Summertime is supposed to be the season of ample daylight, brunches and family vacations, but for those of us trying to use the time to make positive changes to our fitness and eating habits, the long days and less layered clothing can easily transform a feeling of freedom into the dread of overexposure. The obvious problem: the road to healthier living should never make anyone feel worse about themselves. That’s why Basic, a local fitness and lifestyle coaching service, emphasizes the perspective of long-term goals accomplished by step-by-step changes. For founders Jennifer Macha Hebert and Nely Ward, it’s not about shaming clients for an occasional sweet treat. Instead, they remind them of all the ways a healthy lifestyle contributes to a happy lifestyle, little by little. No self-denigration necessary.
“The best thing you can do is to begin with self-acceptance,” says Hebert. “We live in a world where we are inundated with images of what we ‘should’ look like, but we’re all built differently. It’s no use thinking of things in terms of ‘I need to be 15 pounds lighter by the weekend’ or ‘I’m going to the beach next month and I need to look a certain way in a swimsuit.’ Someone is always going to be taller or more muscular or faster than us—that’s natural. But we can always strive to be the best version of ourselves, and that starts with a healthy mental state.”
That striving is often a more creative process than people think. Health, after all, isn’t designated by a size or an exact number on a scale. It’s about figuring out ways to move and eat and live that may not necessarily match the trendiest forms of fitness we see on Instagram or on Peloton commercials. Sometimes finding that perfect match takes a bit of trial and error, just like any other practice.
“What sets people up for failure is thinking that you can go directly from sitting on the couch to running a marathon,” says Ward. “There’s nothing wrong with starting small. You can still jog a mile each day and call yourself a runner. Or if running doesn’t make you excited, maybe yoga will, or playing a sport. It’s fun to discover what fits most naturally into your lifestyle and preferences.”
For example, when Hebert began dropping her children off for baseball practice during the school week, she wasn’t sure what to do with the hour and a half of waiting time—until she noticed the tennis courts near the practice space.
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“I had never played tennis in my life, but I talked to a few other moms and we decided that it would be a fun thing to do together for those two days a week,” she says. “We got in a significant bit of exercise and learned a new sport at the same time. Just being open to new and different things and looking around at what’s available can lead to some fun opportunities.”
A path toward healthy eating looks similar, with Hebert and Ward suggesting substituting healthier options in stages. Drinking four sodas a week? Try cutting it down to two before trying to quit cold turkey. If you’re used to snacking on potato chips on a regular basis, try replacing that meal with veggie-based snacks instead.
Perhaps most importantly, they remind their clients that the psychological side of healthy living extends far beyond their own bodies.
“As a parent, it’s especially important to keep a positive mindset when it comes to your relationship with exercise and food,” says Hebert. “Kids will pick up on the most subtle cues, so it’s crucial to pay attention to the way you talk about your body and make sure that they understand how important it is to accept yourself for who you are.”