We’ve come to the end of another amazing 6FIT Challenge. For me, these 6 weeks have flown by in a fury of charting, dancing, half-marathon training, and home-buying. I have so much to share about the 6FIT journey – finding my way through the food challenges, finding the right fuel for many different types of workouts, and finding an amazing group of positive and supportive teammates. That’s all coming up in short order, I promise. But for now, I want to sum up what I think is the most important take-away from 6FIT: Find what works for you!
Many 6FITters will be familiar with this from a seminar during 6FIT, but it bears repeating as we’re being “set loose” into the big, bad world of our own decision-making.
Over the past 6 weeks, 6FIT has presented many different challenges: no dairy for 1 week, burpee day (groan), vegetarian week, 14-min workout challenge, and more. We’ve paid attention to every little detail of our eating, drinking, exercising, and sleeping patterns with the goal of finding which healthy habits work best for each of us. Now, it’s time to take what we’ve learned and apply it to “the real world.” A world in which we don’t get points for eating veggies or doing burpees, but we still reap all the fantastic benefits. It’s time to pick our heads up out of our charts and focus on the big picture of what we’ve learned through 6FIT. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
- Move more.
- Sleep more.
- Eat more whole foods, avoid processed foods, and be more mindful of what you’re eating.
- Drink more water.
But the biggest thing I’ve learned from my 6FIT experiences is that making healthy choices and changes is actually easier than you think, and a lot more fun, when you find what works for you! It’s easy to get caught up in short-term results or setbacks: the number on the scale, the idea of looming bathing suit season, 6FIT points. But it’s even much more important to focus on the end goal – being healthy for the long haul. We’re only given one body, and we have to live in it for our whole lives. Making healthy habits that take care of our bodies will benefit us in the short term AND the long term. The best way to ensure that we can stay healthy and active for years to come is by creating a healthy lifestyle. That looks different for everyone, but I think it’s safe to bet that it includes staying active and eating nutritious food. If you don’t feel like you’ve quite found what works for you yet, here are a few things to consider…
It is so important to find something that you have fun doing, and then get out there and get moving!
Take a few seconds to think about what types of active things you truly have fun doing. Be honest! There is a ton of variety available to us, so there’s no point in wasting time and energy on something you don’t like.
What gets you moving may be different from what your mother, coworker, or neighbor likes to do. It doesn’t have to feel like a chore (or even feel like exercise) to give you amazing health benefits. You won’t stick with anything that you dread doing. For instance, if running isn’t your thing, don’t run. I personally hate going to a gym by myself and trying to lift weights, so I never do it. But I love to run. I really, truly love it, so I do a lot of it. In addition to running, I prefer functional fitness training (think tree-climbing, stair-running, and dancing) and I prefer training in groups or with a friend. I’ve built my fitness routines around those types of activities because that’s what works for me.
In addition to deciding what types of exercise you like best, if you’re motivated by group activities, then find a person, or a group of people, who like to do the same activities. Trust me, they’re out there! A buddy or group will not only help you get out there, but also help you stick with it. There are so many different ways to be active, sweat, and be healthy, and when you find what works for you it is so much easier to make it a regular part of your life.
I’m a fan of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, which you can read about here. I’ve also mentioned the 80/20 rule before. I really believe in it, especially when it comes to food. To summarize the rule: 80% of the time, stick to your healthy lifestyle, and 20% of the time, allow yourself some wiggle-room to enjoy whatever you want. “All things in moderation” is a big mantra for me. Personally, when I feel deprived, I feel defeated.
Take a few seconds to imagine eliminating something you truly love from your diet, or your life. For me, it’s a really close toss-up between chocolate and wine (cliché, I know, but so true). Not going to happen!
Focusing on trying to make 80% of your food choices healthful, nutritious whole foods, and then allowing some room for treats, creates a sustainable balance. Given all of the temptations we’re faced with every day, making good choices is a lifelong challenge. But when we learn to make good choices, rather than trying to restrict or eliminate choice, we create a healthy lifestyle that will benefit us far longer than any diet.
Try out different exercise styles, and different healthy eating strategies, to figure out what works for you. For those of us who’ve done 6FIT, the weeklong food and fitness challenges provide an easy window through which we can see what works for us, and what doesn’t. I will never be a full-time vegetarian, but I can do it for a week, and incorporate healthy meals from vegetarian week into my regular diet. When you find something that does work, it’s easier to incorporate it into your daily life.
And remember, everything is always more fun with friends! Find opportunities to build bonds with people who share your desire to live a healthy lifestyle, and make an effort to keep up those relationships. Even after you achieve the current goals you’ve set for yourself, there will always be new goals to work toward and new challenges to overcome. Having the support and encouragement of other positive, healthy people will always be a benefit to you – and you can do the same for them!
Most importantly, find what works for YOU, and get out there and HAVE FUN!