In many people’s minds, being healthy is linked with being a certain weight or seeing a specific number on the scales. If you are a professional jockey or an athlete competing in a weight division, then achieving a number on the scales may be a necessity. For the average person, however, a mindset of “I want to weigh X kilos” could be damaging to your overall mental and physical health, and may actually prevent you from reaching healthy, long term goals. A topic we often discuss with our clients, both teenagers and adults, is the importance of creating a mindset of focusing on healthy behaviours rather than obsessing about weight.
Many of us have ridden the rollercoaster that is fad dieting. We eat a particular, restrictive diet for a few weeks or months, lose some weight, then quit the diet because it’s unsustainable. What’s more, we usually end up gaining all that weight back and more. This dangerous cycle can happen when your focus is on your weight instead of your health.
The scales are not the best measure of your progress, health or happiness. Think about this for a minute, the number on the scales do NOT tell you:
And these are the things that matter, right? Instead, focusing on creating healthy behaviours is a much better long term strategy to improve your quality of life. Do this by forming habits that benefit your physical and mental health long-term. Over time you will likely find your body falls into its own healthy weight range and probably find you have more energy and an improvement in your mood. What’s more, any weight you lose is more likely to stay off because you have created life-long healthy habits that you will stick to.
When forming your habits, it’s important to not try to change everything at once. These are lifestyle changes, and your mind and body will take some time to adjust. Here are four simple habits you could work at this week. Choose just one to start with and make sure you are kind to yourself. Changing our behaviours and forming new habits is difficult for us to do, so take your time and keep going.
Unfortunately, many people’s primary motivation to exercise is to lose weight, and is not a priority otherwise. The reality is that there are SO many benefits of exercise (aside from helping with weight loss) and it’s essential for overall mental health and wellbeing. Try scheduling 20 minutes of activity every second day to start. This can be as easy as going for a walk or doing some other physical activity you enjoy. Just start and once you find yourself exercising more frequently you will feel the difference in your body and want to exercise even more.
The food we put into our body is obviously a massive factor in our health and wellbeing. If weight loss is a goal then you need to eat well. There are many fad diets limiting what you can eat to an unhealthily low amount or excluding food groups altogether. Instead of focusing on restriction or counting calories, instead aim to eat mostly fresh, whole, and natural foods. Steer clear of highly processed food (think packaged foods) or food that has lots of added sugar. Be wary of products advertised as “low fat”. Often they are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners (chemicals) to improve the flavour. Invest time in learning how to read nutrition labels so you can make the best choices. After a while, your tastebuds will adjust to having less sugar in your diet and you’ll find that the fresh food makes you feel a million times better.
This one is plain and simple. If you can’t commit to anything else, at least try to drink more water. Aim for around 8 glasses a day, or 2 litres, plus extra if you are active. This is an easy habit to form, and once you master this one it will give you the confidence to create more healthy behaviours.
The importance of good quality sleep (and enough of it) cannot be underestimated. We can write a whole other blog on how lack of sleep will mess with your hormones, metabolism and brain function. If you want to lead a healthy life, but are having trouble getting enough sleep, then prioritise your rest by coming up with a bedtime and sleep ritual that work for you. Stay away from blue light before bed, don’t eat too close to bed, and avoid caffeine and sugar in the afternoon and evening.
Remember that weight loss should never be your overarching goal. Instead, focus on creating healthy behaviours that will improve your overall health and your quality of life. Once you have found a groove after establishing a habit, then move onto the next one. Before you know it you will have created healthy behaviours that will change your life for the better.
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