“Motivation is what gets you started….
Habit is what keeps you going.” — Jim Ryun
Keeping in step with my “Fit for Life” series in these past few posts, I decided it was important for me to cover exercise and fitness. While a balanced diet is vital to you health, weight-loss/maintenance efforts, and over all well-being (as I covered in my last post)…physical activity is just as important. Why? Because if you’re looking to feel stronger, healthier, leaner, stress-free, beautiful, powerful and pretty much ahhh-mazing (and who wouldn’t want that?) you need a combination of good nutrition and good-quality exercise.
Now, I know sticking to an exercise regimen can be tough. We’re tired after a long day of work and taking care of the kids (or in some cases the boyfriend/fiancé/or husband!). Our weekly girl’s nights and happy hours are wayyy more tempting than a hot date with the treadmill. It’s so gosh darn cold outside you’d rather give up your Lululemon Wunder Under Leggings than walk to your car and drive to the gym (and no I won’t judge you for rocking Lulu even if the closest they’ve come to a gym is when you pass it on the way to the grocery store). But the reality is, with fitness…there is no secret potion, special pill, or magical fairy dust to create results for you.
You need to wake up and you need to GET TOUGH.
So that’s exactly what I’m going to be.
It’s no secret that America is facing a serious health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 35.9% of adults over the age of 20 are obese and 33.% of adults over 20 are overweight. Even scarier? 18.4 % of adolescents age 12-19 are obese, 18% of children age 6-11 are obese, 12.5% of young children age 2-5 are obese. Also according to the CDC–one-third of all Americans are obese and not one city in the U.S. has an obesity rate of less than 20%. People sit in a car on their way to work, sit all day at work, hit up the vending machines when they need a boost, grab fast food on their way home, or get home so late they can’t eat a healthy meal at all (cue the nighttime snacking). Grocery stores are full of all sorts of sneaky, false-advertised, processed, refined, and sugary junk that clogs up our bodies and keep us craving more of (and spending more on) that bad stuff.
And we can’t forget about stress.
According to the American Psychological Association, 44% of Americans say their stress level has increased over the past five years. And did you know that stress can actually lead to obesity? Of course, everyone deals with stress differently, but scientists have actually found evidence that supports the stress/obesity connection. The study shows that stress is linked to biochemical changes which then trigger the cravings that can lead to overeating, emotional eating, and obesity. Top that off with the addictive properties of unhealthy foods, and youve got yourself a killer combination (literally).
Now let’s play a game for minute. I want you to think about the last time you were stressed at work. Would you rather have reached for a bag of carrot and celery sticks or that bowl of candy on your co-workers desk and the cake in the break room? My guess is that your first instinct is to reach for the sugary, carb-filled, fattening, processed comfort foods. You see, stress has the ability to trigger certain hormones in the body which then play a role in the whole “pass-me-the-chocolate-before-die” process. When these chemicals and hormones are thrown into overdrive during stressful times, that’s when unhealthy-eating is most tempting. Below, I cover 3 of these sneaky fat-storing and craving -inducing buggers…
1.) Serotonin: Serotonin is one of these hormones and it could be the reason you’re grabbing for the fatty, processed, carb-filled foods when you’re stressed out. Serotonin acts as the body’s “feel good” or “happy” chemical, and when you eat carbohydrates your serotonin levels rise–so do those “happy” feelings. This makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over for the moment…but that’s it. Your problems are still going to be there after you finish that slice of cake!
2.) Cortisol: Cortisol is another stress hormone that I’m sure you’ve heard about before. When you are stressed out, your cortisol levels rise. Chronic stress can cause your body to release extra cortisol, which increases your appetite and cravings and signals the body to store fat.
3.) Neuropeptide-Y: Lastly, there is a less well-known molecule that has a hand in fat storage. Studies show that the body processes food differently when under stress. When you are stressed, neuropeptide-Y is released from the nerve cells and encourages fat accumulation. Fatty, sugary, carb-filled diets further promote the release of this molecule.
So, in a nutshell, a common scenario goes something like this…
Okay. This is a tadddd extreme, but still–the point is valid. You get super stressed/sad/angry so you crave something sweet and sugary and/or fried and fattening to make you feel happy (for a minute) because you think “I deserve it!” This quickly becomes an addictive cycle every time you’re stressed. This unhealthy eating habit then causes you to gain unwanted weight and pick up even more unhealthy habits (those addictive cravings will do it to ya!). This makes you more stressed and causes your body to activate all of those fat-storing hormones that (once again) cause you to continue eating poorly, gain unhealthy weight, and become even more stressed than before.
What a vicious cycle. All of this sounds pretty counterproductive, don’t you think? So… what does help with stress and the risk of obesity/weight gain?
I’m just going to come right out and say it– I believe exercise can cure almost anything (or at least many of) the health problems riddling our society today. If you don’t believe me…Google it. The studies are endless. Check out some of the fabulous health benefits of regular exercise below.
Exercise can help you…
- Control your weight
- Improve your mood/reduce depression
- Reduce stress
- Increase energy
- Combat disease (heart disease, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, heart attack, stroke, metabolic syndrome, depression, type 2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and many others!)
- Sleep better
- Ignite your sex life <3
- Find a new hobby
- Think clearer
- Look amazing!
- Get stronger
- Make friends!
- Live a longer, more fulfilling life
The list goes on and on and on (check out this NY Times article here for a more in-depth report on the health benefits of exercise). All of these things sound pretty great huh? I mean really people. There’s no excuse not to exercise (it’s actually more harmful if you don’t. Just check out these two articles).
Now, I do understand that not everyone can go to the gym or workout every single day (we do have a life to lead after all) and let’s face it, life loves handing us responsibilities that are non-negotiable. However, there’s a difference between allowing outside forces to hold you back from exercising and getting healthy and allowing YOURSELF to hold YOU back from exercising and getting healthy. I want you to be honest. If the real person keeping you from achieving your dreams is in fact you…something needs to change.
Like I said…there’s no secret potion or a magical unicorn ready to fly you to the gym. If you want change…you have to make it happen yourself. You have to wake, up, get to that fitness class, drive to the gym, go for a run, practice yoga or whatever you choose to do. It takes motivation and it takes hard work but I promise it’s worth it. But you already know that don’t you? Chances are, if you’re still reading this post, it’s because you want to make a change…
You want to be a workout warrior.
You care about your health.
I have faith in you!
And while I’m not going to sugarcoat it and tell you it will be easy right away, I can tell you there are plenty of ways to motivate yourself and ease yourself into a fitness regimen that will make working out both easier and fun over time. The list below includes some tips and tricks that have helped pump me up and keep me on the path to health. Hopefully they will pump you up and keep you in check as well
Tips and tricks to get you to “Workout Warrior” status!
- Schedule weekly workouts ahead of time! This way, you don’t have to make the “to gym or not to gym”decision on the fly (C’mon, you know the answer will be “not to gym”). Going out with friends after work? Then get up an hour earlier and workout in the morning.
- Treat workouts as appointments…NO EXCUSES! Would you cancel your hair appointment or that mani/pedi? Didn’t think so. Want to really look and feel fabulous? Working out is the best kind of makeover– both physically and mentally.
- Lay out your workout clothes night before: This is little tip makes getting yourself out of bed for a morning workout that much easier. If your clothes are all good to go and ready to throw on…it’s harder to say no (heck, sleep in them if you have to!)
- Pack your gym bag before you go to bed: If you work out during the day or after work, it’s hard to say “forget it” when your bag is already packed and ready to hit the gym. Heck, change at the office before you leave so you really have no excuses for hitting the gym after work.
- Try something new and fun! Tabata? Zumba? Spin? Pilates? Aerobic pole dancing? Whatever! Just get moving . If you keep yourself from getting bored, you’ll keep it up.
- Buy cute new workout clothes: If you buy em’…you’ve gotta find a time to wear em’ right?? So go on. Treat yourself to something nice.
- Get fitted for the right sneaker: This is SO important. Wearing the right sneaker can prevent injury and make all the difference in your workouts. So please don’t just buy those neon yellow sneakers because they’re super cute. Buy them because they FIT. If they also happen to be adorable too? Bonus!
- Hire a personal trainer: When you’re paying someone to help you workout, believe me…you’ll show up. Those guys are NOT cheap.
- Take advantage of deals/coupons/specials: Groupon, LivingSocial, RueLaLa…you can find some great deals here if you want to test out fitness classes, boot camps and gyms before committing yourself to something full-time.
- Find a workout buddy! If someone else is counting on you, you most likely won’t want to flake out and skip a gym sesh. Plus, having a workout buddy is a great way to keep yourself in check and keep each other motivated.
- Set an alarm: Set an alarm on your phone to workout and set a couple other alarms throughout the day as reminders to remember your goals.
- Buy a trashy magazine: Hey, if that’s what it takes to get you on that stairclimber…go for it girlfriend!
- Make a new playlist: Sometimes a brand new mix of music is all you need to get amped up and ready to sweat. Another fun idea? Have your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband make a playlist for you! It adds a fun element of surprise to your workout.
- Split your workouts up: This is probably my most helpful trick of all– I choose to split my workouts up so that I do half before work and half after work (or on my lunch break when the weather allows for a nice run). I find I am able to get in harder, intenser, more effective workouts or get in an extra fitness class this way because it makes each separate workout seem short and sweet. In reality, both workouts are anything but.
- Invest in simple at-home gym equipment: Oh, it’s raining/snowy/windy/too cold/too hot outside? Good thing you have weights, a jump rope, resistance bands, and a yoga ball at home! Check out some easy at home fitness routines here and here (without equipment)or here and here (with equipment).
- Log your activity: Channel your inner elementary school self and make a sticker chart or a “money jar”. Give yourself a gold star every time to sweat it out or add a buck to the money jar. Spend on something nice .
- Reward yourself: Did you run a 5k or workout everyday for a week? Finally nail that yoga pose or hold a plank for one minute straight? Woo hoo! Reward yourself with clothes, a mani/pedi a massage (etc…) or anything that makes you feel fabulous! Just remember– you are not a dog–don’t reward yourself with food. A healthy snack is fine…but just because you ran five miles doesn’t mean you get to chow down on a plate of sweet potato fries (They’re still fries. Don’t pretend they’re calorie-free). Believe me, you won’t feel good about it after.
- Exercise even if you’re tired: NOTE: This does NOT mean exercise if you’re rundown. This means exercise if your feeling lazy or if you’re hungover. I promise…it will wake you up, give you a healthy glow and put a pep in your step in no time.
- Most importantly…CHALLENGE YOURSELF! Exercise isn’t supposed to be easy. And it sure isn’t supposed to be comfortable. So… get comfortable with being UNCOMFORTABLE! that’s the only way you’ll see results and get all the health benefits you possibly can.
I’m SO excited for you to begin your journey to a healthier, happier, fitter you. I believe in you, and I hope YOU believe in yourself too!
If you can make a promise to commit to a new, healthy, positive routine and if you’re honest with yourself and you DO YOUR BEST… there is no such thing as failure.
Don’t forget to remind yourself every day how amazing you really are, and as hard as it may be…try not to get discouraged. Remember, NO ONE IS PERFECT. You’ll find your way there. I KNOW it!
For now, here are some inspirational quotes to get you motivated
Mayo Clinic: Health and Exercise
CDC Fast Stats: Obesity and Overweight
Everyday Health: Food, Mood, Stress & Dieting
Livestrong: Your Body on Exercise