Improving your health — How to keep those New Year’s resolutions all year long
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The new year is always marked by a desire to start over.
It’s your chance to finally get exercising, or to finally stop eating junk food. The resolutions are final-sounding, but rarely final. The fact that they weren’t achieved the year before is what makes them a resolution, after all.
But the goal of the resolution is to create a habit that continues all year, so it doesn’t have to be your resolution the next new year. We checked with a group of health experts for tips on how to set yourself up for success with changes that are realistic for your life, so next year you can pick a new challenge.
Adding Exercise To Your Day
This year, you want to become someone who works out. But if you think about a few things before you run to the treadmill, you can create a habit, the experts say.
For starters, when is the best time in your day for you to fit your workouts in? If you know you’ll never get out of bed to hit the gym, make time after work.
But if you know you often end up staying late at work or are just too wiped out afterward to get to the gym, look at your mornings.
“I think you can make yourself into a morning person,” said Jeana Anderson Cohen, certified personal trainer and founder and CEO of Chicago health and wellness blog aSweatLife.com. “It’s a lot more attainable than you think.”
It’s worth trying out an early morning class or gym visit to see how it impacts your day and your mood, Cohen said. You might notice increased energy, a better attitude or some pride when you see how much you can fit in to your day.
If your days just look so packed you don’t know where to fit things in, turn to technology, suggests Jodi Froehling, a personal trainer at Equinox. These days, there’s an app for everything, and new services that streamline previously time-consuming errands or chores can help you carve out time in your day, Froehling said.
“Wherever you can save time and be efficient, you can spend more energy on the new things and habits you’re trying to introduce into your life,” Froehling said.
Next, think about what exactly you want to do. There’s no reason to drag yourself to the treadmill if you can’t stand it.
Check out what boutique gyms are available around you and take advantage of a free first class to try it out. If you want more variety, look at more traditional gyms — they often offer classes similar to what the boutique gyms have, like barre or spinning, but without forcing you to commit to one type of exercise.
Cohen also recommends ClassPass, which offers a membership that allows you to take classes at a variety of different gyms around town. There are also apps, like aSweatLife’s recently-launched sister company SweatWorking or Nike Training, where you can test out some different styles of exercising on your own.
“Find the workout that is most effective for you, that you get out of bed for, and do that,” Cohen said. “No matter if you’re doing the most effective workout in the world, you won’t come back if you hate it.”
Plan rest days, too, and be flexible with yourself. If you can’t make it to the gym one day, know that you can go the next, Froehling said.
And when the going gets tough, think about why you chose to start exercising. Is it to lose weight, or concerns about your health and a desire to have more energy to do things with your family and friends?
Get familiar with your “deepest, most intrinsic motivations,” Froehling said. When your alarm goes off, return to that thought, she said.
“It’s always there to kind of remind you that you have this big desire, this need, to change.”
Improving Your Eating Habits
Many people turn to extreme restriction in January as a way to punish themselves for the holidays. Goals like no carbs or sugar don’t lend themselves to habit-making, experts say.
“It is nearly impossible to ‘eat no sugar’; it is possible to avoid foods with added sugars,” said Lorri Fishman, registered dietitian nutritionist and a contributing instructor at Kendall College. “As for cutting out carbs, we need carbs for energy, fiber and the other nutrients we get from them.”
Instead of totally giving up carbs, resolve to switch out the refined carbohydrates you like with ones made from whole grains, Fishman suggests. Watch your portions and stick to a measured serving size, but there’s no need to cut them out.
Making incremental changes that you find reasonable sets you up for more success than if you completely cut something you enjoy out of your life.
Switching out fruit for desserts might be hard if you tell yourself you can never ever have a brownie, Fishman points out. So allowing yourself a dessert you love or a special dinner once a week is key to keeping the rest of your diet on track — savor it, and then get back to your healthier choices.
“We are human and need that enjoyment,” Fishman said.
Making small choices and swaps consistently with your goals in mind are how results happen, said Carey Peters, a certified health coach and founder of the Health Coach Institute, which trains people to coach others on how to improve their nutrition and life choices.
Day in and day out, choose a mindset of “inevitable success,” Peters said.
“Trying something is dicey,” she said. “Deciding it is inevitable is definitive.”
Diana Novak Jones is a local freelance writer.