But then it’s Sandra’s birthday in the office and it would be rude for you not to have a slice of Colin the Caterpillar. Then there are the after-work drinks and you swear you’ll have just one, but some plonker in accounts thought rounds were a good idea and you can’t skip your turn. And now it’s Saturday and instead of 9am Neon Rave Spin you’re guiltily chowing down on the congealed remains of last night’s alcohol-fuelled cheesy chips. And fuck it. Let’s just get a pizza, you’ve failed anyway. And before you know it those pesky carbs have found their way back into the cupboards and you’re ghosting those ClassPass notifications asking where you at boo. Sounds familiar, right?
The thing is, we have a tendency to be a little, well, all or nothing.
And you know what, making lifestyle changes is fricking hard. When we have that all or nothing mentality, we just set ourselves up to fail. And when we do, are we kind to ourselves? Of course not! Our inner-voice is one shady biatch. But there’s nothing wrong with your willpower. Honestly. Perhaps the rare health-goddess unicorn can make a complete overhaul of her life without a single hiccough, but for the rest of us mere mortals, it takes something a little less extreme. We need small, manageable changes that gradually build up to a lifestyle that is sustainable for you. Even better, when you succeed at a small goal you feel pretty damn awesome and more motivated to tackle another goal. And another. And so momentum is built and healthy habits are born.
So here are some ideas for simple, easy but effective changes you can easily introduce without torturing yourself. Find the ones that work best for you, if they easily fit into your current lifestyle then you’re more likely to stick at it!
Healthy Habits #1: Eat More Protein
Protein is vital whether your goal is weight loss or not. Not only does getting enough protein help preserve muscle when you’re in a calorie deficit (so we don’t end up looking skinny-fat), it’s also really filling so means you’re not going to be reaching for the biscuit tin around 3pm. Aim for 25g – 30g of protein per meal, and supplement with some protein-filled snacks during the day to make sure you’re getting enough.
But us ladies are pretty bad at getting enough protein in our diets in general, so this may seem a little daunting. Start off by keeping it simple – how about changing up your usual breakfast croissant for some scrambled eggs and spinach? Don’t feel like scrambling in the office microwave (it’s not too bad, I’ve done it!), go for some 0% Greek yoghurt for your morning protein fix.
Healthy Habits #2: Be Prepared
When life gets busy healthy eating tends to go out the window. If you’re working long hours make sure you have some easy-to-grab healthy options in the fridge or freezer to avoid the siren-call of Deliveroo. I like to batch cook meals in the evenings when I do have time to cook – this way I have yummy, healthy meals in the fridge ready for the evenings when I’m getting home late. Prepping your ingredients ahead of time can be a huge time saver too, so dedicate some time to chopping those veggies in advance and I promise future-you will be thankful for it.
Healthy Habits #3: Write It Down
Did you know that if you write a goal down you’re a million times more likely to stick to it? Ok, that figure might be a little hyperbolic, but there have been countless studies done showing that committing a goal to pen and paper (or you know, Google Docs) makes you far more likely to stick to and succeed at that goal. Even more so if you write it as a what, when and where statement.
In a recent study conducted by the University of Bath one research group were asked to write “During the next week, I will partake in at least twenty minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].” ahead of participating in an exercise programme. Two weeks later 91% of participants in that group had exercised at least once a week, versus the 35% of another group that had just read a pamphlet about the health benefits of exercising. That is HUGE. And it’s not the only study out there showing that this works. So, you want to start exercising properly? Write it down: On Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7am I am going to lift weights at the gym.
Healthy Habits #4: Follow the 80:20 Rule
Remember that thing where I said an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to nutrition tends to lead to nothing? Here’s how you deal with it: aim to eat delicious, healthy whole foods 80% of the time. The other 20% have something that you might consider ‘bad’ (more on why there’s no such thing as bad food to come in a rant post soon). I follow this rule every single day. The majority of my meals consist of lean protein, a tonne of green veg and some carbs for fuel. Then when I sit down with a cuppa for my late-afternoon online client check-ins I’ll have a couple of chocolate Digestives. And maybe in the evening, I’ll have a glass of wine. And I do it completely guilt-free because I’m not ‘breaking the rules’. In fact, I’m following them, and that feels pretty damn good.
Healthy Habits #5: Drink More Water
Ok, ok, stay with me. I know you see this on every single, ridiculous health site out there. But this one is genuinely a must. So, the often touted ‘you’re not hungry, you’re thirsty’ thing is tenuous at best. The fact that they never, ever, have scientific studies backing this statement up is an immediate red flag. However, we do tend to only drink when we eat and that’s not good for staying hydrated. Even mild, continued dehydration has some serious effects, such as feeling tired and lethargic, dry skin and achy joints, none of which are going to help with your new exercise routine. Keep a bottle of water on your desk and sip from it regularly – if you’re struggling to do this set some alarm reminders in your phone.
Bonus water tip: when I was leaning down for my photoshoot I was hangry. Drinking fizzy water helped with this. Not because I was confusing being thirsty with hunger (I was on very low calories, I was HUNGRY), but because the bubbles help you feel full. So if you struggle with feeling hungry, a fizzy water or fizzy diet drink can really help.
Healthy Habits #6: Take a Walk
I remember the office days, glued to my desk, scoffing down a sandwich in front of my computer and it was miserable. One of the best things I implemented into my office routine was going for a walk every lunchtime. Not only did it increase my step count so was an easy way to boost my daily energy expenditure without really even thinking about it, but it also just got me out of the office. Stepping away from your desk and getting just 20 minutes of fresh air is a wonderful mental boost. I used to come back to my desk feeling refreshed, and ready to handle any of the nonsense work might throw at me for the rest of the afternoon. So not only did I get leaner, I became a better employee too…until I quit and became a personal trainer that is!
Healthy Habits #7: Say Can, Not Can’t
A simple mindset hack, but changing the way you phrase things can have a huge impact. We always respond better to positivity than restrictive negativity right? Plus, remember that feeling like you can’t do something often makes you want to do it more because deep down we’re still stroppy, rebellious teenagers pretending to be adults. Rather than saying you can’t have something, say you can have something else. ‘I can have one piece of cake this afternoon because I’m following the 80:20 rule’ is a far happier and healthier way to live your life than saying ‘I can’t eat cake ever because I’m on a diet’.
Also, cake is awesome. So you can totally have it. Like I am here, having just had a nutritious and healthy tuna poké bowl. Eating cake. Because I can.