After an entire month of filling up on warm comfort foods, sweets and alcoholic beverages, there is no better time than the New Year for a fresh start to a healthier you and healthier lifestyle.
We all experience different challenges that affect our ability to stay on track and keep those annual New Year’s resolutions. Demanding work schedules, frequent social engagements, family commitments, lifestyle habits and food preferences combine to make your new lifestyle change a challenging venture. Follow these tips to help get you started stay motivated throughout the year:
There are many different ways to begin your healthy changes and it is important to pick a strategy that realistically fits with your lifestyle. Do some background research before you begin and set some goals. Once you’ve decided on a program that’s right for you, determine a set of recipes, meal ideas or fitness activities you can even do at home. Then shop ahead so you’ll have the right foods on hand. Avoid keeping any food around the house that may tempt you to cheat. If only healthy foods are accessible, your diet will be easier to follow. Finally, decide when you are going to start. Depending on your work schedule, it may be easier to start your program on a Friday, allowing your body a few days to adjust over the weekend.
PARTNER UP & ASK FOR SUPPORT
Working toward a goal is easier if you can share the journey with a friend, partner or another family member. You can plan and eat meals together, join fitness classes together, and motivate each other when feelings of frustration hit. It is important to have someone who will stand by you and encourage you to stick with the plan. Plus, it feels great when you can share the benefits in the end.
COPE WITH CRAVINGS
Headaches, fatigue and cravings for unhealthy foods are just a few of the symptoms you may experience during the first few days of your new diet. So, try to gradually decrease your intake of coffee and pop or switch to decaf coffee or tea. When cravings hit for your favourite food, consider having an allowable alternative. Frozen fruit makes a good substitute for ice cream and decaffeinated green tea may curb your need for coffee. Taking a mid-afternoon nap or getting some fresh air can also help minimize any negative side effects.
The hardest part of any diet is getting through the first few days. The key to success is to think in terms of making long-term healthy lifestyle changes. Don’t put yourself down if you feel like giving up. It may not be easy, but if you make a strong commitment to yourself, you will reap the benefits in the end.
RECORD YOUR THOUGHTS
Keep a journal during these changes to record your goals and feelings, as well as any roadblocks and ways of coping with them. Recording this type of personal information will give you a more honest look at any roadblocks that you put up and remind you of why you started a diet in the first place. It will also give you a greater sense of accomplishment in the end.
SMALL CHANGES CAN MAKE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE
Here are some basic Do’s and Don’ts to help you get started):
- Do incorporate more water into your diet. Aim for 8 glasses of water each day.
- Don't skip breakfast. Start the day with some Greek yogurt or a protein shake. This can give you energy to begin the day and prevents your metabolism from slowing down.
- Don't skip any meals and try not to skip eating for more than five hours. If you go too long without eating, you can experience low blood sugar, fatigue and headaches. So eat a (healthy) snack between lunch and dinner. Eating snacks you bring from home can also lessen the chance of your grabbing something unhealthy.
- Do drink fewer sodas and other sweetened drinks such as fruit juices and iced tea. These are usually filled with unnecessary sugar and calories.
- Do get more fibre into your diet; this will help you feel fuller longer.
- Do limit simple sugars (fruit juice, candy, pastries) and processed or refined foods (white breads, crackers and pastas), and foods that contain additives, preservatives and trans fats.
- Do limit alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages including: coffee, regular tea and soda.
Adding 20 to 30 minutes of gentle physical activity to your daily routine (such as walking or yoga) is a great way to get blood and oxygen flowing to the tissues and help your body eliminate toxins. Give yourself permission to chill out.
It’s not just about being rested and getting enough sleep, it’s about rejuvenation and healing. While everyone needs 7 to 8 hours of shut-eye, adequate deep sleep and consistent wake time is crucial. Studies show that shifting your wake time by 90 minutes or more reduces energy and increases body fat, independent of diet and exercise.
- Aim to get into bed close to the same hour each night and more importantly, get up around the same time each day.
- A dose of melatonin taken 30 minutes before bedtime promotes deeper sleep and resets your sleep cycle.
A number of natural health products can help support the process of dieting and a healthy, active lifestyle by increasing energy levels and encouraging your body to eliminate more toxins which can help reduce cravings.
- Milk thistle: Helps protect liver cell renewal. This is especially helpful after the holidays.
- Fish oil: Provides omega-3 essential fatty acids that improve brain function and help the body mobilize fat.
- Probiotics: Increase good intestinal microflora to improve digestion and aid in toxin removal. Look for a supplement that contains at least 1 billion active cells of L. acidophilus and other probiotic cultures.
- Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin during the winter months helps to promote good health.
Note: Always consult a health care practitioner prior to taking any supplement.