Taking back control one baby step at a time

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Taking baby steps towards a healthy lifestyle has never been easier.

Is expat life draining your energy and making you adopt unhealthy eating habits? More often than not, people try making big changes in their lives but end up being unable to commit to them, resulting in a loss of motivation.

The most important lesson to learn is that baby steps is key to achieving any goal you set yourself. For those expats whose eating habits took a turn for the worse once they moved abroad, it might seem like a distant dream to shed the extra pounds and get back on track. However, it’s not impossible just so long as you don’t bite off more than you can chew, quite literally, and take each day one baby step at a time. Once you have made a small change and incorporated it into your day to day life, you can introduce a second, then a third and so on. In a year’s time (or maybe even less) you will see all the benefits and in hindsight, it will all feel so easy!

Starting small

It doesn’t matter if at first you don’t see significant changes because these things take time, patience and most importantly, perseverance.

  • Taking a brisk walk

If you have an extra half hour where you have nothing to do, take a 25 minute brisk walk (this can be done during lunch breaks at the office). According to health experts, walking 25 minutes every day can add three to seven years to your life, improve your cognitive function, slow down the development of dementia, and all the while helping you shed those extra pounds.

  • Changing breakfast habits

If your morning breakfast includes toast with jam and a tea with milk for example, you can make tiny changes that will have you feeling better in no time. Next time you go to the supermarket, reach for the skimmed milk instead of whole, and maybe go for sugar-free jam. There’s no need to change your breakfast dramatically.

  • Eating out

It’s completely normal to be too busy to eat at home all the time, perhaps your schedule doesn’t allow you to return home meaning you have to eat at your desk. Well, why not choose a salad instead of pasta, or a whole-wheat sandwich instead of a burger. If you’re tempted to drink a soda, ask for light or sugar-free version. Your next step could be drinking water instead.

  • Re-organise your refrigerator

It is quite common to keep fruit and vegetables in the bottom drawers or shelves within a fridge. However, when you have a spare 10 minutes, move these items onto the main shelves meaning that they will be at eye level when you open the fridge. Every time you open the fridge looking for cream cheese or easy-to-make food, you’ll be greeted by healthier options. Your next step could be cutting back on the unhealthy foods you buy.

  • Start the day off with exercise

There is no need to leave your house or sign up to a gym for this. You can do a 10-minute routine of sit ups, push ups and squats as soon as you roll out of bed. This will make you feel better, stronger and will help you make better choices throughout the day. Within 30 days, you’ll start to notice how your legs have become more toned and your midriff will appear slimmer.

  • Sleep well

Putting the kids to sleep, or adapting to new schedules abroad (Spain, I’m looking at you!) can change your sleeping cycle, causing insomnia or unhealthy sleeping patterns. Set yourself a “goal time” to be in bed every night and try sticking to it as much as possible.

  • Train your sugar tooth

We all crave some ice cream after lunch, but why must we also have it after dinner? Choose one time a day to have dessert if you really can’t give it up. Once you are used to having it only once a day, cut it to once every other day, until your cravings die down (but hey, it’s okay to indulge yourself from time to time).

Easy, huh? Remember, it’s not about taking on all these changes at once, it’s about baby steps. Start off with an easy one and once it has become a normal routine, adapt a new one. You will eventually see changes in your life without having made big sacrifices (or spent your wages in natural, organic supermarkets or on gym memberships). We all know that “there is no time for the gym” or “I’m too busy to cook at home so I eat out everyday” are just excuses. It’s time to put your life back on track!

[Images: Peggy Greb USDA ARS, US Department of Agriculture]