The rapid crescendo of music alerts you that it’s time to get up. Peering through heavy lids into the darkness, you see that it’s 6.00am. Its day one of your health journey and time to hit the gym. As you stumble past your cat who stares at you quizzically, you can’t help but wonder why the hell you’re doing this.
If you’ve ever started the journey to lead a healthier lifestyle, then you probably recognize this feeling. And quite frankly, after one look at back at the bed, this is typically where the journey ends.
But you’re clever.
You slept in your gym clothes and within minutes you’re out the door.
Oftentimes our success hinges on nothing more than planning for setbacks. In this post, I’ve teamed up with blogger Adam Warren of Food&Fitness Always to discuss simple hacks you can incorporate to make your health journey a success.
Hacks for a Successful Health Journey
Before we dive in Adam, tell me a little about Food&Fitness Always and what inspired you to begin blogging.
Adam: Food&Fitness Always (FAFA) is a food and fitness blog that was set up by myself in order to share my journey, my experiences, mistakes, inspirations as well as recipes, to help others who want to better their lives through fitness, as well as improve on their own knowledge in the kitchen.
In terms of inspiration I knew of a few amateur and professional bloggers and from following them and learning about the world of blogging, it just made complete sense to write a blog and I couldn’t quite believe I wasn’t already doing this!
I think one of the things that inspired me most on your blog, is your story. One of hardest parts of beginning a health journey is exactly that -getting started. Where did you find the courage to take that first step?
Adam: I’ve always been into fitness and sport of some kind. My father got me into Shotokan Karate when I was 6 and I became a black belt at 10 and a second dan at 12, so fitness has always played its part for me.
As I grew older though and I got more into clubbing and nights out, I have to say that I did let my fitness and nutrition slide somewhat. At 24-25 I didn’t even realize that I’d gained around a stone (14lbs) in weight and that just wasn’t me, but I hadn’t stopped going to the gym throughout this time. So, it was really my diet and lifestyle that needed to change and my blog started not long afterwards.
I think that’s something that many of us can relate to. When making that decision to change, what key questions should we ask ourselves in order to develop a plan for our health journey?
Adam: The same questions I continually ask myself: What do I want to achieve? Why is that important to me? When do I want to achieve this by? Is that realistic? What could get in my way? What will I do to stay motivated during this time? How will I reward myself at the end?
It’s about really defining the goal you want to achieve and identifying why you want to achieve it. You’ve got to dedicate yourself and have a clear and identifiable breakdown of how you’re going to get there. Otherwise you’re basically traveling without a map!
I agree and it can be overwhelming at the beginning, especially when we want so much. I’ve found the greatest success by removing unhealthy habits one by one. What steps did you take to identify and begin removing unhealthy habits?
Adam: I thought about my personal situation. Where do I spend my time? Where am I being influenced to be unhealthy? The main answers I found where in my home and out of it.
So I started removing pretty much all of my unhealthy snacks (I had a dedicated draw full of them!) as I thought if they’re not within distance at the point of me getting bored/hungry I’d have to make the effort to go out and get them.
I also started reading about healthy living. Jamie Oliver was a positive influence as I started to cook with real ingredients, as well as limiting my portion sizes and avoiding ready meals that I was used to buying. Not only did this have a positive impact on eating healthier, it saved me a fortune too!
We all know that setbacks are part of the journey, but they never seem real until they happen. Once they do, they can really knock us down. What was one of your biggest setbacks and how did you overcome it?
Adam: Setbacks do certainly happen but often they’re made out to be bigger in your head over what the reality actually is. I remember doing really well in my first month of lifestyle change and then a friend’s birthday came up so of course I was going to join them on a night out. I drank more than a fair amount, ended the night with a greasy burger and then went for a full English breakfast the next morning!
This was certainly not part of the plan but it happened and I could either give up or be mature about it, call it a setback and move forward.
That’s the important thing. Once you set your goal you need to be realistic about it. Nobody is perfect and you need to know that setbacks WILL happen, therefore you decide how you’re going to deal with them at the beginning as part of your plan, rather than when they actually happen.
The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to succeed at this.
Living a healthy lifestyle is just as much mental, as it is physical. What are some strategies that you have used to stay motivated on your health journey?
Adam: It certainly is about your mentality more than anything physical you do and getting this right from the very start will have a massive impact on whether or not you’ll succeed at your goals.
I think that setting mini-goals was a big help in terms of keeping my mentality focused on the main goal ahead. I’d set myself challenges such as ‘4 Gym Sessions This Week’ and ‘No Chocolate on Monday’ – it may seem small but these ‘mini victories’ went a long way and kept my mind focused on where it needed to be.
I also created a Pinterest board that related to all the ‘Fitness Inspiration’ I could find from workout ideas to motivational posters. Whenever I felt I’d lost some ground and perhaps wasn’t in the right state of mind, I’d view the board and remind myself that I can do this.
Cooking is another one of your passions and you feature healthy, delicious meal ideas on your blog. How did you make the shift to eating better and what advice would you give to anyone who may be struggling with this?
Adam: Cooking is an ongoing journey and there’s always something new to learn however you can grasp the basics in next to no time. Learn how to chop properly, buy the basic equipment you need, get yourself an easy-to-follow recipe book. My first proper one was ‘Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course’ which gave me straightforward instructions on preparing my kitchen properly, as well as set the foundations of how to cook without over complicating things.
Nobody should struggle with the basics. If you can hold a knife and own a pan, you can buy a few ingredients and have a healthy chicken salad. A lot of the time it’s about your attitude about being bothered to cook, rather than about ability itself.
There’s a lot of learning at the beginning of a health journey as we figure out what does and doesn’t work for our unique bodies. How did you track your results to know that you were moving towards your health goals?
Adam: I used ‘MyFitnessPal’ and I recorded pretty much everything I ate and drank. It wasn’t just about the nutrition aspect but about being fully aware of what I was eating. Once I had that conscious ability I was much more picky about what I recorded on my tracker. Often it was those second thoughts that stopped me in my tracks and said ‘actually this isn’t good for you, it’s not worth it.’
After a while I’d achieved the state of mind that allowed me to eliminate the tracker, but I would consistently weigh myself under the same conditions every month i.e. before breakfast, in the morning. That way my results would be consistent and therefore a fair comparison to previous results.
What are a few simple habits we can incorporate daily to improve our health?
Adam: Go to the supermarket when you’re full and never when you’re hungry.
Plan your shopping ahead by making a list of ingredients you need to buy which are based on a 7-day Meal Plan.
Don’t stock (or at least limit) anything at home that’s unhealthy for you i.e. potato chips, chocolate, basically your ‘go-to’ snack, instead replace it with a healthy alternative.
Thanks for taking the time to share a few of the tips that made your health journey a success! Where can readers find you on the web (website & social media)?
Also published on Medium.