How to get healthy slowly?
June 6, 2014 4:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of small lifestyle changes that will gradually help me to be healthier.

Every so often I get really jazzed on the idea of getting healthy. For about four days, I'll eat tons of veggies, no caffeine, drink a bathtub of water, and go to the gym. Day five I give up. This time, I want to take a more "slow and steady" approach and incorporate one or two small changes into my life every month. I'm looking for things that will make a difference in the long run, but don't require a massive overhaul of my entire life. (Less, "go vegan!", more "cut out meat one day a week!" Less, "no coffee or red wine!", more "floss!")

I don't smoke, I do eat meat and gluten and drink coffee. I don't exercise much currently, and am hoping that incremental changes can turn me into an exercise-convert.

posted by frizzle to Health & Fitness (41 answers total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
Go to bed earlier.
posted by michaelh at 4:15 PM on June 6, 2014 [21 favorites]

Walk more, even if you are just parking a little farther away instead of circling the parking lot for the closest space possible. It adds up and, over time, makes a difference.

If you are only going up a floor or two, take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Become more aware of the details of what you eat. Read labels, read labels, read labels. You might be surprised by the patterns you notice and the changes which grow out of that. (My youngest son has a rule of thumb that "real food" has shorter labels and all the words are recognizably FOOD. So, generally speaking, labels that say "Ingredients: Potatoes, salt, vegetable oil." are good. Labels that go on for a paragraph and require you to look up the alien words in them to have any idea what you just read are bad.)

And Floss! It is known to help prevent heart disease. The same microbes that promote gum disease can literally kill you. It is not just about a healthy smile.
posted by Michele in California at 4:16 PM on June 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

Do you put sugar in your coffee? Start putting half the normal sugar in every cup for a while. Then halve it again eventually.

Do you cook with oils? Start substituting olive and coconut for sunflower and corn oils.

Do you take any elevators? Start taking the stairs instead.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:17 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just got a Fitbit (a small electronic pedometer) and am surprised as a generally fairly active person by how much seeing my stats pop up in an iphone app make me want to move more.
posted by charmedimsure at 4:18 PM on June 6, 2014 [10 favorites]

I gave up soda last year (I occasionally have one at a restaurant) and feel much better off. I don't crave it at all, and I used to go through a six-pack a day.
posted by Etrigan at 4:30 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here are some ideas:

Start with making one meal a day veggie or fruit-centric. After you've done that for a couple months, make it two meals a day. (Veg-centric could mean vegetarian, or it could mean that at least half your plate is taken up with vegetables. Explore new veg or cooking methods if you get bored.)

Sign up for a class or training program that interests you. No bootcamps or exercise that sounds mega-serious, but something that meets once or twice a week. Learn the names of some of the people that go there. Say you missed them when you haven't seen them in a while. This could provide social and monetary incentives to exercise, while also getting it on your calendar as a scheduled activity. Pay attention to how good/different your body/mind feels afterward.

Get some kind of water tracking system set up for yourself (an app? a really big jar?) and aim to meet your goals or drain that jar each day.

Changing habits takes about six weeks, IIRC, so give each of these some time to gel. If you slip up, tomorrow is a new day and you can keep it going!
posted by purple_bird at 4:44 PM on June 6, 2014

A few years ago I was not unhealthy, but could not have run a mile, or biked 10, or swam more than a few laps. I set a long term goal of doing a sprint (ie shorter) triathlon. My approach was simple:

1. Not to heavily stress my 50+ body
2. Not to over do it and burn out
3. Not to judge my progress based on others -- any progress is good progress
4. Not to rush it
5. Keep track of my progress so I'd know I was succeeding

This worked very well, and was relatively easy. My workout philosophy was that anything counts (ie walk, skip, ride, swim), and that I'd do what I was comfortably capable of - not what I "thought" I should be doing (ego driven "I'm gonna run 8 miles like I used to when I was 17).

So... 1 day a week? That's fine. Try to do a bit better next week.

Walk with short runs of 50 yards? Awesome. Try to do a bit more next time.. Even 51 yards.

Swim 3 laps? Great. Next time try 4, or 3.5.

Not every workout was an improvement. Sometimes I'd go backwards a bit -- but the key was to keep doing it, and not to over do it. Go easy on yourself. It doesn't have to look like a Gatorade commercial.

After 9 months of this I did my first tri. I just wanted to finish and i did just fine. It was an awesome feeling of accomplishment. Since then I've lost 20 pounds and have done another 8 tri's, and a 42 mile bike tour. But I'm not Joe Super Fit In Shape Guy. I'm still a tad heavy and I'm slow. But I'm still doing it and I love it.

So to recap:

- Patience. Take it slow and easy. This is meant to be sustainable. Go easy on yourself.
- Do not over do it. It's not a Gatorade commercial.
- Mix it up to make it fun. Walk, bike, run, swim, machine, play... Whatever.
- Keep track. Very important I believe. Gotta know how you are succeeding.
- Find a goal to work toward. Triathlon, 10k, 5k, mountain climb... Whatever you think will be a great measure of your success.

I'll leave you to figure out diet on your own, but the same principle should succeed.

Good luck!
posted by ecorrocio at 4:45 PM on June 6, 2014 [22 favorites]

For me, awareness is so much better than willpower. Rather than willing myself to "eat less junk" and trying to get there off pure grit and guilt -- I just write down what I eat. Just having an awareness of the calories I'm consuming helps make better choices without any emotional anguish.
posted by the jam at 4:46 PM on June 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Go to a yoga class once a week. Find a studio that's convenient to get to and that has a schedule that works for you, and once you've found one you like, buy a ten-class package or whatever similar bundle they offer. For those ten classes, commit to going to the same class on the same day every week. After ten weeks, it'll feel like a normal thing you do rather than a daunting new change.

You can substitute any other type of exercise class for yoga, or any sort of self-guided workout, but the key is that you must do it regularly, same day and time each week. I specifically recommend yoga because it's one of the more beginner-friendly exercises you can do, and classes are ideal so you can have an externally imposed schedule.

From there, add another weekly exercise: run, or lift weights, add a second yoga class, or find another class you like. Again, once a week, every week, same time and day. Each time you've successfully integrated something into your schedule, either add another thing or increase the intensity of one of your existing things.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:52 PM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Take the stairs
posted by rhizome at 4:53 PM on June 6, 2014

When you do your 4 days of veggies, how do you cook them? My mom goes through the whole cycles of diet & exercise and unflavored-steamed veggies, etc. But, well, when you're used to the basic high-sodium & sugar diet that most of us eat, they taste kind of nasty. So it doesn't last long.

So I got into cooking, and learned how to add a lot of flavor. I don't focus on low-fat, low-sugar whatever, I just focus on things that sound good. Just things like tossing a little garlic butter in some green beans, a little dijon mustard with the carrots... just a sprinkle of salt on the broccoli.. a little lemon juice on cucumber... They taste great.

It may add a few calories if I'm using butter, etc, but I figure a few extra calories on my glazed carrots, is more than balanced by the box of mac & cheese I would have had instead.

And as you slowly improve your diet overall, your tastebuds will 'reboot' and you'll really appreciate flavors in a way you weren't before. And then you can take it another step.
posted by Caravantea at 4:53 PM on June 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Whatever changes you decide to make, join Team Metafilter on Health Month!

You can have up to 3 rules (goals) for free, and you can set the goals to something achievable, so instead of dreaming that you'll suddenly want to exercise every day you can aim to exercise 2x/week.

Health Month also has a bunch of suggested/popular rules, so have a look there for inspiration. One I'd suggest as a healthy incremental change is the "eat greens" rule - eg aim to eat green vegetables twice a week, and bump this up to 3x and beyond once you're in the habit. Heck, start at once a week if that's all you can imagine doing at first.
posted by pianissimo at 4:57 PM on June 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Figure out the earliest time you'll ever have to wake up, and then wake up at that same time every morning.
posted by box at 4:58 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Start looking up recipes that use one or two in season vegetables and make a few dishes with them over that season. At the end of a year you'll have a few reliable recipes to build on for the new year. (I've bought Paul McCartney's 'Meat Free Mondays' and tried most of them)

Learning slowly how to make a good, healthy meal gave me more confidence and introduced a habit that helped me to stick to a vegetable rich diet.

If possible, start growing your own herb garden or vegetables. That helps to grow an appreciation of flavours and simple food pleasures. Again, this has shifted my mentality from 'it's all too time consuming and daunting to cook good food.'

On the other end of the body I think trying colonics was a mind shifter for me in terms of showing exactly what goes in one end affects everything else in your body. Whether it has all the benefits its adherents tout is not as important to me as how it shifted my mentality. Food is not just about taste but knowing each meal is good for your whole body.

Try to see the sun rise a few times a week, even if it is only to sit watching it whilst you have a coffee. Walking at sunrise is a nice way of encouraging your body to enjoy simple and pleasurable exercise and get in touch with the natural world which infuses your whole mentality for the day. It kinda makes you want to be a good, happy person. Walk around a lake a few times a month or walk through a forest.

Yes, definitely floss.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:59 PM on June 6, 2014

Cannot say enough about having a regular bedtime.
posted by rue72 at 5:01 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Weigh yourself every day, if you're over.

Hang out with people that run/triathlon/whatever. Spend time around people who really work hard on their conditioning and it will rub off. This is a big one for me.
posted by ftm at 5:03 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you live in a place you can join a CSA, do that.
posted by box at 5:17 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

2. Not to over do it and burn out
3. Not to judge my progress based on others -- any progress is good progress
4. Not to rush it
5. Keep track of my progress so I'd know I was succeeding

These are really critical for me as well, especially the "no judginess" part. I run three days a week, but if I miss Monday? Well, I missed it. There's no "oh gosh! I need to make up Monday's run!" or worrying about a backlog of missed runs. If I miss it, I miss it and I'm not allowed to get stressed out over it. I'll run the next running day.

And I have a calendar I use to mark my progress -- any day I get out and run, I put a sticker on the calendar. Even if I only ran a hundred feet and then turned around and went back home, I get credit for having gone out there. It really helps to have a visual reminder that I see dozens of times a day.

Someone above mentioned setting goals. In the specific case of running, it also helped me to sign up for 5Ks, so I had ammunition on the days I needed to talk myself out of just going back to sleep instead of out in the cold. Just make sure the goals are realistic so that they're encouraging instead of discouraging.

Also, don't try to change too much at once. If I try to change my diet and ramp up my exercise, it's impossible to sustain. Among other things, when you ramp up the exercise you probably need to eat more for the first few weeks. If I start by exercising more, it becomes easier to adjust the diet after a few weeks because I stop thinking of the can of Coca Cola in terms of deliciousness, and start thinking of it as a 1.4 mile run!

I talked about this in terms of running, but none of it is specific to running. Find something that you actually enjoy (other folks have suggested yoga; a lot of people enjoy rock climbing which combines exercise with some puzzle-solving), and it's a lot easier to get yourself to go do it.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 5:21 PM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Here is a series of small changes -
Month* 1: always park as far as possible from the store/work.
Month 2: if you are eating lunch out, walk there and back, if possible.
Month 3: bring your lunch to work at least 3 times a week, but still take the walk
Month 4: ensure that you put fresh fruit in every lunch you pack

*or Week or bi-week
posted by plinth at 5:38 PM on June 6, 2014

Yes, join us on Health Month! It's a very encouraging group.

Some of the rules I like that I see there:

- exercise x days a week
- dress well (you define "well")
- clean something x days a week
- allowed to drink (alcohol, coke, etc) only x days a week
- floss
- write down things you're grateful for
- get up before %time%
- make your bed

I also like that I only get 3 rules per month for free, because I find that's a reasonable bar to set when starting new habits.

Health Month gives you 10 life points at the start of the month and you lose a point if you break a rule. So, if I have a rule to work out 3 times a week and I only work out twice, I lose a point. But there are 9 more points to go, and your team members can donate fruit (earned when they obey all their rules for a day) that they can donate to heal you. Basically it has forgiveness and getting back on the horse built into the system, which makes it possible to keep trying.
posted by heatherann at 5:40 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Buy lots of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Cut or otherwise prepare them so they are as easy to grab and snack on as tearing open a bag of potato chips would be. Store on the first shelf you see when you open the fridge.
posted by yohko at 5:50 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I second the sentiment that awareness is vital. I lost weight primarily by tracking my food on myfitnesspal. I didn't make any drastic conscious changes to what I ate. Instead I just learned by looking at the calories every day that the oatmeal and fruit I ate for breakfast was really good for me, and the extra fillings I put in my burritos at lunch were not worth their impact. Similarly, when we had a challenge at work to track our steps, I started using a pedometer app. Before, I didn't think of myself as sedentary, but I found that I was not getting as many steps as the average participant and I was way under the expected goal. Just knowing that encouraged me to start taking walks at lunch.

I didn't know about Health Month, so thanks guys!
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:53 PM on June 6, 2014

You should read Small Move, Big Change: Using MicroResolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently which is about exactly this topic.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:55 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Drive the speed limit and remember that at worst, being behind someone who's going 2 miles an hour slower than you want is only delaying you by a few seconds.
posted by Etrigan at 6:17 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Drink a glass of water first thing when you wake up.

Drink water instead of fruit juice or pop.

If you crave sweets, eat melon or pineapple instead (pineapple is suuuuper sweet). As for me, I buy the pre-cut fresh fruit from the grocery because I can't be bothered to cut a melon.

Walk instead of taking the bus.
posted by winterportage at 6:32 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Buy reeaaaaly expensive gorgeous chocolate, like organic truffles stuff. Get a box. Then shove it in your fridge and every evening, have one perfect good chocolate as a treat. It will make all the other sweet junk taste crappy in comparison and give you something to look forward to for eating healthy.

This cured me of my candy bar habit last year and works out to the same cost/day for far fewer calories. If you like salty treats, do the same thing - amazing salami instead of cheap crisps.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:51 PM on June 6, 2014 [8 favorites]

Building on viggorlijah's suggestion, I buy Lindt dark chocolate and have one square per night, as dark chocolate is supposed to have health benefits.

I call it my medicinal chocolate!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:17 PM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lifestyle changes for me that were easier were the ones that also made me feel better.

So like... I cut down my caffeine intake by switching to decaf in the afternoon and I was in a better mood. I cut sugar out of my coffee and I got less jitters. I drank more water (and had a humidifier in the wintertime) and I had less crusty booger problems and my skin felt better. When I go to the gym I sleep better.

Also avoiding things that made me feel bad... When I eat huge desserts I (often) feel worse, jangly, not awesome. Drinking more than a single drink made me fuzzy and sometimes headachey in the morning. Sitting at my computer all day made my shoulder hurt.

I am really mercenary with myself so I made a lot of deals with myself about things. Some were mathematical "Hey if you go to the gym, that is 300+ calories you've burned so it's okay to have some sort of snack you wouldn't otherwise have". Or if I was feeling in a good mood. "Hey if you can skip a second helping of X it means you can reach your weight goal a few days earlier" Some were literally habits for things I basically didn't want to do, so the habit is while I am making my coffee (which I always do which takes about three minutes) I am brushing my teeth. No brushing, no coffee. I have tv shows that I only watch at the gym. No gym, no House of Cards. I have no-car days at my house (I live walking distance from work) and so if I want to get my mail, go shopping or something else, I have to walk there.

If you're gadgety, you might like a Fitbit or websites like MapMyWalk or MyFitnessPal which let you track and quantify things. Above all, find an exercise that you like (walking, for me!) that you can do and enjoy (or start with doing and not hating) and it could be something like being out digging up the garden, it doesn't have to be gym-based per se. I was surprised how slow I started and now I check in at the gym a few times a week (thanks foursquare, for helping me keep track)

Pick the things you like most or hate least and do a little more of them. At first this is just "take the stairs" or "park further away" and after a while it becomes "Make that big hamburger into two meals and take the other half home" or "switch to iced tea instead of juice/soda" or "only eat out once a week" (which I go in and out of being able to do). Best of luck, and like other people are saying, be kind to yourself. Any steps you are taking towards this are good ones, don't compare yourself to some fictional you and find yourself wanting.
posted by jessamyn at 7:39 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yep, cutting sugar has made my almost-daily small bar of dark chocolate heaven, and super sugary stuff pretty appalling.

I don't know if you have one centralized place you work, like a desk, but filling up a pitcher of water first thing and putting it on my desk keeps me drinking more water all day.

I schedule my treats. It is too easy for me to have cake/Thai/whatever three days in a row if I'm not thinking about it. I'm doing the same with booze now, since it makes me tired, fatter, less productive. If I am craving a drink, I can often plug herbal tea into that hole, and I realized I just wanted *some kind* of drink, not necessarily booze.

Seconding the "join a CSA." I finally did that recently and I made a solemn vow with myself to use up all of the veggies through the week. I am eating A LOT of veggies. I feel better.

Consider getting bloodwork done with your next physical, if you don't do that already. Mine revealed I needed more vitamin D and now I feel peppier. Also, thyroid stuff runs in my family, so when that test comes back negative every year I have peace of mind.
posted by Lardmitten at 7:43 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Honestly? One of the most impactful things I've done for myself in this regard is to start to learn which healthy things feel to me like indulgences or pleasures, and which feel like a chore, and attempt to build the former into my routine. For me, this has created a much more sustainable way of permanently incorporating enjoyable healthy things in my life - because who needs more things that feel like drudgery, right? So, for instance, I've discovered that I *love* whole milk Greek yogurt (especially mixed with concentrated instant coffee), so I make a point of eating it most days now. Same deal with almonds/other nuts, black bean stew, dark chocolate, chicken-and-chili red lentils, and flavored green teas (I realized that plain green tea might be better than the flavored stuff, but I wouldn't actually drink it regularly, but I would drink the flavored ones iced instead of soda). Similarly, I'm feeling too drained to go to the gym/run/lifting weights because of school stress, but I really enjoy walks in the sunshine, so I try to walk briskly for 40-60 minutes a day. Etc. etc. None of this feels like punishment, or like something spartan and unsustainable that I could only hack for a week - they're enjoyable in their own right, and the healthy aspect to them is, while important, only part of the motivation I have for doing it. Almost all of the healthy changes that I have ever permanently incorporated into my life were enjoyable - the rest only lasted weeks/months. As you say, healthy living isn't an all or nothing binary - you don't somehow lose the game if you're not subsisting on kale smoothies and doing Crossfit 4 hours a day. So, I say, out of the multiplicity of healthy choices you could make, why not choose the ones that give you the most pleasure?
posted by ClaireBear at 10:33 PM on June 6, 2014 [13 favorites]

Another vote for joining us on Health Month. I've been doing it for three years now (!) and there are a bunch of habits that are so firmly nailed down I don't bother to make rules about them- like flossing (I even get praised now at the dentist!) and drinking water, and I have completely ditched diet soda for good. I still struggle with going to bed on time and avoiding white flour. One of the great things about Health Month is that every day is a fresh start, every week is a fresh start, every month is a fresh start. So in the past, when I fell out of a good routine, it sometimes took months (or even years) to get back on track. With Health Month, though, I am back on track within days. Also, trying out different rules, and setting them up different ways helps you figure out what framing works for me. Personally I learned that rules with a negative framing don't work for me- (don't drink, or don't eat red meat, etc.) but what works really well for me are positive rules that displace the bad habit I'm trying to undo (for example, when I was quitting diet soda, a rule limiting diet soda got me nowhere, but a rule FOR drinking lots of water worked- the water habit just displaced the soda habit, without me feeling limited in any way.)

Plus, the team is extremely supportive and generally awesome in all the best ways that MeFites are.
posted by ambrosia at 12:02 AM on June 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's better to exercise regularly than to exercise a long time or intensely. And on those days when I really don't feel like working out, I tell myself 5 minutes of exercise is better than no exercise at all.

I find that if I get too intense in my work outs, I start feeling like its a chore and stop exercising. If, instead, I keep them short and on the easy side (provided I sweat a little and fatigue some muscles), I am more motivated to keep going.

I've had that philosophy for years and now regularly run 5K. And I find them easy and fun. Exercise is now also a regular part of my routine.
posted by Milau at 2:17 AM on June 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Carve out 20 minutes per day to sit and do nothing but pay active attention to the miracle of existence.

Exercise like your life depends on it: spend 20 minutes three times a week doing something physical so hard that it would be impossible for you to carry on a conversation with someone. Even though it may not seem like it, it is good to stress your cardiovascular system like this and so much more efficient than hours of less strenuous effort.

Eat fewer starches. Choose meat and vegetables and chocolate instead of bread, rice, and potatoes.

Practice your art. Listen to the voice inside. Honor your need for play.

Cultivate gratitude for all things, no matter how small.

Join a support group. We are who we hang out with, not the other way around.

This is what I know of so far. Best wishes.
posted by macinchik at 2:29 AM on June 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is what worked/is working with me:

The gradual approach is a good idea.

My approach was to look at the worst things in my diet and find a substitution for them. For things that I felt were excessive I would slowly cut down. For example I used, going back about 5 years, eat lots of chocolate. I first switched from chocolate to crisps then from crips to McVities Mini Cheddars(TM). In one workplace (I was doing some temping at the time), fruit was brought in one day a week for everyone to help themselves. I found that I quite like the taste of fruit.

Nowadays I would have something like a slice of malt loaf (with butter) or a pot of Rumber's yogurt as snacks. Both contain lots of fibre so they're not as bad as other things. When I'm in a supermarket and I feel peckish I'll look to pick up a pot of fruit.

Similarly, in my sandwiches the cheese slices are thinner than they used to be. I've slowly added more fruit and salads in my diet. For example, I look to find ways of including spinach and tomatoes in what I eat.

There is nothing wrong with having meat in your diet as long as it's not excessive. If you do eat meat then chicken and fish is better than beef, mutton, etc. However, with all the pollution in the sea, there are recommended limits on consumption of fish.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT YOU SHOULD EAT WHAT YOU ENJOY. If you gradually change your diet, you'll find your tastes will change. For example, a few years ago I loved chips (aka french fries) but now they don't appeal to me.

I found that cooking more for myself and finding/creating new recipes strong motivation to carry on with the changes. Also, knowing that my health is improving helps.

When it comes to exercise, ecorrocio comes close. However, in my case, I do not have any plans to end goal, just one to improve week to week, month to month, year to year. It gives me something to do whilst I listen to podcasts. If you find an exercise regime that you enjoy then you will find it easier to do.

Another thing I would advise is that if you're worried about your weight don't keep checking it (as you may feed that worry). Aim for better health and check it once every few months. My trouser size went from 36" to the 32" in about 3 years.

As for flossing: my dentist advised me to do that a couple of years ago. When I found that I couldn't (I had never done it as a child) he advised me to use TePe Brushes instead (and infrormed me which size would be best for me). I have used them ever since.

On the motivation front, you maybe interested in my LiveJournal post "Thoughts about New Year's Resolutions" (link to LJ in my profile).
posted by HiFranc at 3:57 AM on June 7, 2014

Instead of thinking about things you need to take away, which sets up a feeling of deprivation, think of what you can add to be healthier.

Example: You really want to go through that McDonald's drive-thru? Go, but in addition to whatever you get, think about adding a side salad.

You want a giant cheesecake for dessert? Go for it, but have a glass of milk with it or have some hummus for a snack when you're hungry later. Don't get into all or nothing thinking or every time you do something you perceive as "bad" will set you up for feeling like a failure.

Also, commit to going for a 10 minute walk each day. Just 10. Soon you'll find yourself walking more than that and you'll feel good for doing 12 minutes instead of 10. Small, small steps.
posted by Sal and Richard at 7:48 AM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Swim! A fun alternative to jogging or other cardio. Two advantages: unlike jogging it's full body exercise and you don't get sweaty. I've taken it up lately and I'm really enjoying it.

In general, actually enjoying what you do for exercise is a good way of getting yourself to actually do it.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:22 AM on June 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

helpful blog to go along with the suggestions above
posted by Jewel98 at 7:35 PM on June 7, 2014

I encourage you to give up not just soda but all sugary drinks. Now wait, it's not as hard as it sounds! I used Mio and other liquid water flavorings to give up pop and juice. But I'm not super strict about it. (I have tachycardia so caffeine is kinda bad for me.) I drink pop when I have a nasty headache (with the blessing of my doctor, since it's gentler than NSAIDs) and if I'm out and I want a Coke then I have a Coke. Or an apple juice (though I do try to stick to 100% juice). A "junk drink" (e.g. "Fruit-flavored punch drink") once in a while isn't going to kill you, I just do it way less often than I used to.

I completely agree with Blue Jello Elf on no judginess. I just got a new bicycle after having been mostly sedentary. When I get tired, even if I didn't go as far as I did yesterday, I turn around. And if it rains two days in a row I'm not freaking out about missing a ride. C'est la vie! I want it to stay fun to ride because as soon as it's not fun I won't want to do it anymore.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:13 PM on June 7, 2014

The first thoughts off my head are probably bigger (change where you shop) or more OCD (reduce your coffee intake by 1cc/day) than what you had in mind, but w/r/t the "slow and steady" aspect:
Collect some of these suggestions. Include ones that are triflingly small. You'll probably end up doing them, and then accidentally checking off bigger ones en route.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 11:55 PM on June 7, 2014

Jump rope!

You can do it for just a few minutes at a time, and it works your whole body. Bonus: It costs little, and you can do it almost anytime, anyplace.
posted by maurreen at 8:17 PM on June 8, 2014

Try and find the lowest carb version of whatever the thing is that you are going to be eating. Use stevia instead of sugar wherever you can.

Get off the bus a stop earlier/park further away/etc. Do whatever it takes to build up to 10 extra minutes of walking a day, to 20 minutes, to 30 minutes. Aim for an hour of solid walking every single day (all at once is best, but broken into chunks is okay too).

Get a chin up bar and do some chin ups at home.

Have a water bottle. Keep it full. Even if you aren't thirsty, make sure your water bottle has water in it. Eventually you'll just reach for it even when you don't technically need to.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:05 PM on June 9, 2014

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