14 March 2013

A little more, a little less

Just like a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (proverb, Laozi), sometimes doing little things today can start you on a journey to bigger changes down the road that eventually become healthy habits.

A little more...

Here's a personal example - I'm a numbers person, not in an OCD way, but I count things (like when someone else is dealing out cards) and frequently do math in my head (like to approximate a total bill). For some unknown reason, when I'm working out and counting my reps, I subconsciously stop at 10 even though that might not get me to the point of muscle failure (which is the goal). So what I've started doing over the last few years is to do 12 reps in a set. It sounds like a silly little thing, but by doing 2 more reps per set, I'm pushing myself and not allowing myself to be complacent when I'm exercising. It's not a lot, but it makes a difference physically and mentally. The other thing I do sometimes when exercising it so do 10 more reps whenever what I'm doing starts to hurt, like if I'm doing a type of crunch or push ups, for example. For someone else, 10 more might become 5 or 15 or 20 more. For me, 10 works well because I can almost always complete all ten so I don't have to cheat, but I'm definitely pushing myself past the point where I'd like to stop.

Other ideas for doing a little more:
  • If you want to be more active, park your car a little further away from wherever you're going. You could even make it a habit to park at the far end of a parking lot. This has the added benefit of saving you time from circling the lot looking for that closer spot!
  • Another option is to run/bike/walk 0.1 miles more every (other) day for a month, or even every week.
  • If you struggle to drink enough water, try to drink one more glass of water every day than you usually do. You could even set a reminder.
  • If you're looking to change your eating habits, introduce a vegetarian or vegetable heavy meal into your family's dinner rotation. Fridays (especially if you're Catholic) or Meatless Mondays are popular options, but you could do it any day.
  • If you typically grab a quick, less healthy breakfast, substitute a fruit smoothie one day a week. Here's a tip: You can portion out various pieces of frozen fruit into separate bags or containers so you always have a smoothie starter ready in the freezer. When you want to make one, pick one smoothie starter bag and mix it with a combination of milk/juice, yogurt, banana, fresh fruit, protein powder, chia seeds, or whatever you like to put in yours. Super quick and easy!
  • Commit to taking the stairs whenever you are going less two floors or less. This obviously doesn't work when you have a stroller or if you're wearing high heels.
  • If you're not getting a whole lot at the store, carry a basket instead of pushing a cart.

A little less...

Sometimes, though, it's not that we need to do more but rather, we need to do less. In our family, we find the biggest thing we need to scale back on is portion sizes. For a lot of people, I think this is more of a mental obstacle than a physical one. It could be that your parents always told you to clean your plate when you were a kid, or maybe you've just come to accept that what a restaurant calls a "portion" or "serving" is just that, even though it is significantly more than you need. A few tips we have found work well to combat portion sizing are to set aside part of your meal before you dig in and to use smaller plates and bowls. I've always eaten small portion sizes because it works well for the way my body digests food. I've come to view any meal I get out at a restaurant as that meal and at least one more. I generally don't even attempt to finish a whole portion at one sitting, and the times I go against my judgement and try to, I usually regret it a few hours later when I'm overly stuffed and uncomfortable. Crab legs and chipotle burritos (not at the same time because that would be gross) are the two biggest offenders for me. The other thing we do is to use smaller plates and bowls. This is especially important for when we portion out food for our toddler. My husband's idea of a serving size is very different from mine. By using toddler sized plates and bowls, we are able to somewhat standardize how much food we give him and reduce the amount we end up wasting by giving him too much. For ourselves, we try to use smaller bowls when we eat ice cream or other desserts to limit how much we dish out and also our smaller plates for meals so we can start with a small serving and then go back for more if needed.

Other ideas for doing a little less:
  • If you drink too much coffee every day, try drinking a little less. 1.5 cups instead of 2, for example. Or try trading one of your cups for black tea (My suggestion is to get a good earl gray. Some are downright awful so don't be turned off if you've had it once and hated it. I'd be happy to give suggestions).
  • Same with soda, energy drinks, sweetened juices or teas. Try swapping out a small amount for water, green/white/red/herbal tea or a more natural juice option. You might be surprised to find you like it better that what you're drinking now.
  • If you find yourself spread thin or overwhelmed (I know I do), take 5-30 minutes and just stop doing. Use this time to do whatever centers you and gives you peace. It could be meditating, praying, yoga, stretching, or even just laying down with your eyes closed and letting your senses or smell and hearing take over for awhile. I know I don't do this enough, but when I do I'm usually amazed at the benefits.
Sometimes I think we should all just stop and be like this kitty

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