The most common resolutions that people make going into a new year include weight loss and healthy eating. These resolutions often mean that people will make drastic changes to their diet and fitness plans; but these drastic changes are also some of the reasons why people fall off the wagon, so to speak, when it comes to making healthy choices in terms of the food they eat and how much physical activity they get. While we should all strive to keep our bodies as healthy as possible, there are things you can do to make it a bit easier to follow through on those new year’s resolutions that you’ve made.
• Exercise: Vowing to get more physical activity is never a bad thing. While some people might find it easy to incorporate a strict exercise regimen into their routines, others might have a difficult time — and that’s okay. Try not to be hard on yourself and remember that you’ve already taken the first step in wanting to make a positive change for yourself to improve your quality of life. Next, start slow. The biggest mistake people sometimes make when engaging in new fitness routines is by doing too much at once. This will not only cause you to burn out more quickly, but you also increase your risk of developing muscle-related injuries. Don’t go running a marathon right away (as that’s something people should train for.) Instead, ask yourself how you can incorporate exercise into your day to day life. Do you normally take elevators or escalators? Try taking the stairs, instead. Do you normally go for 15-minute walks? Try increasing the length of your walks each day. By doing this, you give your body the time it needs to adjust to these changes. It can also be fun to keep track of your workout goals each day in a calendar or a journal, so that you have a better idea of what you succeeded in and what you need or want to work on more. To stay motivated, ask a friend or family member to workout with you. There are also many fitness apps that you can download that can not only help you with that motivation but also give you different activities (such as stretches) that you can also try. If you’ve recently joined a gym, it can also be tough to find the motivation to go — at least initially. If this sounds like you, try to remind yourself of all the benefits that exercise has. You’ll not only lose weight, but it will help your general health overall. To mentally prepare yourself even further, try packing your gym bag the night before as this will give you more of an incentive to go rather than procrastinating the day of.
• Diet: The second most common new year’s resolution that people make, which often goes hand in hand with exercise, is diet. You’ve consumed far too many carbs and too much sugar over the holidays, and you want to work it off, which is great. However, just like exercise, dieting should also focus on the bigger picture. Eating healthy is something that we should strive to do no matter the time of year, as our health depends on it. Having too much of certain foods (fats, carbs, sodium, sugar), or not having the right portion sizes as recommended by Canada’s Food Guide, can have a detrimental effect on your health. When you don’t eat properly, you’re at risk of developing everything from cardiovascular disease to diabetes, high cholesterol, and, of course, obesity. One thing that can be quite helpful on your weight loss journey is to keep a diet journal by writing down the foods you eat during each meal, including snacks. Next, you need to know what to replace those foods with. The first thing I recommend to anyone wanting to make a change to their diet is to decrease sugar intake and replace it with fresh fruit — many of which are naturally sweet — as well as include more vegetables. You should also include more protein in your diet, as well as foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, for example), whole grains, and legumes. You also shouldn’t deprive yourself of carbs completely, as you can swap the bad carbs with ones that are considered healthy, such as foods with fibre, beans, brown rice and quinoa (also known as complex carbohydrates.) The same goes for fats. Many of the unhealthy foods we consume contain saturated fats, but when you eliminate fat from your diet completely you also eliminate some valuable nutrients. Instead, you should replace saturated fats with foods that contain unsaturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, peanut butter, and nuts, just to name a few.
• Mental Health: It’s not necessarily a new year’s resolution you hear a lot about, but you can also set goals to improve your mental health, too. Similar to exercise, things like meditation and yoga can also help to relax the mind and reduce any stress or anxiety you might be experiencing. You should also keep a journal. Unlike the diet journal you might keep, this is more of a day-to-day diary of your thoughts and anything else you feel like writing down. Keeping social connections is also important for mental health. This can mean staying in communication with friends, joining groups (like a book club, or another group activity you think you’d enjoy), and even helping others.
Originally published at alighahary.ca on December 29, 2018.