We’re in the latter half of January, a time when most people’s New Years resolutions often fizzle out and die a slow, embarrassing death. And what are two of the top resolutions? To eat better and exercise more.
Look, I know, as well as anyone how hard it can be to fit in these two goals. I’m a single mom to an active preschooler who works from home as a freelancer – with little childcare. I know that most days, you go to bed thinking of the things you didn’t get accomplished, and that at the top of the list are often exercise and diet commitments. But I, as well as you, can fit it into our days, simply by doing a little math.
The exercise recommendation for most adult women is at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, as well as strength training. This means that you want to do load-bearing activities (things that use your muscles) – such as, say, carrying your toddler or groceries, squatting while doing housework, and climbing stairs – twice a week, and that you need to get in a bit more than 20 minutes of exercise a day that makes you breathe a little harder.
A healthy adult woman needs, on average, 2 servings each of dairy and meat or their alternatives, 6-7 of grain products and 7-8 servings of fruit and vegetables. That sounds like a lot of food. But you must consider how big correct serving sizes are. And after you do that, consider the grazing habits most of us mothers practice. It can be easy to fit in all of the servings you need, healthfully and without much, if any, extra time.
“20 minutes?!” you say. “How am I supposed to find a chunk of 20 minutes every single day?” You split it up, of course.
Ten minutes at a time, twice a day, is all you need to fulfil your aerobic recommendations. This can be pushing your baby in a stroller, or walking to Starbucks and back. 10 minutes is completely doable, and if you add in some strength testing – like the strength required to push the stroller, or carry home groceries – you’re golden.
While you’re at Starbucks, grab a banana and a latte because it’s serving each of fruit and dairy. When you get hungry for a snack, a handful of almonds counts as a meat alternative. Making a smoothie can pack in a lot of servings, if you use a basic recipe of 1 serving of yogurt or dairy (or non-dairy alternatives), 2 of fruit and 1 cup of spinach. That’s four servings in one glass, and it’s fast, healthy and filling – the biggest PITA will be cleaning the blender. The average meat and potatoes dinner will cross another meat serving off, as well as multiple produce requirements; pasta will often eliminate multiple grains and produce needs, as well as a meat serving, and sometimes dairy; a big salad with hummus and a bagel for lunch is 2-3 produce servings, a meat alternative and two grains.
And so on.
Why does it work?
The key is baby steps, and the underlying philosophy is to not get overwhelmed by the end result. If you’re thinking of 17 servings of food and 25 minutes of exercise, it seems physically impossible when added into our daily challenges. But if you think of it in bite-size proportions, you’ll find that your motivation is higher, your confidence and healthy habits increase, and that before you know it, you’re no longer trying to meet a goal – you’re surpassing it, unconsciously.
Try it for a week, why don’t you? Try ten minutes, twice a day, of exercise; try to grab snacks whenever you’re hungry that fit into your healthy eating plan; try not making a mountain out of a molehill by simply adding. What do you think your personal results will be?