Many of us focus on getting back on the straight and narrow with exercise and eating at this time of year. ... Some of us call them New Year’s resolutions. But the problem with these resolutions is that they don’t tend to go very far into the said new year.
So rather than resolving to lose 30 pounds, to become an avid Crossfitter or to go Paleo, I would encourage you to focus on the bigger picture: health.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few thoughts on how you might best invest your precious time and energy.
Find your ‘WHY?’
What is at the heart of why you want to be fit and healthy? Focus on the process of enabling that “why,” and you’re apt to feel a purpose along each step of the way and retain your motivation.
Perhaps you want to have the energy to fulfill a specific sense of purpose, accomplish a goal or overcome a particular obstacle. Maybe you’re simply seeking to stay healthy so that you can enjoy the gift of life.
Whatever your why may be, I encourage you to think of self-care as something you need in your life. It’s not merely about losing weight or looking a particular way. Rather, it’s about investing in your health so you can live life to the fullest.
Choose your food wisely
Avoid dieting or anything you can’t permanently maintain. What you don’t maintain, you will regain. Focus your energy on eating a sustainable, well-balanced diet. Consider food to be the fuel for your journey: What are you going to put in your tank so that you can go the distance?
Keep the basic tenets of nutrition in mind:
▪ Take in a lot of veggies, fruits, whole grains, quality protein, healthy fats and water.
▪ Make the majority of your food choices things that are plants, not things that are made in plants (to paraphrase famed food writer Michael Pollan).
▪ Eat intuitively in accordance with your hunger, and avoid eating for reasons such as boredom or stress.
To avoid getting sick this winter, consider food to be your preventative medicine (along with frequent hand-washing!). A short list of specific foods that may be of particular benefit to your immune system include:
▪ salmon and tuna
▪ nuts and seeds
▪ eggs (including the yolk)
▪ yogurt and other fermented foods (kefir, sauerkraut, etc.)
▪ citrus fruits
▪ wheat germ
▪ leafy greens
▪ sweet potatoes
▪ bell peppers
You don’t have to be a triathlete or even set foot in a gym — just move. Do something you can enjoy and realistically sustain. Even small bouts of moderate physical activity have great benefits for physical and mental health.
Exercise doesn’t need to be intense or last for hours in order to promote healthy blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A study spanning 12 years and involving more 330,000 adults showed that when compared to those who were more sedentary, people who walked 20-plus minutes a day had a significantly lower likelihood of premature death. (This study first appeared in 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.)
What do you enjoy — or at least find tolerable? Perhaps swimming or chasing your kids or grandkids? Consider taking a walk or a yoga class, doing laps in the mall, working in the yard or shoveling the drive. Aim for several days a week of some form of activity — anything you can enjoy that gets your heart beating faster.
Keep stress in check
It’s easy to talk about reducing stress, but it’s often difficult to actually do it. A few things to keep in mind if you struggle to keep stress at a healthy level:
▪ Focus on your priorities. If sifting through what should come first feels daunting, ask yourself: Will this matter in a week? In a year? In a decade?
▪ Flex your “no” muscle. Boundaries serve us well in diminishing stress.
▪ Exercise. It’s key in dealing with stress because it rids us of tension and alleviates the detrimental effects of stress on our bodies.
Get enough sleep
We all know we don’t feel good or function optimally when we don’t get enough rest. Did you know that sleeping too little can also make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight?
Our bodies make more of our hunger hormones (namely ghrelin) and less of our satiety hormones (namely leptin) when we are sleep-deprived. We can’t simply force ourselves to sleep more, but do what you can to get the sleep you need.
With all the focus on New Year’s resolutions and weight loss that we are inundated with at this time of year, stay focused on small and realistic steps you can take to boost your health.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, which (according to Voltaire) can be the enemy of the good. Instead, remind yourself that the decent plan you follow is better than the perfect one you abandon.
Happy New Year and cheers to good health!
Maggie Williamson is a health and fitness coach, NASM-certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist and weight-loss specialist. She has a master’s degree in social work and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Williamson’s business, BoiseStrongMom.com, specializes in working with women seeking to improve their overall health and well-being.