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Starting small means big changes when it comes to adopting healthy, lifelong habits.

Nearly 80 percent of folks forget their New Year’s resolution by February. Why? High, abstract goals and too little preparation, say researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

In a 2016 study of health-related New Year’s goals of over 2,000 participants, the study found that, more often than not, people’s heads and hearts start out in the right place. Yet most of us can’t maintain the new routines healthy living can require – especially if adopting habits “cold turkey”.   

Sticking with your health-related resolutions doesn’t have to be so difficult. Like any fitness, nutrition, or wellness goal, the key lies in small steps leading toward lifelong behavioral changes. We’ve listed a few of our healthy New Year’s favorites below, highlighting both realistic and achievable pieces that can lead you to a healthier tomorrow.        

Resolution 1: Eat one extra serving of fruits and veggies a day
Most Americans do not get remotely close to eating their recommended daily dose of fruits and veggies. I can’t stress enough the importance of fresh produce in your diet, and tell my patients time and time again to get their plates as colorful as possible. Make it a must to have at least two fruits and two vegetables in your fridge at all times, and pick one (or more!) to accompany each and every meal without exception. And please, don’t make it a serving of juice.          

Resolution 2: Hit 10K steps every day
You don’t need the fanciest of Fitbits to achieve this resolution. These days, step trackers are often included right on your smartphones. Many workplaces incentivize steps. And you could start a fun challenge amongst your friends or families for the most steps per day. So take those stairs, park in that far-corner spot, and schedule brief walking breaks or walking meetings during your nine-to-five days. Your body will thank you for it.       

Resolution 3: Get a standing desk at work
While you’re out there getting your 10K steps, why not inquire if your work allows standing desks? Research shows swapping your stationary chair for standing sessions can improve cardiovascular health, reduce back and neck pain, sharpen focus, and even increase productivity. If an adjustable desk isn’t in the budget this year, you can get creative by raising your computer onto a big box or crate so you can spend part of the day standing.       

Resolution 4: Make meals social events
Whether it’s Sunday family dinners, weekly coffee breaks with a friend, or lunches scheduled every day with coworkers, embrace the idea of meals as a mandatory time for socializing. The health benefits are both mental and physical: Those who eat with others show reduced levels of anxiety and stress, eat slower, digest better, and report higher levels of overall satisfaction with their days. Now those are resolutions we can get behind! So if you have been eating alone at your desk, consider other options.

Resolution 5: Swap your snacks
Those mid-morning hunger pangs and midnight cravings are there for a reason. Your body is looking for energy and vitamin and mineral boosts, which are often satisfied with bags of chips or granola bars that are no healthier than candy.

These choices are understandable. Packaged snacks are quick, convenient, and often cheap ways to fill between meals. Instead, change your snack game to embrace fruits, veggies, and high complex carb-protein foods with low processed sugars like nuts, seeds, oatmeal, and sugar snap peas.   

Resolution 6: Join a class
I know, I know. We’ve all heard – and maybe tried – this one before. New Year’s is the time gyms offer new membership deals and special packages. Yet they do so knowing it’s a quick way to make an extra buck, with most people paying lump sums ahead of time and then never showing up.

Instead of a broad, intimidating gym memberships, try out a month of yoga, Zumba, pilates, HIIT, bar fitness, or spin classes. Shop around to find a program or instructor you like. Tailor your class package to what fits your interests, not what makes you feel guilty or trapped in fees.      

Resolution 7: Adjust meal portions  
Let’s face it, portion control is something we all struggle with. Yet learning about a proper portion size is a simple and often forgotten New Year’s resolution. Try food journaling and researching the macro-nutritional suggestions (carbs, fats, and protein amounts) for your gender, age, size, and weight goal. You can even buy products like “portion plates” – plates and bowls that literally label appropriate serving sizes to make portion control quick and easy.     

Resolution 8: Learn a mindfulness technique
There’s a serious problem when 8 out of 10 Americans report that they’re stressed out. The new year offers a great time to embrace intentional mindfulness, growing more self-aware of stress and anxiety triggers and learning healthy coping strategies such as deep breathing, stretching, journaling, or meditation. There are a lot of apps that teach meditation, including HeadSpace, which offers 10 free sessions for your smart phone.

Resolution 9: Drop the cigarettes
We all know the serious health concerns of smoking, just as we know the serious challenge it can be to quit. Yet as one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, quitting smoking can be an empowering and life-changing health goal to take day by day. Outline how you can begin to wean your cigarette intake, reach out for social support, and keep track of the things that cause your cravings, adjusting your behavior accordingly.   

Resolution 10: Get more sleep
The benefits of a full eight hours of rest affect every cell of your body. It is a critical factor to supporting your health and yet a widespread wellness mishap. Just as you schedule many other parts of your day, make it a habit to schedule hard “stops” for rest, naps, and bedtime. Not only will this  naturally boost your energy, but it will improve your mood, memory, organ functions, attention, and so much more.

Which of these health resolutions can you get behind this year?

If you would like expert advice on personal meal planning and coaching, Digestive Care Specialists offer nutrition counseling services. Schedule an appointment by calling 301-288-1319.