It’s that time of year when people make resolutions for a healthier new year. Gym memberships sky rocket, treadmill lines form, diets ensue, and cleanses cause people to temporarily suffer.
We’re all familiar with the trend. That’s because most of us have gone through those motions at least once before. Each year, as fall unfolds, the days get shorter, the nights get colder, and it feels like our healthy habits are hard to keep up, let alone begin. Then we’re hit with a one-two punch of festivities intended to fill our bellies with sweets and overindulgence. First it’s Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas… and a final years cap of New Year’s Eve.
When we emerge from the storm on January first, we’re primed for a change. We tell ourselves we’ll eat better. We’ll workout. We’re going to get into shape. This year we’re going to be fit.
What happens next?
A lot of people succeed. But, not to be the bearer of bad news, most people fail. We set out with the best of intentions and life intervenes. Families, friends, work, stress – it all intervenes and we slip, fall, and lose our motivation. The next thing we know, it’s new years again, and we’re setting the same resolutions. It’s a cycle most of us are familiar with and have at least encountered once.
There’s Hope for 2017
I’m not here to kill your buzz. I’m really not. If you’re starting a diet or joining a gym for 2017, I think you can succeed, and I truly hope you do. But, in order to succeed, we need to know what we’re up against. There’s 12 months ahead of us, and almost 365 days.
If you’re going to succeed, you need a strategy. That’s why I’ve put together a few simple guidelines to help you succeed and achieve a healthier you this 2017.
1) Ditch the Get Fit Quick Attitude
When we emerge into a new year, it’s easy to set big goals. We wipe the slate clean from last year, and launch into the new year ready to ditch old habits, and redefine ourselves. It makes perfect sense. When we set goals and resolutions, it’s natural to be excited and to want to get started as soon as possible. But, we have to remember that lasting changes do not happen overnight. Being healthy is a long time endeavor. It happens one day at a time, day after day.
If you want to get healthier in 2017, you have to think of it like running a marathon. You need to be strategic. If you start out a marathon (26 miles) sprinting as hard as you can, do you think you’ll finish? No, you’ll burn out. So, you have to be strategic to reach that overall goal. You need to break it into small manageable steps. How can you run 26 miles, without burning yourself out? You have to pace yourself. The same applies to eating better, exercising, and developing healthier habits.
There’s plenty of health gurus out there who will promise you quick results in the form of supplements, specialty diets, workouts, and detoxes. Beware of the get-fit quick promises. There’s a lot of good exercise programs and diets out there that actually can produce results. But, don’t get caught up in the get-fit quick mentality. Lasting results will only come from long-term commitment. The most important attribute to your success is commitment.
2) Focus on Making Small, Simple, Lasting Changes
If our success is dependent upon our commitment, how do we ensure that we stay committed?
The answer is simple. Focus on simple and small changes that you can maintain. We often get eager to make sweeping changes to our eating and exercise habits, when small simple steps might be better for making lasting changes.
For instance, if you eat fast food on a daily basis, cutting it out altogether is the idealistically the best course of action in terms of improving your health. But, in reality it might not be sustainable. Instead, reduce your fast food intake to 3 times a week, and replace the other meals with home cooked meals. That will be far easier to achieve, and once you achieve that goal, it will be easier to further reduce your fast food intake as you get more comfortable cooking your own meals, and experience the health benefits.
I have a friend who had a gym membership he wasn’t using. He wanted to get into better shape, but he was having trouble finding the time to go to the gym, even though he was already paying for it. I asked him if he had time in his schedule to go to the gym once per week. He said “Yeah, I could do that. But in order to get into better shape, I think I need to go like 3-5 days a week. And I don’t have time to do that.”
Don’t let ideals get in your way. Sure, 3-5 days a week of physical exercise is the standard recommendation, but one day a week is better than nothing. You have to start where you’re at and commit to what’s achievable. If that’s only one day a week, start there. Commit to a goal you can achieve, and when you do, raise your goal.
I had another friend who several years ago committed to going to the gym three days a week. He didn’t even commit to lifting weights or running on a treadmill. He would simply go to the gym and spend 30 mins. If that meant thirty minutes of sauna time, that counted. He was focused on building the habit, which is the most important part. In order to achieve long term physical health gains, you need to develop commitment. Start simple.
Small lasting changes are better than short lived extreme measures.
3) Hire an Expert
Nobody knows your body like yourself. But, you likely aren’t an expert in the physiology of the human body, or aware of the complicated inner workings and biochemical processes that support our health.
That’s why it’s good to develop a partnership with someone who’s trained and accredited in nutrition and/or exercise physiology.
If your serious about getting healthy, don’t go at it alone. Going on a diet, cleanse or joining a gym aren’t going to automatically make you healthier. To get lasting change you have to make lifestyle adjustments. That’s no easy task to do alone.
A trained expert won’t just have a scientific understanding of nutrition and fitness principles, they’ll also help you set goals, develop a plan to reach those goals, and keep you accountable. It will stop you from spinning your tires.
Here’s what I’d recommend for Nutrition and Exercise professionals, respectively:
- Find a Registered Dietitian (RD) – In order to call yourself a dietitian you go through many of the same pre-req classes as doctors, possess masters degrees, and have a scientific background in all things food and nutrition. This is different from someone who calls them self a Nutritionist. Legally, anyone can call them self a Nutritionist. Registered dietitians have the most rigorous nutrition education, training, and requirements.
- Find a ACSM certified Physical Trainer – The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. Trainers with an ACSM certification have undergone course work in exercise physiology, and meet the highest expectations for physical trainers.
7 Quick Goals To Put into Action Every Day
Need a few easy goals to get started with now? Here are 7 easy goals you can commit to today. Keep in mind, this is intended to be a bear minimum. The idea is to give you quick and easy things to help instill healthy habits into your daily life.
- Cook dinner 3 times a week at home
- If you drink a soda or juice every day, reduce it to one every other day.
- Replace juice and sodas with flavored carbonated water.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Take the far parking spot, and walk.
- Commit to a 30 min walk twice a week (take a friend, family member, furry friend or loved one).
- Commit to drinking 20% less alcohol per week.
Remember, healthy living is like a marathon. You’re in this for the long term. Start simple, and build on your success. You’re going to struggle and fall along the way, but don’t let that dissuade you. When you do hit trouble, reorient yourself with goals that match where you’re at. The best goals will be ones that are within your reach, but still a challenge. Over time, as you achieve these goals you’ll experience the satisfaction of that success, which propels you forward to bigger goals. This is how commitment to nutrition and exercise is built.
Happy 2017 everyone!