Ready to get back in shape? Here’s a practical and simple step-by-step guide to help you make real progress toward your fitness goals!
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we enter into another.” – Anatole France
You didn’t always feel this way.
At some point — maybe it was years ago — you felt energized, driven, thin, sexy… even excited about life.
Now you feel tired and bloated. You have more aches and pains than you used to and your anxiety and depression have skyrocketed.
On top of it all, scrolling through people’s sexy Instagram posts feels like getting sucker-punched in the gut.
Everywhere you look, people seem happy and fit.
Except for you.
At least, that’s how it feels.
But I want you to know that you’re not alone… and your problem is 100% solvable (even if you haven’t exercised for over a decade).
Let me prove it.
The Habits We Were Raised With: Too Little Movement, Too Much Macaroni
Maybe you used to be in shape — before you got married, had a kid, or were so young it didn’t matter what you ate — but things have changed since then.
You don’t even feel like the same person.
And you’re wondering what it’ll take to reclaim that better, more fit version of yourself.
I know how you feel.
Growing up, I wanted so bad to be one of those “gym rats” — one of those women that were born to workout.
You know what I’m talking about…
They shoot out of bed, eat kettlebells for breakfast, and wrestle a grizzly bear. Then, at night, they post Instagram photos of their perfect bodies, journal about their perfect lives, and have sex with their perfect husbands.
(That’s a thing, right?)
For a lonnnng time, I was really unhappy with what I saw in the mirror.
Since I was eight years old I remember being insecure about my weight.
But you’re not alone… and neither am I.
MANY people are struggling.
And the truth is, for most of us, the bad habits that keep us out of shape — eating hot-pockets and watching TV for 4 hours every night — started when we were too young to know better.
A recent study found that only 4 out of 80 baby and toddler snacks met nutritious standards.
Additionally, 50% of baby food snacks and 83% of toddler food snacks contained added sweeteners.
As kids, we’re praised when we eat everything in front of us and punished when we don’t finish our plates.
Our mothers gave us highly processed foods (I mean… we asked for ‘em, too).
We weren’t raised to drink a good amount of water, exercise, or eat all of our food groups.
We were set up to struggle with being in shape.
And then, we learned what society’s idea of the “ideal body” is… and our insecurities took flight.
(Okay… that’s what’s HOT. So how do I get myself to look like THAT?)
Spoiler alert: it’s way friggin’ harder than we expected.
In other words, it makes sense why getting in shape and staying in shape is so difficult. It shouldn’t be hard (biology doesn’t favor fatness, after all), but it is… because of the 21st-century habits and culture that we’re living in.
That’s the bad news.
You’ve been trained to stay out of shape.
The good news, though, is that you can retrain yourself so that you don’t just get back in shape… but you stay in shape for the long-term.
For me, it was all about following a clear-cut system that was do-able (not miserable) and that, if I stuck to it, was virtually guaranteed to improve my fitness.
Now, I want to share that system with you.
These are the steps I took to get back in shape… and they actually worked! I wholeheartedly believe that they can work for you, too.
Step 1. Find Your WHY
Knowing why you want to do something is critical for actually doing it.
Your “why” comes in handy at those moments when you’re lacking motivation… when you want to devour three candy bars after a long day.
Or when you are too tired to get out of bed to do your workout.
When your old habits creep back in, this is when you think about your “why”.
“I’m going to do this workout because I have goals I’m going to reach and because those goals are more important to me than the short-lived pleasure of over-eating.”
So why do you want to get back in shape?
To have more energy to play with your kids or wrestle with your spouse (wink wink)?
Or maybe you’re tired of getting sick easily, feeling depressed, and lacking confidence…
It can be anything!
Whatever your “why” is, make sure that you feel something when you think about it — it should be emotionally powerful enough to help you get through difficult times.
And write it down EVERYWHERE.
Write it on post-it notes and put them on bathroom mirrors, in the fridge, on workout equipment, on your nightstand.
Type it out and save it as your screensaver on your computer and phone.
Repetition is the queen of learning… the more you remember why you’re doing something, the better chance you have of sticking to it!
Step 2. Choose a Diet/Exercise System That You KNOW is Realistic (Here’s Mine)
Fitness isn’t “one size fits all.” But there are a lot of pretty fundamental commonalities between the fitness routines of people who stay in shape.
Exercising and eating healthy, for instance, are the two most common tenants.
But that’s not specific enough.
If you’re going to be successful, then you need to follow a dead-simple and proven system. One that will take away the guesswork out of your new lifestyle and make the entire process as straightforward as tying your shoes.
Below, I’m going to share the process I followed.
I recommend that you do what’s realistic for you right now and ditch what isn’t. This might be my article, but it’s your fitness routine.
So stick to what feels achievable. 🙂
Here are the 3 “magic steps” I used to get back in shape!
1. I Found an At-Home Workout Plan
For me, going to the gym was just not working.
By the time I got ready, got in the car, and headed to the gym, I didn’t want to work out anymore.
Home workouts were a godsend. I still do them today! I can wear what I want and get right into exercising as soon as I wake up — not having to worry about what I look like or falling asleep on the couch while the car warms up outside.
The majority of these either have a free trial or sample workouts to try before you buy.
So go crazy and try them all to see what clicks!
2. I Found a Simple Eating Plan
I didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out that this is the most important piece of the puzzle: nutrition.
(It’s easier to consume calories, after all, than it is to burn calories)
Both for your health and you’re body physique.
I went on a strict portion control eating plan.
This plan allowed me to eat all of my food groups, limit processed foods, and taught me how much of each food group I need daily to lose weight, and to maintain my weight.
Finding the right meal plan might take some trial and error. I recommend thoroughly researching each one before you decide.
Ultimately, choose one that you know you could stick to — one that feels reasonable for you right now, as you are.
3. I Got Accountability
This one was essential for me.
Finding a person or a group of people who you feel accountable to can help you stay motivated.
If this person is a coach or personal trainer, then they can also answer your questions and guide you along the path to success — as they did for me.
My personal accountability was my Beachbody coach (which you get when you sign up with their programs).
Another free option is to simply pick a friend to do it with you or help keep you accountable in your new fitness journey.
But don’t skip this step. Your chance of success skyrockets if you have someone else in your corner.
Step 3. Stick To It
Getting back in shape is one thing.
Staying in shape is quite another.
A shocking amount of people regain weight after they’ve lost it — so much so that the “statistic” that 90% of people regain all their lost weight has become something of “clinical lore”.
So how do you make sure that you stay in shape?
Here are my do’s and don’ts!
Try different ways to exercise.
You aren’t going to stick to something you loath. There are a ton of different ways you can get your daily exercise.
Whether it’s running, yoga, pilates, dance, cycling, or your favorite sport, make sure it’s something you enjoy.
Also, remember that you will enjoy different types of physical activity at different seasons in your life.
So switch it up often!
Workout at the same time every day.
Almost everyone I know who has stuck with a workout routine has had a set time they workout every day.
I personally prefer getting it done in the morning because I don’t know what the rest of my day is going to hold.
But I know others who prefer to do it when they get off work.
Find what works for you and stick to the same time daily to help it become a habit.
Educate yourself on how to work out with proper form and alignment.
This one is important simply to prevent injury and build your muscles in a safe way.
So make sure you’re keeping proper form during your workout routine!
Educate yourself on what types of workouts you should be doing to get the physique you’re looking for.
Someone who wants a slim body and someone who wants a chiseled/buff body is not going to do the same workout.
Figure out what you want and research specific workouts for that goal.
Use an eating plan that will include all your food groups
One of the poorer things you can do for your body is to cut out entire food groups.
Your body needs protein, carbs, healthy fats, fruits, and veggies to thrive. Check out the Lose It! app for tracking your nutrition and calories.
Use an eating plan that includes portion control.
Most of us learned to overeat for every meal. This is something we have to relearn.
A portion control eating plan is the best way to help you.
The specific plan I used taught me how much of each food group I needed daily to lose weight, and later, to maintain that weight. Check out the plan I used over here.
Get an accountability partner or sponsor.
As we discussed above, this is important when you’re unmotivated and don’t want to keep moving forward.
Or for when you are lost and need guidance/have questions.
Give yourself grace.
You aren’t perfect, so don’t expect to be.
Start this journey knowing that you will mess up at times.
You don’t fail until you give up.
This was a huge life-saver for me in the beginning.
At the beginning of every week, plan out every meal you will have for the week.
Some people go as far as cooking one meal on Sundays that they’ll use as lunch for the rest of the week.
I had success with simply writing them all down and shopping for everything before the week starts. Oh — and don’t hesitate to use the online grocery shopping apps that most stores now offer… it makes it way more convenient!
Think that working out at the gym is the only way to get in shape.
There are a lot of different ways to exercise. You could go to the local rock climbing gym, join a rowing club, or even go to pick-up ultimate frisbee. Don’t limit yourself to just going to the gym. Mix it up when you start losing interest.
Do a “fad diet”.
I’m sure you know someone who has done one of those “fad diets” and took off a ton of weight.
I’m telling you now, don’t try it.
First off, they aren’t good for you. Most of the time they’re having you eat way too few calories or cutting out entire food groups.
And two, you will most likely gain the weight back because these diets are not sustainable.
A 2019 article says that 80% to 95% of dieters gain back the weight they’ve worked hard to lose — that’s because fad diets create quick-fire changes… not life-long habits.
I recommend aiming more for portion control over the exact calorie intake.
Counting calories can make you obsessive and limit what you eat in a negative way.
But again, do what works best for you.
Try to take this journey alone.
Accountability will help your success!
Let one “bad meal” or one skipped workout make you give up your entire journey.
It’s all about grace.
Use the 80/20 rule — 80% of the time be as strict with yourself as possible. While the other 20%, you can splurge and skip a workout here and there.
I recommend being as strict as possible with yourself in the first month, though. That way you can get into a routine and break bad habits.
Ready To Get Back in Shape?
You’re not too old, you’re not too fat, you’re not too undisciplined, you’re not too anxious or depressed.
Anyone — with the right knowledge and information — can get back in shape.
I really believe that.
And now, you know the steps I used to get back in shape. It wasn’t always easy — sometimes it was really difficult — but knowing my “why” and having a clear-cut system carried me through those difficult times.
So what do you think?
Are you ready to make a commitment to yourself? If you are, let me know in the comments! I’d love to cheer you on 🙂
Maggie is a fitness coach, freelance writer, and stay-at-home mom who loves healthy living. She has a passion for reading fantasy and spending time with her husband and son. You can follow her on Instagram.