It feels pretty great to plan to consistently eat healthy and exercise daily at a very specific time. The only problem is that too much planning leaves little room to be flexible when life gets in the way.
The truth is that planning is easy. Being flexible without completely falling off the wagon is the hard part.
The trick is figuring out how to strike the right balance between planning to live a healthier lifestyle while remaining flexible enough to deal with uncertainty. Here are five tips that can help you strike that balance.
1. Ditch Calorie Counting for Mindful Eating
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using a nutrition app or tool to help educate you about the food you choose to eat. Calorie counting, however, can become a big problem when it starts to feel like a chore.
While calories matter to a certain extent, there are so many other variables influencing your health and rate at which you burn calories. Many people are better off focusing on being mindful of their eating habits and noticing how food makes them feel rather than relying on a calculator to tell them.
2. Eat Real, Healthy Foods You Already Love
Research has shown that people have more success with sticking to their healthy eating goals by focusing on eating the healthy foods they know they already love as opposed to focusing on restricting the foods they know they shouldn’t have.
You don’t have to give up your favorite guilty pleasures, nor do you have to force yourself to slurp down horrible tasting protein shakes in place of real food. Make a list of all the healthy fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods that you know you already love, and just focus on those.
3. Stick to Exercise You Actually Like Doing
Feel like exclusively sticking to yoga? Go for it! Want to mix it up with a bit of cardio? That works too! Even when life gets hectic, chances are you’ll find it easier to make time for the types of exercise that you actually enjoy doing.
Whatever form of exercise you feel like doing, you should definitely do it. Forcing yourself to do some form of exercise you don’t enjoy — even if it has great health benefits — could backfire in the long run if it’s just too painful and difficult to stick with.
4. Detach from All Beliefs and Assumptions About Health
It’s one thing to read books, subscribe to blogs, and watch videos to educate yourself about health. It’s quite another to believe certain “health rules” so much that you cling to them even when there’s not enough evidence to prove it’s true for everyone, or counter evidence to prove that the opposite may be true.
For example, many health enthusiasts swear by always eating breakfast, and if you struggle with eating breakfast but choose to believe in this rule anyway, trying to follow it will be stressful. Instead, stay open-minded and look for alternatives or counter evidence — such as the idea of using intermittent fasting to replace breakfast — to help you find something that works best for you.
5. Embrace Being Perfectly Imperfect
Nobody maintains a perfectly healthy lifestyle all the time. The reality is that no specific type of food or lifestyle habit is absolutely healthy or unhealthy, because everything is relative and can be seen differently when you focus on the bigger picture.
You can skip a couple days of exercise or spend an entire evening chowing down on high-fat, high-sugar foods and still be considered to have a healthy lifestyle as long as you get back to your exercise and healthy eating habits afterward. Everyone is allowed to mess up, indulge a bit, have a lazy day, and enjoy life every so often.
Without being flexible, working so hard to get healthy wouldn’t be nearly as fun or rewarding! Use the above tips to tweak your plans to stay healthy and feel better about having to make adjustments when necessary.