Where to start with fitness when you are feeling overwhelmed

You have decided that you are not happy with the status quo, and you’re not going to quit until you are in a place that you can be proud of. You know that it’s not going to be easy, but it doesn’t need to be that hard. But where do you start? You probably don’t want to jump head first into chicken and broccoli three times per day, because that’s pretty boring and probably doesn’t look anything like what you are used to doing – which means you would be setting yourself up to fail.

If you have already read our Nutritional Priorities post, you have a pretty good handle on what you need to focus on. So building on that, here are some first simple steps that you can take on your road to awesome.

First, stop drinking calories. This is a huge one for a lot of people. If you consume a single extra can of coke or other soda per day, that’s an extra 160 calories daily. Which equates to about an extra ⅓ of a lb of fat gain per week if you aren’t burning them off. Or, an extra 15-30 minutes on the treadmill or exercise bike, every single day. Milk is a great source of healthy protein and fats and is definitely not something you need to try to avoid, but is also a whole bunch of extra calories that you may not need to consume. A gallon of milk is about an extra 2000 calories, depending on the fat content. That’s about a full day’s worth of calories for most people.

Cream and sugar in your coffee or tea is also just empty calories, and don’t even get me started on those gigantic 500+ calorie frappawhateverthefuck things they cover in whipped cream at Starbucks. That’s not coffee, it’s more of a dessert than a slice of bloody cheesecake.

If you like drinking sweet things (and hell, who doesn’t), switch out your full-strength sodas for diet. The artificial sweeteners will NOT kill you, or do you any harm at all, especially when you consider that they are replacing refined sugar intake. This is a topic for a separate day, but suffice it to say that SO MUCH research has proven them safe. And before some smart-ass trots out the whole “but artificial sweeteners have been correlated with obesity” shtick, let me remind you about stats 101, and, feel free to say it with me folks, “correlation does not imply causation!”

If you like your morning coffee black as night and sweet as sin, as I do, I suggest switching to liquid sucralose drops. You can get them online, and I personally find that they taste just like sugar. Some people don’t like the taste or find it has an odd aftertaste, but I don’t. Your mileage may vary, pick one you can live with. A side note: the “low calorie” sweeteners you buy in the colored packets? Usually the main ingredient in those is dextrose, AKA sugar. This is because the artificial sweeteners are usually so much stronger than regular sugar that if they didn’t have a filler in the packet, there would only be two or three tiny grains of sweetener in there. So be aware that there may still be a number of calories hiding in there, and possibly not that many less than just straight sugar.

If you absolutely can’t stand your coffee without some sort of dairy in it, start lowering the fat content of what you are putting in. Slowly switch from cream to half & half, then homogenized milk, then 2%, then skim or fat-free. Going from whole cream to skim will cut the added calories by about 90%. And that adds up in a hurry if you are drinking lots of coffee.

For those of you who get really bored with plain water, I personally love those no-calorie liquid water flavour drop things. I’m a huge fan of berry, peach, or mango flavours, and these have been a big factor in my being able to increase my water intake to about 3-6L per day. Yes, they are artificially sweetened and coloured, but just because something is not “natural” doesn’t mean it is bad for you. Cyanide is natural, as is carbon monoxide. Moving on.

Now that I’ve beaten the “don’t drink calories” thing into the ground, lets cover a few other easy things you can start with to get yourself moving on your journey to awesome.

Try adding some protein in at every meal, preferably a lean whole-food source. Unfortunately, adding bacon to every meal, while delicious, will most likely not help you get less fat. However, starting with some chicken, steak, legumes or beans, will help fill you up faster, and also boost your protein intake, which as we have discussed previously, is Really Good.

If you struggle with portion control, try eating a salad before main meals, or start by finishing your vegetables first. This fills you up faster than going straight for the high-calorie foods, and may just help you slow down when eating.

Some people might see a benefit from limiting their between-meal snacking as much as possible. If this is something that you know derails you, get in the habit of keeping a food journal of some kind, even if it is just using your phone to take a picture of everything that goes into your mouth that isn’t water. I find that having to write down “½ lb of peanut M&M’s” makes me less likely to stuff the entire bag in my face. Sometimes.

There are lots of things that you can do, but these are a few simple things you can start with to get the ball rolling. Most people will begin to see a downward trend in their weight simply by tracking their daily scale weight and calorie intake, because it makes them more mindful of the things they are putting into their face. And every little bit helps.

So start today – go forth and be awesome. Or at least more awesome than you were yesterday.

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