Its a new year, the energy is fresh, the desire and will to finally get those old favourtie jeans to fit you again, or to take control of your health and be the best you that it can be. You may have tried a fad diet before, or keto for 3 weeks until you went to a movie and bought 3 big boxes of popcorn, thought “damn I’ve blown it, I might as well give up on this idea” and maybe even back all the weight you had lost.

As we get back on the wagon with our health, I’d like to share these few tips I believe that can help guide you during the journey.

1. Be compassionate and loving to yourself during the process 

Making the decision to start is huge and is something you should be proud of yourself for doing.

When you make changes in your diet and start waking up early to run or head to the gym, there will be days where you feel bored, or feel too slow, or accidentally eat a whole pizza by yourself instead of the 2 or 3 slices you told yourself to stick to.

And during this time, I want you to think not how you messed up or how you’ve blown it or “why am I weak at controlling myself” and feel guilty; think of how far you have come already.

I want you to remember the strength and courage you took in making the changes, and keep in mind the day slept in when you didn’t go for a run, or had 3 extra slices of cake, or is COMPLETELY NORMAL and HUMAN. Forgive the moment, understand you are a mere human being with a busy and at times stressful life, and note how the next day you’ll pick up right where you left off, or how you’ll make a delicious homecooked meal after having take out the last 2 days, and understand it is okay.

No one can be 100% motivated and on track 100% of the time, if they tell you they are, they are lying. Everyone has days that are easier than others, and you should keep this in mind, acknowledge it and forgive yourself. Love yourself for taking steps to care for your body and move forward with your original intended plan.

2. Focus more on how food makes you feel rather than how it tastes

How do you feel after having a triple decker pizza that’s loaded with extra cheese? Or a bacon and avocado stuffed double cheese burger with sweet potato fries? Probably pretty good actually. That is, during the meal and right afterwards(sooooo good and yummy). Then what happens 2 hours later? Or even 6 hours later? Maybe groggy? Tired? Unenergetic? Lazy? Wanting another deep dish pizza to get energy levels up again perhaps. A tad bit even guilty maybe, because “I shouldn’t have”?

How do you feel after making yourself a home cooked meal for yourself, with all the nutrients from whole food and vegetables and lean protein? Probably less excited than the above meal, honestly. However you may feel proud of yourself, satiated for hours and full of energy for the next couple hours. You may feel less hungry to snack throughout the day. You might notice waking up the next day feeling well rested, because you are consuming enough nutrients to sustain you now.

The point I’m trying to make is to try base most of your food choices on how you feel about yourself and your energy levels in the hours and following and notice the trend of these that you have during the course of the weeks and months. It may take some trial and error in the beginning, but it is always worth it.

Focusing on how you feel will guide you towards your own right food path – even eating style. Eg you may note you trend towards a lower fat diet, or maybe a keto diet. You may note less hunger in the morning, and end up skipping it (intermittent fasting). And best of all, you will be able to adhere to it.

3. Find an activity that gives you goals

I started initially working out because I wanted to lose weight – as alot of us do. I reached a point after putting in the grinding work for months and months where I was at my lowest weight, around 52kg. I reached my “goal”. And then, what? Where do you go after reaching a target of a number or look? What more is there? Maintain only? Boring!

Then in my final year of medical school I discovered training.

It was my 2nd year of my journey, and it was strength training specifically. I thought “okay, lets see, maybe I am strong” – strong was never a word i could associate with myself. And then what I focused more and more on is lifting weights, heavier weight over time or more reps. And I realised I was actually strong. I looked forward to progressing on the gym because it felt great to have a target and achieve it, repeatedly. I now valued training instead of just exercising. Training is exercise that takes you toward a certain goal.

And you know what happened? Those mini goals of squatting my body weight became so empowering, and the best part? The “body goals” or “physique goals” I wanted came as a by-product! Double score! Now I eat mostly to support my training and for nourishment, at times even MISS the gym (unimaginable). As a side effect, my weight is usually maintained quite simply around 56-57kg, plus the gainz have given my body a look i had wanted for so long.

Human beings are goal driven – your brain likes goals and loves to seek out ways for you to meet that goal in any way it can.

It doesnt have to be strength training – like it was for me. Calisthenic goals like aiming for pistol squat or 10 bodyweight pull ups, or yoga goals such as achieving a certain position requiring mobility and flexibility, keeps you motivated to keep going and takes the pressure off wanting purely a look-a-certain-way goal or achieving a number on the scale.

It takes you out of your own mindset of “HAVING to eat or drink or sleep or exercise this way” to eating, drinking and sleeping to support your goals – you will tend to eat more nutrient rich food and value your sleep to recover; you will tend to drink less alcohol because you realise the hangovers are not worth it; and you will come to respect your body and it’s abilities. Which brings me to the next point…

4. Realise the ability to move your body is a gift and not a chore

Your body is a gift, an actual freaking miracle. Not only is it the only one you will have for your entire life, but it is capable of so much wonder. It can keep going even when you think it cannot. It heals and can tolerate quite a bit of wear and tear – too much alcohol, not enough water, not enough sleep, too little or too much food, injury and trauma, extremes of weather etc

The ability of your body to display strength and to move is a marvel. It is capable of so much and if you have the ability to train your body to move better is it not to be explored? We may not all be Usain Bolts or Michael Phelps’ but we are capable and strong.

Would you not like to know just how far we can go with our body? Nourish it and care for it, take it for a ride and see how fast it can go; how flexible and strong it can be. And appreciate the life-long support it will give you.

5. Find your BIG WHY

You will need to have an intrinsic reason why you want to take on this journey. It could be to have more energy to take care of your parents/children, to take your health back into your own hands, to feel more energetic during the day, to discipline yourself, to look in the mirror and feel proud and inspired by yourself, etc

The internal drive will keep you going AFTER the days where you lose track and have a binge or drink 2 bottles of wine in a day. It will keep you waking up at 5 am to run or do those push ups because the truth is, quite often, you will just NOT feel like doing it. Motivation is a fleeting dream, it does not last.

Your big WHY the most important and the one I would say to take your time to find, and it will guide you towards your path of a successful, sustainable and enjoyable journey.

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