A little bit can go a long way over time.
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” — Winston Churchill
EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation given in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health.
As I was recently thinking back on my fitness journey, I recognized that I’ve been a bit of a health nut my entire life.
From the time I was 10 years old in the 4th grade and felt that I was a little chubby, I resigned myself to focus on the things in my health that would prevent me from becoming overweight.
As I got older, this turned into more of an obsession, as I ran track and wanted to keep my weight low enough to ensure I had strong race times.
As I matured into adulthood and got my first adult job, I had to focus on the lifestyle I needed to live to prevent gaining the dreaded (Insert company title) Twenty (the belief that most people gained twenty pounds in their first year of an outside sales job because they eat out with clients all the time).
For this reason, I knew I had to make a few changes to what I did daily to give myself the best chance to be successful in this endeavor.
This resulted in a few small changes here and there, coupled with some big lifestyles chances as I grew in my fitness knowledge and level of commitment.
Over time, I’ve realized that there are a number of sacrifices that require a lot of dedication and effort that yield big results in this lifestyle, e.g., waking up every morning at 4:15 am and working out, while there are other smaller things that don’t seem like big sacrifices at all but yet can yield extremely effective results.
In this week’s article, I want to discuss those “little” changes you can make that can help you on your fitness journey.
For each change, I’ll give a switch factor rating of 1–10 which basically gives a sense of how easy or difficult this might prove for most people. The rating system is based on 1 being no issue at all and 10 being something you may have to work at with a bit of time.
These ratings could vary for everyone, but this was how difificult it was for me, as it related to creating a healthier lifestyle for myself.
1. Stop eating all fried food
For me, this was one of the first things I did when I decided that I was going to embark on a fit lifestyle.
I can’t remember exactly when I decided that all fried food was bad, but it seemed like the logical decision when you think about all the negative associations tied to fried food from a health perspective.
When you think about all the various health ailments that shorten people’s lives such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease, fried food is often associated with the type of lifestyle that leads to these things.
Therefore, I figured that this would be the first thing I would cut out to see how it would affect me, and it was way easier than I thought it would be.
While I thought I would miss fried food a lot, I had no idea how good grilled food was until I began to eat it all the time.
Not only was it just as good as fried food, but it was often easier to eat because it didn’t leave grease stains everywhere like fried food sometimes did.
Switch factor = 2(Once I made the change, I didn’t miss it at all and so almost instant results in the way I looked in the mirror and the gym).
2. Eat only low fat or no-fat food
If you had tried to make such a lifestyle change back in the ’50s or ’60s, this could’ve been a major problem, as there were not as many low-fat or no-fat options from which to chose.
However, with the war on fat that took place in the ’80s and the ’90s, there were a number of different low to no-fat options basically for any type of food out there.
If I wanted some chips, I would just look for the low-fat option.
If cake was the item of choice that day, I would look for low or no fat.
Cheese, milk, or dairy of any kind? Low fat or not fat, please.
Basically, I got to the point in which I would always read labels on everything before I ate it, and if it said anything more than 3–5% of your daily recommended balance for fat, I wouldn’t eat it.
Now, you don’t need to go to this extreme, but by simply replacing your usual items with the no-fat or low-fat option, you are very likely reducing your caloric intake.
This is true because fat has more than twice as many calories (9) as both carbs and protein (4).
Therefore, you could possibly eat twice as much food as you did before in regards to protein and carbs and still have a few calories left when comparing to the regular fat version — a tradeoff that was well worth it if you asked me.
Switch level — 4 (This would cause me to have to spend a bit more time researching what I ate while shopping and often not being able to eat any time of cheese (mostly full fat) or non-vinegar based dressing when I ate out at restaurants.
3. Choose 100% whole-grain wheat bread over white
This is one that just takes a bit of getting used to because many of us grew up on white bread as kids.
I remember looking at whole-grain wheat bread (make sure it’s 100% whole wheat, as there is some wheat bread that is refined and no better for you than white bread) as something that only old people ate.
It wasn’t quite as tasty as white bread and I remembered thinking who in the world would want to eat anything with the name pumpernickel. 😝
Fast forward to today, and I’m luckily smart enough to recognize that the amazing benefits of eating whole grain wheat bread greatly outweigh how weird a name might sound.
Part of the reason that whole-grain wheat bread isn’t as “tasty” as white bread is also what makes it so much healthier for you.
Whole wheat bread contains all the aspects of the grain used to make bread — the bran, the germ, and the endosperm, while white bread comes from refined flour that has removed the bran and the germ.
This “refinement” process actually kills all the natural nutrients that bread already has and then has to be “enriched” to add a number of these nutrients back.
The enriched white bread then contains the following nutrients: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Iron, and Folate — some very good nutrients that your body and mind need to grow.
However, WITHOUT this refinement process for whole wheat flour, you get all of those same nutrients PLUS Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Fiber, Potassium, and Protein.
Also, whole wheat bread typically has more of the fiber that our body needs for good digestive health. White bread usually contacts about 1 gram or less of dietary fiber, while 100% whole wheat bread contains between 3–4 grams.
In a study done with clinical trials of 81 adults, the group that ate whole wheat bread as opposed to white bread had significantly higher-good gut microbes, as well as an improved metabolism over a six-week period.
Lastly, whole wheat bread typically tends to just have fewer calories than white bread, with the average white bread slice coming in at 120 calories versus 100 for whole wheat bread — not a huge difference but similar to this list, it’s the little things that make the biggest differences over time.
Switch factor — 3 (There are so many different good whole wheat options out there, one doesn’t have to choose between taste and health any more, as you can get both with the right choice.)
4. Drink sparkling water or water instead of juice/sodas
This last switch can have HUGE results depending on how much you drink sodas and juices now.
Most people don’t think about counting their beverages as it relates to counting daily calories. When I was younger, it would be possible for me to drink an entire soda without an issue at all.
Also, while having breakfast, I would down an entire glass of OJ like it’s nothing, as well as apple juice and grape juice when the opportunity presented itself.
Not that all juices are inherently bad, but many of them (similar to soda) contains tons of sugar and end up being extremely high in calories.
And we all know how bad soda can be.
One two-liter bottle of coke is 800 calories — enough for a large meal or two smaller meals depending on how much you typically eat, while one 8 ounce cup of OJ contains about 110 calories.
While this may not seems like a large amount, these liquid calories can catch up with you over time, as they add up with meal after meal.
When you replace these calories with water, you will automatically give your body more of the hydration that it needs to stay healthy and vibrant.
If water is a bit bland for you like it can be for many people at times, instead opt for sparkling water of some kind that could you give that same desired fizz of a soda but without the extra calories and sugar.
When I say sparkling water, I’m referring specifically to club soda or seltzer water and not the sparkling flavored water that many people have grown to love recently to get off of diet soda.
I’m been a victim of this myself and just discovered recently how bad these drinks can be for you and your long-term health.
One of the major negative consequences of various fake sugars is they actually interfere with the release of your satiety hormone and make you want to eat MORE than you normally would. This is one of the reasons many researchers suspect there has been a link between consuming large volumes of diet sodas and increased BMI in individuals that can be related to a number of various health ailments over time.
This may be a bit tricky at first to get used to, but with a bit of time, club soda will easily become a much health part of your daily meal choice.
Switch Factor — 5 (At first, you will DEFINITELY miss soda, but this doesn’t have to be forever or all the time. Drink water or club soda mostly and then leave the diet soda or fake sugars for specials occasions. I still put it in my coffee from time to time…just in moderation).
While cutting your calories dramatically or working out twice a day could be a strategy to get you to your fitness goals faster, there are a number of small and simples changes that one could make to yield large dividends to the bottom line.
And while I won’t say that all of these switches will be easy at first, you’ll be surprised at how much you won’t miss them once you see the major results they can yield in a rather short time.