Be infinitely flexible and constantly amazed.Jason Kravitz
You’ve been here before. A fresh new year approaches, and you gear up to do the thing you you want to do: lose 50 pounds, run a marathon, summit a mountain, cycle a century. And while you let the start slide to January 2, afterall, January first IS a holiday, sometimes you stay on track until February before you throw up your hands and wait for another start to come around. It doesn’t have to be that way. These 5 tips will help you make this the year you make meaningful, lasting progress toward your wellness goals.
Go Back to Basics with Sleep
Let’s face it. Exhausted, stressed-out people have a hard time getting through a typical day, let alone making progress toward big goals. So, before you lace up your running shoes for your first jog, make sure your body is rested and ready to go. To function well, most adults need a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep. I mean every night, not just one. Yes, you have laundry to do and meals to plan and kids to raise, but you will do all of those things more efficiently if you are well-rested. Set a bedtime routine and stick to it. Power down all your screens at 9 p.m. in anticipation of a 10 p.m. bedtime. Clear your bedroom of distractions. Look around your bedroom to make sure it dark, quiet and cool for the best quality sleep. Have a snoring partner? Buy some ear plugs. (And remember that you can love them and still sleep in another room occasionally if you get higher quality rest.)
Build Small, Consistent Healthy Practices into Every Day
While it’s great to set audacious goals, if you haven’t walked around the block for several months, the odds of running a 5K next month are probably slim. So while you keep that big goal in mind, build small changes into each day to help build confidence, stamina and success. Use “spaces” such as ads during your episodes of your favorite series or the 10 minutes you wait for the coffee to brew to do some stretches, build muscle with some inexpensive hand weights or drink an extra glass of water. Take the stairs at work or at the mall even if it’s just one flight to start with. Spend 5 minutes of your lunch break each day with a quick walk around the parking lot or inside the building. Small things matter. Commit to the small changes, and the big ones will follow.
Throw Out the “Rules”
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
“Drink enough water to equal half your body weight in ounces each day.”
Rules can help direct us. They give us boundaries and keep us safe. But some of the rules we’ve learned about food may not be serving us well any more. Maybe you aren’t hungry in the morning, but you eat out of habit. And once you start eating, you continue to eat until bedtime. So what if you tried skipping breakfast to see how it impacts your hunger? Do your internal rules say that only sustained exercise is worthwhile but your schedule prevents you from finding an hour each day to run so you don’t do any exercise at all? What if you tried an experiment where you walked up and down a flight of stairs every hour to see if you feel stronger by the end of the week. When it comes to exercise, anything is better than nothing.
When it Comes to Diet, Add First; Subtract Later
Lots of New Year’s Resolutions focus on weight loss, and weight loss typically focuses on the cold-turkey elimination of all of your favorite foods. No more drive-thru dinners or donuts! Out with pasta and bread!. You hereby pledge to eat only salad and hard boiled eggs from this day forward. While those choices are likely helpful to improve your health and weight in the short term, it’s also very unlikely that these dramatic changes can be sustained over time. No one wants to feel restricted.
So start by adding healthy foods vs. taking things away. Take an honest look at your diet and start to improve the deficits. Only getting one serving of vegetables each day? Start by adding one or two to dinner each night and work up from there. Grab an apple to add to the toast you eat on the way out the door each morning. Getting most of your hydration from energy drinks or coffee? Add one glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning, then add one to each meal. Eventually, the healthy options will squeeze out the unhealthy ones. By adding healthy items to your diet before you start to eliminate the less nutritional choices, you’ll feel much less deprived, and your taste buds will have had time to adjust.
Fail Fast and Pivot
Many companies, from Google to local tech start-ups, encourage employees to fail fast, fail often, and pivot. Why encourage failure? What does it mean to pivot? We are determined people. It’s tempting to be so committed to an original goal that nothing will stop us from achieving it even if that means eating yogurt filled with chemical ingredients we can’t pronounce to save one Weight Watchers point or running every morning even though we’re limping through the rest of the day with severe plantar fasciitis. Sometimes we continue pouring our energy into goals and plans that are no longer relevant, or that actually cause us long-term harm for short-term accomplishment. Reflect often on your goal. Is it benefitting your overall health? Is it sustainable over time? If not, pivot. Choose a different goal. Make small or big tweaks to the original one. Keep the big picture in mind.
Why wait? Which of the 5 tips to make this year the year you reach your health goals will you implement now?
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