If you read the title of this post and thought, “ugh, boring,” – you might be right!
Real, sustainable habits that lead to serious results are rarely exciting, new, or dramatic. In fact, if you look around at the other blog posts going up this time of year urging you to work out six times a week, completely overhaul your diet, and transform your lifestyle, chances are they are NOT going to bring you lasting results. You’ll be burned out by February!
But if you ARE looking to make a simple change that can fit easily into your routine and uplevel your health and wellness, read on for some actionable tips. These are a round-up of my client community’s favorite tools and reminders that help them keep their fitness and nutrition habits sustainable.
Real, sustainable habits that lead to serious results are rarely exciting, new, or dramatic
1. Stay in your own lane
It is really, really easy to get caught up in diet and exercise FOMO this time of year. Your coworker is doing the keto diet. Your sister-in-law swears by intermittent fasting. Your neighbor insists that Orange Theory is the only way to work out.
Unfortunately, there is no “magic bullet” when it comes to fitness and nutrition. Making small, incremental change is really the only way to see results that are healthy and sustainable. That doesn’t mean that you need to be rigid about your plan and avoid ALL outside distractions – if you think that trying a Peloton class might be fun, go ahead! But these kinds of novelties should be a small add-on to your overall wellness plan.
2. Bargain with yourself
Don’t feel like doing the workout? Give yourself permission to do one set for ten minutes and then see how you feel.
Don’t feel like skipping the fries for the salad? Order both.
Don’t feel like going on your walk? Just commit to one block around the neighborhood, or a 15-minute podcast.
The bottom line is that something is better than nothing, and even these small steps will add up over time. That said, if your body or mind is telling you that it really needs the break, there are also times when skipping out is warranted!
A single Tupperware container filled with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber isn’t a meal – and it isn’t likely to make you feel satisfied! Don’t be afraid to add carbs and fat to your salads to help keep you satisfied and enjoy what you’re eating.
I hear from clients all the time that “breakfast and lunch aren’t the problem,” but often, they actually ARE. If your meals are leaving you starving or unsatisfied, no wonder you experience cravings at the end of the day!
Don’t be afraid to add carbs and fat to your salads
When you wake up. Before coffee, tea, or breakfast. Before you leave the house. Before your next Zoom meeting or workout or appointment. Before you order the beer or pour yourself the wine.
If I had to pick ONE hydration hack to share, this is it. When you prioritize #WaterFirst, you are prioritizing giving yourself more energy, more mental clarity, and better sleep.
5. Focus on stress management, sleep, and recovery
Speaking of sleep, I think that it often still falls by the wayside when talking about health and wellness. But if the last two years have taught us anything, it is that focusing on sleep, managing stress, and actively recovering are vitally important to our routines.
If you feel like you’re nailing “calories in, calories out” and still not reaching your goals, you may try getting more sleep, getting more sunlight, increasing your non-exercise movement, leveraging your support system, or focusing on recovery between workouts!
No, this isn’t the flashy stuff. But #BoringSelfCare is what allows your body and mind to function at their best. How you feel matters – it matters even more than nailing your workout or eating 30 grams of protein! So let’s start by implementing habits that help you take care of yourself.
6. Find the optimal cardio dose
There are a lot of us who are still recovering from “all cardio, all the time” messaging. And then there are those of us who have coaches or fitness influencers saying that cardio isn’t necessary at all.
Cardio DOES have a time and place. And it does have a lot of benefits! But most women are likely OVERdoing the cardio, leading to exhaustion, cravings, and a fitness plateau.
I like to think about strength training as the “main dish” and cardio as the “side.” Sprinkling in some cardio workouts that you love throughout the week is totally okay – but strength training is the key to changing your body composition and increasing your metabolism.
By which I mean, ask yourself two simple questions at each meal:
Does this contain protein?
Does this contain produce, aka fiber?
I like this strategy for two reasons. One, we get to focus on making small shifts rather than huge diet overhauls, which is the key to sustainable change. And two, we get to focus on what we can ADD to a meal rather than what we need to subtract.
8. Celebrate your wins
As women, it is so easy for us to downplay our wins. To focus on how much further we have to go, what we could’ve done instead, or what we still need to work on. To brush off our small wins as not big enough to “count.”
This can leave us feeling frustrated, burnt out, or disappointed in ourselves. But celebrating the small wins leads to MORE wins! These small changes add up to big results over time, and celebrating what works will help make the process more fun and help you to be kinder to yourself along the way.
So if you’re already beating yourself up about not starting off your new year EXACTLY how you planned, take a step back and celebrate what you HAVE already accomplished – no matter how small!
9. Create your #MinimizedMenu
Does improving your nutrition require having to try lots of new recipes and learn new ways of cooking? It certainly CAN, if you want! But it doesn’t have to. Most often, the nutrition changes I help my clients make are with small tweaks to the meals they’re already eating, and we make them feel as manageable as possible.
A #MinimizedMenu is a way to keep nutrition SIMPLE in your day to day. Mine looks like this: Breakfast is eggs and veggies – all I need to think about is which veggies I have on hand that day, and how I want to cook my eggs. Lunch is a salad or fuel bowl – this minimizes my decision making to simply what is going in the bowl each day.
If you like learning new recipes and have time to spend on an elaborate meal, then go for it! But having a few options to help make your decisions more automatic is a great tool for when you’re in a busy season.
10. Think about your next best step
When we mess up or make a decision that’s less than perfect, it’s really easy to beat ourselves up and focus just on that setback. Instead, ask yourself: What’s your next best step? What’s one action that you can take to get you feeling in your power again?
Maybe you had a weekend (or a week or two!) of overdoing it. The goal isn’t that you will NEVER have a weekend like that again – you can safely assume that you will! The goal is that those weekends happen only occasionally, and you are able to move forward without feeling guilty or beating yourself up.
11. What would you say to a friend?
Truthfully, we are so much more likely to beat ourselves up for missed workouts, criticize our own appearance, and tell ourselves we should have done better than we are to do those things to others we care about. My clients often will ask themselves “would you talk to a friend/mom/sister like this?” Most of us wouldn’t even talk to a stranger on the street like we talk to ourselves.
The way that we talk to ourselves may seem like a small factor, but starting with this question will help you show yourself the same compassion that you give to others.
12. Be in your season
It is just unrealistic for habits to look exactly the same 365 days a year. When they first join my community, women have been trying to be in a calorie deficit for YEARS. But really, fat loss shouldn’t be the focus all the time – some seasons and times of year should be about consistency and maintenance.
Think about your year in seasons of burn, build, and breaks. Rather than feeling like you need to change your eating habits or up your workouts to “get back on track,” accept that the ebbs and flows are all part of the path.
Let us know what tip resonated most with you in the comments!
If you are a driven woman who enjoys working out, but you aren’t seeing or feeling the results you’re chasing, consider booking a connection call so we can chat about how to get you sustainable habits without losing flexibility, fun, or focus along the way.