- Make sure you are changing for yourself, not for anyone else. This is imperative. On this journey, you will be bombarded with societal pressures and peer pressures that take you away from achieving your goals of optimum health and fitness. The reality is, most often, people make remarks out of their own insecurities, backgrounds and judgments, so it is very critical to look at others with compassion and not take what they say personally. Have conviction and faith in what you do. Understand that it is a matter of complete self-respect, self-acceptance and self-love in sticking to what you feel is best for you. No one else understands you better than yourself.
- Be compassionate with yourself. It takes effort to change—you are essentially creating new “roads” in your brain’s neural networks as you create new habits and ways of living. If you feel it is worth it, then that is all that matters. As with any endeavor, not changing feels more safe, easy and comfortable—change takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you feel vulnerable. However, if you think about how this relates to your brain’s neural connections, you are essentially creating a “fork in the road” in your brain and traveling down the new “road” each time you break an unhealthy habit (be it a thinking pattern or an action) for a particular healthier option.
- Eat enough calories. The most common reason people fail on this lifestyle is that they simply do not eat enough. I’ve found that the traditional rules regarding calories do not necessarily apply on this lifestyle. I’d say eat unlimited fruits and vegetables, but most importantly, make sure you are eating enough calories! Since I’ve always been petite and thin, afraid of losing weight, I used Cronometer.com when I was fully going low-fat raw to initially log my calories to make sure I was nourished. It is important to note that, these days, my hunger sensations have been altered. I now feel hunger at my throat and mouth. My stomach doesn’t growl much these days. Read more about this by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.
- Cultivate an attitude of awareness of yourself and your environment and think about the roots of your cravings and emotions. This is critical, not just regarding the lifestyle changes, but in life. If you throw up “pause” buttons in your brain every time you think about something, you can take a second to understand if it is a rational, intelligent thought or something more emotion-derived. It is important, too, to create new habits of processing emotions healthfully—compassionately understanding and analyzing your feelings rather than suppressing and ignoring them. Coming from experience with severe depression, I advocate this approach in getting to the root of cravings and emotions. For me, personally, mindful and compassionate introspection has been crucial in my personal growth and development. I found that by applying these patterns of thinking and awareness to both myself and my environment, my life has become more peaceful and happy and my work, more efficient.
- Place importance on enough water intake, exercise and sleep. This may involve reprioritizing your schedule (choosing to go to sleep early, exercising, etc.). I personally found that I work more efficiently and waste less time in my day after adopting early-to-bed sleeping patterns and exercising briefly daily. Look at such lifestyle changes not as sacrifices but as commitments to yourself—you respect yourself, your health and your optimum functioning so much that you want the best for yourself. There is absolutely nothing wrong in that, and it is commendable. With regard to water intake, hydration is vital. I have been carrying a 1-liter water bottle with me throughout my day, taking sips or drinking whenever I wanted. I highly recommend buying one.
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