I set myself a step count challenge at the beginning of the year. It was to walk at least 5,000,000 steps in 2015. As of today, I am delighted to proclaim that I’ve reached my goal!
5 million steps might seem like a lot, but it all started with a few small steps and one step at a time. With new challenges ahead and a target of 7,000,000 steps for next year, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on and share the steps and changes that helped me lose 170 lbs and become more active. Steps that I will also need to read and heed.
I hope these steps help you as much as they have helped me.
• Small Steps. The first step is to make them small. Don’t try to alter your lifestyle overnight. If you are overweight and inactive you probably took some time getting there. Getting away will also take time. By making small and independent changes you can assess what works for you while not overwhelming and overloading yourself physically or mentally.
• More Steps. Walking more was key to getting me more active. You can get started anytime. I use a Garmin Vivofit (and my beloved Garmin 620), but many smartphones are now equipped with step count apps and a simple pedometer works just as well. Start by simply walking more short journeys. Try taking stairs rather than lifts and escalators and bouts of purposeful walking which can be 5 mins rushing to work or trying to keep up with a five year old. My personal favourite is trying to get to a public toilet. Which ties in with the next step.
• Drink More. Not more beer or wine, unfortunately, but water. It can help with satiety and can increase your metabolism, although this is arguably insignificant. It might be a myth, but the sage advice of drinking first when feeling hungry helped me and led to more purposeful walking. If plain water isn’t your cup of tea, have a cup of unsweetened green tea or mix it with some squash.
• Eat Squash. This, pumpkin and other high in fibre alternatives to traditional starchy foods like potatoes. Potatoes themselves aren’t that bad, according to nutritionists. It is mostly what we do with them. Like frying them and covering them in ketchup. Same for pasta and rice. Often it is a case of what we add to them and how large a portion we have.
• Don’t Go Large. My gran taught me to clear my plate, but one lesson I learned was to go small. Smaller portions and smaller plates. Also don’t be afraid, when you feel full, to stop.
• Stop. When you start exercising more it can be addictive. It releases endorphins that often make you feel euphoric and unstoppable. We enter a boom and bust mentality. We over train and struggle to maintain which can lead to injury and to us giving up, especially when our losses become less significant.
• Involve Your Significant Other. A hard lesson I learned was that it is important to ensure that you balance your desire to get healthier with your responsibilities as a partner or parent. Combine both. Go for family walks, play in the park with the kids. You might be surprised at how much fun it is.
• Have Fun. Often I am asked what the best activity for weight loss is. I love running, not because it’s a fat burner, but because I enjoy it. I enjoy races and I enjoy challenging myself. I also enjoy lifting weights, kicking pads and striking balls. I do what I love, and love what I do. The exercise or activity that will get you fitter and leaner is the one you will enjoy and the one you will do, consistently.
• Be Consistent. It is easy to get overwhelmed by early success with later smaller losses and even plateaus undermining your confidence. If you maintain your new adopted behaviours you will succeed. Stay the course, don’t give up. Don’t fall asleep on the job.
• Sleep. Obesity is often linked with lack of sleep. Causality or correlation, I don’t know. What I do know is that when I am up late, I eat more and I eat more junk. When I am tired, I exercise less, I have less self-control and stress more.
• Don’t Stress, Be Happy. One of the by-products of stress is cortisol. This can lead to increased insulin production and is often linked to the accumulation of abdominal fat. Try to eliminate or remove elements from your life that bring you down. Unclutter and spend more time on you and less time playing games on social media.
• Use Social Media. There are many great groups and people to inspire and support you. Without boring friends with pictures of salads and accounts of your latest run (guilty of both), you can get accountability and share and try new ideas.
• Try new activities and become a try athlete. Variability can make your training more fun and more productive . Set yourself challenges that will help you reach your goals.
• Set Goals. Identify why you want to lose weight or get more active and make a plan with short term and long term goals, making them attainable but stretching, realistic but challenging and specific but flexible. Your goals will change as you change and you will reap the rewards.
• Show off. Be proud of your success and don’t dwell too long on your mistakes. Most weight loss journeys encounter bumps and detours before we reach our destinations.
My final tip is not to wait. Not for January or even until Monday. What steps can you take now to make 2016 and beyond healthier and happier for you and your family?