The year 2018 is barely a week old, and with its infancy people are embarking upon their New Year’s resolutions. A local media station recently interviewed me for my advice on this topic. What perfect inspiration for a blog post!
Should I even make a resolution?
It is never a bad time to start living a healthier life so if a resolution helps you, get on the bandwagon! The first of the year tends to mark a fresh start for people, the same way we might say we’ll make that change “next week” or “tomorrow.”
When deciding on a resolution, should I focus on nutrition or exercise first?
My wellness coach persona is screaming, “BOTH!” but I also understand that it can feel overwhelming to attack both categories at once. If you must choose, start with dietary changes first. We all have to eat; we cannot avoid it. When it comes to weight loss (an overwhelmingly common resolution) research supports dietary modifications over exercise. That said, eating right and physical movement compliment each other while serving distinct purposes for your body. If one can’t spare 30 minutes for a brisk walk, at least one can choose the grilled salmon with steamed veggies rather than its deep-fried and smothered counterpart.
How do I get started?
Step 1: Release any guilt or judgment held over from holiday indulgences. Just last week I noticed a friend’s social media post lamenting about letting things go “too far” over the holidays. On the contrary, my perspective was seeing shared moments of joy with family and friends, the photos bursting with laughter, celebration and glee.
Guilt will only erode those fun memories you’ve created in your past. You made decisions during those occasions, and you must trust that they were right for you at the time. Your next decision regarding health presents an opportunity to choose differently.
Step 2: Take a look at your environment. A big bag of my mom’s homemade cookies resided on my countertop following Christmas. Guaranteed that having them on full display was essentially like hanging a neon sign saying, “eat me” in my kitchen. Candy canes, cookies, and pumpkin-spiced-anything have a tendency to hang around long after the celebrations have come and gone.
Second, do you have healthful choices in your home? It’s a crazy concept, but keeping nourishing foods in your home vastly increases your chances of consuming them. Sketch out a weekly meal/snack plan, make a grocery list, and get to the store. Create an environment that makes the healthy choice the easy choice.
Step 3: Start. It doesn’t matter where you start, it matters that you do. If you’re the type of person who thrives on clear boundaries around eating, then go ahead and launch that extreme, fad, elimination diet. (I just threw up in my mouth a little typing that). While I am not an advocate of diet rigidity, I also understand that many people are empowered through food rules. These attractive programs can offer short-term success, but beware of the trade-offs: confusion about healthful eating at best, and negative health consequences at worst.
I prefer working with my clients to set SMART goals. For those of you who have never heard of this approach, here is a good primer. (I don’t like to re-create the wheel :-)
Sample goals my clients have stated are:
“Eat breakfast daily, including 20 grams of protein and a serving of fruit”
“Grocery shopping and prep 2 meals for the week on Sunday afternoon”
“Eat at least 3 servings of vegetables 5 days per week.”
How you track your goal is up to you, but if you make it measureable you need a way to actually measure it! I often recommend tracking food intake in an app or simply writing it down for this reason. However, some people don’t like attaching their progress to numbers in that way (i.e. counting calories.) Sticker charts, a grade sheet or even a simple scale of 1-10 on how well you did with each daily goal will do the trick.
A lifestyle of vitality isn’t all-or-nothing. There are no rules to follow. We are all different in mind and body. Some of us prioritize healthful behaviors and gravitate toward them naturally. Some of us would sooner walk barefoot through a thistle patch before consuming a vegetable we don’t like.
The lifestyle changes that will work for you are the ones you can stick with day in and day out, long after the New Year evolves into life as we know it. Now get out there and find the best version of you that 2018 can handle!