Healthy Changes: It’s About Progress, Not Perfection

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Monday morning comes around and this is it! Today you’re going to eat right, exercise, walk 10,000 steps, drink all the water, ditch the alcohol, and stop staying up until 2 am on TikTok.

Monday goes ok, you almost did all those things but as the week progresses you find these new habits slipping away, and come the weekend, you decide that you can start again Monday!

Does this sound like you? It certainly sounds like me more times than I care to admit!

Too Much Information

Healthy Habits

The problem is we’re bombarded with information about how we need to be eating healthier, moving more, sleeping better, and reducing XYZ whilst eating more of the other. It can all be a little too much. We feel that because it’s what is recommended that we need to be doing it ALL and doing it all NOW! In fact, change should come slowly – one step at a time.

Breaking Habits & Making New Ones

We’re creatures of habit and routine, however, new habits take time to learn and old habits take time to replace. Give yourself a break and do one thing well rather than trying to do lots of things with little success. It’s about progress, not perfection.

One Small Step at a Time

Pick one small and sustainable change you want to make and do it, just that, for a week.

Reflect on how that change has gone, if it was successful and you adopted it with ease then make another small change and repeat the process.

If you struggled then keep focusing on that change until it sticks and then introduce another.

Here are a few ideas about what you can do to make changes, in small steps rather than a giant leap.

fruit and vegetables

Add One Piece of Fruit or a Vegetable to Your Day

The current guidelines recommend at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, preferably more vegetables and those of the green, leafy variety. For those who struggle to even manage one portion, the jump from zero to five can be a shock.

One portion is usually classified as a single whole fruit, such as an apple, orange, or pear, or a hand-sized amount of smaller fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, and grapes. Vegetables are of similar sizes. Potatoes (excluding sweet potatoes) do not count as one of your five-a-day as they count towards your portion of starchy carbohydrates – such as rice and pasta.

Try adding just one more portion of fruit or portion of vegetables to your day. This could be a banana to your porridge, salad to your sandwich, a couple of broccoli florets with your dinner, or some berries to yoghurt as a dessert. Then, as this becomes a habit add another.

Drink Water – Around 2 Litres Per Day

We’re made of water, a lot of it. Every single cell in our body requires it so we must drink it often, and every day.

How much we need is very much on an individual, but we need more during hot months and exercise. If you aim to drink around 2 litres per day (about 8 glasses) then you’ll be on your way. The best way to test whether your body is getting enough water is by checking the colour of your urine, see the image below.

Urine colour chart - are you drinking enough water?

Water doesn’t have to just come straight from the tap. Flavoured waters, tea, coffee, milk, and fruit juices also count. However, opting for drinks that do not contain any added sugars is always recommended, making water the gold standard choice for hydration.

Move You Body & Enjoy It

Is there anything more boring than the treadmill? Being told to hit the gym and spend 30 minutes just staring at the wall only really benefits your cardiovascular health – unless you actually enjoy it.

When we say you need to exercise, we’re really saying that you just need to regularly move your body. The MOST IMPORTANT part of that is doing something you enjoy. If you don’t like yoga then don’t do it! If you don’t like running, then don’t do it! Instead, you can:

  • Dance while cleaning the house
  • Use a skipping rope
  • Put on a dance video on YouTube
  • Kick a football around at the park
  • Go for a walk

Hitting 10,000 steps is a huge ask for many…especially if you’re already quite sedentary. So, aim for 3,000, then 5,000 then 7,000 etc. Build your way up to 10,000 then continue to increase.

dancing for exercise

Reduce That Sugar

This is a biggie and a hard habit to change. Now, when I say reduce sugar, I am not talking about cutting out fruits and rice for example. I’m talking about the white table sugar and syrups you add to your meals, as well as looking for products with sugar added to them – such as “fat-free yoghurts”.

This can be a gradual process, you don’t have to cut it all out in one go. If you like two teaspoons of sugar in your coffee then try dropping to one and a half for a week, then down to one. It’s a small change but it can make a huge difference.

Recommended maximum sugar

The recommended intake of added sugar for an adult is a maximum of 30g per day and one teaspoon is 5g. If you have two teaspoons in a coffee twice a day you’ll be almost at your recommended maximum through coffee alone.

Here are some simple swaps:

  • Jam on toast for avocado or scrambled eggs on toast
  • Cereal for porridge with a banana or berries
  • Fruit yogurt with added sugar for plain natural or greek yoghurt with fresh fruit
  • Fizzy drinks for flavoured sparkling water
  • Baked beans for no added/reduced salt and sugar baked beans
  • Tomato ketchup for no added/reduced salt and sugar baked beans

If you have children then watch their added sugar closely, as their recommended maximum is lower than adults so it can quickly add up. Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars a day (less than 5 teaspoons). Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g of free sugars a day (less than 4 teaspoons).

Sleeping

A Good Sleep Pattern

Understandably, this can be one of the harder habits to improve especially in the summer months. Getting your body into a good sleep pattern is an important healthy change. Rest gives our bodies the chance to repair, grow, and balance hormones. Unfortunately, restless sleep or too little can result in too much of the stress hormone, cortisol, is released which can mess up your day before it has begun.

As an adult, you need between 6-9 hours of sleep each night and children need more. Ideally, you should be going to bed and setting an alarm to wake you at the same time each day. This is something you can experiment with to see how you feel after 6, 7, 8 or 9 hours of rest.

Poor health habits such as consuming too many ultra-processed foods, a lack of movement during the day, and certain health conditions like obesity can result in poor sleep and oversleeping. This will result in you feeling sluggish for the whole day – often leading to continued habits and repeating the cycle.

There are some great tips for getting your sleep in check in my “Changes For Your Health That Don’t Focus On Weight Loss” post.

Get the Whole Family Involved

Creating new habits can be hard if no one else around you is doing it too. Lean on friends and family to motivate you, and you motivate them.

Cook together, move together and start making all your lives that little bit more healthy. One small step at a time. Progress, not perfection remember!

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1 thought on “Healthy Changes: It’s About Progress, Not Perfection”

  1. A fantastic way to approach healthy changes and a healthy lifestyle in general. I’ve got to say, it’s VERY refreshing to read “If you don’t like yoga then don’t do it! If you don’t like running, then don’t do it!” Totally agree. Do what you enjoy, leave the rest. Work on little changes & ease back on the pressure for perfection. Very well said!

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