4 Health and Fitness Strategies for Losing and Winning
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Recently Alexandra and I served as hosts for the AARP’s Care4YouToo Contest, designed to help caregivers focus on their own health and fitness. Participants from the AARP caregiving community revealed a lot about winning and losing! On the losing side — they reported losing weight and bad habits. On the winning side — not only did 7 people win prizes, but also participants exhibited winning behaviors that helped them become healthier and happier.
Caregivers have a particularly challenging task taking care of their own health. (More on this subject with solutions at this post on Caregiving and Exercise. Click to read.) Yet, as this contest revealed, they do find ways to help themselves as they help others.
What can we learn from their experiences that could help improve your health and well-being? Whether you wish to gain energy, drop fat, make healthier food choices, reduce stress, cut the need for medications, improve mood, sleep better — to name just a few goals – see whether the following advice works for you too.
As many baby boomers already know, caregiving itself is so overwhelming that tackling huge, unspecified goals such as “getting fit,” or “”eating better” are doomed as they become one more big item on the neverending “to do” list. Contest participants reported that small changes led to success. Some of their small steps?
- Cutting portion sizes by a third
- Walking in place while watching tv
- Taking extra trips up and down the stairs to get in cardio and strength training
- Going to bed half an hour earlier
- Reducing coffee intake from 4 to 2 cups per day
- Extending daily walks by 5 minutes
- Wearing a fitness device to track movement
- Connecting with at least one positive person — whether in person, on the phone, or online
- Swapping out one soda for a glass of water
As one caregiver in the AARP caregiving community pointedly said: “even the smallest changes or the smallest actions done repeatedly will, over time, make measurable progress. I am applying this to everything that is ‘out of control’, the mail, magazines, newspapers, clippings, laundry, grocery shopping, yardwork, housework, demands on my time.”
2. Acknowledge the positive changes and actions you have taken
Keep in mind that caregivers are among the most time pressed, life stressed, energy depressed group. (Oooh, do you like what I did with that sentence?) Nevertheless they were able to find and celebrate small successes. Being aware of progress, no matter how minor, inspired them to to continue with their efforts.. When the going got tough, the tough got going – with self-praise, a plan, a refocus on what they had managed to achieve. So focus on what you have accomplished, rather than on how far you still have to go or temporary setbacks.
3. Use setbacks and bad situations as inspiration to shift in a healthier direction
Bad news often serves as a catalyst for change. Ideally you won’t have to face adversity to be inspired to make behavior changes for the better, as the following people reported.
- “A few years back I weighed in at 225 lbs. Favorite food was a buffet! Found out I had Diabetes. (Made a lot of positive changes to my diet and movement habits). All this happened in about 9 months. So it really is very simple to do…I did not say easy…just simple. Feeling like a million bucks. Worth it.”
- “Since my triglycerides were high on my last lab test, I quit drinking pop. I am trying to drink a glass of water before my meals; especially lunch and dinner.”
- “I would like to ELIMINATE at least half of the prescription medications I take . I have Lupus, Hypertension, and a Vitamin D Deficiency…including Cholesterol issues…I figure a lot of my issues could be solved with a MAJOR DIETARY CHANGE! Cut out the butter, fried foods, and sweets. I’m intelligent and still got some of my ‘girly looks’…so I WILL improvise and find a way to make my diet SATISFYING. Utilizing the AARP TOOLS and CALCULATORS should make this diet overhaul an ENJOYABLE AND REWARDING CHALLENGE!. WISH ME SUCCESS.”
4. Use the power of a community
Those who made positive and permanent changes tended to share their successes, challenges, and goals. They reached out for support when they needed it. They congratulated others who overcame pitfalls or reached milestones. They listed their own achievements.
- “I just started volunteering.” It’s a win-win situation.”
- “Help! Something needs to motivate me to begin regular exercise. Caregiving is making me gain weight. Any advice?’
- “Good for You! Happy that you can do Yoga. I can meditate, but I cannot do Yoga.”
Whether your support group involves two friends, your entire family, a bunch of work buddies, online strangers, a Facebook group (such as the ones we belong to on Facebook. Email us or add a comment if you want us to invite you into any of our online midlife women communities), or a structured event such as the AARP Care4TouToo contest, your odds of succeeding improve when you progress with others.
To paraphrase one of the winners of the AARP Care4YouToo contest, these strategies may not be easy, but they are simple. You CAN do it! Ask your community and they’ll tell you.
Read this post for more strategies on how to improve your health and lose weight when you have heavy demands on your time, emotions, energy, and resources.
Then book us to speak at your events: (805) 403-4338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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