Happy New Year! Did you make any resolutions? Well if you did, you would not be alone. New Years resolutions can be great opportunities to make positive changes in various aspects of life. In my private practice, I often see a surge in new and established patients early in January seeking help with nutrition changes and weight management. Although each patient has an individualized plan, there are general guidelines that I find helpful in achieving the best results possible.
Secret of Achieving Your New Year Resolutions
To thine own self be true
By this, I mean that only you know what will work best for you when it comes to making lasting positive changes. Some people are really good at avoiding sweets and junk foods where others are tempted more easily. Increasing exercise can be simple for some while others simply cannot find the time. Wherever you land on this spectrum, it is important to work with that knowledge in making plans to move forward. Lessons learned from past efforts can give us much needed insight.
Consider it a lifestyle change…
Sometimes I feel like “diet” should be considered an offensive four-letter-word. It often has an unpleasant and negative connotation, so why not? We think of diets as quick fixes or grueling experiences undertaken to reach a short term goal only to be forgotten shortly after, giving way to the old habits that got us in the predicament in the first place! A lifestyle change is a little different. The mindset is different and that can make a huge impact on success rates. Making a lifestyle change means that we acknowledge that there are improvements that would make our lives better in the long run. It gives us permission to be intentional, methodical, creative and possibly even joyful as we begin to implement new ways to feel and be better.
If you resent it, it won't last
This really cannot be overemphasized. If we want to eat better and go about it by switching to foods we do not find appetizing or being overly restrictive for long periods of time, it is unlikely those changes will stick around long enough to help us reach our goals. The same goes for fitness goals and other behavioral changes. It is best to keep things relatively simple, manageable and hopefully enjoyable, to ensure some level of sustainability.
Make a habit of it
It can be time consuming and overwhelming to think of a new strategy every day. Turning changes into habits is a good thing. The more seamlessly a change fits into your life, the more likely you’ll be able to maintain it long-term. Some of us are better at this than others so it can be helpful to have a few options to choose from to keep us both engaged in the process but also moving forward.
Tips to Improve Your Health & Fitness This Year
WIth these ideas in mind, here are a few tips for improving health and fitness this year:
1. Practice moderation
If you are good are giving things up cold turkey, you may not need this advice. For the rest of us, it is helpful to start by initially reducing the intake of sweets, fatty and other junk foods while slowly incorporating healthier foods. Some of my favorites are greens but if you don’t like kale, don’t worry, you’ve got options. Generally, eating a variety of whole foods - vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and legumes - will get you quite far. To help maintain balanced blood sugar and energy levels, I recommend ensuring that you include protein into each meal and snack. If you feel like you could use a jump start, a mild detox can help reset the metabolism and get you primed to make other changes. This detox is a simple one that can be done over a weekend.
2. Go ahead and try new things
This could mean picking up something new at the grocery store or even preparing food in a new way. Cookbooks and online recipes have helped me a lot with this. If I am bored of the same old ingredients every week, I often search for new recipes that make my mainstays more appealing again. You might even consider signing up for newsletters or updates from a food blog. Nourishingmeals.com is one of my favorites!
3. Start low and go slow
It can be tempting to sign up for many new classes at the gym or a bootcamp or promise yourself to run/jog/practice yoga/lift weights etc... everyday from now on but have difficulty keeping it up over time. There is nothing wrong with making small, realistic goals and building upon them. I think this works best with fitness and exercise. Since many of us spend an inordinate amount of time sitting, both at work and during leisure time, perhaps a good place to start is with exercises that help undo the damage of sitting. No matter what your fitness goals are, remember that a little exercise can go a long way. A recent study showed that inactivity is more deadly than obesity and even 20 minutes of exercise can be beneficial. Simple energetic practices like yoga, tai chi and qi gong can offer great benefit, as well, for the mind, body and spirit.
4. Create community
There is a reason why people buy gym memberships, join running clubs and take exercise classes. It helps to have a sense of community and camaraderie while exercising. It can help keep us motivated. These measures are not necessary but it can be helpful to have at least one other person to share your journey toward improved health and fitness with. It also makes it a lot more enjoyable and, therefore, sustainable.
Keep your goals at the forefront of your mind by tracking and measuring your progress. This will also keep you motivated. You can maintain a list of short and/or long term goals posted somewhere you can often refer to it like a bathroom mirror or desk at work. There are also lots of apps and devices to choose from.
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015! Enjoy the process and all the progress you make!
Be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise programs.
Dr. Adeola Mead, ND is the Natural Choice Network's Healthy Living Content Coordinator. She is a Bastyr University graduate and Seattle based naturopathic physician. Dr. Mead is passionate about using natural medicine education as a powerful healing tool for both individuals and communities.