What I’ve Learned From 6-Months of Healthy Living

Toby Hazlewood

A Half-Year Review of my New Year’s Resolution

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Half of the year has almost gone already - it seems like a good time to consider whether I’m on track to achieve the goals I set myself at the start of the year; to eat healthily and exercise consistently. Many of us make similar resolutions at the turn of the new year - to quit smoking, to drink alcohol more moderately or to escape unhappy relationships.

But how many of us actually follow through on those resolutions?

New year, new start

In January I resolved that I’d adopt a more consistent approach to diet and exercise with the intention of forming habits for life. Spurred on by a couple of health-scares within my close family, not to mention a global pandemic, I wanted to abandon the cycles of boom and bust that described my past approach to fitness. This would be the year when I made changes intended to last.

Approaching the mid-point in the year the time seems right to review of how things are going. A lot can be achieved (or lost) in 3-months after all. In the past, 6-months was about the longest I’d ever managed to sustain any fitness program with consistency before things fell apart. A 6-month review seems appropriate for that reason too.

I’m happy to report that I’m still firmly committed to a more consistently healthy lifestyle, and have continued with eating well and exercising regularly. I’ve altered the mix of exercise in a bid to fit in better with my lifestyle and work commitments. Thanks to Covid and its after-effects I attend less group exercise classes, and have more frequent personal training sessions than I used to. Most of my other exercise is done alone in the gym following a bespoke training programme prepared by my PT.

With that summary out of the way, I’ve organised the rest of my review under some key-words that have seemed pertinent over the last three months.

Complacency

One of the biggest realisations I've reached, is that complacency is a killer. The most drastic gains in strength and losses of weight and body fat occurred during the first 3-months, which was to be expected. Going from a standing start to four or more workouts per week, and observing a strict slow-carb diet were the means by which I kick-started my new regime. They were supremely effective to begin with but momentum has naturally slowed since.

I suspect that I became a little complacent about how strictly I held myself to the diet. After a particularly brutal training session, I’d take an extra rest-day in the belief that the calorific burn was more sustained than it actually was. The combined effects of this complacency were that my progress slowed a little more than it might have had I just stuck with the regime.

Allowing complacency in relation to any endeavour will slow progress.

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Convenience

Nothing worthwhile comes easily. When you’re committing to multiple training sessions per week, you have to find a way to fit these in, but there’s no reason to make things more difficult or arduous than they already are. If exercise classes demand fighting through rush-hour traffic then it's not going to be appealing to get in the car.

Convenience in a regime is a big part of whether it will be sustainable in the long term. The same goes for eating.

I’m lucky to work from home for the most part which makes it easier to prepare the right foods and to eat around my work. On days when I have to go into an office, preparing my food in advance is an added inconvenience and a possible reason why I might not bother.

When tackling a challenging endeavour, it helps when as much is lined up in our favor as possible. Convenience is a big factor in helping ourselves to succeed.

Accountability

Accountability is a critical factor in measuring and maintaining progress. I work-out harder and push myself further when exercising as part of a class or with a Personal Trainer.

Nobody, no matter how motivated will work themselves as hard on their own as they do with someone else who’s observing, encouraging and directing them. I’ve completed warm-ups in recent PT sessions that were more taxing than entire workouts that I used to do. I’ve been pushed to lift heavier weights, complete additional reps and finish challenges quicker. In each instance this has come as a result of having someone there to guide and monitor my efforts.

The effects have been the same from use of various online tools and a few gadgets too. I continue to use a Fitbit Charge 2 Heartrate monitor and wear this around the clock to monitor my heartrate, sleep quality and caloric burn. I’m not interested in wearing an Apple Watch since I’m trying to reduce, not increase my screen time, but I’ve seen the amazing stats that those can produce over and above my Fitbit.

My wife and I have a messaging chat-group with our PT within which we are encouraged to share details of workouts, weigh-ins, recipes and details of physical challenges which we can then complete in our own time. We’re currently in the midst of a plank-challenge where we increase the time spent planking by 5-seconds each night; the goal tonight is 1 minute 45 seconds!

Accountability is part of what keeps the wheels in motion. Subconsciously it feels good to know there are others out there who are keenly interested in my progress. It helps when my motivation is low to know that I’d not just be letting myself down if I let my standards slip, but I’d be disappointing them too.

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Adaptability

I'm currently battling an inner-reluctance to change my regime.

I felt like I’d found something that was working - I was losing weight and building muscle. But I have recently hit something of a plateau and I’m no longer losing weight since my body fat has been cut, but I’m putting on a small amount of muscle week-by-week. The problem is that my daily intake of calories is not sufficiently high to build the muscle mass I want to gain.

I am now supposed to consume a caloric excess (more than I burn through merely staying alive!). This isn’t free-rein to eat as much of whatever I want, and I still have to consume larger amounts of the right foods in a balanced proportion. I also have to keep working out, harder and more often.

The resistance in my mind is that I don’t want to lose the lean muscle that I’d started to observe in my body. I worry that eating more will be a direct route to undoing the good work. Nonetheless, I will trust in the good judgment of my trainer and do as I’m told. If all else fails I feel I now know the route to losing weight again if this didn’t work out as it’s intended.

The reality is whether your goals shift or you’re just keen to preserve fitness it is advisable to change things up periodically so that your body doesn’t simply adapt to the exercise you’re routinely doing. I guess this also helps to maintain interest.

The key thing is to realise that you will need to change things from time-to-time and it’s a well to adopt this flexibility in regard to your workouts and diet if you want to continue to see results. The same is true for embracing things that you dislike as part of an holistic programme. Both my wife and I hate running, but the treadmill features regularly in workouts (probably because our trainer knows we hate it!)

Final thought

I hope these observations may resonate with others who are involved in a similar process. They come with all the usual health-warnings, that I’m neither a medical professional or a qualified trainer. I’m just an average guy who’s trying to be a slightly better, fitter and leaner version of himself.

What works for me, may not work for you (but I’ll bet that some of it does!)

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