‘Everything in moderation...’ Three very wise words we hear regularly but probably don’t apply as often as we should. Of course, there’s moderation in moderation too! Balance, in the holistic rather than literal sense, should be the holy grail for all of us wishing to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Over the past month or two, I’ve frequently been asked about the necessary ingredients of a healthy lifestyle. ‘Do I need to exercise more, eat less, try hypnosis, get counselling?’ These questions frequently arise from people’s sense of frustration. You may have joined a fitness class, or taken up jogging. You may be eating less junk food or starving yourself. But you still aren’t seeing the results you wish to.
You may begin to wonder, ‘what am I doing wrong?’ or perhaps ‘why isn’t this (diet, class, regime) working?’ From frustration, a need arises to know the hard-and-fast rules for achieving fitness, weight loss and other diet- and exercise-related goals.
Everyone is unique
Unfortunately, hard and fast rules don’t really apply. Each individual is unique and this uniqueness brings with it different responses to things like exercise and dietary change. I think the most important first step is to establish your starting point.
A visit to a doctor or nutritionist to discuss your dietary history, choice and any possible allergies or food intolerances will yield information specific to you. For example, tests might show that a food normally assumed ‘healthy’ may not be suitable to your physiological make-up. You may discover high acidity levels in your body, a factor in the body’s ability to utilise fat for energy.
A visit to a personal trainer can give you a great overview of the aspects of fitness you most need to work upon – aerobic endurance, body composition, muscular endurance and so on – as well as a set of baselines against which to measure your progress.
There is a theory that fitness testing only serves to de-motivate people. Why test someone to tell them they are over-weight when they clearly already know that? However, dealt with correctly and sensitively, testing can also be very motivating for many people. A frank discussion with a fully qualified trainer will help you decide for yourself.
All this being said, once you have a better idea of what makes you tick and where you stand, there are some guidelines you can follow to help you achieve the necessary balance between moving toward your goals while still fully enjoying your life without feeling you are torturing or depriving yourself.
only do exercise that you enjoy. Why give yourself an easy way out doing something you dislike? This could simply reinforce the falsehood that ‘exercise wasn’t for me anyway!’ Also, it’s important to fit exercise around your life, not the other way around. Don’t go gung-ho at it seven days a week to begin. Three days of exercise a week is a good start if you’re coming from nothing at all.
Another good tactic to help keep you motivated and in balance is to reward yourself by doing things that relax you and which you enjoy. For example, treat yourself to a massage at the end of the week if you have followed your plan. This will help form positive psychological associations around exercise.
I think this one’s simple. I eat good, healthy food most of the time, but will occasionally treat myself to something sweet. Again, it’s about balance. I don’t feel deprived and neither do I feel guilty about food.
A nice word that easily trips off the tongue. With exercise, as with life, you are either moving towards balance or away from it. Follow the tips above and you’ll be a little closer to the centre of the see-saw.
Paul O’Brien is a Personal Trainer and Life Coach and runs his own fitness and coaching business in Westport. He is the founder of Bootcamp West, an innovative and exciting fitness programme running in Westport, Castlebar and Louisburgh. For information about fitness training, coaching, bootcamp programs and new TRX classes, email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 086 1674515.