Realizing we don’t feel or look the way we want to (or used to) is a difficult admission. Viewing that holiday photo, Facebook posting of the family all together, or selfie with your teenage daughter might be a rude awakening. Getting out of bed in the morning with achy muscles, or a sluggish feeling of not getting a good night’s sleep, is discouraging. Feeling winded after taking a flight of stairs is enough to simply make you feel OLD.
However, you don’t have to move mountains to make significant improvements to your good health, overall well being, and appearance. It just takes one little pebble tossed down a hill to get started. Before you know it, you will have created something beautiful.
Just ask Dave Brailsford, who as General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team) was charged with leading his countrymen to the first British first Tour de France victory.
Now that was a tough challenge. Yet, his approach was simple.
The Aggregation of Marginal Gains
Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1% margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1%, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.
They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.
But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1% improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1% improvements everywhere.
Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time.
He was wrong. It only took three years. Sir Bradley Wiggins was the first British winner in 2012, followed by Chris Froome in 2013. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the British team won 70% of the cycling gold medals. 70%!
How Does This Relate to Your life?
We can take notes from Mr. Brailsford, and realize that every habit we have is a result of decisions we have made over time. These may be good or bad decisions, split second decisions we don’t even recall, certainly not momentous decisions – but they have an aggregate effect.
Big changes are memorable. We get married, have a baby, take on a new job, buy a new house.
However, small changes that are the result of just making a 1% change in some aspect of our lives can be overlooked. And yet, 1% change upon 1% change upon 1% change will eventually result in notable modifications to our life. Of course, this can also work in reverse, which is why we find ourselves in need of self improvement in the first place!
So, why not turn the tables and focus on making a 1% positive change in your daily life?
Take weight loss. I believe that dropping inches and pounds (a better way of saying “diet”) is all in our heads. By this statement, I mean that we need to make our minds rule our daily food choices as well as the quantity of food we take in. The bottom line is, if you eat 500 fewer calories each week, you will improve your shape and you will lose weight.
Small Changes Lead to Big Weight Loss
Here are a few tips from the Shaklee 180 weight loss program that will result in at least 500 fewer calories consumed each week. These are not rocket science!
- substitute soda water for soda
- reduce your soda intake by TWO CANS a week
- snack on fresh fruit rather than two individual bags of potato chips or pretzels
- order a side salad instead of fries
- cut back on two glasses of wine each week
- reduce your pasta intake by just 4 ounces
- Have a Shaklee 180™ Snack Bar daily instead of a chocolate coated granola bar
- Or, instead of that chocolate coated granola bar, enjoy this daily: 1 cup nonfat yogurt, ½ cup of nonfat cottage cheese with 1 cup raw vegetables or 1 oz. low-fat cheese with 5 small whole wheat crackers
Adding physical movement to your daily routine is also simpler than you think. Start small, and you may find yourself feeling so invigorated that you want to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. We all know we SHOULD exercise, but starting with baby steps might motivate you for real this time around.
Simple Ways to Get Moving on a Daily Basis
- Walk a mile daily with a friend, spouse, child in a stroller. Whether it’s a stroll through the neighborhood, at a local park, or through the mall doesn’t matter! It takes less than 30 minutes.
- Skip the elevator or escalator and take the stairs
- Do a few jumping jacks or sit ups during a TV commercial break
- Start with one of the 30 day challenges that are all over the internet, focusing on a specific body part that you want to improve. It will take about two minutes the first day, leading up to about 15 minutes by the end of the month.
- Have a favorite charitable cause? Sign up for their 5K walk. Don’t make it a contest. Make it a way to give back to a charity, walk with a friend or family member, walk in memory or in honor of someone; and burn calories at the same time. With a little practice ahead of time, you’ll be done within an hour.
Find much more at this awesome 30 Day Fitness Challenges Pinterest board.
Small Changes in Food Choices = Big Health Improvements
Simple steps can go a long way in jump-starting our weight loss and fitness goals. Feeling better on the inside can also be achieved by altering our diet in the vegetables that we choose.
Most of us grew up on peas, carrots, corn and green beans. As international travel, commerce and safe distribution of fresh food has become more common, our taste buds have been expanded by a wide range of what were once considered exotic or expensive vegetables. Have you considered adding these tasty items into your diet? Nothing more is involved than Googling a recipe or two, and placing a different vegetable in your grocery cart the next time you are shopping.
Here’s some vegetables to consider, with some of the key benefits they offer:
- Beets. Find creative ways to integrate this vegetable, and you will be blessed with its detoxifying, anti-inflammatory benefits. Beets are also unique in that you can use the whole plant. Beets provide a good dose of foliate, iron, fiber, potassium, vitamin C and calcium.
- Asparagus. There is nothing like seeing asparagus in the grocery to signal that spring is here. This spring crop is rich in vitamin K, A, iron, B1 and folic acid. Your kidneys will also love the benefits asparagus provides as it works to cleanse your intestinal track.
- Brussels Sprouts. At first glance, Brussels sprouts seem to resemble mini cabbages, but do not be fooled as these leafy green cruciferous vegetables pack a punch of nutrients like magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin A, B6 and C. If you bruise easily, Brussels sprouts add vitamin K, which helps the body naturally clot the blood when you begin to bleed or bruise.
- Broccoli. Broccoli adds a good dose of calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamins A, B6 and vitamin C to our grown-up diets.
- Celery. Hidden into its stalks are anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory compounds that prevent free radical and unwanted oxygen from damaging cells.
- Kale. Kale is taking the stage as one of our most important vegetables. Its cruciferous leafy greens can help us detox and fight off cancer cells, while adding large amounts of vitamin K, A, C, manganese and fiber to our diet.
- Swiss Chard. Swiss chard has long been popular in Mediterranean dishes. It can play a key role in keeping your skin healthy and blood vessels strong due to high levels of lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin K.
- Parsley. Parsley is considered a seasoning or herb but remains a vegetable as you can eat the stems and leaves of the plant. If you consider it more than plate adornment, parsley can provide iron, calcium, vitamins K, C, and A; this vegetable can help neutralize free radicals in the body and protect you from arthritis.
There’s plenty more in our article here about the 10 Most Nutritious Vegetables for Cooking. Give it a read.
It’s Time to Start Making Small Changes
It’s not likely you’ll find yourself training for a Tour de France, or a mountain triathlon, or a 26 mile race. I write for average, everyday people who are balancing family responsibilities with jobs and trying to carve out some personal time. People trying to feel a little better about themselves. People who want to start making 1% positive improvements in their lives but aren’t sure where to start.
So, I say, stop seeking instant gratification with food. Use your minds to visualize wearing a smaller size or even two, and get going with small changes to achieve that. Look outside the box and cook a new vegetable that might pack more nutritious punch. Don’t take it all on at once. Make a mental commitment to better yourself physically by doing small activities each day. Leave those donuts and fries to someone with less mental fortitude. You are stronger than you think. Seize the day!