New Year’s Eve has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year. It’s a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and resolve to follow through on those changes. Did your New Year resolutions make our top fifteen list?
1. Find your motivation
We all have goals, whether it’s exercising more or improving our diet. The important thing is figuring out why we want these things. “It takes a little bit of soul-searching,” “I get people to look at the bigger picture: If you were to change your lifestyle, what would it look like? What’s important to you? Change is hard. There’s got to be something in it for people, otherwise we just get busy and we don’t do it.”
It’s also critical to find your own reasons for change, not your spouse’s or your doctor’s. “If you’re doing it because you should, not because you want to, the chances of success aren’t that great,”
2. Don’t change everything at once
Write down your goals, then come up with ways to reach them. Pick an idea that you’re confident you can do. When you’ve achieved it, add another from your list. This slow, steady approach builds long-lasting change. “Don’t do anything, especially when it comes to weight loss, that you’re not prepared to do for the rest of your life,” says Anderson. “Otherwise, it won’t be sustainable.”
Timing matters. Don’t attempt a lifestyle change when you’re already under stress. Wait until you can devote your time and attention to it.
3. Find your cheerleaders
A support system will help you stick to your goals. Ask important people in your life for their help. If you want to stop snacking before bedtime, for example, ask your family not to break out the chips when you’re watching TV together. Whatever it is, be specific. “Don’t just say, “Can you help me,” because your family members won’t have a clue what that looks like,” . If they’re unwilling to help, find support elsewhere. Recruit a fitness buddy, start a walking club at work, or hire a dietitian or personal trainer.
4. Track your progress
When life gets busy, it’s easy to forget the changes you’ve made. Record your accomplishments in a journal. When you reach a goal, give yourself a small reward. “If you’re trying to change your eating habits, I wouldn’t choose food, but absolutely a reward is a great thing,”
5. Learn from your setbacks
Don’t beat yourself up for having that extra slice of pie…you’re human. “Don’t take it personally. It’s not a flaw in the person”. We encourages readers to learn from each lapse and come up with a strategy to succeed next time.
6. Revisit your portions
“Get control of your calories to help manage the extra winter weight you might have put on”. Doing so helps counteract that mindless munching habit you may have slipped into over the chilly months. So put portion control back in play.
7. Clean out your cupboards and fridge
As Natalie Brown, a White Rock, BC.-based registered dietitian suggests, go through and toss any expired and processed foods to organize your fridge and cupboards for healthier eating. Think about the rule of five, adds Sunderland. “Check the labels on items in your pantry-cookies, crackers and chips and so forth. If there are more than five grams of fat on the label, it’s a good package to toss,” she says. After tossing heavy sauces, dips and snacks, replace them with bowls of fruit, pre-cut veggies, plain yogurt for smoothies and dips and lighter salad dressings.
8. Slash your salt and sugar
“White sugar is an instant hit to your body and is linked to diabetes, inflammation, decreased immune response, liver fatigue and some cancers.” “And cutting back on your salt lowers the risk of heart disease, since salt stiffens the arteries and makes them rigid.”
9. Add probiotics
“Probiotics help with digestive health, so add in yogurt or a yogurt drink daily.” It can also help if you’ve been fighting colds and flus throughout the winter. “Many of us have had some antibiotics because we’ve been sick, so adding a probiotic helps rebalance the gut-friendly bacteria,” says Sunderland. Also skip the supplements and opt to get your probiotics from food sources if you can. “Research shows that getting probiotics from food is better used by the body.”
10. Switch up your produce
Tired of apples, bananas and root vegetables? “There are some nice spring produce choices coming out.” “Some things we see are asparagus, fiddleheads, mushrooms and berries.” Other brightly-coloured produce making more of an appearance at our grocery stores or farmer’s markets include apricots, green beans, broccoli and more. “The more colourful the fruit or vegetable, the more vitamins and minerals it has.”
11. Ditch the dehydrating drinks
Has it been a winter of red wine, lattes and hot chocolate? Time to rethink your drinks. “Start by reducing alcohol because it’s a diuretic and dehydrates the body,” notes Brown. “Cutting back on it will help keep the liver healthy since it is a natural detoxification system for your body.”
Ditto caffeine, another dehydrating drink, as well as those cans of diet pop lining the fridge door. We suggests replacing any sugar-sweetened pop with a big pitcher of water. (Tip: Add orange, lemon, lime or cucumber slices for a refreshing twist.) “Water helps you get hydrated and flushes out the body of toxins, lets you be more alert, have more energy, control your appetite and increase your metabolism.”
12. Plant a garden
Take inspiration from the produce you’re seeing in the store and plan out a spring and summer’s worth of healthy eating from your very own back deck or yard. “You can already start your seedlings indoors to replant later,”
13. Quit Smoking
If you have resolved to make this the year that you stamp out your smoking habit, over-the-counter availability of nicotine replacement therapy now provides easier access to proven quit-smoking aids. Even if you’ve tried to quit before and failed, don’t let it get you down. On average, smokers try about four times before they quit for good. Start enjoying the rest of your smoke-free life! Even Allegheny County is trying to go smoke-free, and it’s taken them a few tries as well. Locally, there are a variety of free support services, hotlines and smoking cessation classes to help you kick the smoking habit.
14. Quit Drinking
While many people use the New Year as an incentive to finally stop drinking, most are not equipped to make such a drastic lifestyle change all at once. Many heavy drinkers fail to quit cold turkey but do much better when they taper gradually, or even learn to moderate their drinking. If you have decided that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available. Pittsburgh Alcoholics Anonymous offers meetings throughout the greater Pittsburgh area. There is also a Pittsburgh group for Parents of Teenage Alcohol and Drug Abusers. There are also a number of treatment-based programs, as well as support groups for families of alcoholics.
15. Get Out of Debt
Was money a big source of stress in your life last year? Join the millions of Americans who have resolved to spend this year getting a handle on their finances. It’s a promise that will repay itself many times over in the year ahead.