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15 steps to a healthier you

15 steps to a healthier you

The greatest journey begins with a single step. The journey towards our own best bodies is just the same.


It's a daily decision to take those small steps towards where we want to be. The good news, with this, is that you can take a step back here and there and still be moving in the right direction.

It may not be the fastest way to reach your goal but it's the most likely way to sustain the pace in the long run.

Without further ado, here are 17 top tweaks to lose weight and keep it lost.


1. Set a small, specific goal. Stick it somewhere you will see it every day

Creating a measurable vision you can  take steps towards works. A Harvard study from the 70s found that those who had a specific goal earned, on average, twice as much as those that didn't have a goal. Those that wrote down their goals earned even more. The point is when we're clear about what we want we are far more likely to achieve it. Trying to lose weight? Decide which size clothes you will wear once you reach your goal. Trying to get fit? Decide how far you want to be able to run without becoming too breathless to continue.  


2. If losing weight, focus only on the next step

If you're planning to lose weight - whether you want to shed two or 20 kilograms - keep the attention on the immediate goal. It helps to keep you from feeling overwhelmed, and also means you have more regular reasons to celebrate.


3. Have exercise 'dates' with your family, friends or partner

When time is of the essence, this is a way to kill two birds with one stone. If jogging on treadmills side-by-side isn't your thing, you might have a group game of volleyball, go paddleboarding, play cricket or squash.

Research shows that exercise with others releases more endorphins (the happiness hormones) than when you exercise alone and also helps us to bond with others.


4. Schedule exercise

Making the time official is making a commitment to yourself, your body and your health - and helps your family know when you'll be busy, too. Planning also helps you to create consistency and integrate exercise into your everyday life. It means you can slot in some high intensity exercise if you only have 20 minutes on one day and book into a longer class when you've a little more time the next. New sites, like Fitness Calendar, can help you to plan your week ahead.


5. Work up a sweat from exercise at least a few times a week

It's good to get moving every day, but amping up the intensity at least a few times a week will also amp up your results (assuming you're healthy and do not have a heart condition). Working yourself into a sweat gives a natural boost to human growth hormone (HGH) production – which is essential for optimal health – and research shows, it improves insulin sensitivity, boosts fat loss, and increases muscle growth.


6. Try on your jeans once a week to keep track of how you're going

Arguably a better approach than scales – which do not show weight gain from muscle mass, trying on your jeans will show that your waist and hips are cinching in while your butt, like a little sunflower, perks up.


7. Take before and after pictures

Hard evidence that the slog is paying off. This is a simple, but invaluable method demonstrating you have the power to transform yourself.


8. Incorporate greens into your day. Every day.

Blend 'em, juice 'em, fry 'em, eat 'em. Greens are a no-brainer and pretty much the one thing every health professional agrees we need more of to be healthy. Low in calories but high in nutrients, they help keep us full and give our bodies the fuel they need to be lean, mean efficient machines they're meant to be.


9. If trying to lose weight, keep a food journal 

I know, it can seem like a waste of precious time and surely you already know what and how much you eat, don't you? In fact many of us would be surprised to see the unconscious extra calories we consume.

A diary – which is easiest if we write (or type it) as we go –  is a simple (and free) way to create awareness about what we're really eating. Research also shows that they can be a key component in losing extra weight. 


10. Keep an eye on your portion sizes

Dietitian Susie Burrell says she sees many healthy, fit individuals doing their very best to eat well. "But such an intense focus on including as many 'healthy' foods in the diet as possible has resulted in ... a calorie overload".

She says we're looking for a couple of serves a day of healthy fats. One serve translates into 100-150g of oily fish, ¼ of an avocado, a handful of nuts or seeds and a couple of teaspoons of oil.


11. Have occasions when you indulge in your favourite foods and enjoy them without guilt

Simply, if we have a little flexibility with food and can include our favourite things then we will have more staying power. Some research even suggests indulging once a week can aid your weight loss efforts. 


12. Up the ante on your water intake and have a jug or flask with you wherever you go

Most adults lose about 2.5 to 3 litres of water a day. Most of us also don't drink enough to replenish what we lose (especially if breastfeeding) - and not only is it vital, it keeps our skin in sparkling condition, and carries nutrients and oxygen to cells. So bottoms up! 


13. See a doctor and get the support you need if you have health concerns

There are various medical reasons why those who are eating right and acting right may not be losing weight. So, if you feel like something is not right don't shut up and put up.


14. Take time out to rest, recover and spend in nature

"Nature is fuel for the soul." While standing in the grass and "earthing" might sound a little hippy, being in nature also energises us, improves our immunity and gives us a heightened sense of wellbeing. Getting outside really will give you a boost!


15. Practise self-compassion

We don't get it right every step of the way and sometimes we slip and fall into the tub of ice cream, miss a workout or get screamingly drunk. If we can be gentle with ourselves and resolve to keep guiding ourselves back on track this will help us stay the course.  

Research shows self-compassion may just be the most important life skill and helps us develop resilience, courage and energy. 


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