“I know first-hand how hard it is to break bad habits. Along with changing our bad ones, we must create new ones. I didn’t wake up one day with my physique, and I don’t expect you to get in the best shape of your life in days, weeks, or even months. To change for the better in all areas of our life we must change daily from the inside out. This is why I created 21 Habits In 21 Days.” – Ben Booker
The 21 Day Routine and Practice
1. First of all, identify your goal, aspirations, and intentions and affirm them. You must make them a priority and make them real all at the same time. Do you really want to lose the weight and get healthy, or is it just a good idea for your family? It must be for you first and the benefits of helping others around you will come after you make the change.
2. Once you commit, write it down and stare at it. Look it over and study it, even if it is just a sentence or a statement. Make it real in your mind and on paper.
3. Then, why… why do you want to do this? Whatever it is, put a reason by it. Mine began with wanting to become a better me, then led to becoming a good father and husband, and then fitness model, etc. Set a goal, reach it, and set a new one. Do it for you.
4. Get honest with yourself and realize your main diversions. Your first simple goal is to focus on 21 days. Pick your major weakness and try every day to create something that stops you from that bad habit. Sometimes you have to change the people you are with, the places you frequent, and the things you do. Remove yourself from the negativity.
5. Recognize and celebrate each success no matter how small. This will help you to surround yourself with the people that bring out the best in you. Build a support system that can motivate you even when you are not willing.
The 21 Habits
1. Drink 64 ounces of water a day
Staying hydrated promotes fat loss by flushing toxins out of vital organs. Begin replacing one cup of coffee, an energy drink, or soda with a glass of water and work your way up to eight, 8 ounce glasses of water every day.
2. Limit alcohol (2 drinks or less a day)
Drink no more than two alcoholic beverages a day, or remove it completely. If you drink alcohol in excess, it acts as a diuretic. It will make you lose electrolytes, produce more lactic acid, and can cause low motivation and fatigue during workouts. Alcohol can impair protein synthesis, drop levels of testosterone produced, and increase cortisol (a hormone that destroys muscle), not to mention the added calories.
3. Replace one non-healthy activity with a workout
Often times it is a TV show, getting to bed early to wake up 45 minutes early, or just making time over lunch. Begin to make a set schedule that will define the exact time you work out. This should include an option A, B and C. I exercise at noon when I can (Plan A), or after I tuck the kids in at night around 8:30 (plan B). If I know this will not work, I go to bed early and wake up early in the morning. Schedule and plan ahead!
4. Eat 20+ grams of protein per meal
Using this as a rule of thumb will force you to make better choices when you’re out to eat, in the grocery store, and meal planning. You can add a protein shake to a meal to reach this goal.
5. Stay on the outside isle of the grocery store
When you go grocery shopping and create a new list for your home, I challenge you to try this next time you are there. Commit to only buying fresh foods and products on the outside and see what happens. Let me know if you go hungry!
6. Read food labels before eating
This is a simple step that involves you looking at the label before you put it into your cart. Begin with an understanding of what calories, protein, carbs, and fats are and then move to how many of those you should be consuming per day. After that you can begin implementing more specific strategies like staying away from synthetic and processed foods. Learn what your body is consuming.
7. Never skip breakfast
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and one of the most important ones. People believe skipping breakfast helps with fat loss, and they couldn’t be farther from the truth. By skipping breakfast your body can compensate by slowing metabolism because it senses famine. This can lead to binge eating and poor food choices, which leads to weight gain and frustration.
8. Trade one bad meal for one good meal
I eat the same 6 whole eggs, two pieces of cinnamon raisin bread, and one piece of American cheese virtually every morning. This is my habit meal. Make an effort to change one of your meals into a healthy habit meal.
9. Create a meal plan and stick to it
Whether it is 3 meals a day, or 8, find out what works best for you and stick to it. The number of meals you eat a day is far less important than what is in them. Research has not yet clearly determined that more meals with smaller portions is better for weight loss. The most important thing is to get the required calories and macronutrients in throughout the day.
10. Add fish and Omega-3 fatty acids to your nutrition
Fish are not only a great source of protein, but they have Omega-3 fatty acids and many other essential nutrients, that can lower the risk of heart disease. Fish such as Salmon, herring and tuna are high in two kinds of Omega-3 fatty acids.
11. Replace junk snacks with healthy snacks
Many of us have a snack or drink that we have mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Replace the traditional junk food that is high in fat, with a healthy choice. I carry protein bars and protein shakes with me at all times to fight back the cravings. Find a healthy snack and keep it handy.
12. Choose wheat over white
Wheat and whole grain foods have a much higher nutritional value and higher fiber than refined-grain. By making whole grains a part of your daily diet studies show that it can lower your risk to develop cardiovascular disease. Stay away from white and refined, and begin choosing wheat.
13. Take 5 minutes to recharge every hour
Even if you have to set a phone alarm, begin to take 5 minutes every work hour to allow yourself to regroup. If this is not possible, group the minutes together and take that time in one lump sum during work or an 8 hour day. I often throw some headphones in with my favorite song and reflect for a minute. How is my day going, am I on track with my goals? If not what can I do to redirect them? Get passionate and get real. It puts a smile on my face and puts my focus on what needs the most attention. These 5 minutes can change your life.
14. Help someone else
Start with taking time once a week to focus on someone, other than a family member, and work your way up to once a day. When my mind isn’t working right and I begin to struggle, I drop everything and go talk to someone else. For me it is giving them tips on health and fitness. I try to maintain eye contact and really focus on their needs. Once I realize I have made a difference, most of the time I am less stressed and better focused.
15. Remove enablers
When I quit drinking I had to rethink who my friends were. What I found was a huge support system in the real friends I had, and the mass amount of acquaintances that could not believe I quit drinking. The old saying is “Misery loves company.” Whether it is drinking, smoking, overeating, or overindulging in any way, there is usually an accomplice. Sometimes the ones we think are true friends are the worst enablers. Figure out who these people are and begin to remove them from your inner circle. Focus on adding a strong group of people that promote healthy living.
16. Avoid Temptation
That route you drive home that just happens to have your favorite fast food restaurant on it can be avoided by changing your drive. For me it was avoiding the bars, for others it might be avoiding stores, a place of recreation, or even some work spaces. Again, it is a marathon and not a sprint. Although this can be a tough one to do, it is a crucial step in our success.
17. Take progress pictures
I recommend taking one every two weeks. You do not have to show anyone else these pictures, but it will hold you accountable. Not only that, but often times we are our worst critics and feel we are making little progress. By putting these pictures side by side we can wow ourselves. Do this as you begin to change your life and I guarantee that you will show these pictures proudly to others down the road.
18. Find someone to hold you accountable
This could be as simple as finding someone that you are able to voice your strengths and weaknesses to and talk often about your goals. Eventually I would like to see you find someone that will workout side by side with you. This will come as you begin to inspire others. Find that one person that is your support, your rock, a person that believes in you even when you do not believe in yourself. Find this person and ask them to help you in your journey.
19. Sleep 6 to 9 hours a day
Research has shown that sleeping too little or too much can have the same negative effects on weight control. Make it a habit to get an average of 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Sleeping a little more is a bonus, and a little less won’t hurt, but the habit of running on 5 hours of sleep or less, or sleeping 12 hours a day is just not acceptable.
20. Leave work at work
If I am honest this is the habit I struggle with the most, balance. We must be able to step away from work, training, or the passion of a calling and focus on our loved ones. We must be able to balance our life. Fitness is meant to enhance our quality of life, not take it over. Work is meant to provide for our loved ones, not take love away. Working smarter, not necessarily harder, to build strong healthy relationships, is a habit worth fighting for.
21. Remain humble
The most impressive gains in my life have been achieved in the periods that I am the most humble. After I became sober I began to relearn my mental, emotional, and spiritual strengths. That process had me on my knees and continues to humble me. Understanding who I was and becoming the person I wanted to be, was a long road of apologizing and forgiveness. Never forget where you came from. Humility can simply be looked at as remaining teachable. As soon as we think we have learned it all, it can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Today I live one day at a time, with few regrets, and a future yet to explore. Take it as it comes letting humility be the guiding light on your journey to finding your true potential, your true self, your true destiny.