How to spring clean your life
Spring is the season for new beginnings, so it’s the perfect time to give your life a revamp. Here’s how to start afresh when it comes to everything from how and what you eat, to your social life and activity routine, and how to become healthier and happier in the process.
"Research shows it takes anywhere between 18-254 days to form a habit, so be patient!"
Spring clean your eating
1. Make healthier choices
If you’ve emerged from winter a few kilos heavier than you planned, now is the time to get back on track. Not a WW member yet? Take a look at our membership options. If you’re already a member, remind yourself what inspired you to join in the first place, and what you enjoy about being on the weight loss program – it might be just the inspiration you need, to get back on track.
2. Focus on wholefoods
As well as being lower in fat and added sugar, wholefoods like fruit and vegetables, lean meat and low-fat dairy products are good sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, so try to choose them over processed, packaged foods. If you’ve fallen into a cool-weather cooking rut, start experimenting with new recipes, picking ones that are ‘wholefood-heavy’. Aim to master one new recipe using wholefoods, each week.
3. Eat mindfully
We often eat without thinking thanks to distractions like the tv, smartphones and newspapers, or eating on the run. As a result, we can wind up overeating because we forget to pay attention to our true hunger signals. As well as eating without distraction, the ‘mindful eating movement’ encourages people to chew each bite slowly and really taste every mouthful of food. Recent US research suggests this strategy can be an effective way to promote improved eating patterns and weight management.
Spring clean your activity
1. Enjoy a balance
You’re much more likely to be physically active regularly if you find a way of being active that you genuinely enjoy, but doing too much of one type of exercise may lead to joint pain or injury. The best ‘activity plan’ is one that focuses on aerobic activity and strength training, with some balance and flexibility work added in for good measure. So, be on the lookout for new activities that complement your current activities. “If you do a lot of running, Pilates is a good idea because it helps strengthen the core muscles that can help to reduce running-related injuries,” says exercise physiologist Dr Nathan Johnson. Other great matches include swimming and weight training, yoga and cycling, and walking and circuit training.
2. Commit to a goal
“Set SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based,” says Dr Johnson. “Setting yourself a goal like, ‘In eight weeks’ time, I want to be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping,’ or ‘I’ll complete a fun run by December,’ is more likely to make you stick to healthier lifestyle choices.”
3. Hire an expert
If you’re battling the motivation monster, seeking the help of an exercise professional can help you get back on track with regular physical activity sessions. Ongoing training can be pricey, but a couple of sessions early on can help with goal setting, correct technique and accountability. In fact, a US study found that one-on-one training is an effective method for changing exercise attitudes and increasing physical activity.
Spring clean your support network
1. Seek out positive people
Making regular contact with people who are genuinely supportive of you and what you’re trying to achieve can have a positive impact on the scales. “A good test is to consider your energy levels after spending time with someone,” says psychologist Linda Campbell. “If you feel drained, he or she probably doesn’t have a positive effect on you. If your energy levels have received a boost, continue seeing them.”
2. Your ripple effect
Research shows that a healthy lifestyle can be ‘contagious’ in social networks, so make a fresh start with a friend or family member. Not only can this keep you motivated and accountable, it can reinvigorate your resolve if you’re already on your health journey.
3. Change the way you socialise
Swap food and drink-centric socialising for physically active catch-ups where you can keep moving and still engage socially. Think team sports, lunchtime walks and going for a bike ride with friends and family on the weekend. Having trouble persuading friends to swap wine time for a full-blown workout? Consider activities that involve incidental exercise, such as a stroll through the markets.
Spring clean your mindset
1. Think: ‘self-compassion’
When things don’t go exactly as you’d planned, rather than beating yourself up about it, treat yourself with compassion. Remember, nobody’s perfect, but what does make a difference is how you treat yourself when things go off track. In other words, show yourself some love! Research shows that people who tend to be less stressed, are more satisfied with life and are better able to maintain a healthy weight.
2. Think: ‘sleep matters’
It really does. So during spring, start making it a priority. A number of studies have confirmed a connection between sleep and weight. Studies suggest that people who sleep for less than seven hours a night are more likely to weigh more and be at a higher risk for weight gain. Worryingly, only 17 per cent of us wake up feeling well-rested. Yikes! If you’re not one of them, start making sleep a priority this season by committing to turning your tech off two hours before bed. It’s one way to make getting a good night’s sleep more ‘doable’.
3. Think: ‘start today’
“We all know the saying, ‘Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today’,” says clinical psychologist Astrid von Lojewski. “Motivation actually comes from taking action, not the other way around. Remember that once you get started, you’ll start to feel good about yourself and that will give you the motivation to keep going.”
Top tips to be super organised
1. De-clutter your kitchen
Cooking healthy meals can be tricky if you can’t find the right ingredients in the pantry or don’t have enough space to cook on a cluttered bench. Do a ‘pantry audit’ and reorganise your groceries so you know where to find everything at short notice. “Identify the most accessible areas in your kitchen and ensure only items that are used frequently live in these areas for fast meal preparation,” advises professional organiser and former president of the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers, Roz Howland.
2. Sort out your exercise equipment
Sort through your exercise equipment and decide what really works for you. Sell or recycle what’s leftover, then invest in the missing home-gym essentials – things like resistance bands or an exercise mat – so you’re ready to go, regardless of what the weather is doing outside.
3. Keep a food diary
Not only can a food diary help you stay organised, if you use it to pre-plan your meals and jot down shopping lists, it can also help your health. The results of a US study found that people who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t. The researchers believe the simple act of writing down what we eat encourages us to consume less.