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For when your head & heart need a little something to keep up a healthy 2018

Sometimes, the idea maintaining your New Year’s Resolution can seem more daunting than the resolution itself.

Healthy eating, fitness, and all-around wellbeing resolutions take the cake on this. (Apologies to the folks trying to cut down on the cake. That reference probably doesn’t help.) Yet I’m here to remind you if there’s a will, there’s a way. And those ways are often smaller and simpler than we think.

Give yourself a little credit this new year. Healthier living doesn’t happen overnight, and they’re often more about adjusting our mindset and taking practical steps for lifelong habits. Every little action goes a long way. And when it comes to maintaining those resolutions, we’ve got some bite-sized bits to help you stay the course.

Fitness & Exercise Resolutions

1. Adjust your thinking
It’s so easy to look in the mirror and pick out what you don’t like. It’s far healthier – and more functional – to curb those thoughts or follow them immediately with reminders that you’re actually doing pretty great things for yourself.

Instead of saying you look ugly, or fat, or guilting yourself for eating a second helping of carbonara, or getting angry you’re not seeing perfect “results,” remind yourself you’re human. Recognize these unhealthy thoughts for exactly what they are — unhealthy — and counter them with a positive thought, compliment, or a good fitness choice you made recently. It may sound silly, but these are psychological hacks that boost long-term commitment.

Just as you have to train the muscles of your body to get in shape, you have to train your mind to get in the groove as well. And it will take time, just as it should.

2. Schedule workouts to actually fit your day, not complicate it
Too often I hear individuals giving up on exercise because they can’t fit it into their day.

That tension is understandable. Busy adults most likely only have time for workouts in the wee early hours of the morning (before work) or in the wee hours of the night (after work, family, and household obligations). This can make exercise feel bookended, something you have to get out of the way before the “real” day can begin or close.

If morning or night workouts “work” for you — by all means, do them! But if not, don’t be afraid to schedule those midday power walks, afternoon yoga sessions, lunch pilates, runs, and more. Can’t work out on Tuesdays and Thursdays because you take the kids to soccer? Need Saturdays for groceries and laundry? No problem. Use those as rest days, and be intentional about them. Your time is yours. Take ownership of it.

3. Yes, have some fun
If you’re bored doing the same thing day in and day out, or dread heading to the gym, or find the same muscles are sore while others seem hardly worked, it may be time to hit reset on your routine.

Even the most dedicated fitness experts need a dash of variety in their sweat sessions. Plus, trying new and fun workout styles or classes leads to seeing exercise as a social time, one with accountability partners and motivational friends.

So try out a HIIT-style obstacle course. Take dance classes. Sign up for a week of that new ballet-pilates-yoga fusion class at the Y. Go on weekend hikes. Your routines quickly become less mandatory and more like an active, engaging part of your life.

Nutrition Resolutions

1. Take it slow
If your New Year’s Resolution has you cutting carbs, eating fewer sweets, sticking to a certain diet, or anything in the food-related family — start off slow!

The quickest way to dump healthy eating habits is to make it too restrictive. Instead of cutting “bad” foods out cold turkey, take gradual steps and research healthier swaps to get your bearings. If you’re cutting carbs, try eliminating them just one meal a day to begin. Only eat dessert on weekends, rather than every single night. Swap teas and black coffee for processed sports drinks or expensive, frothy brews. Look up “healthier” versions of your favorite treats, and experiment with them at home. Try a new unprocessed snack every week. Drink lots of water. And never forget you’re in this for the journey to a better you, and that journey isn’t a grandiose leap. It’s simply putting one foot in front of the other.

2. Cook at home
Home-cooked meals may seem like a thing of the past. But time and time again, research shows the surprising physical and mental benefits of actually using your kitchen.

People who regularly cook at home (about 3-5 meals prepared a week) consume fewer calories, less sodium, less sugar, less “bad” carbs and fats, and less processed foods than their dining-out counterparts. They report higher levels of happiness and decreased levels of stress. They eat proper portions. Cooking dinner once or twice a week has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A 2012 study from Cambridge found that those who cook more meals at home even live longer than those who don’t. Oh, and it also saves you money. Lots of it.

Even during our busiest of days, the facts don’t lie. Americans spend more time each day watching TV then they do cooking. 2018 is a great time to balance this.

3. Make meals social
If home-cooked meals are nostalgic memories, then family meals with everyone at the table seem like ancient history.

In the U.S., roughly half of all meals are reportedly eaten alone. Only 33 percent of families say they sit down to eat together, and that’s for a once-a-week dinner. What’s more, solitary meals means speedier eating, with solo meals clocking it around 10 minutes only. Group meals, by comparison, average about 3-4 times that, aiding slower digestion and better nutrient absorption.

Turning your meals into intentional interpersonal time lends itself to other perks, too. You experience the benefits of social and communal bonds, build connection, and are less likely to report feelings of stress and anxiety. What’s more, eating with loved ones means eating becomes dynamic and fun — something to slow down, set time aside, and actually look forward to amidst an active and healthy lifestyle.

4. Track your progress daily, not abstractly
If your goal is to “lose weight,” it won’t happen. Why? Because you’re jumping the gun to start with an abstract ideal, not actionable daily steps you can grasp every single day.

I can’t stress this enough. If you want to see health-related results from food (and exercise), then you need to literally “see” the plan every single day. Use an app, website, or food journal to stay on top of your daily meals. Be honest about your portions and calorie intake, and record highs and lows, triumphs and foodie challenges. Schedule days for indulgences, that way ensuring you won’t feel guilty and knocked off track when you partake. Make every week a little bit better than the last.

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