A Tailored Wellness Plan
"If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream."
In my mid-twenties, I started gaining weight and what ensued was a decade spent trying to battle it. My main challenges were loss of motivation, inconsistency and regaining weight after losing it.
Age, pregnancies and countless diets are all factors that have made losing weight harder for me in the long run. After experiencing these many diets, fitness plans, consulting professionals and just trial and (always) error, I've come to the conclusion that there’s only one route for me: A holistic approach taking both mind & body into consideration. I honestly don't believe there is one perfect method for everyone; I think it’s up to each individual person to pinpoint what works best for them.
Let me start by first mentioning that I’m not a healthcare professional and that the following information is solely based on my own, personal experience and what works for me. That being said, we can all agree that changing our bad habits is the only way to obtain results. In my opinion though, it’s crucial to keep things as pragmatic, simple and as gradual as possible, especially when it comes to adopting new habits.
Consequently, I’ve come up with the following eight important steps, which encompass several aspects of everyone's daily life. While the content of each below-mentioned category can be adjusted to your own needs and capabilities, I do think taking each of them into consideration is essential to anyone's wellbeing.
A few of these tips might be new, or even seem unattainable to some at first, just as much as they may have already been heard of or implemented for others.
1. GOALS & MINDSET
I've come to the realization that, for a long time, the thing I wanted the most in life was to lose weight and feel good in my body. And I believe that this rings true for many people. Year after year, my resolutions, complexes, hopes, fears and frustrations revolved around this obsessive subject.
I’ve also realized that the only problem standing between me and this objective is myself. No one but me can make this happen. And in most cases, we are often the only ones standing in the way of our personal progress.
We have an obligation toward ourselves: To learn about, to accept innately and to love unconditionally. It is just as equally important that we allow ourselves to change if we feel heartbroken and uncomfortable in our bodies, especially if we are over or underweight.
Limiting thoughts are generally the root cause of our failures and what sends us spiraling down self-sabotaging slopes. When it comes to long-term lifestyle changes, the number one thing to work on is our mindset. We have to genuinely want it and commit to it 100%. And this includes having to fight for our desire of self-actualization in order to become stronger than our self-destructive instincts.
Be clear and realistic when establishing your goals! Write them down, give them a start and end date. Take small steps toward your objective and stay mentally strong.
While growing up, taking care of my body was never necessarily allowed and far less encouraged in my family. There were much more serious and important things to do. And that’s the thing - doing was valued over being. If you recognize yourself in the latter situation, let me tell you this: You ARE entitled to looking and feeling good in your body. And you are capable of achieving your goals. You deserve to treat your mind and body to a healthy lifestyle. You owe it to yourself. Now is the time to invest in yourself, your goals and your happiness!
Learn to let go of the past. It no longer matters today, in the present, right now. You should live everyday one day at a time and focus on your future. Push back any limiting thoughts you may feel creeping up on you.
Our emotions and past experiences have a lot to do with the way we treat ourselves. If you feel like you need help in keeping up your motivation and belief in yourself, then, by all means, reach out. Read, research, figure out what’s holding you back. Get the support you need from family, friends, a group of like-minded individuals, or even a personal coach. If none of the above are an option, seek professional help from a licensed therapist. It may seem drastic - but trust me, I’m speaking from experience, it’ll help you find a way of making a conscious decision about changing your lifestyle and seeing it through to the end. I strongly encourage you to get all the help you need in order to stay as motivated and as focused as possible. Remember, you are your number one priority!
2. HOME, WORK & LEISURE ENVIRONMENTS
Once you’ve made the decision to start changing, make sure everyone around you is informed and on board with your long-term plans. This is especially important for the people you live with, and that may be affected in certain ways by your decision. Even if you have shared your good intentions with them in the past, despite thinking that they no longer believe in the possibility of you changing, it's okay to speak your mind and to make sure that everyone around you respects your choice, and understands how important your new goals are to you. If you succeed, your close ones will share this success with you, and as the saying goes, “in good times and in bad,” they should also be supportive when you’re feeling low.
Your new goals will entail a healthy lifestyle, and there is no reason for a spouse or child not to join you on your journey. If you’re the sole person cooking at home and the recipes no longer suit your family's desires, you can always explain that your priority is everyone’s health and that they’re better off joining you. If they’re resistant to change, then you can ask them to help, or even take over, the cooking of traditional meals. Without causing any harm or risk around you, and without imposing yourself on others, don't be afraid to stand up for your cause, be a little selfish and put yourself first. Many times, when one person in the family starts making healthy changes, the rest tend to follow suit, notably when the family is united. Furthermore, it really is possible to eat healthy and delicious food at the same time. If you have children, they’ll ultimately appreciate the time they can spend with you being active. And guess what? The same goes for your pets, too!
It’s totally possible to stay healthy when working on weekends, when having people over and when on vacation. Stay positive, focused, plan and prepare ahead of time whenever possible, choose the healthiest food options in the present moment, and make the mental choice to stay physically active. Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people. If people you hold on to don’t support your lifestyle change, communicate with them directly and explain to them how important it is to you that they get on board. Plan active leisure time, weekends and holidays involving a few of your favorite physical activities. Not everything will always need to be planned so extensively, though. In time, eating healthy food and being physically active will become spontaneous and natural.
3. HEALTH ASSESSMENT
Make sure you are physically capable of exercising every day and that you have no underlying health conditions that may be keeping you from losing weight.
You can consult a General Practitioner, a Nutritionist or any other specialist needed in order to run a few blood tests, check your hormones and find the best long-term nutritional plan possible.
Always, always, always keep in mind that in the beginning, exercise can build muscle mass, and thus, your numbers on the scale may not decrease right away. Nevertheless, you should start feeling your body becoming leaner if you stick to a healthy wellness plan.
4. NUTRITION PLAN
There clearly isn’t one single nutrition plan that works for everyone. I know that, you know that, we all know that. Rather, it’s up to each person to find the best plan and adapt it to their lifestyle. With that being said, if you want to lose weight, compromising and cutting back are two things you’ll definitely have to do.
For myself, very restraining diets just don’t work long term, and I eventually give up. But, by reaching out to both a nutritionist and a psychologist, I was encouraged to come up with my personalized nutrition plan. I consider this plan flexible but also healthy and satisfying - just what I need.
Breaking bad habits and adopting new ones IS possible. For the first month, you’ll have to make mental and physical efforts, you’ll have to boost your own willpower and following a specific routine will be necessary. After that first month though, things should start feeling natural, and you’ll miss your old habits less and less. If, and when, you do have cravings, don't send yourself on a guilt trip over it. Cut it short, move on to the next thing, and get back on track as quickly as possible.
Here are the main elements of my individualized nutrition plan:
● 1 cup of herbal tea or infusion first thing in the morning, to which I add a system booster such as lemon, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, or a piece of ginger.
● Limit of no more than 3 meals a day, and no snacking in-between. Maximum of 4 to 5 hours between each meal, and dinner before 21:00. This allows my body to enter a fasting mode for at least 10 hours before my morning tea.
● 2 to 3 liters of water intake per day.
● Each meal is composed of the following: 1 single protein, all I can eat fresh seasonal vegetables, quality oils/vinegar/salts or herbs for seasoning, 1 to 2 slices of rye bread or a small portion of whole grains such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice and quinoa, as well as 1 single fruit for dessert. This last item allows me to limit my cravings for sweets.
● I also take certain organic supplements and vitamins in order to better regulate my system when needed, or if deficiencies show up on my lab tests.
● I don't drink coffee, never have, but I don't think 1 or 2 cups of plain coffee a day is harmful. I don't smoke. I occasionally have a little alcohol with friends socially.
● 1 cheat day per week, usually during the weekend. I won't have more than one cheat day per week, because I find it harder to get back into a routine after a longer cheat period.
● I do a 3 to 5-day gentle detox cleanse twice a year, usually during the spring and the fall. This helps me boost my body in weight-loss mode and consolidate the loss of old habits and cravings. You crave what you are used to eating. When you stop consuming it for a while, you don't crave it anymore.
Lastly, there is a lot of conflicting information out there regarding healthy and unhealthy food. In general, I try to keep things logical and simple: go for organic, natural, seasonal and unprocessed as much as possible. The same goes for cooking: raw and steamed foods are favored over fried ones.
5. EXERCISE ROUTINES
I exercise at least 20 minutes a day, or three times a week in longer 60-minute sessions. I also have a break day, usually over the weekend.
I like to vary my exercise routines in order to avoid getting too bored. I use my indoor treadmill, go out with my son for a long bicycle ride, go swimming at the pool or the beach, go to the gym for a Zumba or Spinning session, play volleyball during a picnic in the park, or row a kayak on the lake.
Of course, the best type of exercise is high-intensity cardio where you sweat and burn fat. For this reason, I always ensure that I include the latter type activities at least three days a week. When I engage in low-intensity cardio exercise, I tend to participate for longer periods of time.
I also recommend a short 2 to 5-minute deep-breathing and stretching session in the morning upon waking up and in the evening before going to sleep. I do this every day, 7 days a week.
6. SLEEP, RELAXATION & SELF-CARE
We often focus on the activities, engagements and efforts we have to put in, but less on the aspect of actually taking care of the self, which is just as important.
I make sure to have at least a 30-minute outdoor period every single day, no matter the weather (and I get extreme +40 / -40 degrees throughout the year where I currently live). I have found that being outside relaxes and grounds me. Furthermore, a little exposure to sunlight on a regular basis has many positive effects on the body.
I have specific screen-free hours each day and also 1 or 2 completely screen-free days, mostly on weekends. This helps improve my concentration, productivity as well as my overall mood. I’m probably speaking for most of us here when I say we are easily distracted by TV, laptops and smartphones at home, and I truly find my family is much more at peace when we use them less.
A couple sea-salt baths here and there, a spa session, or an organic essential oil massage once in a while invigorate the mind and body. I make sure to pamper myself and nurture my body at least once a month!
I try to have a "cool down" session, both physically and mentally, for an hour every day. I generally try doing something that relaxes me, especially when the rest of my day has been busy and active. It's usually at the end of the day, right after I put my son to sleep. I usually have a good read; I also journal a bit on the things that are holding me back, or on the things I am grateful for. I feel that putting my feelings in writing helps my awareness process. It's important to focus on our goals, and equally important to acknowledge our achievements or the positive things in our lives. And other times, I just watch a good movie. And almost every night, I have a short auto-suggestion hypnosis session through an awesome mobile app I use as I'm falling asleep. This helps me improve consistency in changing unhealthy patterns, and I can see and feel how different my mindset is the following morning.
Lastly, I allow myself to get a good 8-hour sleep cycle every night.
7. CONSISTENCY & MONITORING
I suggest weighing-in on a scale no more than once a month. And making sure you stay focused, no matter the result! In other words, if you do see a number decrease on the scale, don’t stop and take a break, keep ongoing. If your weight isn’t changing or even increasing, don’t give up. Always keep in mind that no matter the scale’s outcome, all the changes you’re bringing to your daily routine and lifestyle are good for you. Remember that change takes time! Try concentrating on the positives, and all the things that you’ve been capable of putting into place, all while controlling and improving in other areas. Let go of the guilt if you indulged in comfort food or skipped an exercise session. Take responsibility for your actions and move on. Get back on track.
Besides weighing-in on the scale, I also take my body measurements once a month. This further helps pinpoint body cleanliness that might not count on a scale.
Remember!Losing weight is very difficult, even more so without combining exercises and a nutrition plan.
Daily logging, mobile applications or health/sport watches can be helpful and motivating when monitoring both of these aspects. They also help you look back on your overall timeline and see how the progress you’re making gradually. If you are an emotional eater, keeping a food journal can equally help to see through your eating patterns and improve your overall habits.
8. THE IMPORTANCE OF A BALANCED DAILY & WEEKLY ROUTINE
I can't stress this point enough. Because it's the one thing that will actually bring you to getting rid of your old habits and replacing them with new ones. A balanced routine tailored to your goals will help you transition into a healthier lifestyle in the long-term.
We all have busy lives and trying to change however, balancing a job, a home, children, pets, running errands, and so forth, can be quite challenging. You’ll probably have to ask for help, break the vicious circle, eventually rework your budget and daily tasks to share with your partner if you have this possibility. Put the lesser important things on a lower priority and be more efficient in the goals and objectives you do choose to work on.
Below is an example of what a routine involving a family could look like. You can reduce it, expand it, customize it and share the responsibilities with your partner or other people in your house, in order for each person to contribute equally, and for each member to have sufficient time to do what they enjoy. You can make the routine as detailed as you want, but try to avoid being too lengthy, so that you can easily go through it as regularly and as often as possible. If you feel the need to go over it every day, or even several times a week, that's up to you. You can keep it on your mobile device for easy access or print it out and hang it in your bathroom or office, whatever works for you.
● Wake 6:30
● Morning Stretch & Booster Tea
● 30' Treadmill Session
● Family Breakfast 7:30
● Kids Drop-off
● Office Work 9:00 to 17:00
● Morning Break & 15' Outdoor Walk 11:00
● Lunch Break 13:00
● Afternoon Break & 15' Outdoor Walk 16:00
● Kids' Pick-up (Spouse)
● Family Dinner 19:30 (Spouse)
● House Tidying (Spouse)
● Kids' Bath & Sleep
● Sleep 22:30
The idea is to identify your current routine and to make progressive, deliberate changes in order to gradually integrate these improvements into your routine.
I hope my personal tailored wellness plan example has encouraged you and more so, will help you on your way to a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. I feel that it leaves much freedom when it comes to exercising and nutrition and takes the psychological, environmental and self-care aspects of our lives into consideration, too. For me, this really is making a big difference in my life and change is becoming less of an effort with time.
Sarah The Digital GypSea
Romania, August 2019