I always say that one of the first steps to leading a healthy lifestyle is awareness; you absolutely must build a foundation of knowledge. I can’t even tell you how many times I have clients that THINK they are doing the right things and yet are so frustrated by lack of progress. Well, it turns out, some of those things really aren’t the best after all. It is key to know the HOW; otherwise, you can be wasting a whole lot of time.
After that, it is all about action, taking that education and putting it into practice. However, unfortunately, that is all too often easier said than done. You can have all the right knowledge, but putting it into practice DAY IN and DAY OUT is a whole other ballgame. Just because you know to eat meat and veggies doesn’t mean you magically have more time to cut and prepare them all. Or just because you know slang like HIIT or AMRAP, doesn’t mean you always feel like reaching new PRs in those. Head knowledge does not automatically result in doing.
I have been in the health and fitness industry for almost a decade now, and I have built up knowledge from personal experience, research and training clients, and yet being healthy is still a struggle that I have to re-commit to every single day. Trust me. I hear you. Just like you, I am a regular old Jane, trying to figure out how to make it all work…
I know time is of the essence between shuttling kids, doing jobs and volunteering.
Budgets are real, and we can’t always just buy whatever healthy food looks tasty.
I don’t have a gym membership with daycare provided so I know workout times with babies is challenging.
Cooking is definitely not my favorite thing in the world.
Then, there is sleep. Oh sweet sleep. I know how precious and lacking it can be between night time feeding sessions and early morning alarm clocks.
I get it. Sometimes it feels like all we can do is throw our hands in the air and surrender, but hold your horses please. I am hear to tell you that we can do this, and I am gonna give you my best “hacks” for making this whole healthy thing doable…tricks that ACTUALLY WORK in a real life sort of way.
*These might not all apply to you in your life situation, but sift through and glean what is helpful, and hopefully something is!I have divided it up between nutrition and exercise, tackling some of the biggest obstacles that I personally face and have seen most often with my clients.
I get it. Eating well seems like it takes more time with all the cutting and prepping. Plus, I don’t love to cook; I know some people find it relaxing, but after a long day of work and taking care of my kids, I don’t always feel like slaving over the stove (not to mention during the witching hour when my kids are craaaabby). Over the years, however, I have come up with a few tricks for SIMPLE healthy eating. Here are some things that I implement, and hopefully some will work for you.
1. Keep breakfast simple – I honestly don’t get too creative here. We have a few go to options that we rotate. They are fast and mindless to fix so busy mornings are more smooth, and I always have these things on hand so I know off of the top of my head what to get at the grocery store.
2. Utilize grab and go snacks – I don’t want to put any time into snacks, and I mean zero. So we have grab and go things: Lara bars, KIND fruit bars, grain free granola bars, RX bars, hard boiled eggs, quality deli meat, nuts, dried seeds, dried fruit, fruit, raw veggies, nut butters, hummus, olives, pickles…you get the idea. Once in a blue moon, I will make a healthy muffin or energy bites on the weekend for the kids to have throughout the week.
3. Have leftovers for lunch – I do this in two different ways. I either purposefully make too much dinner and eat the leftovers for lunch. Cook once, eat twice people. Less work, less time. Sometimes, we don’t have leftovers so I also usually make some sort of healthy option at the beginning of the week that I can eat throughout…salad, clean chicken salad, taco salad, etc. Again, I am getting several meals out of cooking ONE time. Finally, in a pinch I have Aidells sausage (grill it), raw veggies and some fruit. Literally 5 minutes of prep. With this lunch system and the previously mentioned simple breakfast and grab and go snacks, I essentially only have to prep dinner every week.
3. Keep dinners basic most nights of the week. I only fix more “involved” dinner recipes 2 to 3 nights per week, and these are usually on days when I have more time. Otherwise, we are having recipes that are staples that I know we like and take less than 30 minutes to fix. These are things that I can almost make by heart, cutting down my time so I don’t have to be constantly checking a recipe. This is going to vary from family to family, and if you haven’t been eating healthy for awhile, it will take a bit more work to build a “base”, but here are some of our favorites:
-Aidells Sausage with green beans and sweet potato
-Grilled Meat with grilled veggies or salad
-Simple meat and veggie chili
-Meatballs and zoodles
-Ribs and roasted veggies
4. Do not cook two meals. I have a lot clients that start their healthy eating journey by fixing two dinners every night: one for themselves and one for their family. I get told things like “kids are picky or husbands won’t eat rabbit food”. Well, I really, really want to kindly encourage to NOT do this. It takes more time (our number one excuse), and thus you will eventually burn out. And let’s be real, what do you think will go…the healthy dinner or the other one (I will refrain from name calling). So how do you get around it? What do you do with more reluctant members of the family?
– Husbands are often easier. They actually do like a lot of meals; they just need to try them. Plus, what guy doesn’t like meat and potatoes?! Well that is a perfectly acceptable meal. Have some grilled meat, a veggie side and potatoes. Boom. Done. Happy, healthy husband.
– I know kids are harder, and sometimes nearly impossible. Honestly, you need to pick your battles, but I want to encourage you to keep after it. Start by fixing healthier options you know they enjoy. For example, my kids for whatever unknown reason like asparagus, which is probably top 3 least favorites for me. However, I put on my big girl pants and fix them a lot because I know they will eat them. Keep having them try foods; just because they didn’t like it at one time, doesn’t mean they won’t ever like it. Our taste buds develop. Don’t reward them with “other” food after dinner if they didn’t eat it. Then, they will learn that if they just wait it out, they will get something they like. And remember, if you can teach your kids healthy eating habits now, you will be setting them up for so much more success when they are adults.
– Make subtle tweaks to your meal: For example, I previously mentioned we eat tacos frequently. I make one meal and then my kids and husband have a shell or corn chips with theirs, and I just put my meat on lettuce or sauteed peppers and onions. Another simple swap is to make some meat with veggies and then add an additional side that you might not eat or not eat as much of.
5. Utilize slower days: I would rather do a little prep here and little there throughout the week, but some of you find it easier to do bigger chunks at a time. Then, take advantage of less busy days. Very few of us, work 7 days per week, so use your off days or when you have someone else around to help with young kids, to do some prep.
The biggest barrier I see with clients is time. It can be hard to find 30 extra minutes (if you think you need to do more than this, let’s have a chat) in your day, but sometimes it just takes a little evaluation, prioritization and creativity. Most of us if we are honest with ourselves have 30 minutes to spare, but we just don’t necessarily want to use it to exercise. Ha!
1. Put your workout on your “must do” list: Just this mental attitude shift helps immensely. When we wake up in the morning, I think we all at least subconciously prioritize our days, dividing it into things that HAVE to get done, things we want to get done and things we would like to get done. For example, we have to bring our kid to her dentist appointment, we want to finish our work project in the next day or two and we would like to get the laundry folding in the evening. Some of our tasks absolutely have to be checked off the list that day. Mentally put exercise into this category. It has to happen, and if that means the laundry waits till tomorrow morning, so be it.
2. Utilize slower days: Just like with meal prep, we all have a few days per week that are a little less insane. Exercise on those days when you have a bit more time.
3. Embrace the alarm clock: I know, I know…early morning workouts just don’t seem like an option for some of you, but maybe give it a second look. It wouldn’t have to be EVERY day that you wake up early, but maybe two or three. Plus, your body truly does adjust to waking up at an early time, and you don’t necessarily need to get up that much earlier…I mean 30 minutes isn’t awful.
4. Exercise when your kids are awake: I know for many of you it is about time and kids. There isn’t much time without kids around, and early mornings sound even less appealing if you are up with a newborn in the middle of the night. Well, who says you can’t workout when they are awake? Don’t feel guilty!!! It shows them the importance of exercise, and it teaches them independent play, which is a skill that they need to learn. Interruptions might be more frequent at first, but they do learn I promise!
The next biggest barrier is desire. Exercise is hard; it is meant to be that way, but that makes it less appealing. This one is more difficult to solve, but here are a few ideas:
1. Pick the exercise that you enjoy…or at least the one you find most tolerable. Along those lines, choose what feels right for the day. For example, sometimes I just want to go for a run because it is gorgeous outside, and I want to clear my head, and other days, I want to lift all the heavy things.
2. Workout with friends, a spouse or a group: This will give you accountability, and sometimes the company is nice!
So there you have it. Hopefully, somewhere in there, at least some thing was valuable to you and gave you pause to think. I wanted to write this blog to encourage you all that healthy living can be manageable and sustainable. If you are just starting out, there will be a learning curve, and it will be more difficult at first, but over time, it truly does get easier and easier.
And finally, I leave you with this thought. I tried to give you solutions in this blog so that we can stop making excuses and find a way to make it work. But that being said, you still need to give yourself grace. You are not going to be perfect – changes will not happen overnight, and you will have set backs no matter. So always try to keep that balance of being patient and kind with yourself, but still honest if you are doing what you truly can.