Happy New Year 2020!
Another month, another year, another DECADE! It seems to be human nature to connect change to the change of the calendar so with this line-up of new beginnings I bet almost everyone has considered at least one resolution!
Most resolutions seem related to health and fitness and most are fairly extreme changes from our usual lifestyles. If you know you could do better with your health, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead of “New Year, New You”, how about “New Year, You v2.0”? Instead of trying to erase or recreate “you”, why not focus on enhancing and showcasing who you really are?
Simple Steps to Ease Into Habit Change
We often approach our resolutions with ridiculous demands, outrageous expectations and/or unsustainable lifestyle changes. May I make a few suggestions that could make changes both easier and more likely to “take”?
1. There is nothing magical about January 1st, or Monday. It could just as easily be “Why-Not-Wednesday” or “Time-To-Takeoff-Tuesday”. The day you are ready to change your habits, THAT is the day to do it. You will be much more likely to put effort and enthusiasm into the process if you are ready.
2. Set realistic goals. If it’s a struggle to get in five hours sleep each night, an immediate goal of eight or nine is not reasonable. Although you may hope to someday reach that “perfect” level, begin by aiming for six hours by the end of the first two weeks. Likewise, begin attempts to increase water consumption slowly, by a cup or two per day gradually increasing to the optimum ten-plus. Rather than a weight-loss goal of twenty pounds, or more, five or ten pounds might be a more attainable, less intimidating amount. Expect that to take at least a month. Each time you accomplish a small goal, you can hit re-set. If you set your sights at 50 lbs. but seem stuck at 25, you will experience more frustration than pride in your accomplishment, which will diminish your motivation to keep going. But, if you reach the 25 lb. weight-loss in five-pound increments, celebrating each one, the success will keep you going.
3. Don’t sign up with an expensive gym membership and vow to work out every day if you have been living the life of a couch potato. Although it is true that we are often more motivated when we have a little “skin in the game” ($$), trust me, the motivation won’t carry you through the initial stiffness, plus the guilt you feel about spending so much money on something you are trying to avoid will suck all the positivity from the experience. It’s better to start with a video workout 2-3 times/week and begin a daily walk routine. You might look for a weekly workout like Zumba, yoga, or aerobics, preferably with a friend. Once you have learned to enjoy activity, and which ones suit you best, you may be ready to spring for that membership.
4. Withhold judgement. There are no good or bad foods but you will learn that some give you more energy, less inflammation, are kinder to your digestion, or keep cravings in check. You are not a good or bad person based on your food choices so never berate or punish yourself, especially by using exercise as punishment for “misbehaving” at mealtime. Learn which foods make you feel better, and find activities which improve your mood and self-esteem.
5. Remember that health is the sum of the state of your mind, body and spirit. Give equal attention to reducing stress, increasing sleep, and meeting your emotion/social needs while you work on improving overall dietary choices and activity levels.
6. Slow down, be present to your environment, your family and friends, and celebrate every victory. In order to do that you must first be aware of them! Did you get through the day without a sugar/caffeine crash mid-afternoon? Acknowledge it - that protein and salad lunch was much more sustaining than your usual muffin and diet cola. Did you sleep more soundly after replacing your evening coffee or nightcap with an herbal tea? Take note, and congratulate yourself for the change. Have you slowed down and limited multi-tasking during meals to discover how wonderful the food tastes? (And how much more satisfying when you actually notice what is on your fork!)
7. Rigid rules are completely unnecessary, and often counter-productive. Enforcing specific meal times, fasting or mandatory snacks may work for some people but it is much more important to honour your hunger. Food shouldn’t be used to feed emotional hunger but also, do not deny yourself food when you really are hungry. Learn to read the signals your body sends you and you will never eat when you aren’t hungry nor starve yourself past the point of self-control.
When You Know What You Want, And When You Are Ready
Sometimes we set goals based on what others are doing or on misplaced priorities. Is it really important that you reach your high school weight? If you had an honest, directed conversation with me, would we discover that what you truly want is more energy, increased flexibility, or less pain? Maybe you simply want to feel relaxed, complete, loved – that you are enough? These longings are just as important, often more, than measuring our health with only a bathroom scale.
These are just a few ideas to help you find the path to the best version of you. If you found them helpful, I would appreciate hearing from you.