5 Baby Steps On the Road To Health and Fitness

How I overcame the overwhelming fear of changing my health — and my life

Everyone thinks getting healthy is hard to do.

I asked a few friends to tell me what comes to mind when they read a fitness or exercise article about improving their overall health. Most of the time, they tell me it seems overwhelming — because they’d have to change everything.

Then they admit to feeling a little guilty about not putting a priority on such an important aspect of their life, wishing they had the motivation, time, and even the courage to start.

I used to be the same way. Then something interesting happened.

I took the first step. It took me a while to instill the importance of “beginning.” And even longer to put it into action. Because I used to think more about the end result, than the means to get there. Which kept me from starting, well, anything. By merely imagining the final product or solution without going through the motions, I had been holding myself back from achieving success.

But when it became obvious most of my “wishes and dreams” hadn’t materialized, I took a good look at the problem — and realized it was me. There was no one else to blame, and no one who would do the work for me. It was a hard truth — and it was time to crush the fantasy that things would work out if I simply thought about it long enough.

So I took that first step, mentally and physically, encouraging myself to take control — and responsibility — for creating a better future self. One action at a time, small increments of success on the path to a healthier me.

Did it work every time? Not at first. My desperate old self fought for dominance, throwing excuses and diversions in my path every day. But I stuck with it, determined my new mindset would turn my life around. I had to give it a chance.

Looking back, it was a struggle hard-won. My personal paradigm had been so well constructed — so set in stone by incongruent habits — that my own belief systems had gone to the dark side. And it wasn’t easy to realign my real truth of living a healthy, authentic, and productive existence.

With perseverance and commitment to improving myself, it ultimately paid off, and I found that motivation and time took care of themselves. All I had to do was begin.

Ask yourself this: What’s the one thing you can do today — a baby step — that will move you out of the “paralysis zone” and make a positive difference in the way you look and feel?

Here are five small steps to get you started on improving your health, and your life:

  1. Drink filtered water. Ditch the plastic and BPA-laden water bottles and invest in a quality water filter system to remove toxins and chemicals that can create havoc with your health. Keep a filtered water bottle handy to stay hydrated throughout the day.
  1. Add vegetables to your diet. Fresh vegetables are available at most markets and stores. You’ll find all the usual choices, and be sure to add a little variety every now and then by experimenting with new and interesting items. Veggies are easy to prepare, and you can store them in airtight containers in the fridge. You can also freeze or blanche fresh veggies so you always have healthy options on hand. Be sure to buy organic produce whenever possible. For a delicious, nutritious boost, try steaming or roasting broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, or carrots with a few fresh herbs and spices.
  1. Read product labels. If sugar or sugar-related products are in the top three ingredients, put it back on the shelf. Not sure how to recognize the enemy? An article by Adda Bjarnadottir in Healthline lists the 56 most common names for sugar. Remember to also check for fat content and calories, along with other additives whose names you can’t pronounce. If the product is loaded with preservatives, fillers, and chemicals, leave it behind and find a healthy alternative.
  1. Pre-portion your snacks. The easiest way to control portions is to plan ahead. Start with your shopping list. Ideally, hand-pick whole fresh fruits and veggies at the store and prep them at home in small containers for quick on-the-go options. If you’re really tight on time, most grocers have pre-cut choices already packaged. No excuses! Other healthy snack fixes include trail mix (check the label for sugar, salt, and fat content) and dried fruits like raisins, mangos, dates, and apples. Remember to keep portion sizes realistic — and avoid the temptation to grab more than one.
  1. Move more often. Find more reasons to get moving! Even if you have a desk job, there are opportunities in every day to fit in a little physical activity. If you work in an office, stand up and take a short walk every hour. Find a private place (like a break room, conference space, or restroom) and do a few side-bends or squats to loosen joints and stretch your muscles. (Side note — if you have a private workspace, you might want to close your office door). Park your car at the back of the parking lot, and carry your purchases and groceries into your home one bag at a time. Take short 5 to 10-minute breaks throughout the day to do some quick stretches or a few lightweight reps. And when time permits, explore a local park or wilderness area. Bring the dog, the kids, and water — and get out there!

Change doesn’t have to be hard, especially when it’s made by choice.  The surprising result is that small changes, made over time, turn into habits that eventually become second nature.

The key is to simply start!

In health & happiness,

Jill Reid

For more helpful tips and strategies on starting the journey to fitness and better health, check out the Real Life Newsletter on Substack