As you read this, millions of people across the world wish they were of a healthier weight. You'd be living under a rock not to know that obesity is a massive problem   and only getting worse. We hear all about the statistics concerning heart health, type 2 diabetes and general wellness as it pertains to obesity. But the problem persists. On an entirely different level, men and women, young and old, tug at their shirts so they fit better over their belly, walk around feeling an uncomfortable pinch at their waistline because their pants are getting a little too snug, spend far too much time worried about the number they'll see the next time they step on the scale, or simply feel self-conscious in their own skin.  For many, mental anguish is just one of the many cruel side effects of excessive weight.

Even those of us who don't need to lose a great amount of weight beat ourselves up because we eat the wrong foods and we spend far too much precious time inactive.  We curse ourselves because we haven't been able to drop that last 5, 10 or 15 pounds. Maybe we don't need to lose any weight, but fall below the standard of healthy eating we've set. Regardless of what it is, behavior is dictating how we look and feel.

One Day
One day is all it takes to build momentum and motivation to a life of healthier living. Sounds too far out of reach? Well it's true. Ask someone you know who managed to kick a bad habit. Anyone who quit smoking, quit drinking, quit eating crap or started moving more did it by taking one day at a time.

Step 1
Don't look at the big picture. See your goal in small steps.
If you've never run before, but signed up to for a marathon, the idea of running 26.2 continuous miles can seem daunting, to say the least. Marathon programs do a great job breaking down that huge undertaking into small steps. First, run two or three miles, then three or four and so on. Get through your program day by day. After a couple months, a three miles is a walk in the park. Apply the same rules to healthy eating and exercise. Start by taking small steps and build on them.

When I suggest to people to cut out refined sugar, they often laugh - or don't even consider it as a viable option. After all, how can they go the rest of their life without sugar? When I say "cut out" or "give up," it's not a life sentence. Most days I don't eat any refined sugar. No sugary cereal. No cookies. No soda. No specialty coffee drinks. None of it. But last Friday I took my kids out for custard. I had a big scoop of banana chocolate. It was the flavor of the day at the local ice cream shop, it was 90 degrees outside and, well, I wanted ice cream (custard to be specific). It was great. I have no regrets. I won't do that every day, and I doubt I'll even do that every week, but there will always be a special occasion that arises where you should treat yourself.

Similarly, if you have a lot of weight to lose, don't get hung up on number of pounds you need to lose. We all lose weight at different rates anyway. Weight loss is important, but it's not a contest - it's not a game. Give yourself a mental breakdown of what you'll do to be healthier, and do it day-by-day for the first couple weeks. Try to include one healthy activity element and one healthy eating element. For instance: Today I'm not going to exercise for ten (more) minutes, and I'm going to avoid my usual specialty coffee drink, or Today I'm going to snack on veggies, not chips and I'm going to hold a plank three (3) times for 45 seconds. 

Step 2
Start keeping a food diary or journal. (download)
The first thing I ask to see when I start working with a new client is a three-day food diary. I like to see three non-consecutive days, including one weekend day. It's very difficult to evaluate one's diet with only a verbal understanding of what they're eating. Attached is a food journal guide for you to use if you wish. It's simple, but that's all you need. I've included a few tips for good journaling, too! In any case, a food journal is invaluable if only for the reason that it makes you more accountable. Every time you write down an unhealthy food, or a serving size that weight a little overboard, you become very well aware of the areas that need improvement.

While food journals should be simple (a notebook will do just fine), they should be specific in detail. "I ate cheese," and "I ate a brick of cheddar," are two totally different things. One is relatively healthy and the other is a gut-wrenching mess. Bottom line: details count.

Fluids count, too. Include what you drink, including how much water, juice, coffee, alcohol, etc. Each have value and should be marked down. It's often really enlightening when my clients see how little water they actually drink.

Step 3
Find a supportive community, and lean on them.
This community might be your two closest friends, a family member,  a few people you see at the health club or in the office, or maybe the extremely motivated people who hang out with me on Facebook. Many of us get motivated to be healthier. In my humble opinion, that's the easy part. Maintaining the motivation is the tough stuff. A supportive community made up of people who either understand or share your goal can make it easier to keep going! Don't be afraid to share your goal with people. Letting people know you want to lose a certain amount of weight or fulfill some sort of fitness-related goal will keep you accountable and more likely to follow through.


Want more tips like this? Traci D Mitchell is a healthy living and fitness expert. Follow Traci on Facebook. She’d love to see you there! Interested in working with Traci? She works privately with clients specializes in nutrition coaching and weight loss as well as functional fitness and personal training. All sessions are done via Skype or telephone if outside of Chicago. For more information, contact Traci here.

Looking for a simple way to get into great shape and eat right? Try Traci’s 40-Day Shape Up!