It’s that time of year again. The beginning of each new year brings with it the inevitable urge to get healthy; to eat better, exercise more, and lose those love handles. Usually the effort lasts a solid week or two and then most of us fall off the wagon.
It seems like one of the reasons for the sudden and predictable collapse comes from our tendency to “adultify” our plans. Our plates get filled with food that would have any self-respecting child running for the hills. And our workout routines involve overly structured regimens and boring reps. Blech.
Let’s throw the current childhood obesity epidemic out the window for a second. I’d place a wager that when you were a kid — six or seven years old, for instance — you were in pretty good shape. Back in the day, most kids were. And they weren’t eating shrubbery for dinner and running on a treadmill for thirty minutes every day.
A big key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is injecting it with a healthy dose of fun. Many people dread working out, because that’s what it is: working. It’s a monotonous chore that gets old quick.
Unless you’re a body builder or training for a triathlon, exercise is really just a fancy way to say, “be active.” Kids don’t “exercise” at all. But they do spend their days doing things like playing tag, hopscotch, and kickball, riding bikes, jumping rope, dancing around, climbing the monkey bars, flying kites, roller skating, and running through the sprinkler.
Some of the best ways to be active might involve activities that you wouldn’t normally consider exercise at all. I enjoy playing basketball. Even if there is no one around to play one-on-one with, I just like shooting around. Sometimes I have a contest with myself to see how many free throws I can make in a row, or how many I can make out of a hundred. It’s fun. And it can turn into quite a workout; shooting the ball and chasing after rebounds gets the ol’ heart rate up. The funny thing is, I never think of it as “working out.” Because it’s fun.
I’m sure there are a number of things you enjoy doing (or used to enjoy doing) that get you just as active, but which don’t come to mind when you think you need to exercise. Think back to your childhood for some ideas. In addition, making something into a game or competition, incorporating music, and involving friends or family are all things you can do to make things more fun.
The other side of the healthy lifestyle coin involves food. And again, diets usually conjure up images of bland food and boring (if any) desserts. Moderation is a big key here, but I am a big proponent of not cutting out your favorite foods. Chocolate is one of the greatest things God ever invented, and a little here and there is good for you and your soul. (By the way, a small bar of dark chocolate every day can keep your heart and cardiovascular system running well.)
Look at some of your favorite foods from childhood, and see if there’s a way to make a more nutritious alternative. Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread is still a pretty tasty (and healthy) lunch. Mac and cheese made with whole wheat pasta and real cheese is way better for you than the stuff that comes in a box.
Most people get in trouble because the portions they eat are too big, and the stuff they eat is over-processed. It is my belief that food should be fun, and as long as you don’t overdo it on portion size and keep the stuff made in a factory to a minimum, you should have no problems maintaining a sensible weight.
Getting and staying healthy should be a priority for everyone. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest, and it’s hard to do that with a body that is broken down due to carelessness and neglect. Eating well and staying active will forever be the cornerstones to a healthy lifestyle. But injecting fun and making it enjoyable are the keys to making it stick.
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