Every year, like millions of Americans, you resolve to eat healthier, get in shape, and take better care of yourself. So you dig in you heels, determined to make it happen. But, by February, your determination turns to drudgery, and drudgery turns to drift and you experience resolution dissolution.
Most people fail at diet and lifestyle resolutions because they associate “a diet” with deprivation and take an all-or-nothing approach. Adopting a healthier lifestyle doesn’t have to mea deprivation or struggle – not if you take the right approach.
The following health tips – not resolutions – will help you reach your goals.
Accentuate the positive. Give yourself credit for positive health behaviors. Overeating at one meal doesn’t translate into “diet failure.”
Think about it: if you eat three meals every day that’s 21 meals a week, right? So if you have a dietary “indiscretion” at one or two of those meals, that still translates into 19 or 20 meals that were balanced and healthy. That’s a cause for celebration. It’s no cause to lose faith in your ability to improve your health. It’s certainly no reason to beat yourself up.
Find joy in movement. The key to fitting in exercise is to make it something enjoyable and fun – something you’re going to look forward to doing. If the idea of going to a sweaty gym leaves you cold think about what you like to do instead.
Maybe the pool, the tennis court or the yoga studio is a better setting for your workout. If you like flowers, maybe you’ll set your muscles to digging up a new garden plot or start to take a daily stroll through the botanical gardens.
Eat what you love. The better you feel about what you’re doing, the more consistent you’ll be. To lose weight you simply need to eat less than you usually do. So if you don’t like celery sticks, skip them. Grab a pint of juicy strawberries instead or savor a bit of antioxidant-rick dark chocolate once in a while.
To control your portion sizes, try changing your plate size. If you usually use a 12-inch dinner plate try using a 9-inch dinner plate instead – and don’t go back for seconds.
Don’t set yourself up for failure. Start by making small gradual changes in your health habits. If you haven’t walked on the treadmill in months, it’s not reasonable to think that you’ll be able to job for an hour. Instead, tell yourself you’ll do 10 minutes. Research tells us that you can get as much benefit from three 10-minute bouts of exercise as you do from one 30-minute workout. So, start by taking three brisk 10-minute walks, one after each meal. As you get stronger and increase your stamina, you can do a little more, then a little more. Over time, you’ll reach your fitness goal.
Find your inspiration. If you adopt a healthy practice that feels right and fits your lifestyle – and don’t push yourself harder or faster than you’re reasonably able to go – you’re going to stick with it. And staying true to your health goals is your key to reaching them. So figure out what inspires you to be your best self – and do it with all your heart. Ultimately, the heart is where it all starts. Taking good care of you is a natural outcome of loving yourself.
Finally remember that when you really love yourself, you understand that being well is a luxury you deserve – and you’ll look forward to doing what you have to do to enjoy good health.
An award-winning registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of the Diabetes Guide to Enjoying Foods of the World; The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes.