Starting a Healthy Lifestyle in 5 Easy Steps
In the month of May in 2017, I made the decision to turn over a new leaf. I was tired of the bullying, the negative comments and the bad things people had to say about my weight. So, I changed my life, without even realising it at the time.
My journey in 2017 started with working out. I was motivated to workout with only one goal in mind: losing weight. However, it became my coping mechanism to deal with stress and it became a form of therapy to me. It still is to this day. Despite this, I have realised the real engine behind weight loss: food. This realisation came about through trial and error. I was active for years, doing sports like swimming, ballet and hockey; but still I could never seem to shake the weight. It was then that I realised the importance of eating the proper foods.
Steps to a lifestyle change:
1. Mind over matter:
Beginning a healthy lifestyle really is mind over matter. You need to decide that you want to make a change and take every step necessary to make that change possible. There will be difficult days, where you feel like you can’t do it anymore. On those days you need to go back to the basics. Remind yourself why you’re doing this and look at your progress and how far you’ve come. Giving up will cost you more than continuing in the right direction.
The first step in changing your unhealthy habits is detoxing. Detoxing does not only involve food. It involves everything. You need to detox negative thoughts of yourself, detox from negative people and negative situations. When detoxing from food, these are the things you should cut out completely for 14 days: sugar, carbohydrates, dairy and caffeine. I know it sounds daunting at first; at this point you should be asking yourself, so what can I eat then? The answer is simple: anything that is not processed and is free from the above four no no’s.
You should know that during a detox you will experience headaches, bloating, nausea, mood swings, shakiness, fatigue, cravings and more regular bowel movements- this is because waste is being removed from your colon and intestine.
It is important to note that experiencing these symptoms during a detox, while unpleasant- is a good sign. So, power through the unpleasant feelings and carry on. You’re on the right track.
During my many attempts at detoxing, cravings and fatigue were the most difficult part for me. Fatigue was difficult to manage because I was usually in the middle of lectures and exams while detoxing; thus making the process more difficult for me to maintain. The answer here is simple: water. Hydration is key. Drinking water regularly during a detox will alleviate hunger, fatigue, nausea and headaches.
Be motivated not to give into cravings because, it means you will have to start the process all over again, this will only prolong the process and delay your results.
Food is the most important part of weight loss. You need to cut out processed food in order to see results. Processed sugar and carbohydrates are not your friend. You need to cut these out completely. Carbohydrates such as: white flour, white rice, white pasta and white bread is what you should focus on cutting out of your diet. When I say processed sugar I mean chocolates, sweets and confectionaries. Natural sugar, like you find in fruit, is good for you. However, even when eating fruit- it’s important to do everything in moderation. Meal prepping is the easiest way to eat healthy foods when you have a busy schedule and a fast-paced life. With this, try to eat five small meals a day. Contrary to common belief, I have found the saying to be true. Eat breakfast like a King and supper like a peasant. Your metabolism slows down at night, therefore it is important to eat small portions at night. With this, make sure you don’t eat past 8pm.
4. Working out:
In my weight loss journey I worked out approximately 3-4 times per week. Working out speeds up your metabolism while toning your body. Exercising helped me to build confidence, which for me was the most exciting part. I could feel the difference in my body and attitude if I did not work out for the week. Being fit and maintaining my work out programme helped me to remain focused, it became something to look forward to. As I went forward, I started making friends at the gym and they would message me if I was not at a class or if they hadn’t seen me for a week or two. This motivated me to work out even when I felt overly tired or drained. However, you don’t need a gym membership to stay active and fit. There are many home workout videos and exercises to follow. My journey started in my lounge.
It is important that you know that working out and eating well go hand in hand. While food is the most important component; still, you cannot do the one without the other.
I experienced something profound while on my journey, if I ate unhealthy foods before exercising, my workouts were more difficult to keep up with and I would feel nauseous and wouldn’t be able to perform as I would if I had stuck to my diet.
5. Cheat days:
Rule number 1: cheat days DO NOT exist. I have tried to incorporate whole cheat days…. take a page out of my book, it does not work. It will make reverting back to your healthy lifestyle more difficult. However, cheat meals 2-3 times a week works. Choose which days and which meals you will incorporate something out of the ordinary. For example, incorporate your cheat meals on a weekend. Doing this helped me to be motivated to eat healthy for the whole week, because I knew I was working towards something exciting. If I cheated in the week, I would not allow myself a cheat meal on the weekends and this would only make the process more difficult for me.
I know what you’re thinking, easier said than done. I can tell you from experience, it is. If this were easy it wouldn’t be called a change. All change is a difficult process. But the changes you will see in yourself is worth the sacrifice. Later in your journey you will see that it becomes a way of life and you will not have to think twice when choosing which snacks to put on your plate at a party, or which foods to put in your trolley at the supermarket. It will change from being a conscious effort to being an unconscious lifestyle.
Lastly, do not be too hard on yourself. It takes 28 days for something…anything to become a habit. So give yourself time. You’re changing your entire life here.
I would like to end of by sharing with you the biggest lesson I have learnt in this journey. Do not do this for anyone else but yourself. Don’t do it for a colleague, a family member or a friend. Make a change for you. And only you. Someone else’s opinion of you is not important, neither is it relevant. Your opinion of yourself is what matters. You’re going to be the one putting in the work, putting in the time and effort. Making the sacrifices. I feel you should love yourself enough to do it only for you.
When I started I did it for other people. I did it to prove a point to others. I will admit that when the compliments came from those very people that tore me down, it felt good. But that feeling only lasted a second. And I reverted back to my old eating habits eventually. So, if you want a lifestyle change and a change that lasts. Do yourself a favour and make this process about you. That’s exactly what it is, it’s a process. It does not happen overnight. People will speak negatively about you during this process. People will be bold enough to say negative things to your face during this process – I’ve been there, and let me tell you, it’s not worth paying any attention to. Save your attention and your energy for yourself and your journey. YOU are the most important part in all of this. Finally, since it’s January I am going to be beginning my journey again. Using the above 5 easy steps I have given you. I think, it’s a perfect time to start.
Kelly as a student at the University of Cape Town majoring in Gender Studies, Organisational Psychology and Psychology. Empowerment is defined as a measure given to an individuals and communities, aimed at increasing their autonomy and self-determination; enabling them to become stronger and allowing them to understand and exercise their rights with freedom and self-confidence. Kelly is particularly passionate about female empowerment. It is because of this that she has joined the Future Females movement. Women have a unique strength that is deeply embedded. It is her hope that through her writing she is able to help women across the globe discover and utilise this strength to the best of their ability.