A lot of people ask; how can I stay fit without going through so much stress? Here’s a secret: It’s not as complicated as you may think. Follow these four small, no-stress habits to follow on the daily. Rewards will follow.
BE ACTIVE EVERY DAY
Identify an intentional fitness activity—a “basic threshold”—you can do every day, no matter what. Notice I didn’t say a workout. Your threshold could be as simple as two full pushups or walking for 10 minutes after dinner. These activities aren’t meant to outweigh or replace your workouts, but they help connect the dots in between missed sessions and breed confidence rather than frustration because in the end, identifying as a “fit person” is as much a state of being as it is a state of doing. This small tweak helps you maintain (nearly effortlessly) a very long streak of being a continuously active person.
DON’T KILL YOURSELF
Repeat after me: Every single trip to the gym needn’t be exhaustive. For starters, if you think your workout is too hard, you’re less likely to lose weight, according to a study in the journal Obesity. The researchers found that when you have a negative experience with exercise, you’re less apt to do it. There’s also the physiological impact: High-intensity routines spur levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Small, infrequent doses can be beneficial, but if your body’s levels of cortisol are chronically elevated (and remember, “stress” can occur in your workouts as well as in your life), it can put you at higher risk for diabetes, weight gain, gastrointestinal issues, cardiovascular disease, fertility problems, and other ailments.
WATCH WHY YOU EAT
As I discovered while working on my book, researchers have found that internal emotional triggers (stress or anxiety) pose a larger obstacle to weight loss than external ones (such as smelling popcorn at a movie theatre). Workaround mental landmines by creating an implementation intention—that is, a specific if-then plan, like “If I feel anxious, then I’ll take 10 deep breaths [instead of eating the candy bar].” Eventually, that behaviour will become a new habit that you won’t have to actively think about each time. The key is identifying one or a few calorie-free stress-relief actions that work for you, like deep breathing, calling a friend, or sipping hot tea.
MAKE “FAST” FOOD
Approach your fridge like an at-home Chipotle. Each week, prep batches of a healthy grain or legume, one or two lean proteins, and a few varieties of produce. So, if cooking for one, that might be four cups of brown rice, a pound of ground turkey mixed with black beans and tomatoes, and spiralized sweet potato, carrots, and zucchini. Store in separate airtight containers in the fridge and keep a few other quick-fix staples on hand (like eggs, fresh spinach, and a few healthy-fat toppings, like avocado), and boom. With this simple group of ingredients prepped and ready to go, you can mix and match endless nutritious meal combinations throughout the week—without ever having to stress over the question, “What am I going to eat today?”