Well, another year and time to make more New Year resolutions. For most, it’s like ground hog day, you dust off the previous years resolutions and this time really, really promise to stick to them! Unfortunately, studies have shown that about 25% of the people making resolutions are already breaking them after the first week and less than half are still on target after six months.
In terms of health, what kind of resolutions should you make, how do you stick to it and what are the reasons for losing interest?
What health resolutions should I make?
1. Losing weight, probably the most popular resolution and it should come as no surprise since a growing number of Americans are becoming obese or morbidly obese. Add to that the fact that you have probably spent the last six weeks of the year totally blowing your diet, there is enough guilt there to make this the number one winner.
How do I stick to this? One of the biggest reasons for failure is that most people manage their lives like a 30 or 60 minute TV show. This is where the problem is identified, a plan of attack is developed, and successful results happen within an hour or less of the show.
In real life this is not the case. Everyone wants immediate results and when they don’t see it, they just quit! One has to face the reality that you didn’t pack on the pounds over night. In many cases it came from years of abuse, so why would you think that getting back to your ‘fighting weight’ will happen over night?
Set mini goals. If you want to lose x amount of pounds by the end of the year, divide that by 12 and have monthly goals. Be prepared to adjust if necessary too since losing weight isn’t really a measure of success; reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass is. Have your mirror serve as your best indicator once you have started your weight reduction.
Expect setbacks. Your body will start fighting you back once you start losing weight. It is its own natural defense mechanism from the days of the cave man where your metabolism would slow down when it notices you are not consuming food on a regular interval or quantity.
Have your family or friends be your support group. Find those that are making the same resolution (this shouldn’t be hard to do!).
Keep a journal of what you eat so you can look back and see what you were eating when you were making the most progress.
Join a gym or a boot camp. There is no question that there is no silver bullet to losing weight. It is a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise. If you do not do the two together, your chance for failure has increased tremendously.
2. Cut back on alcohol, although you hear and read about the health benefits of small amounts of alcohol, just like anything in life, too much is not good. Not only can it be a detriment to your personal safety and that of others, alcohol abuse can bring on many life threatening diseases not to mention weight gain since we tend to eat junk when consuming alcohol and most drinks are extremely high in junk carbs including sugar.
How do I accomplish this? Like anything else, make wise choices when cutting back. Instead of full flavored beer, become accustomed to lite beers, they usually have 1/3 the calories of a regular beer. That is a HUGE difference over the course of a week, month, year.
Stay away from fruity drinks, they are nothing but pure sugar which means high calorie counts. A regular drink of this type would be like having a chocolate shake. Now who in the world goes out and has 5-6 chocolate shakes in the course of a night? No one right? Well that is exactly what you are doing when you have these types of drinks.
Wine, especially the reds, are known to be high in anti-oxidants, but this doesn’t mean you should go out and drink a bottles worth! A glass with your meal is fine, just be cautious in amount consumed.
3. Get more sleep, everyone knows this but many do not follow it. The picture below demonstrates what happens when you do not get enough sleep. It impacts your mood, safety, productivity, body weight and health!
Any tips on getting more sleep? Yes, but it requires discipline. The best way to get the hours required in a 24 hour period is to have a pretty set and predictable schedule. Commit that by a certain time you will be in bed. Family life can get in the way just like in dieting, so try to have a support group where everyone respects that and hopefully they too will have a set sleep schedule.
Remember the days when you were raising young kids and they always had a bed time? You did this because you knew the importance of a good nights sleep for their development. Well the same is true when you are an adult, nothing has changed.
Take power naps. That’s right, you can replenish your sleep ‘bank account’ by taking a short 30-45 minute nap some time during the day such as your lunch hour. At first it will be difficult to do, but once you have mastered this, you will be amazed at what a difference this can make!
4. Reduce your stress, stress is part of life especially as you start a family and move on in your career. But it is how you handle stress that can make a difference in how your health will respond. At it’s worse, stress can disturb sleep patterns and diet while also leading to depression and heart disease.
How do I de-stress? For starters, don’t let the small stuff upset you. Stress is built like a wall. Everything you do has stress associated with it. Look at these as ‘stress blocks’ and as you go throughout the day, week, etc, you are building a wall of stress. The difference between how individuals handle stress however, is based on how big their stress blocks are. So if you are the type of person that every little thing ‘gets to you’ your stress blocks are huge compared to someone who doesn’t see it the same way.
A way to keep your stress blocks small and thus, minimizing how quickly or how large your stress wall becomes, is to analyze the situation and ask yourself if that is really that important when compared to the bigger picture at work and/or life. In other words, don’t let the little things get to you.
Now this doesn’t mean that you don’t care or that you are not giving it importance. It just means that you are not going to let it interfere with coming up with a solution or a plan to address the situation. This takes training but if you concentrate on it, you can become a master of your own stress level.
I heard a line many years ago in a TV show that has stuck with me forever. It goes like this ‘Never let anyone rent space in your head’. Good advice, don’t let anyone or anything consume you!
Getting more sleep, exercising, eating right, taking time for yourself are also factors that play a role in how much you can de-stress your life.
5. Quit smoking, I will not go into the health hazards of smoking since they are very well documented. It is pretty obvious why someone should stop smoking but nicotine addiction can make this one of the hardest habits to break since it is not only a physical addiction but also a psychological habit.
So how do you quit? This is way too complicated to answer in a short blog post but here are some helpful tips.
First, identify what triggers you to smoke. Create a smoking journal which analyzes why you lit up. For example:
Time of day?
How Intense was the craving (scale of 1 to 10)
What were you doing?
Who were you with?
How were you feeling?
How did you feel after smoking?
If you do not know why you are lighting up, it becomes that much more difficult to start a plan to quit.
Other popular smoking triggers are alcohol (see above), other smokers and end of a meal.
One popular method that is used is called START. It goes as follows:
S = Set a quit date.
Choose a date within the next 2 weeks, so you have enough time to prepare without losing your motivation to quit. If you mainly smoke at work, quit on the weekend, so you have a few days to adjust to the change.
T = Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you plan to quit.
Let your friends and family in on your plan to quit smoking and tell them you need their support and encouragement to stop. Look for a quit buddy who wants to stop smoking as well. You can help each other get through the rough times.
A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you’ll face while quitting.
Most people who begin smoking again do so within the first 3 months. You can help yourself make it through by preparing ahead for common challenges, such as nicotine withdrawal and cigarette cravings.
R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work.
Throw away all of your cigarettes (no emergency pack!), lighters, ashtrays, and matches. Wash your clothes and freshen up anything that smells like smoke. Shampoo your car, clean your drapes and carpet, and steam your furniture.
T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.
Your doctor can prescribe medication to help with withdrawal and suggest other alternatives. If you can’t see a doctor, you can get many products over the counter at your local pharmacy or grocery store, including the nicotine patch, nicotine lozenges, and nicotine gum.
Expect withdrawal symptoms. I found this chart on the internet which is very handy to use based on these symptoms:
Coping with Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
|Craving for cigarette||Most intense during first week but can linger for months||Wait out the urge; distract yourself; take a brisk walk.
|Irritability, impatience||Two to four weeks||Exercise; take hot baths; use relaxation techniques; avoid caffeine.
|Insomnia||Two to four weeks||Avoid caffeine after 6 p.m.; use relaxation techniques; exercise; plan activities (such as reading) when sleep is difficult.
|Fatigue||Two to four weeks||Take naps; do not push yourself.
|Lack of concentration||A few weeks||Reduce workload; avoid stress.
|Hunger||Several weeks or longer||Drink water or low-calorie drinks; eat low-calorie snacks.|
|Coughing, dry throat, nasal drip||Several weeks||Drink plenty of fluids; use cough drops.|
|Constipation, gas||One to two weeks||Drink plenty of fluids; add fiber to diet; exercise.|
This came from a health report in the Harvard Health Publication, Overcoming Addiction: Paths Toward Recovery.
In summary, you can try to make 2014 different than in past years regarding your New Years resolution if you use a methodical approach, understand the scope of what you are committing to, have a plan, expect setbacks, and understand the reasons for failure.
It is also interesting to note how many of the more popular New Year resolutions are inter related.
Have a Happy and Safe New Year and make 2014 the difference maker in your life and be… Fit Forlife!