Finding your 1%

Let’s talk about marginal increase, said no one ever. But let’s, because it’s not something that people generally consider when they are faced with overwhelming obstacles or tasks.

“I want to get fit” and “I want to eat healthier” are objectives that many of us share, however it can feel like you would need to make huge changes to your life to do that. Sometimes, after the new year for example, we make a big push to tackle that obstacle. Resolutions firmly fixed at the forefront of our brains, we book ourselves into exercise classes and start juicing detoxes. Three weeks later, we’re back to square one, but we also treated ourselves to a pizza because that was really hard and we deserved it.

There is a better way. Marginal increase.

No, you can’t just change your diet in one day. Unless you have a superpower or a very annoying personal dietitian watching over you constantly, it won’t last and you’ll fall back into your old ways. It’s all about your routine. If you change your routine super slowly, bit by bit, you will eventually end up with a routine you are happy with, that includes eating healthier and having an exercise regime.

Need examples? You got ’em!

If you’re not into cooking then you might find it easier to buy ready meals or order take out more often than maybe you should for a healthy balanced diet. Start small, take a look online for some easy and quick recipes that you can do yourself. Pick just one and give it a go. It might be very simple- rice, chicken and a sauce from a jar. That’s fine, that’s a great start! You made it yourself, you can be proud, and not only have you added another meal to your repertoire, but you’ve started to take control of what you eat, which is an important change to your mindset.

If you like to snack but don’t get enough fruit and veg in your diet, here’s another example. Do not buy crisps and biscuits, only buy fruit and nuts. If there isn’t any junk food in the house then there’s nothing to graze on, and once you get in the habit of having a banana instead of a chocolate bar, it doesn’t seem like a big deal but every little change like this that you make is adding up towards a healthier you. Maybe cutting out all your crisps sounds too hard? Then swap the crisps you get. Read the nutrition information on the packets and go for a slightly healthier one. You still get your treat but you’re helping your body out too.

You may not have the time or money to get a gym membership. They can be pricey and are absolute rip offs if you never actually go. So start small. If you drive to work, could you walk at least some of the way? Even parking your car on the other side of the car park so you have further to walk makes a bit of a difference.

I found that when I got my pedometer I was trying all sorts of little cheats to get more steps out of the day. When someone offered to get us some more tea I was straight on my feet, “no, no I’ll get it,” because I knew that walking downstairs and back up was another 100 steps and when you’re desk-bound most of the day, you have to get your steps in wherever you can!

The point is that no one ever climbed a mountain by stepping straight to the top of it. That’s not how it works. You start walking at the bottom and start tackling more and more until before you know it, you’ve reached your goal.

A few months ago, I would never have thought I could go to the gym 3 times a week, walk an hour each day and reduce my meal portions down (another small cheat to reducing your calorie intake). I thought it was burning my candle at both ends as it was- I was knackered in the evenings, how on Earth was I going to get anything out of the gym? And surely the more you exercise, the hungrier you’ll be so how would I then reduce my food too? (Also, I love my food so that’s a bit of a sticking point with me.)

The answer is always baby steps. Finding that 1% you can improve on in different areas of your life. Then, before you know it, you’re already 20% of the way towards where you wanted to be!

I started walking to work when I got a new job that didn’t involve needing my car. It’s a half hour walk but I took my iPod with me and thought about how much petrol money I was saving. It helped that when I started it was Summer and extra time walking in the sunshine was a moral boost too. By the time Autumn came around it was already my routine. Admittedly, it was harder to start again after the Christmas holidays- icy pavements and sleet encouraged me to stick with my car, but I felt the different enough in my physical well being to start again and now I’m back to my new ‘normal’. I sleep better, I’m happier generally, and I feel more productive in the evenings too for doing a little exercise to kick it off.

Alternatively, my partner’s parents have got into the habit of taking an evening stroll after dinner, just around the local neighbourhood, to have a chat and let their food go down before the evening TV programming starts (they’re hooked on all things BBC). Now they couldn’t imagine an evening without a walk. It’s ingrained.

If you want more specific examples of ways to take baby steps let me know. Just remember, start slow and build it into your routine. At the moment, I still don’t feel like I do much exercise even though I do miles more than I used to- because it’s so ingrained in my routine that I barely count it!

You can do it too!



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