Eating healthy food sets the foundation towards a life of positive health and wellness. A common theme of this site is providing information regarding specific diet plans, recipes, and in different contexts in order to maximize your health. However, we should acknowledge that a healthy diet is not the only factor worth considering.
While we will do not plan on turning this into a fitness blog of any sort, we do want to highlight some of the benefits of getting active, how you can make it more practical (especially if you are in the early stages of a diet), and how that ties in with healthy eating. For example, there are times when diet can help with your energy levels to promote getting active, and times when being active will benefit even more from preparing or recovering with healthy food.
Use a Healthy Diet as a Stepping Stone
If you’re someone who is looking to create a lifestyle change, whether it be minor or major, making some changes to your diet is often a good place to start. These don’t need to be drastic changes, but gradually working your way towards healthy habits is a huge step in the right direction. In this case, while it may be tempting to take advantage of high levels of motivation by switching to a super nutritious diet, you still need to keep in mind how practical this is going to be, and be realistic with yourself.
We typically find the most effective changes to the diet are small changes. For example, if you currently eat fast food 3-4 times per week, try cutting it down to once or twice. Then a couple weeks later, scale that back to a maximum of one time per week, then one time per month, and so forth. Eating is something we do all the time, so little changes that you can make that are easier to hold on to will start to have benefits that really add up over time.
Exploring ways to create a healthy diet can be a great stepping stone towards being more active in general. If you like to cook, or are learning to cook and want to try some interesting recipes, take an afternoon to shop around. This will allow you to learn about some new stores, where to buy ingredients that you are unfamiliar with, and this itself is a form of physical activity. It also starts to remove some barriers towards creating a healthier diet, as it will feel more routine to go out and purchase healthy ingredients.
Coordinate Meals with Activity
This can be a great way to maximize health benefits as well as reward yourself for an active day! Nutrition is key towards staying active and keeping healthy. Before heading out for some physical activity, whether it be spending the afternoon shopping for ingredients, or going on a long hike, making sure you are properly nourished is essential. Make sure to have a well-balanced meal(s) that includes protein, carbs, fruits and veggies, and minimal processed foods.
How do you know how many carbs you should eat, how much protein to consume, etc? If you’re just starting out, don’t overcomplicate things. Simply start with the most obvious components of your diet. By eating less processed food and more fresh produce, you are automatically going to start shifting towards a more healthy diet. Ensuring you are consuming a variety of different types of food will ensure you maintain an adequate intake of essential nutrients, and limiting junk food as much as possible is extra helpful, albeit easier said than done.
After activity, reward yourself with a meal that is high in protein, contains some nice fresh veggies, and includes carbs, but maybe not a huge amount of carbs. Something like a nice BBQ with some grilled or steamed veggies, with a side of starch like a baked potato, rice, or some nice whole wheat bread can be a delicious and healthy option.If you’re starting to supplement your diet with things like shakes and smoothies, using flavored protein powder is a great way to concoct a delicious treat that is super healthy,
Keep Track of Your Diet and Activity Progress
Keeping track of both your diet and activity progress is a great way to stay motivated. While you will certainly receive health benefits immediately, other more obvious benefits, such as fitness level and appearance, may take a little longer and require a substantial level of commitment.
With these types of things that take a while to notice, it’s great to keep a log of what you have been eating and the activity you have been engaging in. This doesn’t need to be a detailed journal that you feel you need to bring everywhere with you, but rather, just a couple important notes from the day. For example, “tried this recipe, hard to find this ingredient, but it was tasty and I felt good after”. With activity, this can be as easy as “went for a walk, felt like I had more energy after than usual”, or “walked one extra block today”.
Being able to look back at your progress and having a record at it will help you to stay motivated when it comes to eating well and staying active. You may also notice connections between activity levels, diet, and what factors may affect your ability to stick to those things. For example, maybe looking back you might notice that times when you didn’t do activity due to being too busy were also times you tended to eat out more or simply just at more unhealthy food at home. Simply being aware of these things can go a long way in helping you stay on track and adjust/progress accordingly.
Being a Role Model for Your Kids
By exemplifying good lifestyle habits in front of your kids, you are setting them up with a positive influence that will stick with them forever. We understand that many people are afraid of failing in front of their kids. For instance, what if they notice you can’t keep up? What if you start on a diet or activity plan only to fall back into your normal habits? These are all completely understandable concerns, but we would encourage you not to focus on those.
Kids are kids. They will compare their activity levels to what they know, which is their age group. To them, most adults are larger people who are generally a bit slower and more stiff. They don’t care how you perform, but they will notice what you value. So don’t be afraid to give yourself as much support as you need to make these changes. For example, for those who are overweight, engaging in activity can be extra difficult due to joint pain and other discomfort associated with exercise. In this case, don’t hesitate to seek out professional assistance. Whether it be diet counselling, personal training, or even just learning a bit more by browsing online or attending some free workshops at local community centers can be a great way to get started.
Also, if yo have any pre-existing health conditions or concerns, discuss those with your doctor or physiotherapist in the context of your lifestyle goals. If you have joint pain from exercise and you are overweight, maybe there are different program structures that can help you, or even simply, but often overlooked items like knee braces. There are lots of different bariatric knee braces available to help you achieve your lifestyle goals, many of which come in size XXXL and higher. Our main point here is that you’re not alone, and there have been lots of different support systems developed for those who have barriers they need to overcome to reach their goals.
At the end of the day, none of these tips are set in stone. They are simply things for you to think about as you begin considering improving your health and wellness. Try not to be intimidated. Take it slow, make practical changes, and keep thinking of ways you can make the process easier on yourself, as long term commitment is key in order to see the best results.