Consistency is Key: The Road to a Healthier Body and MindThe Silver Lining
While working from home definitely has significant benefits, especially now that the numbers of infections have increased, there are undoubtedly some drawbacks. As we stay home to keep ourselves safe from the ongoing pandemic, the temptation to live a sedentary lifestyle and binge on various snacks is stronger than ever, which may result in other health concerns.
In this month’s blog, the Material Department Manager and RJPH employee of 9 years Nathan Maliwat shares all about how he motivates himself to pursue a healthy lifestyle through exercise and maintaining a proper diet. From home workouts using various items in his house, to curbing cravings for popular yet unhealthy food, Nathan emphasizes the importance of consistency in maintaining a balanced lifestyle.
Fitness Through Habit Formation
I wasn’t always crazy about fitness. I was that oft-teased fat kid who had unused muscles. But in my late teens, I discovered how running helps me get out of a dark place. Whenever I ran a mile, I would feel more in control, my mind more lucid. I was not always consistent with exercising but I soon started to crave its psychological reward.
Because staying healthy satisfied my craving to be in control of my thoughts and feelings, I got motivated to regularly exercise and eat right. I learned that habits result from our Pavlovian response to rewards. When I do push-ups or burpees, I’m rewarded with the feeling that I am not stuck. When I refuse to overdose on sugar, my energy doesn’t crash and I feel more in control.
Bad habits metastasize this way too. That cup of sugar-laden milk tea relieves stress, so it becomes a daily fix. A quick yosi break satisfies the urge to socialize, so it turns into a ritual. To keep my workout momentum, I have learned to satisfy my cravings through a beneficial routine, like 7AM sit-ups with an empty stomach.
The power of habit helped me stay fit when I began working from home. Before the pandemic hit, I hit the gym regularly. I played badminton and once finished a sprint triathlon. Covid-19 not only postponed my dream to be an Ironman but it disrupted my routine and threw me off. Stuck at home with video streaming and a food delivery app, I had to fight falling off the wagon to keep my thinking straight.
Success Through Consistency
I started with a process goal instead of an outcome goal. “To lose 15lbs in 3 months” is an outcome goal, while “to exercise every morning five days a week” is a process goal. The latter is fully within my control and achieving it will likely produce the outcome I want. I did not aim for perfection, but consistency. There were days that I exercised half asleep. But I monitored my progress, setting a time at night to check what was done and what wasn’t, and committed to doing better.
I kept my workout simple to be sustainable. I made sure that I get my heart pumping with a cardio exercise, and the big muscle groups—chest, back, leg and abs—are challenged through various resistance workouts such as dips and crunches. I used whatever was available: our sala set, the flight of stairs, and even my excess body weight. I exercised in the morning when my willpower was at its peak. It’s harder for the mind to force the body when the brain is already exhausted from a day of meetings and urgent tasks. At the end of my workout, I rewarded myself with a cold shower and a nice breakfast.
I had to be extra mindful of what I ate too. This is probably the hardest thing to do in a lockdown. I generally eat healthy—staying clear of fatty food, going for greens—even before the pandemic, thanks to my hyperacidity and my family’s medical history. But working from home made it so easy to binge on the bad stuff. To keep myself in check, I kept meal rules simple: eat in moderation, lessen processed food, have a balanced diet.
Improvement Through Change
I learned that avoiding unhealthy food and exercising become habits through the same process. Food can become a means to get a reward (relieve stress, stimulate thinking) and not really a means to nourish the body. That helped me curb my appetite for fast food and sugary products. I identified my real craving (for instance, craving for diversion) and what I was doing to satisfy it (eating chips). The trick is to replace the bad routine (eating chips) with a good one (walking around the garden) to get the same reward.
Because food should be for nourishment, I ate what my body needed: yoghurt for gut health, fruits and vegetables for micronutrients, meat and rice for macros. Every now and then, I would treat myself with the bad stuff, but I didn’t overdo it.
Working from home changed a lot of my routines, but it also pushed me to make new ones. To do so, I had to be aware of my cravings and find healthy ways to satisfy them. Once the habit was in place, I was back on track.
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