In my early 20s, I didn't have to think about staying fit. I was a waitress and was constantly moving, so calories didn’t matter. I’d burn everything off. But once I traded in my apron for a desk job, I realized how hard it really is to stay fit and active.
I tried waking up early and jogging, but it didn't work with my schedule. I researched workout classes near my office but couldn’t find something that worked consistently. Realizing the unhealthy pattern I was falling into (and noticing that my pants were way too tight), I decided it was time to create a habit and routine that I could easily stick to. Here's how I did it:
1. I created a rewarding habit.
Without fail, around 2 o’clock, I hit a mental wall. So instead of trying to work through that dead hour, I started to create a “treat” for myself to look forward to that would begin around that time. At first, I’d go get coffee and bring my Kindle to mentally unwind. Some days I’d sit in our building’s cafeteria and write in a journal. Slowly, a habit began to form: I looked forward to that point in my day when my work brain went to mush and I’d reward my creative brain by getting out of the office and doing something that helped me unwind and feel good.
2. I started walking for an hour every day.
One afternoon that winter, Seattle was having a surprisingly dry, sunny winter day, so I stepped outside. I started to walk, enjoying the feeling of movement after so many weeks of being sedentary. After 30 minutes, I came back to my desk and felt so refreshed. My body was warmed up and my energy level was boosted. I was able to get through the last hours of the day on that second wind — this started my walking habit.
Eventually, I started walking faster during my lunch break and brought a change of clothes to work so I could sweat without having to work in sweaty clothes for the rest of the day. I never missed a walk — if it was supposed to rain in the afternoon, I'd be sure to walk in the morning.
I made walking every day a habit, and within a few months, I was noticing big differences. My jeans were looser. My legs were stronger. And my endurance was so much better! By the six-month mark, I’d lost three pants sizes, and 7 pounds.
3. I packed my lunch (with real foods!) and drank more water.
Sometimes it was annoying to pack my lunch every night before I went to bed. It was another chore, and there were plenty of nights that I just wanted to scrap my plan and go back to eating starchy, greasy food from the lunch spots around my office. But it makes me feel good to shop for healthy ingredients and creatively put them together for lunch meals.
I love sandwiches and can never give up my vice of eating good, fluffy bread. I’ll load my sammie up with lean turkey meat, different types of cheeses, cucumbers, and tomato slices. Another easy meal is ground turkey meat (seasoned with spices), over a scoop or two of cooked pearl barley. I’ll chop up chunks of cucumber and sometimes I’ll add red onion or tomatoes.
Another big difference that happened in how healthy I felt (and how my skin looks!) occurred when I brought a water bottle to work with me. I’ve never been a fan of drinking water, but when it’s sitting right next to me, I’ll drink it.
4. I listen to my body and don't force myself to do something.
There are some days that I just don’t want to do anything. I don’t care how tight my jeans feel or how many chips I’ve gobbled down — I just do not feel like moving. My brain hurts, my eyes are tired, and simply walking from my desk to the office kitchen feels like I am moving through a wall of mud.
Days like those, luckily, don’t happen too often, but they still do occur. Rather than fight myself on those days, or worse, guilt myself for not working out, I just let myself have those “blah” days. And instead of feeling bad that day, I make sure to work out twice as hard the next time.
5. I enlisted my friends.
As a twentysomething single gal with wonderful friends who are all busy, it’s not often that I get to see my friends on weeknights. But when we do, it’s usually for happy hour or drinking at our apartments.
Lately, when I make weeknight plans with my girls, I’ve started to suggest we meet up right after work for a quick “walk and talk.” Slowly, my friends are getting on board with this change in our routines.
These habits are easier when you approach them one at a time. By slowly adding in a new habit, and making it a reward for your mind, your body will start to look and feel better.
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