At 16, I stood on the scale in my aunt’s bathroom and my jaw dropped. I was 5’6 and weighed 200 pounds. Then and there, I decided that I couldn’t live like this anymore. With the help of these six habits I gradually implemented, I lost 60 pounds, and have maintained a healthy weight ever since. I'm not saying it was easy, but focusing on making these small changes helped me sustain my weight loss for 15 years now.
1. I decided to do it.
Some say that change takes a long time, but I never believed that. True change happens the instant you decide to do something. That moment for me was when I stood on the scale in my aunt’s bathroom and could almost hear it gasping for air. I decided then and there that I was going to get fit and eat healthier.
I immediately grabbed a pen and a paper and began to list as many things as I could think of that I could do to contribute to a healthier lifestyle. The simple act of writing it down made it more real, and it fixed my mind upon what I intended to do, rather than where my mind had been previously — probably thinking about cupcakes.
2. I ditched the junk food.
When I decided to start eating healthier, I raided my cupboards and refrigerator. I threw away the chips, sodas and candy so I would no longer be reminded of processed food every time I got hungry.
I knew that eating healthy, whole foods was the only way I was going to lose weight for good. No quick fixes — I wanted to make changes I could sustain for the rest of my life. On a typical day, I eat a three-egg omelette with spinach for breakfast, an apple with almond butter as a mid-morning snack, grilled chicken and mixed vegetables for lunch, a protein shake for a mid afternoon snack and some other form of lean protein and a salad for dinner with a glass of red wine. I don’t count calories, and I’ve found if stick to this diet, my weight stays in a healthy and comfortable range.
3. I set up a healthy reward system.
Rewards help to motivate us, but it’s important to establish a healthy approach to these. Today, when I’m sticking to my healthy eating goals, I reward myself with a cup of coffee, or by cranking up one of my favorite songs. This gave me another reason to love eating healthy foods.
4. I started playing tennis.
When I was at my heaviest, a friend asked me to go out and play tennis with him. I instantly fell in love with the sport. I loved whacking that green ball of fuzz over the net.
Suddenly, eating healthy foods was the best way to guarantee that I could drill the ball all day, and do it again tomorrow. Before a tennis match, I typically eat a banana and a handful of nuts to provide long-lasting energy. Afterwards I enjoy brown rice, chicken breast and mixed vegetables for a quick recovery. I play three or four times a week, and now I’m a professional tennis coach.
5. I took a NLP course.
NLP, which stands for neuro-linguistic programming, is a controversial approach to communication, personal development and psychotherapy that was created in the 1970s. One of the foundational concepts of NLP is that if someone can do something, anyone can learn to do it.
NLP taught me how to make healthy foods more appealing by changing the way they appeared in my mind. Suddenly, the thought of broccoli was less like a dull, tasteless weed and more like a crisp, vibrant vegetable that sent my energy level skyrocketing minutes after eating it. After completing the foundational exercises a few times, I craved whole foods and eliminated fast food from my diet.
6. I started drinking a gallon of water every morning.
Every fitness magazine says the same thing: Drink more water. So, I bought a one-gallon glass jug and started filling it every morning. As I committed to drinking the entire jug daily, I was less hungry, my face cleared up, I slept better and my energy levels went through the roof.
7. I started hanging out with healthy people.
As I started to change my habits, I noticed that I began to gravitate towards friends who had healthier lifestyles. This made eating healthy foods seem “normal” as opposed to “weird.” A few of my best friends who weren’t healthy, reformed their eating habits because they saw what it was doing for me.
8. I designated a cheat day.
Nobody's perfect. I love donuts, pizza, and beer. That’s why once a week, I eat anything I want. If I want a double cheeseburger, I devour it. That way, I never feel deprived, and by the end of cheat day, my mantra is “bring on the broccoli!”
If you want to start living a healthier lifestyle, start with small changes, gradually. Don’t try and change all of your unhealthy habits at once. I tried this several times, and got frustrated and wolfed down a burger instead.
Pick one of the eight steps I listed above, and do it for 30 days. I recommend whichever is easiest for you. After 30 days the new behavior will become a habit. Then add the next easiest habit. Continue this process until your habits are producing the results you want.
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