By Kathleen Trotter
Live by the equation “awareness + preparation = success.”
Why? You can’t simply “wish” your way to fitness.
Most of us overestimate our healthy choices and underestimate our unhealthy ones — the foods we mindlessly eat, the workouts we skip, the degree to which we rely on coffee, the time we fritter away.
But you can’t create new habits until you are aware of your current ones. You can’t decide to stop mindlessly eating a full dinner while cooking or swiping 500 calories of almonds off of a co-worker’s desk until you know you are a “nibbler” or a “swiper.” You can’t choose to spend your time more productively until you know how you currently spend it.
First, become aware of how you spend your time and of your diet and exercise habits. Next, take the time to set yourself up for success — get prepared. Create realistic goals and a plan of action and establish systems that will save you from your future, less-motivated self.
Build your “awareness muscle”
For at least two weeks, journal how you spend your time as well as your food and exercise choices.
Time journal: How many times have you stated a wish to exercise, but then been “too busy”? How often have you decided to eat well and then “something came up”? If you want to get on top of your health, you have to get control of your time. Too many of us fritter away our time, let emergencies dictate how we use it, or have no idea how we actually spend our minutes, hours, and days. Time is our most valuable resource — we can’t make more.
Journal your time then analyze the data. Colour code or use graphs to sort activities — meetings, creative work, time with clients, sleep, family time, etc. You decide on your categories. How you are spending your time? See where you are wasting 20 minutes on social media? With 20 minutes you can do five Tabata intervals — that is a great workout.
Food and exercise journal: For two weeks track your food (including liquids) and workouts. Is that after-dinner indulgence you thought was a “treat” really a daily occurrence? Maybe you think you miss one workout a week, when really you average skipping three. Is your “tablespoon” of almond butter really half a jar balanced on a spoon? Once you are aware of your choices you can decide to make alternative, healthier ones.
Prepare systems to ensure success
Establish two or three realistic goals — write them down and/or tell an accountability buddy. Make sure your goals reflect how much time and energy you actually have (not how much you wish you had), your finances, and your equipment.
Figure out in advance the WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW of your workout plan. Be detailed. WHERE and WHEN will you work out? Will you join a gym and go before work, join a running group, set up a home gym, play a sport? WHAT exercise will you do? WHEN do you want to accomplish your goal? Be specific. Want to lose weight? How much and by when? Break the goal down — how much per week? If you want to get stronger, what exactly does that mean? HOW will you fit in your training? What accommodations do you need to make? Rearrange who will drive the kids to school or arrange daycare? Block off time during your workday? Download fitness podcasts so you can train at home?
Set up systems so that your future less-disciplined self has no choice but to follow through. Examples include not having food in the house that you don’t want your future self to eat; piggybacking workouts onto something you already do (turn your dog walk into an intense cardio workout or take conference calls as you walk); eating from smaller plates and drinking from smaller glasses (we eat and drink less from smaller dishes); and portioning out your snacks — especially when watching TV (we’ll eat until the container is empty).
Health doesn’t “just happen.” You can’t “wish” your way to a fitter you. Maybe you’ve heard “what gets measured, gets managed” — you can’t possibly manage your time, food consumption, etc. if you don’t know where your time goes and what you are putting in your mouth. Reaching health goals takes awareness and planning. Become aware. Then, become intentional with your thoughts and actions. Plan. Use the data to create detailed, realistic goals and a tailored plan of action. Nothing works unless you do. You can’t just analyse your new-found “data awareness” — you have to ACT.
Kathleen Trotter (MSc) is a fitness expert, nutrition and life coach, media personality and author of two books including her most recent Your Fittest Future Self. Connect with her on social media at FitByKathleenT or through her website KathleenTrotter.com