To many people, the term “healthy lifestyle” is synonymous with depriving yourself of foods you love, forcing yourself to do workouts that you loathe and constantly having to resist temptation. “There’s no way to get healthy if you hate your life,” notes Jennipher Walters, a certified trainer, health coach and fitness specialist.
In May 2008, Walters and Erin Whitehead launched Fitbottomedgirls.com, a blog and online community designed to create a more positive, upbeat approach to healthy living. “We thought, what if we changed that mentality around? Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, or have to do, we thought, ‘What if we started focusing on what we can have, and what we want to do?’” Walters says.
Instead of prescribing a one-size-fits-all formula for achieving a healthy weight and getting fit, Fit Bottomed Girls gives their members the tools to find their own path, as Walters explains. “We talk about finding your own healthy living mojo, your own healthy living jam: How to enjoy your life as an experiment or as an adventure.”
Walters acknowledges that keeping people motivated to stick to a healthy diet and exercise program can be challenging, as reflected in the high failure rates associated with most diets. She offers some tips on how to find the right approach that will keep you engaged.
Find your “why”
“We talk a lot about really finding your why. The first thing that comes to mind is often, ‘I want to lose weight, because I want to be healthy.’ That’s great, but that’s not going to get you to bed an hour earlier, so that you can get up an hour earlier and go to the gym. When the alarm goes off in the morning, you’re going to hit the snooze button, roll over and say, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’ That’s why we ask people to go deeper,” said Walters. “OK, so you want to get healthy, but why? And we want you to keep asking yourself why. You can do this out loud; you can do this on a piece of paper or with a friend, but keep drilling down. Keep asking yourself, why, why, why, why until you reach a much deeper place. You’ll know when that happens because you’ll immediate say, ‘OK, that one hit home. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin,’ or ‘I want to be the person that I know I can be,’ or ‘I don’t want to succumb to some of the diseases that other family members have dealt with.’ It’s a much deeper why than ‘I want to be thin, I want to be healthy.’
“I don’t have time” Isn’t a good excuse
According to Walters, “People may say they want to lose weight, or they want to be more active, but in reality, they’re not willing to make those changes and cut back on some other things. You often hear people say things like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t have time to go to the gym,’ or ‘I don’t have time to do this or that…’ How often do you hear people say ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t have time to sit around and watch Game of Thrones, how am I going to fit that in this weekend?’ I think that we all have the time, but it’s a matter of priorities.”
Create a healthier lifestyle that you can live with
Fitbottomgirls.com encourages people to seek out things that you enjoy that can make you healthier. Instead of going on a diet with foods that you don’t like, find out what you do like. For example, if you don’t like kale, don’t eat kale! Try something else. Maybe you’ll find that you like roasted broccoli, or carrots, and focus on those vegetables. Then keep trying some new ones — you may find that you like some that you never thought you would. The same is true for exercise. Try something, like taking a walk every day, and then push yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone as time goes on. For example, if you take a nightly walk, start adding more challenges by walking faster and adding some hills. After you get used to that, start adding some lunges. Then slowly start adding in jogging and see how that feels. Keep going until you figure out what works for you, what feels good and then you start building your lifestyle around that.
Forget the deprivation diet: Everything in moderation
For Walters, when it comes to diet and nutrition, she’s a big believer in ‘everything in moderation.’ “Obviously if you have allergies or a medical problem, everything in moderation is not going to work. But on the whole, if you put some foods completely off limits, you’ll naturally want them because it makes them all the more enticing. If you know that you can still have what you want, you don’t think to yourself, ‘Oh, I have to eat this entire order of French fries because I’m going on a restricted eating plan soon and I’ll never see them again.’ Instead, you think, ‘I’ll eat only a few French fries because if I want to, I can eat a couple more tomorrow if I’m mindful about it.’ It makes them a whole lot less sexy,” she noted.
An activity tracker can raise your awareness.
“I think that an activity tracker is an awesome tool, for several reasons. There’s been a great deal of research that shows that if you write down your workouts, you become more mindful of doing them. I’ve found that people are not always that careful of keeping track of this own their own. An activity tracker makes the process a lot easier. It monitors how active you are, how many steps you’ve walked, and how much you’re sitting throughout the day. You don’t have to write everything down — it does it automatically for you. You can check in during the day and see whether you’re on target or fallen short of your goal. If you see that you are behind a couple of thousands steps for the day, you can catch up by taking a walk,” Walters added. “An activity tracker also reminds you to be more active even when you’re not exercising.” Recently, there’s been a lot of research on how it’s not just about getting your 30 minutes or hour long workout every day; it’s about what you’re doing the rest of the day.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
“People who are successful at fitness and weight loss don’t expect to be perfect! They don’t even want to be perfect — they’re not looking for a perfect answer. They’re looking for their best, and they’re good with their best. They almost expect to make mistakes, and learn from them. They don’t dwell on their mistakes and use them as proof that they’re not good enough,” said Walters. “At the end of the day, I believe that living a healthy lifestyle is the way to show yourself love and respect. I really do believe that if you have that love and respect for yourself, you tend to make healthy decisions. When you don’t make healthy decision it’s not a big deal, because you say, ‘Oh, I’ll just make a healthy decision later on. I did something and it didn’t feel great, OK, I’ll try something else.’”
Walters’ and Whitehead’s new book, The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet:10-Minute Fixes to Get the Body You Want and a Life You’ll Love is being published in May by Random House.