Staying fit, lean, and healthy year round may seem unachievable to so many people because they look health and fitness the wrong way. The media loves to promotes instant gratification such as “how to get a bikini body in 2 weeks” but this leads to a lot of yo-yo dieting, eating disorders, empty gyms, and just lots of anxiety and loss of confidence. Who wants that? No bueno!
Tips to stay fit, healthy, and lean year-round:
Dieting is the worst evil in the world and does not work. If you want to get lean, CHANGE YOUR HABITS. Even if you have to do it one at a time. Start simply by cutting out sugar or certain snacks you indulge in that you know aren’t good for you. If it’s working, take a note of how it feels and if you are results-driven like me, add another habit to your routine because that means you’re on your way to a healthy lifestyle! Baby steps.
Another tip: stay away from activities that forces you to diet. *ahem* Body building competitions. Not judging— but just saying… to each their own! If you don’t have an addictive personality and know you won’t get sucked into those bad habits then go for it otherwise there are other ways (just my unsolicited advice).
Don’t label your food.
I eat to perform and I eat for enjoyment.When you start labeling food as good or bad, you’re going to build a bad relationship with it. I see food as: food I like and food I don’t like. Because I’ve stuck with it for so many years, I simply don’t eat the foods I don’t like … because I don’t like them. Luckily, the majority of them are your typical terrible processed foods that wreak havoc on your health.
I love sourcing ingredients and building my meals so they are filled with nutritious, colourful, and high-quality ingredients with balanced macros and lots of fibre. Everything from food prep to cooking to eating is a sacred ritual, which I thoroughly enjoy doing… and eating. Who does not like to eat?!
Be passionate about nutrition.
I’m not a dietician so it’s not responsible of me to give advice but I believe nutrition is the key to everything! Everything you put in your body is going to affect your brain, heart, and gut health, and also your physical and mental health. The more you know about it, the more you can take control of your health and well-being. Knowledge is power.
Learn how to cook and food-prep.
Learning how to cook and food-prep will be THE BEST thing you can do for yourself, your significant other, and your children. You’re not only saving time but you are:
- creating a habit of consistency and consistency = results
- keeping yourself accountable with food portions and ingredients
- controlling what goes in your body
- learning about food and nutrition as you go along
- learning the effects certain foods have on your body (eg. food allergies and intolerances)
Guess how I learned how to cook? On Instagram! One day, I stumbled upon a rabbit-hole of home cooks when Instagram stories debuted and I just never got out. I love cooking and would much rather eat at home which is a complete 360 from the old lazy me who used to eat out every single day.
Again, it’s not hard but you must invest time and effort in the beginning to learn the basics but soon, dishes will be flying out of your kitchen like clockwork. I always have ingredients prepped in my fridge and can throw together a wholesome healthy meal in less than 5 minutes if I have to.
Workout more efficiently.
The only workout I don’t make “efficient” is cycling because I want to be out on the bike AS LONG AS POSSIBLE (!) but when it comes to weight lifting:
- I compound my workouts.
- If lifting super heavy, I’m doing some mobility work between sets.
- I don’t waste my time.
- Habit-stack: at home, I lift while I’m cooking (lighter weights of course). Every little thing counts and I can’t help it… it’s just a habit!! For example, I’ll do ab roll-outs or glute bridges while waiting for lentils to cook or I’ll clean the house while resting between heavier sets.
I also never do cardio at the gym (#bikelife) but I may when I travel, so I will always do a HIIT workout to maximize the fat burn, and most importantly, my time. Time is money! Nobody ain’t got time to wait 2 minute between sets (I don’t— for my fitness goals at least). But again, if you like to do that, do YOU!
Give it everything you’ve got.
Many people think they are working out hard but the majority are not. If you are doing HIIT and you don’t need that ‘rest’ interval, you are NOT working out hard enough.
When I workout, I go ALL in with each interval with a 10/10 effort so that when it’s over, I need to literally curl up the ground and cry. It may take you a while to build up to that level of intensity, but once you get there, keep on doing it! I always like to remind myself: “it’s only a MINUTE out of a 24 hour day.” Never waste a workout!
Pro-tip: If your make up is on and your hair is still perfect after class, you did NOT workout hard enough.
Prioritize strength training
More muscles means more calories burned. Having lean muscle mass is also correlated to longevity as it keeps your bones strong and healthy, insulin steady, and diabetes, heart problems, and that stubborn body fat at bay. It also inspires confidence. Who doesn’t like to be confident?!
But of course, if you are an avid runner, yogi, or cycling addict like I am who genuinely LOVES to ride (I don’t ride because “I want to lose weight”), keep on doing YOU. But try to make some time to lift heavy to keep your body happy, healthy, and balanced.
Do your own research.
Although I sometimes waste time looking at funny memes and watching dog videos, the majority of my time is spent reading and researching content related to fitness, nutrition, and psychology, because those are my ultimate passions. Of course, that also means learning to take what you read on the internet with a grain of salt because there is so much bias and misinformation out there. Absorb content from all perspectives and use what you’ve learned to make your own informed opinion. Hold yourself accountable. Yet don’t forget to be open-minded and respect other people’s opinions.
Get serious about your sleep.
Your circadian rhythm is an internal 24 hour clock that your body runs on as your brain circulates between a sleep/wake cycle. It operates in conjunction with sunrise and sunset, hence the importance of winding down as it gets dark outside, and waking up as the sun rises. When your circadian rhythm is disrupted, your sleep and digestive systems are immediately thrown off and can cause long term effects such as cardiovascular events and depression.
The quality of your sleep is as important as the quantity. Learn about sleep cycles and use a tracker such as an Oura ring.
Commitment, Dedication, + Discipline
This is really boring and cliché advice but you really can’t stay lean year round without it. However there can always be wiggle room so…
Don’t forget to indulge!
If you ask anyone I know, I DO NOT hold back when it comes to eating. My one rule is that if I were to eat something “unhealthy” (I know, I know, I should not be labeling food), it will be something I LOVE LOVE LOVE such as Chinese fruit cake, Barbara’s Cheese Puffs, or Lay’s (original) potato chips, and some heavy Chinese dishes that are my ultimate comfort foods. Mmmmm. I generally don’t eat low quality and processed foods but I do have snacks I enjoy.
There are health gurus out there who promote a strict but I do not believe in that lifestyle (unless you have an illness you are trying to overcome). Life is too short, we only live once. I feel happy + healthy + confident despite eating cake every single day and it hasn’t interfered with my fitness at all.
HOWEVER, this “moderation” does not work for everyone. I am extremely in-tuned with my body and what works for me may not work for you.
Don’t let the guilt-trip take over.
If you missed a workout or ate an extra slice of cake (or an entire cake), IT’S OKAY. Remind yourself why you are doing this and refocus. However if this keeps on happening, go back to working on developing good habits.
The little things matter.
Fit people don’t think twice about taking 5 flights of stairs instead of the elevator (unless you’re glammed up and don’t want to sweat that is totally okay). Or park at the further stall in the wee corner of a parking lot. We will volunteer to hold heavy grocery bags because it’s just an extra workout. Every little thing you do counts! Stop being lazy!
Shift your mindset.
Fitness and health is a long-term game. What’s the point of crushing it for that six-pack for a one week vacation and then reverting back to your old ways? Human beings can be such silly creatures. Nurturing and developing simple habits no matter how insignificant it may same means you’ll achieve much more in the long-run.
Like investing, all these little habits are going to compound overtime and your body and mind will thank you as you age. 😉
What works for me may not work for you. We are all in different points of our wellness journey. You have to be your own guinea pig and just do it. No one else is gonna do it for you!