It's that time of year again. You've made your New Year's resolution: to be healthy. For the past two weeks, you're been trying to eat better and hit the gym hard to carry out your goal.
Maybe you made this resolution because you want to manage your weight or tone up certain areas of your body. Or perhaps you simply want to be able to go about your life with less pain and discomfort. Since you have made this resolution, I'm assuming you 1) care about your health and 2) must be doing a few things already to live a healthier lifestyle than most.
To accomplish anything we set out to do in life, whether it's to learn to play the violin or lose a few pounds, we need to have motivation, knowledge and skills to be successful. Let's consider ways you can use these three ingredients to achieve your 2014 resolution.
Why are you really trying to be healthier? Do you need to lose weight or are you trying to look a certain way? Do you want to move with less pain, or be able to play with your kids or grandkids without feeling lousy afterward? Whatever your motivation for making this resolution may be, keep it in mind as you continue working toward your goal.
Yup, diet and exercise. The solution is so easy that we think that we've got it, but statistics indicate that we don't. Yes, you probably are well aware of how to live a healthier lifestyle. What you need is more personalized information--knowledge for you to live a healthier lifestyle. Do you know how many calories you should be getting? Do you know how many calories you just ate in your $5 footlong? How many calories do you burn on your 20 minute walk or run?
That's why your first task should be: The Food Diary. According to the National Weight Control Registry (a study of people who maintained at least a 30 pound weight loss for one year or longer), 98% of people who lost weight report that they modified their food intake in some way to see a change in their numbers on the scale. By modifying yours, you can hope to have the same result.
So how can you modify your food intake? First, I am against "diets." I believe in making good choices. At the beginning of 2012, I weighed about 25 pounds more than I do now. I was a fitness instructor, so I worked out regularly and chose (mostly) healthy foods. Although my weight was still in the "average weight" category, I wanted to lose some a few pounds. So, like you, I made it my resolution to be "healthier." I decided I'd start a running program. On the first day, I tripped down the steps as I was heading to the treadmill. This left me resorting to Plan B: using the old Bowflex (strength training) and taking a closer look at my diet.
I kept a food diary for one week. What an eye opener! Wow, 500 calories in one white Russian? When you only need 2000 calories, that's a quarter of your daily calories in ONE cocktail!
According to the USDA MYPLATE guidelines, "active" women in my age group should be getting about 2000 a day. Although my choices were healthy, I was around 2,200.
I chose to jot my "food diary" down on scrap paper, then look up calorie content online. Those of you who are more tech-savvy may chose to keep track of your intake online. Some great options are myfitnesspal and ChooseMyPlate.gov's Supertracker. Both are free and give you great insight into where your diet could use some alterations.
Once you obtain the knowledge you need to make changes, you have to actually make the changes. You can't keep doing the same behavior and expect different results. The tricky part is that although this needed change will be different for everyone, whatever it may be has more than likely become a habit--part of your daily routine. This is where you have to go back to that motivating factor discussed earlier.
Do you really need that extra snack before bed time? If it's two cookies, maybe one cookie instead? Rather than a bowl of high-calorie granola every day, maybe switch it up to a few times a week? Whatever it is, make the change.
What's great about the food diary approach is that it is free and you can start now. Don't buy into all of the gimmicks. You already know the right way to live a healthier lifestyle. Stop trying the trendiest diets and fitness routines. Instead, find what works for you.