So you’re in your thirties. You’ve got your career somewhat figured out and it’s going. You’re making money and you’ve got some kids. You’re in the whirlwind of life of logistics, meetings, kid activities, and the occasional date night when you can fit it in. You realize you’ve had to buy new clothes because your old ones don’t fit anymore. Maybe someone cracked a joke about your weight or your dad bod or mom jeans and you hadn’t even really thought about it for the last few years because you’ve just been busy. (This also works for your 20’s, 40’s, 50’s, etc)
Sound familiar? It’s easy to let taking care of yourself take a back burner to managing life and family. Well here are the top 10 (plus 1 bonus) diet and exercise life hacks I’ve gathered over the last year of my journey of Amy and I deciding to be intentional with our fitness and diet. These have helped us get stronger, lose weight, look better in photos, have more energy for the day, and be more active outdoors with the kids. Those are all probably goals you could agree on as well right?
Disclaimer: This is what I’ve found works for me (so far). Maybe it can help you out some. As always, take it with a grain of salt and modify to fit your needs. I’m not a doctor, just a computer nerd who enjoys being healthy and active. For reference: I’m 34 years old, married with 4 kids, 2 jobs, and just 1 year of serious fitness and a healthy active lifestyle with intentional eating under my belt. Check out this instagram post to see the results of 2018 Me.
1.Schedule your workouts for the week.
Use your calendar and communicate with your spouse. Plan each week. Usually on Sunday afternoons or evenings we will try to verify our calendar plans for the week including kid activities, school meetings, weekend activities, etc. This is when we talk through things like, “Well we have 3 kids activities on Tuesday night so both of us getting to the gym in the evening might be hard. Maybe I’ll take the AM class, or make it my rest day, and can drive kids around town while you get to the gym.” Other times we’ll tag team. I’ll get the 5:30pm class and Amy will get the 6:30pm class or vice versa. Kids come to the gym with an activity bag or get handed back and forth between parents and cars like a hostage negotiation. lol. Sometimes it’s crazy, but we do our best to make it work.
2. Find a healthy drink replacement for soda.
Water preferably. Some type of health drink (not Gatorade), or make your own. Invest in a good travel mug/water bottle you can easily carry around on your person, in your bag, in your car, at your work, even on foot (for all the walking you are gonna start doing!) Start taking it with you everywhere. When it’s like your keys and you take it with you, you are more focused on it and it’s easier to use each day. If you HAVE TO HAVE soda, at least try to switch to diet and limit it to 1 or 2 cans a day and work to wean yourself off of it. Artificial sweetener filled Zero calorie soda is just as bad for you in a different way. Ramp down gradually. Cold turkey is just rough. NOTE: I’m not saying give up caffeine! I use caffeine pills to regulate my caffeine and still get the energy I need. I also have caffeine in my pre-workout mix and the occasional coffee.
3. Get a good lunch box and some Tupperware you can use for meal planning.
If you are serious about your eating healthy, but are taking a overnight trip or weekend trip, you can plan ahead, do some meal prep, use ice packs or coolers to keep food cool. You can pack healthy foods like meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts which all pack well. You can even find microwaves at a QT if you had to or worst case, (Gasp! eat food cold. A trick I learned in the Army. You won’t die, I promise!) Planning ahead with your food allows you not to be a victim and HAVE TO eat out. It will also save you tons of money which is an added bonus.
4. If you do have to or need to eat out, plan ahead!
Decide where you are going and make the best choices possible. Shoot for as healthy a meal as is possible. Whether that’s from their lower calorie menu or the least processed type of meal you can get. This can help you avoid those 1300 calorie #1 combo meals or a dinner plate at a Mexican restaurant which could honestly feed 3 people. I’ll give you two examples from this month. I went to lunch with a vendor at Jack Stack BBQ (amazing bbq!) I had just started a nutrition challenge at my gym. As much as I wanted to just get brisket or burnt ends (which wouldn’t be that bad for my diet) I wanted to avoid all the sugar in the bbq sauce. Trust me, it’s there. It’s why it tastes so good! I ordered salmon and vegetable kabobs. I know that was like the cardinal sin at a BBQ restaurant, but I’m still alive and I’ll get the bbq another time. I was intentional with my choices as it relates to my current short and long term goals. 2nd example. On Sunday, I only had 570 calories left for the day. Not an easy task when you still need to eat dinner. We picked up Chipotle on the way home and I tried their new Whole 30 bowl for 495 calories. It was pretty good. It didn’t have the rice or beans, but was pretty much a normal bowl with lettuce, vegetables, meat, and guacamole. I added some sour creme at home and I made it work. My normal chicken bowl at Chipotle would net me approximately 800 or 900 calories. If you just put a little effort in, you can make better choices and not just reactionary ones.
5. Keep your Sugar under 50g a day.
Ideally under 30g and under 20g if you’re being really strict. Use an app like myfitnesspal to track what you eat. You’d be surprised how much sugar is in EVERYTHING! Subtract natural sugar from fruits like apples and bananas. Natural sugar is ok. Added sugar is bad. Anything ending in -ose such as sucralose, fructose, etc. You’d be surprised how much sweeter fruit tastes once you’ve detoxed from the sugar overload in pepsi, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, etc. It’s added to everything! The first two weeks will be difficult as your body CRAVES (as in a junkie needs a fix addiction type crave) of sugar! Once you push past that it gets much easier.
6. Increase your vegetables.
This is the hardest for me. I’m doing a competition right now and I don’t get any points for vegetables unless I get 500g a day. The points go up from there as I get more than that up to 1000g. Eating 3-4 servings of vegetables is netting me around 350g a day right now. So it takes some serious planning and effort. But 350g is way more than 0-20g I would normally eat over a 3 day period. The key to this is finding ways to prepare vegetables that you like. It will take some time and experimenting to figure this out. Maybe steam broccoli and add seasoning. Maybe mix them into a smoothie with your blender. Maybe heat up frozen vegetables and add seasoning. Find a way you like to eat them and rinse and repeat. Do some Google-ing. The good side is usually vegetables are very low in calories and high in fiber so you can eat as much as you want and they will help keep you full when you are having cravings.
7. Containers for your Powders.
If your planning on packing protein or other powder based supplements for your shaker bottle, get some small containers made for this. I currently use zip lock bags (which work, but take up more room in my backpack or car). These come in handy so you don’t have to lug around giant bottles of protein or creatine or meal replacement shake or whatever else you want take. Being intentional and planning ahead with your powders, helps you maintain that mindset of “I’m going to eat healthy today,” or “I’m going to make it to the gym. I’ve already planned it and have everything I need.”
8. Improvise a workout.
You’re at a hotel or friend’s house. They don’t have your normal setup of equipment or a way to stream your ddp yoga or whatever. Improvise! Change it up! Go for a 2 mile run. Find a heavy object and do some improvised kb swings or weighted air squats. Find a rock or step you can use for box jumps. Make up a workout. Do 3 rounds for time of 30 burpees, 30 air squats, and 30 situps. I JUST made that up. If it’s too easy, add another round! You don’t need space or a gym or a perfect area. You need an area the size of a sleeping bag and something to do for a few mins. You can google random workouts. Find a stretching video or yoga video on youtube. there are so many available workouts for free! If you want to be active you can find a way. Make up your mind and do it!
9. It’s ok to be hungry.
You honestly don’t need to eat as soon as you get the first twinge of hunger in your stomach. Try this. When you feel hungry, go drink a glass of water then wait 10 minutes. If you’re still hungry, drink a cup of black coffee and wait 10 more minutes. If you’re still hungry then go eat! But odds are you can satiate your random hunger with a drink of water. It can help you push out another hour or two until your meal time versus just mindless snacking. Or if you’re at your calorie budget for the day, maybe you don’t eat a bedtime or evening snack. It’s OK to go to bed slightly hungry. Odds are you will wake up not hungry. Or if you decide to go ahead and break your calorie budget, keep it small. like 150 calories or less. Enough to satiate the hunger but not be a 500 calorie meal. Just know that you’ll have to make that up eventually in sweat equity if you’re trying to lose weight. The more your diet becomes real whole foods vs processed foods, your hunger cravings won’t come in such large waves. It will even out more.
10. Go with the flow / Give yourself grace.
Sometimes your calendar planning won’t workout. Life happens. You’ll have to work late. Your kid will get sick. Your plans will fall through, etc. It’s OK to miss a workout. Don’t beat yourself up over it. If you really have to get x number in per week (etc) to stay on track or you’ll completely quit, then go ahead and do something at home at 10:30pm if you have to. Otherwise, give yourself grace. 15 workouts in January when you planned 18 is better than 3 you did and then quit because you kept missing. If you can maintain a lifestyle change where it is a priority and if that means 15 workouts a month for you then great! If that means 22 workouts a month then awesome! Consistency is more important than a specific number. Worst case you make it a rest week, and start over again on Monday! Just don’t let 1 rest week become two, then three, etc. You’ll find that you actually miss it after you’ve made it a habit and it’s part of your routine and lifestyle. You’ll need the energy you get and endorphins from exercise. It’s a weird transition, but it’s cool once you get there.
11. Find a system that works for you!
No health / fitness / diet plan will work if you can’t maintain it. Start with small changes and slowly add in a new change once you’re used to the new routine. If you jump in head first and try to change everything, you will likely burn out. I don’t care if it’s weight lifting, p90x, yoga, couch 2 5k, pilates, crossfit, kickball, basketball, jazzercise for being active; to keto, macros, paleo, zone, whole30, vegan, weight watchers or whatever for diet, just be intentional with what you do and what you eat! Don’t just react eat. Plan and fuel your body with the best you can do at the moment! Then 3 weeks later, slowly add in something new. I started with just tracking my food. Then I added in more protein. Then I added in more fruit. Now I’m adding in more vegetables. Now I’m cutting out even more sugar. Replacing Soda, etc. Don’t do it all at once! Find a sustainable starting point and then slowly add to it. You can’t do this all in 3 weeks or 3 months and hope to be the amazing before and after story you see on commercials. It’s gonna take time. Honestly. There are no short-term solutions. Probably 1-3 years to get to where you think you should or could be. Then it’s about maintaining. But that’s another article for another day.
I hope you found this list helpful. I’m absolutely no expert on this. These are some things that have added to my success. I’m a work in progress and I have goals to hit this year. I currently average finishing in the bottom 3rd of my classes on workouts, but I’m working on my endurance to improve that and I’m seeing slow progress. If you want specific info from me on my approach to diet and exercise message me and I’ll answer your questions. I hope to be an encouragement to all to live healthy lifestyles.