Boy, I can’t count the number of times somebody has said to me, “I just have nothing to do with all of my time, I’m thinking of starting some sort of elaborate, time-consuming diet and exercise program just to burn up these extra 3-4 hours a day that I don’t know what to do with.”
I can’t count it because that has never happened. But, not having enough time is a frequent excuse people use for not making any efforts whatsoever. And somewhere in between is what really happens when managing our weight is a priority.
For some people it may not be a priority, for me it is. So how do I manage my weight on a daily basis when I am, like you, a busy person with not a lot of extra time? I make it as easy and efficient as possible. In fact, over the years I’ve managed to arrange things so that making the choices to manage my weight is actually less time-consuming and onerous than not.
For example – packing my lunch every day. The first thing I need to have is lots of fruits and veggies on hand, plus an easy entree. This is actually the easiest thing because I am going to be grocery shopping anyway, right? Grabbing the supportive things doesn’t take any more time than grabbing chips and candy. Most grocery stores even sell convenient lunch-size pre-packaged portions of things like cherry tomatoes, cut fruit, blueberries, baby carrots, etc. Bananas, oranges, apples and fruits of that nature already come in convenient serving sizes, and throwing some grapes or strawberries in a ziplock takes about 30 seconds. For my entree, I’m a big proponent of frozen microwave meals – they’re pre-packaged, they’re portion-controlled*, they heat up quickly in a microwave and are available in a wide variety of flavors.
Once I have all the lunch ingredients at home, throwing them together into my lunch box takes about, oh, less than 5 minutes. Compare that with going out to lunch – I would have to decide what I wanted, get in my car, drive around town, sit in a drive-thru or restaurant, wait for my food, then drive back to my office. The whole proposition will take me at the very least 20 minutes over and above just eating my meal. 5 minutes to pack my lunch in the morning, or 20-60 minutes and who knows how many calories I’m consuming to go out? I save time by choosing to manage my weight. Plus I get the option to eat the food in my lunch box at anytime during the day that I get hungry. I’m a grazer, so that’s actually a lot more convenient for me.
Exercising, well, there’s pretty much no way that exercising will ever take less time than NOT exercising. However, there are ways you can make it worth your while, and reduce the amount of time it takes. The first thing is to experiment with many different forms of physical activity. Anything you do that moves your body through space is physical activity, so don’t discount something because you don’t do it in the gym. The next thing to try is what I call “destination exercise”, and this is where you make it less about the exercise and more about accomplishing something you need to do anyway. For example, I need to go to the post office later today to mail a package. I could drive the mile and a half because it’s easy, or I could walk it and have a 3 mile walk along with accomplishing my task. Two birds with one stone!
Another thing to keep in mind is that an exercise routine that requires you to go significantly out of your way is not likely to be something you stick with in the long run. I’ve learned over the years that I need my exercise to be extremely convenient, and through trial and error I’ve found a couple of go-to workouts that work. I have a set of hand weights in my home because it’s more likely to get done if I don’t have to go to the gym to do it. I run and walk regularly because I can step out my front door and do it, and the only equipment I really need is a good pair of shoes. But I didn’t come to these solutions on the first day of my journey, I came to that through a process of trial and error. I tried many varied types of exercise and eventually came to discover that these are the things that stuck. I hold memberships to two different gyms accumulated during the course of my experimentation with different exercise routines. (It helps that they’re both free at this point – you can’t really beat free so I hang on to them and use them when they’re the most convenient option for the kind of day I’m having)
I still try new things, but more as a routine-buster when I’m bored and have some time to spend on it – a spice to liven up my regular routine. The final element that makes exercise compelling for me is I’ve found is that now that I’m accustomed to doing it, I’m very cranky when I don’t do it. So doing it is better for my emotional health (and my marriage). That’s a huge motivation to get it done.
Finding the efficient methods that were right for my life took some time, but once I went through process to learn what worked best for me, it’s now a bigger hassle to NOT make the right choices.
*I choose frozen meals with less than 300 calories per meal. There are a ton of options out there that meet this criteria.