As a “green” and eco blogger, I write a lot about sustainability. Sustainability in terms of the energy we produce to heat our homes and run our cars, sustainability in the way we use our land. But I also take into consideration sustainability in the way we live our personal lives: how we generate and use our own time, energy and happiness.
I think that the way many of us approach losing weight, getting fit or improving our diet is simply unsustainable. We do too much too fast so that we are overwhelmed with keeping it up; or we make it too hard so we want to give up even before we’ve properly started.
In the healthy lifestyle just as in the green one, little steps can make a big difference. Master one habit, then move on to the next one in a natural progression, until one day you look back and realize, this is just the way I live my life. And I feel pretty good about that.
Over the course of about nine months, I’ve lost 35 pounds (that’s 5 pounds more than I thought I’d accomplish), and 4.5 inches off my waistline. That’s a big deal in terms of my health, as new studies indicate that your love handles may be more dangerous than just excess pounds. I want to be around to see my youngest— my only daughter— graduate college, get married, have kids. Heck, I want to be around when her kids do those things.
I didn’t spend hours in a gym, go into Beast Mode, run any marathons or do any CrossFit (although I hear that’s awesome). I did little things that were at my level, didn’t involve equipment and were feasible as a work from home mom.
Here’s my big “secret”: a free-range fitness plan that’s practical and entirely customizable to where you are today; as fun and effective as it is sustainable.
- Fit in fitness daily.I tie sets of body weight exercises to events that happen randomly, but dependably. Got a text on your phone? Do 5 pushups. Dog needs to be let outside? 20 quick situps before you let him out. Waiting for the microwave? Let’s see some lunges. Before bed, hold a plank position as long as you can to build your core. Change up the numbers and exercises as you get stronger. And be prepared: the kids will catch on quickly and hold you accountable… usually while joining in. What an awesome example you are!
- Three times a week, push yourself for 30 minutes. The way you build muscle is by reaching your breaking point… then allowing your body to rebuild, reinforce, so you are stronger. More muscle means more efficient calorie burn. You want that. I run three times a week alongside my daughter while she rides her bike, but you could bike, lift weights, do Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred DVD (I highly recommend it, it’s killer but scalable): whatever fits your lifestyle.
- Be flexible. We hunch over laptops, lean over to hold little hands, carry heavy toddlers on our hip. You know how “you keep making that face, it’ll freeze that way?” It’s true of your muscles too. We need to take the time to pay attention to our bodies and stretch in all directions. I vote for yoga here (there are lots of videos available free online) because it soothes and renews our minds too, but any time taken to stretch and renew is helpful.
- Sleep. Push hard on your work days, rest hard on every other day. You need sleep to recover. We make careless eating choices when we are tired, we retain fat because of our stress level, we aren’t capable of pushing ourselves when we exercise. Plus you’re a nicer parent and spouse when you’re rested. Don’t sleepwalk through life.
- Eat real food. If you’re trying to lose weight, make sure you don’t undereat: you need energy to fuel your workouts. Don’t eat too much, and try to cut out processed foods: what sticks to your body as fat isn’t what we eat so much as what our bodies don’t use. That being said, I don’t believe in depriving yourself because that’s not sustainable. Allow yourself the foods you love and savor them. Know what, though? You enjoy them more when you experience them less.
I know some of you will look at this and think, ha, I don’t even have time to shower. Or maybe: I feel selfish taking this time out for me when there is so much that needs doing.
I know, I think that too sometimes. Make time. Take time.
The time you take now adds years to your life later. It means healthier and happier days, and more of them, to enjoy and be with the people who matter.
If that’s selfish, then I’m as selfish as they come… and I’m OK with that. How about you?
Robin Elton is a Honey Badger Mom of three and the VP of Community for FitFluential. An advocate for the preservation of wild spaces and common sense thinking, she blogs about green living, playful parenting and the pursuit of happiness at simplegreenorganichappy.com.