The brisk January winds are always ripe with possibility. The resolutions are made and the plans are set, but then life gets in the way. The kids are in activities, and you need something quick to feed everyone, so you run through the drive-thru. You wake up with a pounding headache and miss your workout. One thing leads to another and February comes. The cheat meal has turned into a cheat weekend, and your lack of discipline leaves you frustrated and defeated. You realize just how hard it is to change those habits.
You are not alone and you are not a failure. Here is what I have learned in my time as a fitness and nutrition coach: we fail not because we are incapable, but because we set out to do too much too soon. You are capable of great things, you can change your life and your habits, and you can be every bit the person you set out to be in 2020.
You cannot do it overnight, and you cannot do it in 30 days. What you can do is put one foot in front of the other and take a single step toward your goals. As you move forward, each step will make you stronger and more courageous. Before you know it you’ll look behind you and see that you’ve journeyed much farther than you thought possible, and with confidence you will take the next step.
The key is to start small and sustain those small things over time (small changes lead to your habits being changed). Here are 5 things you can start doing right now, today, that won’t cost you any time or money:
- Stop eating at least 3 hours before bed - Let’s be real, no one is reaching for the carrots and hummus while they watch This is Us. Not only do you make poor choices in the hours after dinner, but eating before bed can negatively affect your sleep quality. Sleep quality and quantity is directly related to how well your body functions and is, quite possibly, the most overlooked aspect of your health and wellness.
- Reach for protein - Nearly every type of food we consume is made up of either carbs, fat, or protein. While they all serve a vital purpose, protein and fat are proven to keep the body fuller for longer periods of time. When you are hungry, get more bang for your buck by reaching for a snack high in protein like tuna, chicken, beef jerky, greek yogurt, or cottage cheese. Not only will your protein snack satisfy your hunger, if you are regularly exercising your body will use it to build lean muscle. If you are not sure, check the label. Try to aim for a snack that has 10 grams of protein or more.
- Change your creamer - I won’t tell you to drink black coffee; I’m not a savage. However, making a change from your dairy-based, sugary creamer to a nut or plant based creamer can make a big difference in your overall calorie intake. While it doesn’t seem like a lot, tablespoon after tablespoon can add up. The possibilities for dairy alternatives in our grocery stores are endless. My personal favorite is oat milk or french vanilla nutpods that can be found at your local Kroger.
- Swap your Carbs - Although carbs are getting a bad reputation, they are an essential part of our diet. Just remember that not every carb is equall. Try switching out your regular pasta for Chickpea or edamame pasta, which are full of nutrients, and will provide energy for you throughout the day. Other swaps you can make include whole grain or sprouted grain bread for white bread, and long grain rice for white rice.
- Put water first and last - Instead of trying to eliminate the diet soda or coffee, try adding more water throughout the day. Starting your day with a glass of water before your coffee will prevent dehydration and even curb your hunger cravings. Drinking a glass of water at night will help circulation as you sleep and keep your body hydrated for the long night of rest.
Your relationship with food and fitness does not have to be like your relationship with your high school boyfriend: on-again, off-again pendulum swings of full commitment and utter frustration. Carbs are not the enemy. Sugar is not the enemy. Laziness is not the enemy. The real enemy of your progress is your own expectations. Start here, start with small habits, but start today.