Get Started: From Overweight to Healthy

Post written by Leo Babauta.

Make one change today.

If you’re overweight and unmotivated to change your life drastically, just make a tiny change.

You’re not alone. There are more overweight people today than ever before, as a percentage of our population and in sheer numbers. I’ve been overweight (65 pounds heavier than I am today) and I know that it doesn’t feel good.

I also know that when we’re overweight, we often go into denial. We think it’s not a problem, or that we’re not that unhealthy, or that it’s something we can fix later. Or more likely, we try hard not to think about it. But it’s there, at the back of our minds if nowhere else, making us feel bad about ourselves and our lives, influencing the rest of what we do.

If it were just a body-image thing, I’d say learn to love your body — and I believe that. Forget the cover models on magazines, the perfect people on TV and in movies. They’re just being used to sell us stuff, but the result is that we get bad body images for not having rock-hard abs. Forget about that. What worries me, though, about friends and family who are overweight is their health — having a big belly puts you at risk of heart disease, diabetes and other similar problems.

Scary stuff.

But how do you start getting healthier and fitter? How do you change a whole slew of habits, from eating too much to eating fried and sweet and fatty foods to drinking sodas and sweet coffee drinks to being sedentary?

You make one change. A tiny little one.

For me, it started with quitting smoking (which is a big change), but then I took up running (starting with just 10 minutes), and then I started changing my diet in little ways.

One small change leads to another, forming a spiral of success. But you don’t need to worry about all the other changes you’re going to make later.

What Change to Start With

Really, you could start with almost any positive change. What matters is that you start.

But if you’d like a recommendation, here are a few:

1. Eat more veggies. Go to the store today and buy a basket of veggies. Eat them raw as snacks (dip in hummus if you like, not fatty dressings), steam them as side dishes for lunch and dinner, puree them and put them into your usual recipes, eat a salad before your meal. You can start with just one of these changes, and slowly add more veggies each week. This is an easy change but it’s actually huge — more fibre, more vitamins and minerals, fewer calories equals leaner you.

2. Walk. Best exercise ever. Just walk for 10 minutes to start with. Get a friend or your significant other to walk with you and enjoy the conversation. Enjoy nature. After you’ve gotten used to walking, try intervals: 3 minutes of fast walking, 3 minutes of conversational walking, repeat.

3. Drink water. People drink too many calories — soda, beer, smoothies, mochas, frappucinos, shakes, juice, Gatorade. None of those are necessary. Get used to drinking water, which is refreshing, delicious and healthy.

4. Get rid of the junk. This is actually a bit of a drastic change but it makes a really big difference. Take all the junk food in your house (chips, pastries, ice cream, cookies, prepared foods of any kind, fried foods) and toss them. Clean out your fridge and pantry. Buy fruits, veggies, nuts and beans instead, and try some new flavorful recipes. If the junk isn’t around, it won’t tempt you.

How to Make That One Change

You’ve picked your one small change … but how do you get started?

Just take the first small step. Nothing huge or scary. Just a really, really easy one.

Make a list of your favorite veggies, or set a time today to stop at the grocery store for veggies (later try a farmer’s market). Or find a recipe or two that incorporates veggies.

Set a time to walk today or tomorrow. Talk to your spouse about walking together. Get your walking shoes ready. Any of these steps will do — just do one.

Fill a thermos with water. Buy a reusable water bottle. Get rid of the sodas in your fridge. Choose one of these.

Get a garbage bag and toss your junk food.

Choose one, and do it. Celebrate (in your mind, not with a sweet treat). Do another small tiny easy step. Celebrate again. Tell people about the changes you’re making. Do another tiny step. Celebrate some more.

You’re on the road to healthy.