So, we’re already a month into 2017. Did you start the year with the time-honored motto: ‘A New Year, a New You!’ and proudly proclaim your New Year’s resolution? Oftentimes, people go for healthy New Year’s resolutions, aiming to get into shape or improve their fitness, but they rarely have a clear-cut plan of action to get there. This leads to depressing statistics such as 25 percent of people will abandon their new plans before the first week of the new year! – Maybe you were one of them?
The good news is you don’t have to wait until next January to make a productive start on improving your health – you can make changes at any time! But if you do need a little extra incentive, Chinese New Year begins at the end of January!
Here are five ideas that can really change your life in 2017!
1. Cut Down on Sugar
The modern diet is full of sugar. A single, innocuous can of soda can contain as much as 39 grams, or over 9 teaspoons of sugar, enough to exceed the American Heart Association’s recommended daily additional sugar intake of 37.5 grams. Sugary sweets, chocolates, snacks, and fruit juices are all loaded with additional sugar in every form imaginable. Excess sugar intake is associated with a multitude of negative effects, serving as one of the greatest causes of obesity in the world, a major factor in the onset of type 2 diabetes, a contributor to liver damage, hypertension, and heart disease, and much more, not to mention it also ages you faster.
One of the best things you can do for your body is to cut down on your sugar intake. It’s not easy especially if you’ve got a sweet tooth, as sugar is proven to be highly addictive, but you can ease yourself into a lower sugar intake by cutting down gradually rather than all at once. Start by whittling down your regular sweet snacks from your daily intake, going from three times a week, to twice, and then to once a week. Go on and reduce your intake of sweet beverages like soda. Don’t replace them with the diet alternatives – artificial sweeteners have their own problems and can affect weight gain. When I decided to reduce sugar in my diet I started by adding one lump of sugar in my coffee, instead of two. Then I gradually reduced the amount of sugar until I could drink my coffee sugar-free. By the halfway mark of the year, you may have eliminated junk sugar sources from your diet entirely!
2. Reduce Stress
Stress is a part of daily life, and everyone goes through it. It can be healthy when it motivates you or helps you solve problems, but when there’s too much of it over time, without it being resolved, it can age you, lead to depression, stroke, heart attack, and many other ailments.
Start your New Year right by identifying and letting go of your chronic stressors. One of the best ways to do this is to get rid of your toxic relationships. You know who they are – “friends” who constantly criticize you, are controlling or possessive, are emotionally and mentally draining to be around, make you feel like you have to tiptoe around with your words to avoid saying the wrong thing – talk things through with your toxic friend, or break up and be free.
Workplace stress and bad work hours are other big factors. Working too long or ending too late at your current job with no time for yourself? At some point, your performance will probably drop like a rock, or you might even stop going to work, because of all the stress. If it’s at all possible, try to get out of an unhappy job that drains you. Otherwise, perhaps you can negotiate with your employer for better work hours or an occasional work from home schedule.
3. Sleep More
In many ways, aiming to get more sleep is another way of reducing stress. Just a little bit of sleep deprivation can make you short-tempered and easily stressed, along with many other adverse effects on your mood.
In general, aim for at least seven hours of sleep every day. To help you do this, start by setting a strict schedule, a time at night by which you should definitely be asleep. Make sure you eat a good dinner about 1-2 hours before this – don’t go to bed hungry or too full or else you might not be able to sleep. Finally, 30 minutes before you’re due for bed, put away your smartphone or computer – the combination of blue light and mental stimulation can severely impact your ability to go to bed. Instead, try reading a book or writing in a journal to round off your activities for the night. If you must use your electronic devises at night try using blue light glasses to filter the negative effects.
4. Reduce Alcohol
In small quantities, alcohol may reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Generally speaking, however, alcohol isn’t good for you. Excess drinking can lead to a huge array of health problems, like heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and liver failure. Drinking can also lead to weight gain, as alcohol is rapidly metabolized by the body and prioritized over other consumed sugars and fats, resulting in them being stored. Finally, alcohol can also dehydrate your skin and accelerate aging.
Wean yourself down from drinking throughout the year until you’ve reached the “moderate drinking” levels of one or two drinks per day. Or go even further and stop entirely.
5. Lose Weight
There’s a lot of advice out there about weight loss, and it can be overwhelming to figure out what’s the best choice for you. Perhaps the simplest way of looking at things – and simple is useful when it comes to a plan of action for a resolution – is to consider cutting down on processed foods or eliminating them altogether. Many argue that calories in, calories out or burning more calories than you eat will help you lose weight. Although that may be partly true, not all calories are created equal. Think of it – your body will not react to a 100 calories of Coke and a 100 calories of almonds equally. “The quality of the calories going in is going to affect the number of calories going out,” says researcher David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, who directs the Optimal Weight for Life program at the Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Don’t cut your calories all at once or dive into intense cardio to burn things off. It may be too difficult or frustrating to suddenly drop everything that you crave, or you may overwork yourself. Start small by shaving off some of your daily high processed food intake every week, while switching out your unhealthy food options such as Taco Bell Dorito Loco Taco with a homemade version using whole grain taco shells, or better yet, large lettuce leaves.
If you follow the advice to cut down on sugar, you’re already on the road to losing weight, as sugary foods and drinks contribute hundreds of empty calories to our daily intake. Pair your reduced eating habits with exercise to ensure that you boost your metabolism. Take that weight loss challenge gradually with micro-goals and you’ll be on the road to success.
Contact me for a few tips to create a clear action plan on how to get into your best shape with the science of food. We will reach your goals together!
Best Ways to Accomplish Resolutions
Psychology suggests that resolutions are popular because it’s just so gratifying to think about them. You instantly have a picture of you setting out towards your goals and achieving them. However, statistics show that the success rates of resolutions drop sharply as the year passes: by the first month, 41% of people have failed at their resolutions; halfway through the year that number rises to 55.2%. Only 9.2% feel that their resolutions were successful.
One of the most important steps you can take to help boost your resolution’s chances of success is to set small but realistic goals that continuously give you a sense of accomplishment. Having an ambitious goal may initially feel good at first, but when you actually do go out and try to chase it, the lack of measurable progress will frustrate you. It’s also difficult to make big changes in a short span of time. The resolutions I’ve recommended have all included either specific goals to achieve, or have suggested means of gradually progressing towards a goal.
Another step you can take is to write down your progress every week so you have a clear record of how well you’ve been doing. That way, whenever you’re feeling down about your resolution and need a pick-me-up, you can turn to your progress tracking and see how far you’ve come. You should also tell friends and family about your resolution so that you are implicitly held accountable for your objectives. Knowing that your intentions are out there may be a big motivator to finish them.
Finally, allow yourself to fail. You’ll definitely slip from time to time, and it may be frustrating and tempting to give up. Accept your failure to meet your goals, and learn from your mistakes and shortcomings rather than throwing in the towel.
More than a third of the top resolutions in 2017 deal with health and lifestyle changes, a statistic that’s been mirrored year over year. Get started with your own personal challenge and pave the way for a healthier you, but don’t let it stop this year! Feeling good and living well should be lifelong philosophies, not temporary goals.