The question: I am stressed. I want to focus on my health, but I can only handle changing one thing at a time. What is the first thing I should change about my diet or exercise? Should I lift weights, count calories, watch my carbs?
The answer: Feeling stressed is the worst. My suggestion, though, is to stop debating which choice is "best." Don't let worrying about what is ideal become another source of stress. Just pick something and go for it.
Any positive health choice you make – no matter how small – is better than nothing. Plus, just the act of deciding to focus on something will give you a sense of control, which can also be helpful in stressful times.
If you truly can't choose, my suggestion is to aim to eat a minimum of five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. If your tummy is full of fresh produce, you are less likely to grab processed high-sugar or high-fat foods.
Always keep in mind that even small positive choices add up. You don't have to lift weights daily or give up carbs to positively impact your health. As I tell my clients, think of your health like drops in a bucket. You accumulate drops every time you make a positive decision, such as drinking a glass of water or eating a vegetable. If you are conscious of these actions whenever possible, eventually your bucket will be full.
When you feel ready for a more detailed plan of attack, keep a food journal for a week.
Use the journal to notice any patterns of unhealthy health habits; these are the areas that most need improvement. Aim to modify those behaviours. Don't stress about choices you make once in a while. Instead, worry about the unhealthy ones you make regularly. Changing those will make the biggest difference.
Trainer's tip: When I am stressed and overwhelmed, I find it very helpful to remind myself that I don't have to be perfect. In fact, perfection is not a helpful or realistic goal. Instead of throwing in the towel in stressed-out desperation, I breathe and brainstorm how I can learn from past mistakes, or break down my goals into small, manageable chunks. My goal is not perfection, as it just isn't possible. Rather, it's to trend positively. I want to make more positive choices this year than I did the last.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for over 10 years. Her website is kathleentrotter.com.