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Getting Healthy for a Happier, More Fulfilling Life
Do you want to live a healthier life? Are you looking to lose weight? Are you ready to make this change, but you don’t know where to start? This comprehensive guide will get you started on your journey to being healthier, more active, and having the energy to live a more fulfilling life and be there for your loved ones.
Why do I Need This Guide?
Here’s the honest truth, the road to living a healthy life is different for everyone. For some people, it’s as easy as breathing, but for the rest of us, it takes work. And when I say “work”, I mean work. No matter where you are right now, you have some place that you want to be. Whether you want to lose 10, 15, 20, 25, 50, or 100 pounds, you want to lower your cholesterol, you want to break some unhealthy habits, or whatever the case may be, it’s going to take some effort. You’re going to have to work for it. It’s totally, 100% cliche, but also totally, 100% true, “nothing worth having comes easy” and “if it were easy, everyone would do it”.
I’m not going to lie to you, this may be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. It certainly was for me. You’re going to want to quit and fall back into old, comfortable, unhealthy habits, but as someone that’s lost 100lbs. and kept the weight off for going on 10 years now, it’s worth the work. Getting started can be tough with all the blogs and diet pills and lose weight quick schemes out there. It’s definitely sensory overload and it can scare you away from making one of the most important, and beneficial, decisions of your life!
This guide isn’t just about losing weight, it’s about living a healthier life. If you’re looking for a quick way to shed 10 pounds, get six pack abs, or get shredded in two weeks for a summer trip, this isn’t the right guide for you. I guarantee that you’ll find some nuggets of wisdom and some killer recipes for healthy dishes in here, but this guide isn’t about short term gains. It’s about identifying and breaking the bad habits that are holding you back from living the life you want to lead.
Who the heck are you and why should I listen to you?
Great question and you’re right to be skeptical. I’m Jimmy Hays Nelson and up until about 10 years ago, I had struggled with my weight all of my life. Growing up, I was always the heavy, if not the heaviest, kid in all of my classes and it truly made me feel bad about myself. I compensated for being overweight by putting on the mask of being the “fat funny guy”, but I knew deep down what I didn’t like about myself. I tried to drop the weight dozens of times, but no matter how much I lost, I always relapsed and put on more weight than I lost. This vicious cycle continued through college when I got to the heaviest I had ever been at 100 pounds overweight. It was at this point that I found myself as a two-time college dropout, living at home with my parents, working at a bar with a wallet full of maxed out credit cards and zero prospects on the horizon. This was my rock bottom. This is the lowest I have ever been. It was here that I had finally had enough and decided to do something about it.
Now, I’m a Beachbody Coach. I lost, and have kept off, 100 pounds, I work from home earning a multiple six-figure income helping other people change their lives for the better, I met and married the love of my life, and I have an amazing son with a daughter on the way. Making this change, getting into shape, and living a healthier lifestyle literally changed my life. If I hadn’t made the decision to do something all those years ago, I know for a fact that I would not be living the amazing life that I’m living right now.
Importance of Being Healthy
Getting healthy is about more than just eating the right foods and exercising on a regular basis. It’s about more than having big arms or a six pack. It’s about feeling good about yourself when you look in a mirror. It’s about having the energy and motivation to lead the life you’ve always wanted to lead. It’s about accomplishing the goals you set for yourself. It’s about getting a second chance at becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.
The crazy thing about being healthy is that it affects you in more ways than just your physical health. It affects the way you think, the way you perceive and interact with the world around you, the way you feel about yourself, and how much energy you have throughout your day. Whether you’re a stay at home mom, a broke college kid, or a workaholic with a 9-9 career looking to make a change, this guide will help you and I guarantee that you can do this as long as you’re willing to do the work.
Time for Some Tough Love
I won’t lie to you, this isn’t going to be easy. For some of you, this will be one of the toughest things you’ve ever done. (It certainly was for me.) You will have days where making the right decisions comes easily. You will have days where you’ll want to fall back into old, unhealthy habits because they’re comfortable and familiar. It will test your dedication to your goals. It will force you to make some hard decisions about how you spend your time, the people you spend it with, and what you’re doing with it.
But here’s the deal...the only person that can prevent you from getting healthy is you. No one can force you to cheat on your diet. No one can twist your arm into skipping a workout. No one can coerce you into staying up until 2am on a work/school night. Your future, your health, your well-being is in your hands and no one else’s. The responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders.
The only person that can prevent you from getting healthy is you.
Reading this guide and arming yourself with its knowledge is fantastic and I’m proud of you for taking the first step on your journey, but this information will only get you so far. If you don’t put the work in, you won’t see the results you want. And if you never get started, you'll never see those results. It’s going to be tough, but when you look in the mirror and see your body’s transformation, you’ll know that it was worth it.
Living healthier, losing weight, and changing your life is possible and it starts here! Hard work repeated consistently over a long period of time will yield great results. Don’t start tomorrow, start today. Better yet, start right now!
End of Chapter Exercise: Introduction to exercises
At the end of each chapter, there’s going to be a quick little exercise to help you on your journey to getting fit. Getting healthy is just the first step and I’m proud of you for making it. It takes a lot of courage and heart to commit to making a change of this magnitude. A lot of people don’t even bother thinking about it, but you have so I know that you want it.
These aren’t going to be workouts where I want you to get up and exercise, but tasks that will help you stay motivated during your journey. It’s a long road and one where it’s easy to find yourself lost in the weeds if you aren’t careful.
Getting into shape and leading a healthy life is as much a mental feat as it is a physical one. In my opinion, your state of mind and willpower plays a bigger role in helping you accomplish your goals than your body does.
“If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.” - Sun Tzu
Your mind is what identifies, sets, and motivates you to reach your goals. Your mind chooses what to put into your body and to go to that workout when you aren’t really feeling it. Your mind is what processes the world around you and decides to react to it positively or negatively. Your body just digests food and exercises because your mind tells it to.
It is because of this that a sound, level-headed state of mind is the #1 tool in my toolbox when it comes to building a new, healthy life.
Be Kind to Yourself
First and foremost, you have to be kind to yourself, you have to stay positive on your journey, and you have to be patient. This is a long road and I guarantee that you'll get to were you want to be if you can stay patient, motivated, and keep making progress day in and day out. If you beat yourself up every time you have a momentary misstep or you fill your head with negativity and self-doubt on your ability to change your life, you will fail. I hate to put it so callously, but it’s the truth. Quitting is the easiest thing you can do and when you bombard your desire for change with missiles of self-doubt, you grind down your defenses until you finally make yourself give up on your goals.
If you beat yourself up every time you have a momentary misstep or you fill your head with negativity and self-doubt on your ability to change your life, you will fail.
Here’s the deal, you’re going to have setbacks. You’re going to have missteps. You’re going to miss workouts and you’re going to have an unhealthy meal every now and then because life happens. It’s unavoidable. It happens to everyone and it will happen to you too. When this happens, don’t be so hard on yourself. Accept that it happened and figure out what you’re going to do to make up for it.
Don’t Stress Yourself Out
Not just a saying. Literally, don’t stress yourself out and don’t stress out about not stressing yourself out. It’s an endless cycle that’s better left alone.
Physical Effects of Stress
- Headaches and/or migraines
- Low energy level
- Body fatigue, aches, & pain
- Jaw clenching & teeth grinding
- Intestinal pain, discomfort, and conditions
- Difficult in fighting off illnesses
Non-Physical Effects of Stress
- Depression / Anxiety
- Constant worrying
- Loss of sex drive
- Lack of focus
- Impaired judgment
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Persistent pessimism
Ignore the Scale
Yes, you read that right. Ignore the scale. Checking that number every day is a phenomenally effective way to stress yourself out of your mind by attaching your self-worth to a number. Yes, dropping pounds is part of getting healthy, but if you put too much emphasis and fixate on hitting a specific number, you’re missing out on all the other areas you’re improving upon. Just because you lost 3 pounds one week instead of 4 doesn’t mean you failed. You still lost 3 pounds! That’s AWESOME! You’re 3 pounds closer to your goal! Don’t beat yourself up because of that one pound you didn’t lose. Stop being a slave to the scale and just focus on making progress.
Your goal when you’re first starting out should just be to improve with each passing week. Whether it’s doing an extra minute of cardio or an extra couple of reps when you’re lifting weights, just do more than you did yesterday, last week, or last month.
Never forget that you are so much more than just a number. A scale can’t measure your dedication or desire. It’s can’t quantify how hard you’re working day in and day out. All it can tell you is how much you weigh which is just one single, tiny little facet of the infinite qualities that makes you you. Remember this when you look at the scale so you don’t lose perspective.
Cut out the stressors (No Time for Drama)
This is one of those tough decisions that was alluded to earlier. There are aspects of our lives which cause us unnecessary stress, be it specific people at work, looking at the scale every morning, a relationship, or something as simple as not having enough free time to do the things you want to do. Stress, as detailed earlier, is unhealthy. Unnecessary stress even more so because it is by its very definition it’s unnecessary. It is vestigial, pointless, and unwarranted. Allowing it to remain in your life and affect your mental well-being is the metaphorical equivalent of chaining yourself with one hundred pounds of additional weight and then heaving yourself into the ocean. You’re working harder for no reason.
This isn’t an exercise, but it’s definitely something you should keep in the back of your mind while you’re in this journey. Whenever you’re feeling stressed, take a step back and try to identify what caused you to feel that way. Was it something a person said or did? Is it stemming from something at work? Figuring out the root cause of your stress is the first step in finding out how you can keep it from affecting you. A healthy dose of introspection will go a long way.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to cut all ties with your family, quit your job, and move across the country, but here’s the bottom line, your health is what matters. If you’re in an unfulfilling or abusive relationship which causes you a great deal of stress and is one of the contributors to your unhealthy lifestyle, you should strongly consider ending it. If one of your friends does nothing but go out to bars every night, you should definitely find something else to do with them that doesn’t include the party lifestyle and if you can’t come up with anything, you may want to limit interacting with them because it is having a serious effect on your health.
Surround Yourself With Positivity
Find positive, like-minded people and latch on to them. Those people can and will provide support that is unimaginably important in your journey. Join an exercise community. You’ve seen them at your local gym, maybe in parking lots after hours…it’s time to seek one out and get started! Shanghai a friend into getting healthy. Chances are, one of your friends is in a similar place as you and may just need a little encouragement. Suddenly, you’re in this together with someone you already enjoy hanging out with and you’ve got a partner to provide support and, perhaps more importantly, accountability.
Things that make you happy will inevitably put you in a better mood, keep you positive, and keep you moving forward.
Own Your Mistakes
What separates the people who achieve their health and fitness goals from those who don’t is how they react to their setbacks. Those who achieve their long-term goals recognize their setbacks are speed bumps rather than twenty foot high walls. One bad meal doesn’t ruin your diet and missing one workout won’t make you lose your progress.
Rather than beating yourself up and being disappointed that you had a minor hiccup, accept that it happened because just like everyone else on the planet, you’re human. We are inherently flawed creatures prone to making mistakes. To chastise yourself for not being perfect is the same as cursing out the sky for being blue or scolding a child for being hyper after you’ve shoveled sweets into their mouth. All it’s going to accomplish is turning your face a decidedly furious shade of purple and adding a grey hair to your head.
Look at all that you’ve accomplished and focus on the positives. Don’t fixate on that one negative. Remind yourself of the milestones you’ve achieved and how far you’ve come.
Should you be upset that you tripped up? Absolutely. But you should channel that anger and frustration positively into fuel to pick yourself up off the ground, dust yourself off, and pummel your next goal into submission.
Negativity festers, turn your negatives into positives by using those strong emotions as fuel.
End of Chapter Exercise: Start keeping track of your achievements & stressors
Every time you realize you’re stressed out, write down how you feel and try to pinpoint what is causing it.
Each week, I want you to choose one of your stressors and brainstorm how you can either remove or minimize its effect on your life.
Then… act on it. Start small, but start eliminating that stress from your life now, and in six weeks you’ll be very surprised at how much lower your levels of stress are.
Set Realistic and Attainable Health Goals
No matter where you are in your journey, you have some place that you want to be. Whether it’s losing baby weight after pregnancy, training for a fitness competition, or just leading a healthier lifestyle, you have some image of the person that you want to be when all's said and done. Firstly, that’s fantastic. Keep that picture alive and vibrant in your mind. It will motivate to keep going when things get rough, but having that as your only goal is a recipe for disaster.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
You’ll undoubtedly see me refer to getting healthy as being a journey because that’s exactly what it is. This isn’t something that happens overnight. It requires long-term goals that require hard work every…single…damn...day. JJ Watt, Defensive End for the Houston Texans (he’s a football player for those of you that don’t follow sports), freaking nails it with his take on success.
"Success isn't owned. It's leased and rent is due every day." ~ J.J. Watt
There are times when you may need to sprint to get yourself moving in the right direction, and that’s totally fine, but your main focus at this stage of your journey should be making steady, consistent gains even if they’re small ones and they don’t have to be on the scale.
Don’t think about where you want to end up 6 months from now and how much work it’s going to take to get there. Don’t work yourself into a frenzy to get to your final goal as quickly as possible that you burn yourself out. Focus on where you are today and what you need to do today to hit your goals.
Consistency is Key
We’ll hit on this more in Chapter 5 when we go over Breaking Bad Habits, but the way this works is that you make getting healthy and exercising a serious priority in your life. I’m not talking about paying lip service and just talking about how important it is to you with your friends and family. Getting healthy is a lifestyle change and you make it happen by turning it into a habit.
What do all of these things have in common?
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Meeting up with your friends every Thursday to play a pick-up game of flag football.
- Shopping for groceries every Saturday at 3pm.
- Waking up every morning at dawn to go for a jog.
- Sticking to a meal plan and eating your meals at the same time every day.
- Drinking enough water every day to stay hydrated.
- Cooking and prepping your meals for the week every Sunday.
When you make health and fitness a habit that blends into your daily life, you create a routine that perpetuates the march towards your goals and makes reaching them significantly easier.
Start Off Small
Break your big, Ultimate Goal down into smaller milestones.
Everyone is different, but for most of us, when you set one big, solitary goal, you’re not making any “progress” until you’ve accomplished what you set out to. Depending on what your goal is, this could take years and when your finish line is a mere blip on the horizon that doesn’t get any closer, it’s tough to stay motivated.
“When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” - Creighton Adams
It’s all about making consistent progress. Let’s say that your ultimate goal is to lose 100 pounds and during week one, you lose 3 pounds. If that’s the only goal you have, you’re staring at 97 more pounds that you have to lose to cross the finish line. You’ve gone from looking up at the top of a mountain from the bottom to looking up five minutes into your climb. Sure, you moved from the bottom, but you’ve still got a long way to go.
HOWEVER, what if your goal for month one is to just lose 10 pounds? You’re already 3 pounds towards that goal! You can knock out the other 7. That’s nothing - all you have to do is keep it up!
End of Chapter Exercise: Define & Write Down Your Goals
Figure out exactly what you want to achieve. Is it losing ‘x’ number of pounds? Write it down. Is it getting in shape to run a marathon? Write that down. Do you want to cut out junk food from your diet? Write that down.
Breaking Bad, Unhealthy Habits
It’s not just one thing that causes you to live an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s not like you eat one triple triple cheeseburger and then BLAM! You’re now 75 pounds heavier. It’s a bunch of small decisions and concessions that add up over time and these things turn into habits.
Maybe you pick up dinner from a fast food joint on your way home from work every day. Maybe you drink 5 sodas throughout the day without fail. Maybe you go out to the bars Friday and Saturday night with your friends and end up at a greasy spoon before turning in.
It’s these things that add up over time and are the cause of your problems. Recognizing your bad habits, breaking them, and replacing them with good ones will make your journey to getting healthy immeasurably easier.
Remember - start small. Let’s look at some of the things you should start removing from your diet.
Stop Going out to Eat!
Fast food, especially. Not only does that McDonalds Big Mac, Fries, and a Drink have between 860 and 1310 calories, you’re consuming massive amounts of cholesterol, sodium, and other unhealthy ingredients. You're going to have to work two, three, or even four times as hard to lose weight if you're putting this into your body. It's terrible for you. Stop eating it.
Stop Drinking Sodas!
Do you get a refill when you’re out to eat? Did you really need a refill of that 32oz soda? How many times did the waitress refill your cup? Drinking water can save you hundreds of calories a day, maybe even over 1000.
Stop Snacking Late at Night
Studies indicate that eating late, outside your normal window of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, can affect your metabolism and health. There are many different schools of thought on eating, including things like intermittent fasting, but it’s safe to say snacking late at night is not helping you reach your goals.
Limit Your Carb Intake
Your body needs carbohydrates. They’re essential for short-term energy and you definitely shouldn’t eliminate them. They’re an excellent source of energy when you’re working out, but if you aren’t, you need to limit your carb intake so your body doesn’t store the calories as fat to be used later. Avoid snacking on chips, crackers, pretzels, etc. and don't do overboard with pastas or noodles in your meals.
Watch What You Drink
It’s easy to forget that sports drinks, energy drinks, alcohol, and your morning frappacino are high in calories and can contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle if unchecked. (Starbucks Nutrition Information) Sports drinks should only be consumed after an exceptionally hard workout or during endurance training. They aren’t meant for regular hydration. Sports drinks are high in calories, sugars, and electrolytes which your body loses during those especially tough workouts and needs to be replaced so you can keep pushing. Consuming them while you’re at work or throughout the day isn’t a healthy choice. (Sports drink Nutrition Information)
Just drink water. Need to mix it up? Here are some great recipes to add some flavor to your water without adding a bunch of calories.
Energy drinks are just bad all over. They’re chock full of sugar, contain stimulants like guarana and taurine, and contain far more caffeine than is good for your body. They mess with your sleep patterns, increase your heart rate (to the point of palpitations) and blood pressure, and dehydrate your body all of which you don't need. Because of the large amounts of sugars, caffeine, and stimulants in energy drinks, you’re more likely to experience a crash throughout your day. Especially if you drink more than one in quick succession.
If you have to have a dose of caffeine in the morning, go with black coffee. It’s the less terrible alternative.
Now it’s time for alcohol. If you’re looking to get healthy in any capacity and you drink alcohol, be it beer, liquor, or wine, just cut it out of your diet entirely. There is evidence that a glass of red wine is great for you because of the antioxidant resveratrol, which is supposed to be good for your heart, reverse aging, etc. However, evidence from scientific research in the last couple of years has come out to the contrary as well. Since there isn’t overwhelming evidence in either direction, just avoid it. Especially in the beginning. You’re just playing with fire. That’s a temptation you don’t need. One drink can easily lead to two and two to ten, which is a HUGE caloric spike. Not to mention you won’t feel like waking up and working out in the morning!
Get More Sleep
We all know that not getting enough sleep has an enormous effect on our mood the next day. We’ve all been there at one point or another; pulling an all-nighter in college, having a newborn baby, or just staying up late with your friends. The next day, you’re groggy, irritable, less observant, and more prone to making mistakes.
However, did you know that the effects of losing sleep are more far reaching than just your mood and mental sharpness? There are links to aging, depression, obesity, and a weakened immune system.
Lack of Sleep can Cause Depression
Prolonged sleep deprivation can cause a person to develop insomnia which in turn can cause depression. This vicious cycle feeds off itself and people with insomnia are five times as likely to be suffering from, or develop, depression because of their inability to sleep and recharge their batteries.
Lack of Sleep Ages Your Body
Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re all vain to some degree and there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in one’s appearance. First impressions are super important and a certain degree of vanity helps you project a professional, responsible appearance to new people you meet throughout the day.
Losing sleep can cause you to have puffy eyes with dark circles under them, sallow skin, wrinkles, and you’re more prone to blemishes. Because you’re getting less sleep, your body starts churning out larger amounts of Cortisol (a stress hormone). Higher concentrations of Cortisol in your body has been linked to breaking down collagen (protein that keeps your skin healthy), a weakened immune system, cardiovascular disease, fertility problems (for men and women), weight gain and obesity, diabetes, and depression.
Not only that, sleep deprivation has also been linked to lower levels of human growth hormone (HGH) being released which is responsible for muscle growth, strong bones, and thickening of skin. If your workout goal involves weight lifting of any type and you aren’t getting the proper amount of sleep, you’re literally sabotaging yourself.
Less Sleep Can Cause You to Gain Weight
There are two peptides that are released by your body throughout the day, Ghrelin and Leptin, which control hunger and appetite. Ghrelin is responsible for signaling your brain that you’re hungry and Leptin is released when you’re full and suppresses your appetite so you don’t overeat. People that sleep less than 6 hours a night have been shown to have decreases in Leptin (the “stop feeding me” peptide) and increases in Ghrelin (the “feed me” peptide) which has been attributed to a 30% higher chance of becoming obese. So less sleep actually causes your body to want to eat more than it would normally.
On top of that, losing sleep on a regular basis can force you to pick up an energy drink or large cup of coffee every morning (remember that bit about how bad these things are for you?) to put that pep in your step to make it through the day.
A Weakened Immune System
Sleeping allows your body to recover from the day before and part of that recovery includes your body releasing infection fighting antibodies to combat any bugs you might have picked up. By not getting enough sleep, you aren’t able to release enough antibodies to fight off illnesses which allows more harmful bacteria and viruses to stick around in your blood stream. These foreign bodies will build up their own forces and eventually cause you to become ill and with your existing lack of sleep, your body will have a harder time fending them off so you’ll be sick longer.
Remove Bad Influences & Temptation
We’ll get into more detail on this during Chapter 5, but one of the main reasons that diets fail is that people don’t remove temptation from their homes and lives, especially during the beginning of their journeys. If you’re trying to lose weight by sticking to a healthy diet, but you’re constantly assailed by unhealthy foods or don’t have anything planned for your meals, it’s going to be super tough to stay on the straight and narrow.
One of the best things you can do is remove that temptation altogether so you don’t have to decide to not eat unhealthily.
Setting a Meal Plan & Prepping Your Meals for the Week
By taking a few hours on the weekend to cook and package all of your meals for the week, you’re removing the decision to eat poorly from your daily routine. When lunch / dinner time rolls around and that familiar feeling starts bouncing around your stomach, you don’t have to worry about thinking about what restaurants or fast food joints are around you. All you have to do is go to the fridge to grab the container for that meal and voila, healthy meal!
By prepping all of your dishes, you control the portions and the ingredients so all of your meals meet your health goals.
People Whose Goals Don’t Align With Yours
This is another one of those tough decisions I was talking about in the first chapter. There are people in all of our lives that aren’t the greatest of influences. Whether they’re friends, coworkers, or family members and whether they smoke cigarettes, regularly drink alcohol, or have super unhealthy diets, the habits of the people we surround ourselves with tend to become our habits. If you’re looking to start a healthier life, you may need to take a hard look at the people you spend your time with and see if your habits are actually yours or if you picked them up from someone else.
It’s not that they’re bad, malicious people, but if there’s someone in your life that’s strictly a drinking / party buddy, a smoker, or what have you and you’re looking to distance yourself from that behavior and they aren’t willing to honor your goals or find something else to do with you, you have to distance yourself from that person. Your health is the most important thing and keeping these temptations around while you’re trying to change your life is self-sabotaging.
The Party Lifestyle
Drinking in excess and all that it entails is just plain bad for you. One day of the party lifestyle, staying up late, eating horrendously unhealthy food immediately before bed, the hangover, and eating horribly again to fight the hangover can utterly decimate any progress you made during the rest of the week and put you out of commission for multiple days while you recover. It’s all just not worth it.
This doesn’t even count the psychological effects of alcohol, either. Though it’s classified as a “downer”, it’s been my experience that it’s more of a “mood enhancer”. If you’re happy when you start drinking, you’re going to be happier when you get a buzz going. If you’re unhappy or angry when you start drinking, it’s only going to get worse and that’s a slippery slope.
This is a self-destructive habit that just plain needs to stop. Yeah, it’s fun to go out on the weekend and blow off some steam by tearing it up with your friends, but you don’t change your life by doing the things that wrecked it in the first place.
End of Chapter Exercise: Identify & Write Down Your Bad Habits
The first step to fixing any problem is admitting that you have one. If you ignore the things that put you in the position that you’re in, nothing will change. Albert Einstein once said that “...the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different.”
I want you to take a hard look at your life and write down any and all habits that you think are leading to, or have lead to, your unhealthy lifestyle. Don’t forget, the only person that can stop you from getting healthy is you. Be honest with yourself as you write this list. Lying to yourself here or rationalizing a behavior because you “really, really like it” won’t affect anyone else, it will only hamper your journey to living the healthy lifestyle you deserve.
These are the habits you need to break, starting today.
Setting & Sticking to a Healthy Diet
Everybody knows that the two main things you need to do to get healthy and live a healthier life is to exercise and eat right. It’s a pretty straightforward recipe, but not a lot of people know exactly what “eating healthy” entails. It’s understandable. Some people were brought up in households where fast food meals were the norm or had parents that served large portions of stove top fried foods and meals with a double dose of butter. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been eating, it’s about what you put into your body from this day forward. We’re wiping the slate clean and starting fresh!
Benefits of a Healthy Diet
When it comes to your diet, you get out of it what you put into it. Your body craves a handful of fundamental things in a variety of levels; 1) protein, 2) carbohydrates, 3) salts, 4) sugars, 5) vitamins, 6) minerals, and 7) fats. Yes, fats. There is such a thing as good fat and your body needs it. It doesn’t really matter how your body gets these things as long as it gets them. Vegetarians don’t eat meat so they get their protein from alternate sources like beans, tofu, dairy, grains, and nuts. The lactose intolerant still need calcium to build healthy bones so they take supplements or ingest other drinks that are fortified with calcium like orange juice, almond milk, or soy milk.
Eating a balanced diet is integral to a happy, healthy lifestyle as it can boost your immune system, reduce your risk of noncommunicable diseases (heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, etc.), improve / balance your mood, boosts your energy levels, and encourages healthy physical development. You’ll be happier, more energized, and you’ll feel better, not to mention you’ll live longer.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
Our bodies are made up of roughly 60% water and how much you have in your system directly affects your cognitive and physical abilities. From cooling through sweat to keeping your cardiovascular system running, water keeps your body going and if you don’t get enough of it, you’ll quickly notice.
The effects of dehydration aren’t just restricted to lack of energy and “cottonmouth”. You’ll start to see a decrease in hand-eye coordination, judgment, emotional state, and decision-making. Your muscles get less blood and oxygen which makes it more difficult for them to flush waste out so you’ll get exhausted quicker. Being dehydrated also robs your body of excess water to sweat out when it heats up from exertion, which puts you at a severe risk of heatstroke and exhaustion, two things you should take very seriously.
The general rule of thumb for the last few decades has been to drink about eight 8oz glasses of water to meet your daily water intake, but that’s because it’s so easy to remember. Men should be drinking roughly 13 cups (~3L) and women should be drinking roughly 9 cups (~2.2L) each day, but that’s only if you’re not exercising. When you start working out, your body will need more water and your intake should scale with the intensity of your workout.
If you’re working out and dehydrated, STOP. Do NOT push through it. Standing in front of a fan isn’t enough. Your body needs water for so much more than keeping cool. Stop exercising and push fluids.
Importance of a Protein-Rich Diet
Protein is one of the fundamental building blocks of the human body and is essentially the second most important part of your diet behind water. It’s used in nearly everything; muscle, ligaments, hair, fingernails, bones, blood, and it’s also responsible for making you feel “full” for longer.
Not having enough protein in your diet can lead to a loss in muscle mass as your body is leeching protein from existing stores in your muscles, joint pain, weakness from loss of muscle mass, and an elevated risk of infections and ailments due to a weakened immune system. You can also expect changes in mood, changes in texture of your hair, and development of skin rashes & conditions.
Importance of Fruits and Vegetables
The vast majority of the vitamins and minerals your body craves come from fruits and vegetables. Hitting all the marks for your daily vitamin and mineral intake will promote tissue regeneration and strength, a stronger metabolism, and healthy skin and muscles along with a plethora of other benefits.
The easiest way to get your recommended daily allowance for vitamins and minerals is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables. While you can take supplements to get your daily values, you need to keep an eye on specific fat-soluble vitamins as they can be stored in your body and an abundance of these can cause problems down the road.
Not getting enough vitamins and minerals can lead to pale skin, weakness, sleepiness, hair loss, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, depression, trouble concentrating, fatigue, respiratory issues, unusual and intense cravings, menstrual issues, and tingling / numbness of the joints.
Supplement Your Diet With Shakeology
Now, there are thousands of protein powders, meal replacement shakes, and performance supplements on the market with vague, dubious claims about how they'll get you "shredded" or "jacked" or will "incinerate fat" or "melt the pounds away" when they're chock full of chemicals and synthetic ingredients with unpronounceable names. Firstly, anything with non-natural ingredients should immediately raise a red flag in your mind. The same goes for anything called "Shred MAX Incinerator 9000 XL EXTREME" or anything along those lines. Your body needs good clean protein, vitamins, and minerals, not something brewed up in a test tube.
If you're going to use supplements, do your research first. You don't want to just pick something off the shelf at random. You could be grabbing a product that's made by a company with a history of using synthetic, sub-par ingredients or ingredients that are known to lead to health problems down the line. Stick to brands that make use of natural ingredients and have a good track record of their products providing results to their customers.
I've been using Shakeology every single day for the last ten years and it's helped me lose, and keep off, a hundred pounds. It's made from completely, 100% all-natural ingredients. It gives me more energy. It helps keep me satiated between meals. It gives my body the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and nutrients it needs to be healthy. It's amazing and I swear by it. I recommend it to anyone and everyone looking to get healthy no matter what their goals are because it works. You can also get it for free!
Balance Your Carb Intake With Your Activity Level
Carbohydrates are one of the primary sources of energy to be used by your body throughout the day. They aren’t the enemy as so many diets claim (they are energy after all), but you want to make sure that the amount you’re ingesting matches your activity level. The human body can only store about a day or two of energy from carbs after breaking it down from a carbohydrate into glucose. If your body doesn’t use this glucose during a workout or throughout your day, it will then be turned into fat to be used at an even later date.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with eating carbs, you just have to use them before they turn into fat. That’s all there is to it. This is exactly why you hear about marathon runners or endurance trainers “carb loading” the night before a big workout or competition. During their event, they’re going to use the additional energy they ingested and converted over to glucose from that big plate of pasta the night before.
How many carbs should you be eating? That’s a tough question since it differs from person to person and how active they are. The general rule of thumb is 30-60g per hour of exercise going up to two hours, but you’ll need to bump it up to 60-90g if you go beyond two. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Everyone’s metabolism and ability to store and use carbs is different. As long as you pay attention to your body during your workouts and adjust accordingly, you’ll be fine. If you find that you’re “hitting a wall” before finishing your workout, you need more carbs. If you never find that wall, you’re not depleting your stores of glucose.
Stop Going out to Eat
If you’re reading along, we already talked about this, but meals at restaurants (especially fast food joints) are notoriously high in calories, fat, and sodium. Some establishments are better than others, but one meal at a restaurant normally has the equivalent calorie count as a meal and a half that you would cook at home. Don’t believe me? Google your favorite restaurant’s nutritional information and look up your favorite dish. What you find might astound you.
Popular Restaurant Nutritional Facts
Chili's Nutritional Information
Cheesecake Factory Nutritional Information
BJ's Brewhouse Nutrition Information
Outback Steakhouse Nutrition Information
On the Border Nutrition Information
Carraba's Nutrition Information
Buffalo Wild Wings Nutrition Information
Hooters Nutrition Information
Not only are they generally unhealthy for you, it’s expensive! People talk all the time about how “expensive it is to eat healthy” and then they go out and spend ~$50 on a meal for two people multiple times a week when you can buy the ingredients to cook 2-3 healthy meals in one sitting at the same price. This myth that healthy foods are inherently more expensive could not be further from the truth. Autumn Calabrese, another Beachbody Coach and creator of the wildly popular 21 Day Fix, proves this is the case in her video about eating healthy on a budget.
Eating Healthy on a Budget
First thing’s first, you don’t need to buy organic. Is it “healthier” for you? Sure. Organic fruits and vegetables have been proven to have fewer pesticides and chemicals than their “regular” counterparts, but we’re talking about eating right on a budget here. Stick to the produce and meat sections of the store and avoid the center aisles entirely. There’s really nothing that’s super healthy that comes in a box or a can.
Inexpensive, Healthy Foods
- 1 lb. of green beans for ~$1
- Broccoli crowns for ~$0.29 / lb
- Bananas for $0.49 / lb
- 5 lbs of rice for ~$3.00
Inexpensive alternatives to Steak
- Chicken Breasts
- Chicken Tenderloins
- Fish; Cod, Tilapia, etc.
Portion Control / Keep Track of Your Calories
This is the killer. You can eat the healthiest meal in the world, but if you eat a truckload of it in one sitting, it can still end up being bad for you because of the calorie count. If you’re wanting to lose weight, you have to keep track of your daily caloric intake.
Depending on your activity level, your body will burn a certain amount of calories each day, more if you exercise and less if you don’t. If you’re looking to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you take in. If you’re looking to gain weight (i.e. muscle) you need to ingest more calories than you burn so your body can rebuild the tissue you broke down during your workout.
The amount of calories you burn each day depends on your age, height, weight, and activity level and Calorie King has an awesome daily calorie intake calculator which can help you find out the range of calories you need to ingest in order achieve your health and fitness goals.
End of Chapter Exercise: Make a Meal Plan!
Our Free, No-Brainer food guide can help. Keep it simple, avoid fattening dressings and condiments, and start by designing your meals for the next week. Once you’ve got a week of healthy eating under your belt, you’ll have a much easier time keeping it going!
Being More Active
Much of our society’s weight problems can be directly attributed to how sedentary our culture is. It’s not that we’re lazy, it’s that what it takes to earn a traditional living in this country requires a lot of sitting. The basic career requires you to be at work for 8 hours a day on top of your daily commute which can be anywhere between 15 minutes to a couple of hours all of which takes place sitting down.
Because of how much time we spend at work, we’re in a rush during the rest of our lives. We don’t have time to cook so we pick up fast food. We don’t have time to exercise, but we sit and watch multiple hours of TV instead. Not being active wreaks havoc on your body and causes your metabolism to slow so you’re burning less calories, loss of muscle mass, and decreased stamina which makes it difficult to get started being active again.
Stop Being Sedentary
Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle
People are not meant to be stationary for prolonged periods of time. Our bodies were meant to be in motion. The office based work climate has really only existed for the last 60 years and is evolving further into telecommuting so you never have to leave your home to make a living. The accompanying lifestyle to this work environment (which takes up a third of your week outside of sleep) is one of the main contributors to obesity in adults.
Sitting in front of a desk for 8 hours a day causes you to burn less calories which allows more food that you’ve eaten throughout the day to be stored in your body as fat. Even if it’s just half a pound a week, that adds up over the years. This slow weight gain is tough to notice until you’ve packed on thirty pounds and you catch an unflattering reflection out of the corner of your eye, you feel a new jiggle that wasn’t there before, or you have to buy larger clothes. It gets worse, the health effects of a stationary lifestyle don’t end at the scale or your pants size.
Being inactive takes a terrible toll on your cardiovascular system. People that lead a sedentary lifestyle have an elevated risk of stroke, dementia, heart attacks, diabetes, cognitive decline, cancer, depression, weakened bone health, and are more prone to seasonal illnesses like colds and the flue from a weakened immune system. Exercising for just 3 hours a week (a little more than 30 minutes a day) can reduce your risk of being affected by these potentially life-ending conditions and illnesses by up to 50%. 30 minutes a day and you can cut your risk of heart attacks by 50%! By exercising for the same amount of time as one sitcom every day you can literally add years to your life. That’s extra time you can have with your family, your children, your spouse.
Get up and Move Around Every Day
Pairing a balanced diet with a daily exercise program is the best way to lose weight, even if your exercise just walking a mile every day. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you something that keeps your heart rate elevated for at least 30 minutes. If you’re just starting to exercise for the first time, start slow with walking briskly around your neighborhood, swimming in a pool, or just lifting light weights to build the foundation for both your cardiovascular system and your muscles.
Jumping into a high intensity workout regimen with both feet after being sedentary for more than 6 months is a terrible idea. You’re practically begging the universe to smack you down with an injury.
But I work at an Office, What Can I Do?
For those of you that work in an office environment, you’re basically tethered to your workstation for the majority of the day so getting up and moving around can be difficult, especially if your boss is a taskmaster. However, there are some things you can do to burn some extra calories throughout the day.
Take the Stairs Instead of the Elevator
Rather than taking the elevator or escalator when you need to go to different floors during the workday, take the stairs instead. You burn roughly 1 calorie for every six stairs you climb so you can burn a bunch of calories if you have to work with different departments on a daily basis.
Talk to Your Co-workers in Person
Regardless of your inter/intra-office communication system, you’ll need to speak to your colleagues about work. Rather than picking up the phone or instant messaging them, get up and walk to their desk. You’ll burn extra calories walking and you’ll get a change of scenery which can help your mood!
Be sure to give your coworker a friendly “head’s up” that you’re swinging by and inform management why you’re doing this to avoid any unnecessary unpleasantness. Every office environment is different and they shouldn’t have a problem with it, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.
Ride a Bike to & From the Office
This is 100% contingent upon you working near your home and if you’re lucky enough to live within biking distance of the office, take the bike a few days out of the week. You can burn ~300 calories an hour riding a bike at a leisurely pace. Double that for the trip home and you’re looking at an extra ~600 calories burned just going about your day.
Replace Your Chair With an Exercise Ball
Yes, this can look goofy, but sitting on an exercise ball forces your body to engage your core muscles to maintain your balance so you don’t roll off and hit the floor. Using these muscles for a prolonged period burns roughly 5% more calories than sitting regularly at your desk. That doesn’t sound like much, but every extra calorie you can burn matters.
Benefits of Working out Regularly
Working out burns calories. Working out for long periods of time or at high intensities burns more calories. The more calories you burn, the more weight you lose. Your body stores excess calories it doesn’t use throughout the day as fat and since 1 pound of fat is roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories, you have to burn the same amount of calories to lose that pound.
Now, keep in mind that this isn’t in a single day. The clock doesn’t reset at midnight. If you burn 3,500 calories over the course of a week and stick to a healthy diet, you’ll lose that one pound. The opposite is true too. If you consume 3,500 extra calories a week and don’t burn it off through exercise, you’ll gain a pound of fat.
This is why we recommend to pair diet and exercise as you’re able to really crank the needle and drop the pounds.
As I mentioned before, human bodies were meant to be in motion. This is evidenced by the endorphins your brain releases when you continuously exercise for longer than 30 minutes. Depending on how long you work out, you can feel the effects of these naturally produced chemicals during the workout itself or afterwards.
These endorphins reduce the feeling of fatigue and cause a sense of euphoria while you’re working out which helps you push through that wall of exhaustion.They also leave you feeling happy and relaxed after your workout which boosts your mood.
There is also something to be said about the confidence you feel after sticking with a workout regimen for multiple weeks. The sense of accomplishment that fills you when you see your results start to take shape and the subsequent boost to your self-esteem makes you feel happier in your own skin. This confidence begins to bleed over into other aspects of your life and stressors that once affected you melt away into nothing.
Exercising enhances your muscle strength and endurance so you don’t tire out as easily as you once did. You’ll be able to breeze through those stairs that gave you trouble before and your daily chores as if they were nothing. The days of being winded will be behind you since your body becomes more efficient at delivering oxygenated blood and nutrients to where they’re needed.
Your lungs will be able to inhale more oxygen per breath which will enrich your blood with the gases and nutrients your muscles need to keep working before becoming fatigued.
Get More Restful Sleep
Exercise depletes your stores of energy and fatigues your body which makes it want to heal and replenish itself by sleeping. Your exhaustion helps you fall asleep quicker and get into those deep sleep patterns where restful sleep and healing occur. You’ll wake up feeling more rested and energized for the day ahead because of this.
Just be careful to not workout too close to bedtime since you won’t be able to fall asleep until you cool down and your body stops churning out endorphins from your workout.
Importance of Cardio
Naturally, cardio exercises strengthen your heart by making it work harder and pump blood to your extremities so they can keep moving. By working out your heart, you’re making it more efficient at doing its job so it can pump more blood using fewer beats. This also helps push more blood to your muscles so it gets the oxygen that it desperately requires.
The average resting heart rate falls between 65-75 beats per minute. The more cardio you do on a regular basis, the lower your resting heart rate is going to be because your heart can pump a larger volume of blood with each beat. Seasoned endurance athletes can have resting heart rates in the low 40’s!
If you get winded from light activity, cardio needs to be in your future and there really isn’t a better way to burn large amounts of calories in the same amount of time as a cardio workout. The continuous movement and total body involvement just isn’t equaled by any other type of exercise. You’ll quickly see results by strengthening your heart and burning a mess of calories with cardio intensive training.
Make a Workout Schedule
If you haven’t gotten it yet, consistency and repetition are key. Consistency and repetition are key. The only way to get healthy and to stay healthy is to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly for forever. It’s not something that you do for six months, go back to your old habits, and then pick back up when you’ve gained back the weight you lost.
With how paced our society is now, it’s incredibly easy to make excuses about how busy you are, shirk your responsibilities, or procrastinate and put something off tomorrow because we don’t feel like doing it. Your workouts are no different. You’re not letting anyone down by missing your workout except you. It’s your health. It’s your responsibility. The best way to keep the weight off is to carve out a specific amount of time to get your workouts in on a regular schedule and just never miss them. Hold yourself to your schedule.
Whether you’re just walking a few laps around the block or you have a highly regimented weight lifting program, you carve out time in your schedule so that there is nothing between you and exercise for that set amount of time. Your kids, your job, your classes, your friends, your phone, the internet, and any other possible distraction there is can’t touch you during this time. This is your “you” time and your “you” time includes crushing your workout.
Get Workout Buddy / Join a Community
For some people, exercising alone doesn’t work. They don’t find it fulfilling or they sleep in, procrastinate, aren’t motivated enough to get to the gym, or they see results that they’re “okay” with and stop working out. If you’re one of these people and you’re looking to get / stay healthy, It’s okay. Not everyone is wired the same way. Join a community or get a workout buddy instead to help keep you engaged with your workouts because when you feel like the motivation is slipping, these people can jump in and do the motivating for you.
You’re probably wondering where you’re going to find a club that does that thing you like in your area. Google, that’s where. All you have to do is search for that thing you like to do, we’ll say hiking for this example, and the area that you’re in. I live in Dallas which is more of a concrete jungle than actual wilderness so if I search for hiking clubs north texas, look at what comes up as the first result. Texas Hiking Clubs.
All you have to do now is pick up the phone, talk to the person on the other end about said club, and voila! You’re part of a club that does the thing you like in the area you’re in. You now have a support system. It's that easy.
End of Chapter Exercise: Come up with a exercise schedule.
When will you work out? Make time for it - you have to to reach your goals. Remember, it’s a journey, but you should be working out no less than three days a week and at least an hour each time.
Find out What Works for You
We’re nearing the end of the guide and I appreciate you all making it this far. I’m super proud of you making this decision and I promise you, if you stick with it, it’s going to be the best decision you’ve made in your entire life. If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this guide, it’s this. Find out what works for you.
Everybody’s different and everyone’s body is capable of different things. Just because you can’t do a specific exercise because of a lingering injury, lack of flexibility, or some other physical limitation doesn’t mean that there aren’t other things you can do that excite the living hell out of you! You have to get out there and try them otherwise you’ll never know!
Maybe you’ve always wanted to try cycling, go buy a bike and get pedaling! Maybe team sports are more your speed, wrangle some friends together and join a recreational sports league. Heck, join two! The only way to know is to try. The worst that can happen is you don’t like it and you move on to the next thing. Best case scenario, you find the thing you’ve been looking for your entire life. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from doing something extraordinary. Everything is possible if you want it.
End of Chapter Exercise: Try EVERYTHING
Get out there. Get weird. Sign up for a Tough Mudder competition. Join a community that challenges each other to hit fitness goals. Sign up for dance lessons. Buy a mountainbike and hit the trails. Take a yoga class. Get a gym membership. Pick up some at-home workouts on DVD. Challenge your significant other or family member to a weight loss competition. Go rock climbing. Try all the things you’ve always wanted to do.