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How To Build Healthy Habits Without Overwhelm

fitness mindset nutrition
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When you're getting started with a new health and fitness routine and aiming for good balance, it can be overwhelming with so many different things to change. Nutrition, wellbeing, fitness, mindset... and all the mini goals that go with that!

Finding the right things to focus on amongst it all can be difficult when you lead a busy life. Here are some tips to help you get healthier while avoiding overwhelm.

One focus at a time

When we change too much at once, it's less likely to stick. We can generally keep it up for short periods of time, but when life changes hit it's all unlikely to unravel and we're left with a routine we can't maintain.

This includes things such as illness (for yourself or someone you look after), relationship changes, a shift in living arrangements, a change in seasons, travel, work or course deadlines, and other things or people who need more of your time.

Have a think about your current goals. If everything was to get too difficult, what's one key focus you could stick to? That is your main goal even if all else falls away, once you've got that, really flesh out your backup plan.

One focus at a time: Examples

For example, 'eating healthy' is probably too generalised which won't help when you're in overwhelm because that implies you're going to eat healthy all day everey day. What mini goal would make the biggest impact that you could absolutely do without a doubt? It could be something like one of the following (with the 'fleshing out' of it underneath).

  • Eating a balanced breakfast every day.
    • Have a few key go-to options.
    • Always have the ingredients to make it at home.
    • Wake up early enough so you have time to eat it slowly and mindfully.
    • Know what you'll do if you have to eat on the run.
    • Know what you'll do if you don't have time to prep it and have to purchase your breakfast from somewhere.

  • Hitting your vegetable serving targets.
    • Make sure you're regularly doing your produce shopping.
    • Always have frozen and/or tinned veges on hand in case you.
    • Consider what easy go-to vege snacks or sides you can incorporate into your normal routine in case your meals are lacking serves that day.
    • What meals can you add veges into to bump up your intake.
    • If you're not getting enough, what else could you do? A smoothie? A greens powder?
    • Consider pre-prepping your veges in advance if you're in a rush to prep later in the week. Tubs of carrot sticks, capsicum sticks, chopped onion etc. Perhaps even bags of pre-cut veges like mushrooms or courgette that you lay flat/spread out in the freezer until frozen, then you can easily grab a handful and chuck it into whatever meal you're making.

  • Making sure your cupboards are stockpiled with healthy foods so you can grab and go without thinking.
    • Taking the time to properly make your shopping list and do the food shopping.
    • Having the containers etc. to store everything properly.
    • Considering what you're most likely to grab on the go and whether it's appealing/easy to take with you.
    • Thinking about meal prepping such as baking or no-bake recipes for snacks for better budgeting and ingredient control. What recipes keep the longest or can you freeze?

  • Sticking to your carbohydrate portions.
    • Knowing what your carb portion should look like.
    • Measuring it out with whatever reference you use (we recommend using your hand to eyeball it).
    • Knowing your gameplan in case someone else is dishing it up for you or if you get a takeout meal that overserves carb portions.
    • Knowing what are low GI and high fibre carbohydrates to ensure you're eating better quality carbs for better energy levels.

See how much is involved even with just one smaller goal? That's more that enough to be directing your energy towards.

Once you manage to keep it up consistently, then try adding another mini goal and keep building them up as they become easier.

Do what you can

When we have a lot going on, it can be so easy to get caught up in things we have no control over. Yes, we can get frustrated or angry at what's affecting our ability to stay on track with our goals, but there's no point in dwelling on them too much because we can't do anything about them plus they add to our overwhelm.

Acknowledge the frustration, then refocus on what you can control instead. Then make sure you follow through.

Examples of things you can't control:

  • The weather.
  • A training partner not showing up, a gym class getting cancelled.
  • An important commitment taking over your usual workout time.
  • Food that someone else prepares (i.e. when travelling, someone else makes a meal, catered work brunch, a special event).
  • Getting sick.

Examples of things you can control:

  • Having a backup plan to keep moving anyway (to keep up your habit) even if the weather changes.
  • Knowing what you will do instead of training with a partner (train alone?) or your class being cancelled (another class? different activity?).
  • Rescheduling your workout to another day/time that suits.
  • Prepare the food that you can in other meals across your day, then if someone else serves you something outside your norm, stick to your mindful eating and portion sizes as best as possible. Go back to your usual routine afterwards.
  • Bolster your immune system with healthy practices, then if you get sick, actively take care of yourself to get better as fast as you can. Slip back into your routine (even if it's a reduced version of it) as soon as you can.

Start small

We've talked a bit about focusing on one small goal and breaking down your bigger ones. This is generally a good rule to follow - even when you're not overwhelmed. We want to have success with our goals (no matter how small they are) because that gives us motivation to keep moving forwards which in turn, gives us the long term consistency required to actually see the change take place. Those 'wins' that we continually achieve help our brain to respond positively to the habit change process.

If you've ever felt discouraged from not seeing progress fast enough, throw up your hands and give it up completely (on the bandwagon/off the bandwagon), this is important for you.

Ask for help

What are the sticking points for your overwhelm right now? Could you ask someone to help you out?

  • Not finding the time to train? Ask your partner/relatives/friends/workplace to help you set aside the time or support you in doing it.  
  • Not seeing the change you want? Get the help of a personal trainer, nutrition coach, dietician, sports specific trainer etc. to make sure you're on the right track and to hold accountable.
  • No budget for professional direct assistance? Consider group coaching/support or a social media support group (just try to avoid unsolicited advice from people who aren't trained to give it).

Remember, you don't need to get everything 'right' or perfect all the time; this is usually what causes the overewhelm. However, we do want to keep inching forward by 1% better each day.

Even if things aren't going according to plan, what's even just one small thing you could you do to help stay on track in whatever way you can? Give that your all, then tackle the big stuff again when you're feeling ready for it.

Image / Depositphotos.com

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