I've struggled with healthy body image for almost as long as I can remember. I was always too this or too that, and never satisfied with what I saw in the mirror.
It doesn't help that you always see skinny, beautiful people on TV and in the magazines.
To top it all off, I've always found it difficult to form new, healthy habits. It has taken me forever to get to the gym on an even semi-regular basis. Life has a bad habit of getting in the way, and sometimes it just doesn't work out.
So how have I managed to come to terms with the body and habits that I have? And how should you go about starting a new health habit? There are a few tricks I have up my sleeve when it comes to starting something new that you may find useful, too.
Here's what to do:
# Start Small
If you're anything like me, 2am seems to be the time when you're most motivated. At least once a week while I'm falling asleep, I think of all the great habits I'm going to set up the very next day, and how they're going to last forever, and how they'll change my life and I'll finally be happy with myself. Tomorrow (always tomorrow), I'm going to stop eating sugar, not drink so much coffee, go to yoga and the gym, take care of my skin, and spend less time on my phone.
That doesn't work.
While it's great to be ambitious, ambition will only take you so far. Trying to start too many things at once will more often than not lead to failure, and you'll be back where you were in the next few days.
So how do you affect real change in your healthy habits? Simple. Start small.
If you want to form new, healthier habits, start small and grow from there. For example, if you want to spend less time on your phone, set a goal for one week that you'll put your phone aside for 10 minutes each day. Then the next week you can up it to 20 minutes. Then the next week, 30 minutes. After a while of this, you'll probably find that you only pick up your phone when you need it, and aren't constantly wasting time aimlessly scrolling.
Use this baby steps method for any new health habit you want to start, and we're sure you'll see more long-term results than if you try to start 20 things all at once.
# Celebrate You
This is probably my favorite part when I start a new habit, and I quite literally treat myself like a child.
Everyone needs encouragement, right? So why not encourage yourself and celebrate the good things you're doing for yourself?
Here's what I do: I have a piece of computer paper taped to my refrigerator, and on the table I have a pack of gold star stickers. Whenever I do something good for myself, I give myself a gold star on the paper. If I didn't eat a piece of candy that day, I get a gold star. If I went to the gym, I get a gold star (or maybe two). If I can see the progress I'm making visually (like a sheet of paper filled with stickers), then I'm more likely to continue what I'm doing.
Here's another example: it took my mom a lot of hard work and motivation to start a habit of going to the gym, so she found a way to motivate herself. She found an old, empty jar and placed it on the kitchen counter. Every time she went to the gym or exercised for more than an hour, she would put a dollar in the jar. When the jar was full, she would take the money she had collected and buy herself a treat. Once she even bought herself a hot air balloon ride!
It's the little victories that make a big difference, so find a way that works for you to celebrate and reward yourself for those achievements.
# Replace, Don't Restrict
No one likes being told they can't have something. Not being allowed to have something or do something just makes you want it more, right? So why are we always restricting ourselves in the name of health? Shouldn't we be finding ways to allow ourselves things and move forward with more, not less?
I have a massive sweet tooth, for example. I love chocolate, gummy candies, ice cream, cookies...you name it. But obviously, eating a ton of sugar isn't great for you and your skin. Last January, a friend (who also has a huge sweet tooth) asked me if I wanted to do a sugar-free January with her. No sugar for a month. I agreed, but with one condition.
Instead of cutting out all sugar completely, we would replace the candies and ice cream with healthy sugars. Right after New Year's, I went to the store and bought a big bag of fruit. Every time I wanted a piece of candy or an ice cream, I would eat a piece of fruit instead. It would satisfy my sugar craving, and all the fiber was better for my body, anyway.
Instead of restricting what I allowed myself completely, I found a way to replace it with something healthier. Now I don't eat nearly the amount of refined sugar as before, and I found a way to maintain a healthy habit.
Don't restrict yourself, but find a way to replace it, and you're more likely to form and keep up your healthy habits.
# It's Not All or Nothing
Health isn't an all or nothing activity. It's about finding systems and methods that work for you, and maintaining them over the long term. Just because you trip and fall down once in a while doesn't mean you need to stay down forever.
If you're trying to eat healthier and you have a day where all you want is burgers and fries and sweets, it's ok. The important thing is that you set an overall goal of long term change. Take it one step at a time, and just because you trip once in a while doesn't mean that the world is ending and you should give it all up.
# Realize You are Worthy
I've saved the best, and maybe the hardest, for last. Self-love and self-care is, I believe, a radical act. It's so difficult to love yourself when you've had it in your mind for years that you're not good enough.
Try to take some time for yourself each day to show yourself some self-love. Whatever it is that makes you happy, do some of that. Help change your own mind and see that yes, indeed, you are worthy and deserving of good, healthy habits, and that no matter how you are, you're the best you there is.