The New Year is quickly coming upon us and the idea of a “new year” alone can make us a bit apprehensive. We begin to recollect our hopes, dreams, and goals from the year prior and think, “Did I actually accomplish what I set out to accomplish this year, or did I sell myself short?”
The first week of the New Year is always easiest to stick to your goals. We place our new intentions at the forefront of our lives. We basically divide and conquer. However, too often, once we see physical evidence of our success, we tend to have “cheat days” for our goals: especially when it comes to our health and fitness goals. This is when our honest intention of incorporating health and fitness into our daily lives slip from beneath our fingertips and we blame this hiatus of “cheat days” on life’s daily challenges.
Making clear health and fitness goals for the new year is more than just hoping for your “beach body” to reappear; its about making sure that you have your health for your own benefit. Too many of us take our health for granted. When we are healthy, we assume that our current condition is how life will always be for us. Again, this is why we rationalize those “cheat days”. In order to value our health, we must first recognize that we are not invincible.
When you make the decision to put yourself first, you are giving the most beloved gift to your spouse, family, and friends, so if you’re up for the challenge: here are 10 “no fail” ways to attain your health and fitness goals for the New Year.
10.) Make a health/fitness schedule every Sunday: Every Sunday, take just one hour out of your day to ensure that your upcoming week sets you up for success when it comes to your health and fitness goals. Optimal weight loss occurs when you can work out for six days a week for 50-60 minutes each. While this may seem overwhelming to some, it is actually quite manageable. Get creative. Maybe one day you decide to take a late night walk with your spouse after work and maybe the next day you engage in 50 minutes of dance exercise at the comfort of your own home with the Youtube sensation, the “Fitness Marshall”. While we all have work and family obligations that we need to attend to, it is essential that we are able to include time for ourselves into our workweek in order to ensure that we stay balanced.
In addition, on Sundays it is beneficial to consider the meals that will be needed for the following week and to make sure that you have the necessary ingredients. It is often when we are not sure what to eat or we are hungry after a long day’s work that we grab whatever food is available. These foods are often microwaved dinner, chips, and candybars and these foods are also the same foods that prevent us from losing weight due to their sugar, salt, and fat content.
9.) Let go of dairy: I know, the thought that is currently racing through your head is “no ice cream, cheese, and milk ???”. However, dairy products are filled with hormones, anti-biotics, and saturated fats, which leave us feeling frustrated when we can’t loose weight on our diets. We often mistakes foods, such as yogurt, for health foods, when it reality they are just packing on the pounds. If dairy products are a part of your daily life, then don’t worry: there are tons of amazing dairy-free substitutes for cheese, ice-cream, and yogurt. Check out the brands Daiya Foods, Follow Your Heart, and So Delicious for your favorite dairy-based foods in a guilt-free fashion.
8.) Make it fun: In order for working out to be a part of your life the form of exercise that you choose needs to interest you to ensure that your workout does not feel like a task. Nowadays, just about any hobby can be made into an exercise. Enjoy a walk outdoors while talking to your best friend on the telephone, enjoy a Yogalates (combination of Yoga and Pilates) class at your local gym, a beginner hip-hop class at your local dance studio, or if you’re like me, you’ll often find yourself letting off some steam at the gym.
7.) Practice portion control: Can you relate to this situation? You are watching TV with a bag of pretzels and all of a sudden you look down after your television show is over and the whole bag of pretzels is gone?! This is because too often we eat as a hobby or as a form of stress relief. We eat on dates, we eat during holiday parties, and we tend to snack after work just because we can. As human beings who thrive on a sense of community, we tend to associate food with a sense of community, instead of food as a way to nourish our bodies. The next time you find yourself “bindge eating”, I encourage you to pause for a minute and ask yourself if you are actually hungry or if you are eating as a form of stress relief?
The best way to encourage portion control is to place the amount of food that you would like to eat on your plate and to put the rest of the food away in the pantry or in the refrigerator. This prevents that situation where you are watching your favorite TV show and due to mindless eating, after one episode the entire bag is gone. In addition, if you are the type of person who enjoys eating “seconds” and “thirds”, you can use a smaller plate to make your plate seem visually packed with food or you can separate your food in half onto two different plates to mimic eating a second portion.
6.) Incorporate stress management: Believe it or not the stress that builds up in your body after your work week can build up and retain fat within your core. Chris Kresser, a national leader in the field of Ancestral Health, or the Paleo diet, states that stress has the ability to raise your blood sugar, makes you crave sugar, “makes your cells less sensitive to insulin”, and “increases the rate at which you store fat”. Therefore, when we take the stress from work home, which we are all guilty for at some point or another, we are putting extra weight on our bones without even consuming food. Make sure you surround yourself with positive people, separate your work life from your home-life, and have effective ways to relieve your stress such as yoga, taking a healthy walk to unwind, or even the latest stress-relieving trend: meditative coloring.
5.) Avoid saturated fats: Food companies that mass-produce foods, such as fast foods companies, pack our foods with what is called, saturated fats. Saturated fats raise the level of cholesterol in your blood, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. This means that we should be cutting beef, butter, whole milk, and cream out of our diets.
However, it is important to realize that “good fats” not only exist, but are pertinent to our weight-loss. These fats actually help to reduce heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. Foods in the unsaturated fat category are almonds, avocados, nut butters, vegetable oil, and fish. Katherine Zerastky, RD at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota states, “Have a small amount of fat at every meal”. She continues to add, “It digests slowly, so you’ll feel satisfied for a longer period of time, and you’ll eat less overall.” Therefore, don’t forget to include your daily dose of unsaturated fats into your diet.
4.) Incorporate the smoothie: Of course, we’ve all had a smoothie before, but the smoothies that are sold in the food court of your favorite mall are packed with sugar, saturated fats, and fruit covered in syrup. Smoothies are the ultimate breakfast food because zero (yes, you heard me right) foods that are incorporated into a smoothie will promote weight-gain. In actuality, they promote weight-loss. Therefore, unlike meals such as waffles and pancakes that contain gluten and are topped with sugary syrup, the proper smoothie is packed with so many nutrients that your body needs to sustain energy, prevent illness, lose weight, and even have glowing skin. For some healthy smoothie recipes, check out The No Meat Athlete.
3.) Make it a lifestyle, not a diet: Let’s be honest. Nobody likes a diet. I don’t like to diet, but it’s something that we all consider when we are frustrated by not seeing evidence of our efforts towards weight-loss. Diets continually fail because we feel restricted. Diets are also unrealistic because when you go out to eat, it is difficulty to ask your waiter how many “points” your meal is, or how much the meat that they put onto your plate weighed. The best weight loss results occur when you decide to make health a lifestyle. Cutting out fatty meats, diary, and saturated fats all around will promote a healthier lifestyle. Incorporating short, but daily, workouts into your lifestyle will promote weight-loss and leave you feeling healthier, energized, and more confident than ever.
2.) Ask for support: Making a healthy lifestyle change is quite difficult when your friends and family don’t outwardly support it. Of course your loved ones won’t come out and say they think your new healthy lifestyle is ridiculous, however, continually leaving cookies around the house basically has the same effect. In order for you to achieve weight-loss success, you need to live the healthy lifestyle that has been discussed. Therefore, your best friend who loves going out to eat at the local steakhouse should reconsider your Friday night tradition for you, and maybe your significant other can jump on the health bandwagon as well to make date-nights a healthier habit.
1.) Let go of soda and soft drinks: Soda and soft drinks are “silent but deadly” contributors to weight-gain. In our minds, they are just drinks, so they can’t be causes us to gain weight in the same way that consuming fast-food does, when it reality, your soft drink can be just as many calories, if not more than your meal. For example, one Peppermint Hot Chocolate drink at Starbucks is 390 calories. Instead of consuming a hot chocolate you could instead indulge in these 14 Filling dinners for 400 Calories or Less.
Whether you are a fitness fanatic or brand new to the health scene, it is scientifically proven that incorporating these ten fitness tips into your lifestyle will bring upon some serious weight-loss results. You will be filled with energy and will have more confidence than ever, but most importantly, you will be your best “you”, because after-all, that’s what we all deserve, right?