
7. Know a Fitness Charlatan when you see one!
Someone somewhere is always going to be trying to sell you something on the internet. There are no “secrets” to a healthy lifestyle. And, as far as peer-reviewed Exercise Science literature goes, there is no magic fitness pill.
There are a lot of supplements on the market. And at every turn, some “fitness authority” will attempt to push one on you. Don’t be fooled – know your science!
If you don’t understand fully how a supplement benefits you – don’t take it.
There’s no miracle pill for weight loss but there are plenty of ways to wreck your liver and kidneys. You do need vitamins and minerals to optimize your body’s functioning. And here are some good guidelines to follow for that. Your daily requirements may be different depending on your personal health and dietary needs.
If your goal is to be healthy and fit, there is simply no alternative to developing and maintaining good habits.
Despite the pedantry of supposed health gurus, there are plenty of tools one can use online to keep track and monitor your daily requirements of diet, exercise, and nutritional information. There are also a plethora of tools for your phone to keep track of your run, calories burned, and sleep.
Make the experts work for you – not the other way around.
In order for your body to work optimally, you need water – on average 3.3 liters per man and 2.2 liters per woman. However, your specific requirements will be based on your metabolism, weight, and activity. As a rule, though, you should be taking in at least the above requirements.
Without water, your body’s digestive, respiratory, and circulatory system cannot operate correctly. And while we’re talking about water – let’s be specific: water. Not diet cola or flavored beverage or high-sugar “sports” drinks.
While you do need electrolytes to make that water useful, the sort commonly found in many “sports beverages” is actually not at all useful if you’re not actively engaged in heavy aerobic activity for more than 60 minutes.
You need unadulterated, clean water every single day.
If you have trouble visualizing your water requirements, if you’re a man, take three one-liter water bottles and fill them up in the morning. Before you go to bed, they should all be empty because you drank them (not given them to your household plant). And conversely, if you’re a woman, do the same with two one-liter water bottles.
When you leave in the morning, take them with you. Take those water bottles everywhere. You will stay hydrated.
9. Keep track of your progress
It cannot be understated – the only way for you to know how you’re doing is by keeping a log. It can be something as simple as merely logging your daily activity, daily pictures, or as complex as logging your caloric intake. With the number of apps and programs out there designed to estimate your input vs. output, there are plenty of options to let you know your progress.
Why this is significant is if you’re able to see your progress, you can see if a plan is working out for you. If it’s not working out for you, maybe you didn’t give your plan enough time or maybe you need to do some more research.
However, for those times when you don’t want to do your fitness routine or drink another glass of water, this log can be the best testament to how far you’ve come.
10. Prioritize your sleep
Healthy people always set their sleep schedule as one of their highest priorities. Deep, meaningful sleep is the only way for you to refresh your mind so you can concentrate on your goals.
There is a lot about sleep that is still being studied. Generally, what is known for certain is what happens when you do not get enough of it. A lack of sleep has been shown to significantly contribute to weight gain, higher blood pressure and increased inflammation.
The clinical director of the sleep division of Arrowhead Health (Glendale, AZ), Michael Breus, PhD, has recommended that you should generally keep pushing your bedtime earlier until you no longer need an alarm clock to wake up. The author of Beauty Sleep suggests doing this in fifteen minute increments so you can safely adjust to your requirements while still maintaining your schedule.
Understanding the importance sleep plays in your life will naturally lead you to developing a healthy routine.
11. Forget perfection – Do you!
Understand that your body is unique and the requirements you have for it must be complimentary. That is the ultimate step for you to psychologically and physically become healthy and fit. You have specific needs and limitations. Understanding how your body –
- takes in and expends energy
- uses fluid
…will help you make a plan that accommodates what you need in order to get the results you want.
No matter who you are and what your perceived limitations – there is a way for you to be healthy and fit while enjoying your life.