Happy New Year my friends! I know a large percentage of you are probably making some sort of resolution to eat better, exercise more, and just improve your all around health this month. We all start the year off with good intentions. We plan out how we can overhaul our diet, cut out every bad food we can think of, and start hitting the gym hard every single day. While it’s great to have health at the forefront of our minds when thinking of ways we can improve ourselves, making such drastic changes to our lifestyle is only going to set us up for disaster.
I want to talk about ways that we can change our health habits for the better this New Year and also how we can get those changes to stick. The key to making any habits stick is to start slowly and ease into it. I want to share with you my top six tips to help you stick to your new health goals this year.
- Get rid of the junk food in your house
- Focus on what you can eat, not what you can’t
- Only focus on one dietary change per week, or even per month
- Don’t plan to exercise every day
- Choose movement you enjoy
- Learn to love yourself just the way you are
Get Rid Of The Junk Food In Your House
This one will really help you when you’re first coming off your food/sugar addictions. If something isn’t around for you to grab and think about, you won’t be eating it. Throw out any processed food in your pantry as well as any foods in your refrigerator that you know you probably shouldn’t be eating. Get rid of the sweets, the chips, etc. and stock your shelves and refrigerator with whole, nutrient dense food.
Focus On What You Can Eat, Not What You Can’t
I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me I can’t do something I just want to do it even more. It’s the anti-authority side of me that gets me in trouble every time. Tell me I can’t have alcohol? I’m going to drink at least a whole bottle of wine to myself on a Wednesday night. Tell me I can’t eat ice cream? I’ll probably eat a whole pint in one sitting. Rules just do not work for me, and I think a lot of you out there can relate. It’s hard to think you can’t have something because then you focus on that one thing all the time and end up wanting it even more.
I have spent years creating these stupid rules for myself and I finally cut that crap out. I no longer have rules for what’s off limits. I can eat whatever and whenever I want. And what I want is to feel energetic, vibrant and happy. Eating junk food isn’t going to get me there, so I focus on what things I can eat instead.
What makes you feel good when you eat it? I’m guessing it’s probably fresh vegetables, high quality protein sources and maybe some starchy tubers and fruits. Try to think of how you can include more of these in each of your meals because you will soon find yourself full and not craving the junk. Grocery shop accordingly by loading up on all the healthy foods you love.
Tell yourself, if I eat this healthy meal, I can eat whatever I want after that if I’m actually still hungry and craving that (bad) thing. Chances are, you’re probably going to be full and not thinking about whatever bad food it was that you couldn’t stop thinking about 20 minutes ago.
Focusing on all the ways to nourish your body is a much more positive mindset than focusing on what you cannot have.
Only Focus On One Dietary Change Per Week (Or Even Per Month)
It can be overwhelming, or even unbearable to completely change your diet all at once. Take small steps to a healthier you by focusing on only making one change to your diet per week, or even per month if you need a little more time. Start off by pinpointing your most problematic food and move from there. Cutting out or adding in one thing is mentally very manageable and doesn’t overwhelm.
It took me years of playing with Paleo before I went all in and even still I allow myself some non-paleo foods from time to time. Big changes don’t happen over night and if you only have one change that week to focus on, you’ll be able to tackle it much easier.
Don’t Plan To Exercise Every Day
In my many year’s experience in fitness, I have seen far too many people attempt to go from couch-potato to fitness-buff in a matter of weeks. They buy themselves new workout clothes, get a gym membership, go hard for a couple weeks, lose steam and end off back where they started, on a couch with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Creating a new habit is difficult and takes time. Forcing yourself into an extreme routine every day isn’t going to help you create life-long behaviors, and if anything, it’s going to burn you out and turn you off from exercise.
The easiest way to create the healthy habit of frequent exercise is to start slowly and build from there. Find the days and time that will work for you, and schedule it in your calendar just like any appointment. If you are not currently doing any form of exercise, try adding in a 30 minute walk just twice a week (or any form of exercise that you enjoy). The following week, maybe try to increase that to three days per week. The next week, try adding in either a fourth day OR increase your time. Keep making these slow but steady increases to your routine until you’ve found a routine that works well for you and ensures you are getting some form of activity in most days of the week.
Choose Movement You Enjoy
If you’re trying to include more exercise in your life but you’re not enjoying the activity that you’re doing, it really defeats the purpose. Exercise should bring us joy and happiness, and be a celebration of what our bodies are capable of. It is not a punishment or a way to earn the food that we eat. Your weight loss goals should be mostly achieved through what goes into your mouth, and exercise is simply a way to help keep our muscles, bones and joints strong as well as helping us with stress relief.
I personally have been guilty of thinking that I needed to choose very intense or specific forms of exercise that I did not enjoy because I thought that was what I needed to do to look and feel my best. I was miserable, hated going to the gym, always felt depleted, and even struggled to maintain my weight. It was only after I said screw it and started doing what I wanted for exercise that I really started to enjoy and look forward to my workouts.
Somedays I’m in the mood for something intense, so I’ll do a CrossFit style workout. Other days I’d rather lift weights and do a more traditional body-building style workout. Some days I want to go for a long run, and other days all I feel like doing is going for a walk. And guess what, THAT IS OKAY. You can do whatever kind of exercise you want, as long you enjoy it. Typically what I’ve found works best for me is to have specific days that I work out, and I wait until that day to decide what I’m going to do based on what I’m feeling like that day.
There are so many options out there, just find something you like and do it!
Learn To Love Yourself Just The Way You Are
This is the most important, and why I saved it for last. Remember, you are not making these changes because you hate yourself, you are making them because you love yourself! You are beautiful, intelligent, funny, one of a kind, and most of all you deserve to be happy and healthy.
Every morning when you wake up, look in the mirror, smile at yourself and say “I love you, you are worth it”. This relates back to having a positive mindset. You are not punishing yourself through exercise and you are not starving yourself. You are choosing to celebrate your body by moving it in ways that you enjoy, and feeding it nourishing food that makes you feel your best. Learn to embrace the way you look and feel now, and know that it can only get better from here. I know it’s cliché but “slow and steady wins the race”. The goal is lifelong changes and we have our entire lives to get there. Not to say push it off for another day, but know that change takes time and it’s the small changes that happen each and every day that add up to surmountable changes.
It’s really great that you’ve decided to make changes to better yourself this year but remember to take things slow, enjoy the ride, and don’t stress if you’re not perfect. Remember, you’re awesome and you got this!!