Header image courtesy of Denys Nevozhai (via Unsplash)
For many, the beginning of the year is a time of change and resolutions—you know, “new year, new me.” But we all know the cliché of people committing to super-strict exercise regimens or quitting their vices cold turkey come 1 January, only to slide back into old habits within a few weeks. After the stinker of a year that was 2020, it might feel tempting to stay firmly within your own comfort zone, throw your hands up, and say, “What’s the point?”.
If anything, living through such a trying year is motivation to make this one count. It’s no wonder most new year’s resolutions revolve around developing healthy habits—it’s one of the most impactful ways to improve your quality of life. But how do you make those habits stick? We got a few tips from the fitness and lifestyle pros at Bust-A-Rut on how to set (and achieve!) attainable goals for yourself in 2021 and, well, bust out of your rut.
Mindset is the key to achieving long-term success in anything that you do. When it comes to transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, changing your perspective is the first and most crucial thing that will make your daily decisions—about that glass of wine, slice of cake, or teaspoon of sugar—feel easier. Don’t think of lifestyle changes as a punishment to put yourself through to hit a certain weight or clothing size, celebrate the fact that you get to take care of yourself. It’s not enough to simply want to lose 10 pounds; numbers on a scale are too abstract and arbitrary (and don’t account for muscle gain, fat loss, or water weight, anyway).
Bust-A-Rut’s lead health consultant Angela Hancock says, “There has to be an emotional connection—consider the effect that improving your health will have on the quality of your life. How will losing those 10 pounds change the way you feel? What will your relationships with yourself, your spouse, your children, and co-workers look like when you feel comfortable in your own skin and with what you see in the mirror?”
Health is not a fixed state; it’s an ongoing process that you keep working at over time. Inches and pounds can be gained as quickly as they are lost, and engaging in extreme short-term diets or “cleanses” rarely provides the framework with which you can sustain long-term change. By seeing your health not as a destination but a journey peppered with exciting emotional milestones, it’ll be easier for you to make better choices and enjoy yourself along the way.
Speaking of choices, it’s crucial to understand that every little decision will add up to massive results over time. Instead of fad or crash regimens that set you up for failure once they’re over, the cumulative effect of small but healthy daily decisions has more powerful and long-lasting effects. It may seem hard to pass up the sugar in your coffee at first but with practice, you’ll go from thinking “I can’t have that” to “I don’t want it,” then not thinking about it at all. If you dread exercise and often put it off, make your workout the first thing you do every day and get it out of the way. Eventually, it’ll become second nature; a part of your daily routine that’s as prosaic but non-negotiable as brushing your teeth.
Releasing the “all-or-nothing” attitude removes the guilt and shame that many people experience when eating their favourite treats—being healthy does not mean avoiding chocolate, wine, and biscuits like a vampire hissing at garlic. It just means that you will find a healthy balance and an understanding that you can have your cake and eat it, too (in moderation). Just like with food, you should not take an “in for a penny, in for a pound” approach to exercise—if you’re having a bad day and don’t have the time or energy for a full workout, don’t mentally punish yourself for failing. Just do what you can—whether that’s half of your regular exercises or just a brisk power-walk—because any movement is better than none at all.
Learning how to live a healthier life is like training a muscle; it will not suddenly develop overnight. Research shows it takes 21 days to develop a new neural pathway—a habit—in the brain, which is why you should be patient with yourself. So many people are so stuck in the “all-or-nothing” mentality that they become far too critical of themselves and become wracked with guilt and shame when they don’t see instant results or immediately master new exercises.
Hancock says, “I encourage my clients to acknowledge that critical voice and tell themselves, ‘Thank you for your opinion but I’m doing the best I can right now, so I’d appreciate your support.’ I ask them to treat themselves as they would a child, with love, compassion and understanding. Positive change does not come through harshness and criticism, and lasting change must come from a place of self-love.”
Of course, this is easier said than done and having someone to keep you accountable and provide encouragement will always make the journey more enjoyable. If you are keen to put all the above into action but seek a little guidance, Bust-A-Rut’s 30-day “ReNewYou” programme is a great way to start the new year off with a bang.
Over the month, Hancock will guide you towards a complete lifestyle transformation with detailed meal plans, energising virtual fitness sessions (so you can work out while socially distanced!), and regular check-in calls. As a wellness coach who prioritises a positive mindset and flexibility above strict discipline, Hancock will also discuss how to usher in this period of change while staying relaxed and motivated. Check out Bust-A-Rut’s official website to learn more or get a free consultation!