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Get off the hamster wheel!

I know what you’re like. I see you every day in my work as a nutrition coach. I acknowledge that you’re an individual. I get that you’re nothing like the next person in many respects. But your behaviours (and your subsequent habits) are pretty common to all humans! (Sorry.)

Here’s how it goes. You decide you need to do something about your waist/legs/arse. It’s sometime during the working week, but it’s not a MONDAY (the only day anyone can implement diet or lifestyle changes, apparently). So you plot and you plan and you make a mental note of all the things you need to change. (Your goal is, of course, to look like someone you’re not. Preferably someone with a ‘perfect’ body.) You’re waiting until Monday because that way you can have one last massive party/binge/pig-out before becoming a ‘saint’ with your diet/exercise and other changes. This isn’t the first time, and it’s likely not the last time you’ll climb on that particular hamster wheel.

Well here’s a neat idea. What if you just start right now? What if you just make one small change IMMEDIATELY? So if you’re looking to start an exercise programme, just go down to the gym for 12 minutes. (Yep, just 12 minutes. No-one can claim not to have 12 minutes for exercise. You can increase this time frame once you consistently get to the gym week after week). If you’re looking to change your diet, just take the processed crap out of your next meal. Need to drink more water; just add 2 more glasses in your day. Need to take the sugar out; just reduce it by half for now. Just start doing something now!

And do yourself a favour by not subscribing to ‘cheat days/meals’. There’s no need to consider anything a ‘cheat’. What you do most of the time counts. What you do some of the time doesn’t. This means you have the freedom to live like a ‘balanced’ person. Balanced people aren’t on diets and aren’t obsessive about exercising every day. Balanced people understand that life needs to be enjoyed even while self-disciplined needs to be employed. Balanced people recognise that the goal should always be kept in mind. They also recognise that there are moments when it’s ok to relax and enjoy the moment. (This isn’t the same as a binge because they’re not trying to be ‘perfect’ at any point. Bingeing only happens when you feel you ‘must’ or ‘mustn’t’ eat/drink/do something.)

This approach is the key to success. It’s only when you can relax, give yourself permission to chill when you want to, but be mindful of your goals all at the same time that you’ll be able to consider a healthy diet and exercise regime a new lifestyle worth adopting. And when you approach change in a balanced way, you’ll notice that you don’t need to put a specific day aside to start the process. You’ll also notice there are no hamster wheels in sight…

Tanya Wyatt, Happy Valley pond

Tanya Wyatt

Tanya has written regularly for various health and fitness magazines such as Men’s Health, Marie-Claire, Cosmopolitan and Shape (she also served on the advisory board for Shape), as well as for local South Africa newspaper publications. In 2004, Tanya wrote two internationally released health and fitness-related books, both  published by New Holland. She recently wrote her third book, currently submitted to publishers for consideration.

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2021 Tanya Wyatt / The Happy Body