Can I be honest? I cannot remember the last time I exercised. I can, of course, remember the last time I had pizza, hot wings, and beer … because it was within the past week. My natural metabolism has gotten me this far, but now that I’m in my late twenties (gulp), I had a come to Jesus moment with myself, because the jig (and the jiggle) is up. I need to implement a healthier lifestyle now before I wake up one day twenty pounds heavier and realize that my metabolism is no longer on my side. And there’s the whole matter of that wedding march in six months… I want to look my best and feel my best for my wedding day. I’m not on track for that right now.
First step on the right track: A challenge. For the next 30 days, I will get my body moving every day — be it an extra-long walk with my dog or a class at the gym — and I will make healthier choices about everything I consume. That’s it. No rules. No restrictions. No gimmicks. Just a challenge to eat healthier and exercise daily for 30 days.
I am not burdening myself with many restrictions for this challenge, because, let’s be real, giving yourself lots of rules doesn’t work, at least not for me. I don’t want to set myself up for failure from the get-go. I need a push to exercise, and I need to make better dietary choices, but I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of giving up fruit and healthy carbs, especially not because a fad diet told me to do so. I want to jump start a sustainable lifestyle change, not a quick fix. I want to be good 80% of the time so I can better enjoy (and appreciate) those small indulgences the other 20% of the time.
My current problem is that I have all the knowledge (I have been obsessive to a fault about dieting and nutrition since I was a kid) but I don’t put any of it into practice (see: Girl Scout Cookies for breakfast). This habit needs to change today or I will deeply regret it.
I’m feeling low right now. I feel held back. I don’t have as much confidence as I used to, and I’m watching it further deplete with each passing day. I’m not excited about getting dressed up. I feel panic about how I’ll look in my wedding photos. I’m drained of energy by the time I get home from work, all after a day of siting in front of a computer. I get winded walking up stairs. Frankly, I’m fed up with feeling bad about myself, especially when I know the control is my hands. I have the power to change my life and my body. And I’m just wasting it.
Why 30 days? Since the clock struck midnight on January 1, my social feeds have been flooded with Whole 30, 7 Day Slimdowns, and 28-day jumpstarts. The common theme with those other programs is major restriction. But I know that will not work for me or be sustainable for the long-term. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone, but realistically I am not ready to go from McDonalds for lunch on the regular to no-carb, no-sugar, no-oil. This is my version, my personal challenge to myself.
What is “healthy” to me?
The word “healthy” is thrown around a lot, and it seems to have a different meaning to everyone. To my fiance, for example, “healthy” is all about calorie count. To each his own, but that approach is all wrong to me. To me, “healthy” food is food that is as close to its natural state as possible with minimal processing and few ingredients. I’d much rather cook with real butter than margarine, because what is margarine anyway? It never decomposes. Our bodies aren’t meant to consume that and aren’t made to naturally digest that, so it doesn’t matter how fat-free or low-calorie it is. Another misconception: Fat is not the enemy! Fat-free everything was a ’90s diet fad gone too far. Check the nutrition labels: Fat-free diet food is usually packed with more sugar to make up for the loss in taste, and sugar is worse for you. I’m going to focus on this cleaner eating approach and also make healthy swaps, like using carrots for hummus instead of pretzels or sliced green peppers with salsa instead of tortilla chips. I think healthy eating can be simple, like a dinner of grilled salmon with a side of steamed asparagus: That meal is easy to make, clean and unprocessed, and good for your body.
My challenge S.M.A.R.T. goals
Below are some small goals that will help me stay on track during this 30-day challenge. Not familiar with what a “S.M.A.R.T.” goal is? Every goal you make should be S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
The key for me will be preparation, both in terms of meal planning and scheduling my workouts. I honestly prefer healthy, fresh food to processed convenience food, but I often find myself in a pinch, hungry and ill-prepared. By keeping healthy foods at hand, not buying junk food or temptations, and scheduling my workouts, I’ll be able to stay on track without too much thought or obsession.
Are you feeling down about yourself, too? Want to kick start a healthier lifestyle? Join me in this challenge! We owe it to ourselves. I’d love to hear from you in the comments (or shoot me an email).
Here’s a secret: I’m publishing this blog post today, but I actually wrote it last Monday. Why didn’t I publish it last Monday? Well, to be frank: I wasn’t sure I could do this. I’ve given up on myself so many times before when it comes to diets and fitness that I didn’t want to publicize my failure any further this time around. But this time is different, and one week in, so far so good. I’ll be posting follow-ups each week about how I’m doing to keep myself accountable. Stay tuned!