Small steps to a healthier you

Small steps to a healthier you

We don't have to wait until the new year to make a fresh start on living healthily. Let's not dwell on self pity and pick ourselves up. We are often told that in order to make something into a habit or a routine, we have to keep doing for a prolonged period of time. So chin up and let's get started!

A good friend of mine bemoaned the fact that she can't seem to keep her new year's resolution to keep fit. "I try very hard in the first 2 weeks but then I slip up. Long hours at work, demanding husband and children... do you know what I mean?", she said while munching on a Mars bar. I nodded in sympathy, replying, "Yeah, it's tough."

Small steps to a healthier you

I, too, have fallen off the bandwagon of making new year's resolutions that stick with you for the entire year.  The most common resolution that fail is the one regarding health. We know it's good to keep fit and stay healthy in order to live better lives. So, why do we fail so miserably? We often tell ourselves we're too busy, we're too tired, it's too hard, it doesn't matter - I can do it again next year, there's still time...the list of excuses go on.

We don't have to wait until 1 Jan 2012 to make a fresh start on living healthily. Let's not dwell on self pity and pick ourselves up. We are often told that in order to make something into a habit or a routine, we have to keep doing it for a prolonged period of time. Some say, do it consistently for 11 days, some say 21 days, some say stick it out for 4 weeks. The numbers are not important. What's more relevant is to find a form of exercise that is not too difficult to do and keep doing it for a specified period of time. For example, taking evening walks is a good start. Avoid escalators and lifts at all cost and use the stairs instead. Get off the bus 2 bus stops from your destination and walk. Swim in your condominium's swimming pool for at least 3 times a week (after all, you have already paid for it in your management fees!). Jog, cycle, run! The key thing is not to be too ambitious and sign up for 4 exercise classes in an expensive gym and find that you're too exhausted for the first 2 days to follow it through. Keep it simple, enjoy what you're doing and keep at it.

If you miss a day or two of scheduled exercise, don't be too hard on yourself. Look at your calendar and fix an alternative time to exercise, within the next 2 days. If you find it really hard to keep to a fixed schedule of exercising, elicit the help of your spouse or close friend to commit to an exercise routine with you. I find that when I am accountable to someone for a task, I am more likely to keep it, more so when I do not want to disappoint the other person by not showing up.

Eating healthily is not an insurmountable task either. You don't have to force yourself to live on wholemeal bread and water for the rest of your life. Continue eating what you're eating now but reduce the size of your meal portions. If eating out, ask for the dishes to be cooked in less salt and oil. If your daily diet consists of a lot of oily fried food, then consider only eating such dishes once a week rather than every other day. That way, the pain of depriving yourself from your favourite nasi lemak, hokkien mee or char kway teow is bearable. Look for healthy snacks. Choose unsalted nuts, whole wheat cereals and fresh fruits instead of kueh-kueh, biscuits, cakes and ice cream. Reduce your sugar and fat intake. Go for sugar free alternatives and low fat products. Believe me, more often that not, you can't taste the difference!

We often reward our children when they do something good and right. Why not extend this to ourselves? Give yourself a reward such as treating yourself to a facial or a new outfit when you have consistently followed an exercise routine for 4 weeks or when you have resisted eating unhealthy meals for at least 2 weeks. Remember not to be harsh on yourself at all times. We are often our worst critic. Keeping fit and staying healthy is a life long process.  A suggestion to encourage you and give you motivation in this process is to keep a journal to jot down your daily successes.

"I didn't eat any chocolate bars today even though I wanted one badly!"

"I jogged 5 times round the track and felt really good about myself."

"I shared my tiramisu dessert with my two friends today instead of finishing it alone."

"I was too tired today to go for a swim. I will make it to the pool tomorrow."

"I lost 2 kgs! Wow! I feel like I am on top of the world!"

These are just some sample entries that you can make. That way, you can always look back at the week and see how you fare. Where you have fallen short, plan to make up for it. Where there are successes, no matter how small, celebrate it! However, try not to celebrate it by eating 5 pieces of brownies!

Writing this article has made me think about how I treat my own health as well. I think I better switch off my computer and call my good friend to ask if she would like to join me for an evening walk today. I promise to stay clear of sinful chocolate cakes and will strongly dissuade her from snacking on her personal chocolate stash!

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Written by

Jenny Toh

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