By John Andersen
It’s time for our New Year’s resolutions. I love the tradition of New Year’s resolutions, mostly because they come out of an earnest desire for change. After the long buildup of the “holiday season,” the arrival of winter, and the end of a calendar year, the beginning of each year makes a natural time for self-evaluation and goal-setting.
For many of us, our health and wellness tops the list: weight loss, cardiovascular health, overall fitness, a positive change, climbing out of a rut.
So we make our resolutions: “I’m going to go on a diet, for good! I’m going to start running. I’m gonna lose 30 pounds.” These are worthy goals with great rewards in health and well-being.
So why do we often fail? Why do we often slide right back into our old ways, our old diet, our old body, and slip further and further away from what we thought we could be?
That answer is different for everyone and is as complicated as we are. Here are some thoughts to mull over as you make your resolutions. Will you commit to yourself? Can you be patient and persevere? Remember, you are definitely worth it.
1) Change your relationship with food.
Weight loss is, by far, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. Of course having extra weight does not make you any less important or any less special of a person! But if you are overweight, losing those extra pounds is undoubtedly the best way to start having positive health and fitness gains. If you need some perspective on this, put 20 pounds of weight in a backpack and carry it around for a while. Go for a walk or bike ride. Feel different? Now consider the opposite true with weight loss.
I am not here to define what an appropriate weight or body mass index is for anyone. I suspect that most people are keenly aware of where they would like to be, societal pressures aside.
Fact number two is that in our country it is extremely easy to eat unhealthily! Fast food, sugar, snacks, candied up coffee drinks, everywhere you look there are calories just begging to get onto your waistline. For many of us, “eating healthy” is about as easy as a smoker trying to quit smoking when surrounded by smokers who constantly offer him cigarettes.
Where to start? I think it starts with changing your relationship with food. Have you ever heard the phrase, “humans are the only species that doesn’t know how to eat?” It refers to the fact that we often just eat what tradition and culture and advertising have told us to, even though much of our diet may not really make any sense for our bodies.
So instead of eating to sustain yourself, think of eating as a way to fuel yourself. Part II of this challenge is that you must also now think of yourself as an athlete.
What? Me? Ha!
Yes. You. Seriously.
Humans are incredible athletes. All humans. Okay, maybe you don’t feel that way right now, but inside that body of yours is an athlete waiting to come out. Just read some fitness transformation stories. There are thousands of inspiring stories out there. People who have gone from being very out of shape, obese, etc., to becoming incredibly fit. Are these different people with different genetics? Nope. They just decided to change. They decided to see themselves as athletes and they changed their relationship with food.
As you start moving–walking, running, cycling, etc.–there are good and bad ways of fueling your machine. Instead of counting calories or thinking about weight loss, think about the food that you put into your mouth and consider if it will help fuel your inner athlete, or keep that athlete in the closet.
Here are a few high-impact initial changes most of us can make:
Fat does not make you fat, sugar and simple carbs make us fat. Try your best to avoid sugar. This is hard! It’s added to everything! Common “fake healthy” foods include fat-free yogurt (loaded with fat-storing sugar), whole wheat bread (loaded with simple carbs), fruit juice (pretty much soda) and cereal (simple carbs). Try cooking more from scratch, have veggies with every meal, and seek out good fats and protein.
Never drink soda, diet sodas, or juice. Drink water instead. I often hear “I can’t stand drinking plain water.” My response: “Do you also have a problem breathing plain air?”
2) Moderation is mediocre.
I am borrowing this from running coach Eric Orton, but it’s a great phrase. “Everything in moderation” is often an excuse for just a little bit of dessert, just one soda per day, just a half a donut, etc. If you are trying to lose weight, dessert and soda should be rare occurrences. Ugh! You hate me! But come on, it makes sense! Be the change you want to be!
3) Exercise – A lot! Often!
Exercise in moderation is better than no exercise at all, but if you really want to make a change, 30 minutes of exercise three times a week is not really a huge change.
Ugh! You hate me! But come on, it makes sense!
Lets go back 2,000 years or more. No cars. No grocery stores. We worked with our hands and were on our feet all day, everyday. Now fast forward to 2016 and ask yourself if 90 minutes of exercise per week is really what your body was made for.
And I get it, we’re busy, many of us really busy. But you have got to choose your priorities, and your health should be way up there. You can’t be the best parent/employee/boss/friend/spouse if you don’t have your best health. Carve out time. Commit to giving yourself an hour of exercise, five days a week. Yes, at least five hours a week!
Ugh! You hate me! Maybe this is just walking around the neighborhood. Maybe the treadmill. Maybe the gym, or a bike, or the pool, or a class, or a trail. Be the change you want to be and make it happen.
I wish you all the best in 2016. Commit to yourself this year and see what amazing changes a new fitness level will bring. You are worth it!