5 Simple and Easy Ways to Spark Lasting Change

5 Simple and Easy Ways to Spark Lasting Change
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ryan.Berry

Being in Paraguay for a while now, I’ve had a lot of time to think about things I can do here to keep the change going. Sometimes, though, you get to a point where you are facing a wall. Maybe you haven’t hit it yet, but you feel maybe a burden for your lifestyle changes. It doesn’t have to be really difficult! Sometimes the problem is wanting too much too soon. I wanted to offer a few suggestions that have helped me along the way.

1. Drink more water

I bet this is one of the most neglected elements of our human health, but it’s the most important and also probably the easiest to get right.

Over half of our body composition is water, and throughout the day you lose it without even realizing it. Especially in dry climates, you might think you’re not sweating, but you really are. It’s just evaporating quicker than you can see it (I learned that the hard way in Paraguay). Your body can go a time without food, but if you’ve ever really been thirsty (as in walking in a desert parched with no water thirsty) you know that your body doesn’t do so well when you need water.

On top of the importance of water, though, is that drinking more water puts more stuff in your stomach and satisfies your appetite a bit more than just without. After I eat something, I always like to wash it down with water because it removes the taste of the food. If I leave the taste there, I keep being “hungry” even though I don’t need any more food.

Do you eat when you’re bored? Try drinking water when you’re bored instead. If you drink cold water, your body will burn a few calories warming it up again. I try to drink two 64 ounce bottles a day. If you are peeing water instead of lemonade, you’re drinking enough.

2. Remember: Soda is not water

I love the soda commercials that show ridiculously hot days, and the drink of choice is soda for those who need to quench their thirst. But when you drink soda when you’re thirsty, don’t you find it true that you can’t have enough? The problem is that soda doesn’t quench thirst. It tastes good, but it doesn’t satisfy.

To say I never drink soda would be a lie. Sometimes it hits the spot. But I can say truthfully that I don’t crave a Coke, and I usually turn to water when I need something to drink. The biggest reason for me was because soda is just empty calories. In one bottle of Coke you’ll drink about 250 calories. Think about the fast food places that give you – as a medium size – a 32 ounce cup and you’re up around 400. All for a single beverage.

For some it may be really difficult to stop drinking soda, but I know folks who have lost substantial weight just by cutting out regular soda. If I really want a soda, I’ll usually drink diet. These days I’m even staying away from that because there’s still a lot of weight-retaining sodium, and as I said it doesn’t satisfy your need for water.

Let’s suppose you’re currently drinking one can of regular soda a day, you’re consuming 1750 worthless calories a week. That’s as much as a man my size would eat in a day. Cut that out, and in 2 weeks you’ve lost a pound. In a year you could lose 25 pounds just by cutting soda out of your diet.

3. Move around

One of the reasons I lost a bunch of weight when I moved to Paraguay two years ago was because I was constantly moving around. I walked everywhere I needed to go, and I rarely passed an hour sitting still. In my office, it’s a totally different story. I think that’s the second biggest reason I gained it all back in the US.

Eventually I started implementing a few office strategies that I want to share.

Forget the phone; use your feet. If you need to talk to a coworker, get up and walk over to their desk. At the very least you get some circulation in your legs. Don’t call, don’t email, don’t IM. Walk.

Drink your water cups at a time. In our office, the water source is down the hall and around the corner. If I remember, I don’t use a bottle to get water. I go cups at a time and try to drink a cup every hour. That gets me out of my chair at least once an hour. There’s also the periodic bathroom runs one needs when one is drinking a lot of water.

Give “running errands” truth to its name. This might not be practical where you work, but if it is I recommend it. Not necessarily running, but why not walk to the places you need to go? I do a lot of mailing, and the post office is about a block away. Instead of driving, I usually walk there. You’d be surprised how many people want to give me a ride even though you can see the post office from our parking lot!

4. Keep sugar out of your coffee

How many teaspoons of sugar do you put in your coffee every day? A packet of sugar has about a teaspoon. Two teaspoons is probably average, and in that you have 40 calories per cup of coffee. If you cut that out (like you did soda), that’s about 5 pounds you could lose in a year. Now multiply that by how many cups you actually drink in a day.

If I may be so bold to say it, if you can’t stand coffee without sugar, you need better coffee.

5. Take a trip

This one might not be so simple to get into, but once you’re there it’s simple to hold on to.

I’m sure many people find that when they go on vacation they lose a bit of weight. Think about the last trip you went on. Were you more active than you normally are? Beach trips usually involve walking and swimming, mountain trips often involve skiing, camping trips often involve hiking, etc.

Sometimes you may find yourself in a remote place where the food is different. Your system might enjoy the freshness of the foods and reward you for eating them by burning the calories more efficiently.

When you get back home, run with it! I’ve lost 2 belt loops so far in Paraguay, and I plan on using that when I get back to hit the ground running even harder (I even mean that literally).

Small changes will get you far

I promise you will notice some type of positive change if you implement one of these tips. I know change is hard, so try breaking it down into smaller chunks. You’ll be more likely to succeed in the long run if your goal is to make habits and not just go on a diet.

What’s your best tip for maintaining a long-lasting lifestyle change?

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