Hate dieting and the gym? This one’s for you – tips to stay motivated and achieve those happy, healthy goals from Jo’burg-based Cara, a health blogger, yoga enthusiast and founder of the Caralishious brand.
What motivates you?
‘Before starting on any healthy lifestyle change, I recommend sitting down and reflecting on what will actually work for you. In other words: what motivates you? What body type do you have? What kind of exercise do you enjoy? By asking yourself these questions, you’ll be able to determine what kind of workout and eating plan will actually work for you in the long run,’ says Cara.
Also, if you know what motivates you, you’ll likely plan workout and eating goals that you’ll stick to – rather than ‘pie in the sky’ goals that aren’t achievable and don’t speak to what you’re excited about. Above all: ‘Don’t try copy and paste someone else’s way of life, because that may not necessarily work for you. Put in the time to figure out what will be best for you personally, and in particular make sure you enjoy it! That way you will want to continue doing it,’ says Cara.
Plan changes that are holistic and sustainable
‘One of the most important pieces of advice I can give when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle is that it’s exactly that – a lifestyle. There’s no quick fix – you have to be in it for the long run if you want your hard work to be sustainable,’ says Cara.
And the key to sustainability is coming up with a workout or eating plan that you can actually stick to. Never run a 5km before? Don’t set yourself a workout goal of running 5km every morning! Start with something doable, but still challenging: how about a 1,5km run, every second day? When this becomes easy, re-set your goal to 3km and then, finally, to 5km. Overshooting on your goals is setting yourself up for failure, and that’s seriously demotivating!
And be aware of your current lifestyle and schedule. If you struggle with time, be mindful of that when you plan your workout: start with quick, 20-minute exercise once or twice a week, and build from there. If it’s doable, you’re more likely to stick to your plan – and then grow on your workout from there.
The same goes with healthy eating: if you love that burger special every Friday evening, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can give that up instantly. Instead, plan meat-free Mondays and aim to create healthy, wholesome lunches during the week without denying yourself your weekly burger feast. Slowly, you’ll absorb those healthy eating habits into your lifestyle – and you’ll see the changes in your health and body.
And don’t forget the power of a rest day to keep your plan sustainable: ‘Listen to your body. When it needs a break, allow it a good rest. Over-exercising puts our bodies under major stress, which in turn builds up high levels of cortisol (our stress hormone). Cortisol promotes fat storage, so no matter how hard you train, if your cortisol levels are high, you will not see the results you want – so take those rest days as seriously as you take your workouts,’ says Cara.
Power your body with the right stuff
Killing yourself in your workout is only useful if you’re fuelling yourself with the right stuff, too. No point putting in all the work, only to be undoing it all with what you eat later, right? ‘Wholefoods and keeping clear of processed, packaged stuff are key,’ advises Cara. But that doesn’t mean healthy eating = yucky food! Simple changes, like switch white bread for wholegrain bread, boiling and steaming food instead of frying it, or avoiding putting fat-laden salad dressing over your greens, are totally doable steps in the right direction.
Keep your goals positive, not negative
‘Health and fitness should be kept positive to generate results,’ says Cara. ‘So you want to try to maintain a positive association with healthy eating and exercising. The minute it becomes linked to punishment, torture, sacrifice or boredom, you’ll want to stop.’
So try switching your focus: instead of ‘weight loss’, think of ‘healthy living’; instead of ‘sweaty workouts’ thing of ‘building up your fitness’. ‘I know we all want the gorgeous body that gets heads turning, but that’s simply a by-product of healthy living – it should never ever be the focus,’ adds Cara. ‘When your attention is on the right stuff – nourishing your body with wholesome food and moving your body to feel energised – the rest will follow.’
Read more advice from Cara: 8 Steps to Happiness and Healthiness (That Don’t Cost The Earth)