Jan 12, 2017
Are you resolving to improve your health in 2017? Here is a list of achievable health goals for the New Year and suggested strategies* to make them successful.
Resolution: Exercise more
Make it a habit. Kick off your exercise resolution by going to the gym once a day for 7 days, changing into your workout clothes and doing even just 5 or 10 minutes of exercise. The goal is to create a habit, figure out the logistics of getting to/from the gym, and add on from there.
Make it fun. If you like to dance, sign up for weekly salsa lessons. Love being social? Go for a walk with a friend. Variety can also make exercise exciting. Some U.S. cities offer ClassPass**—a program where you pay a monthly fee to take a range of classes at different gyms and studios, such as Pilates, yoga, cycling and kickboxing.
Make it attainable. A good rule of thumb is to add about 10% each week to give your body time to gain strength and fitness. For example, if you walk for 30 minutes 3 times per week one week, add about 9 minutes total to your walking time the next week.
Resolution: Lose weight
Embrace cravings instead of denying them. One way to do this is to add fruits and vegetables to your favorite dishes. For example, take three cups of leafy greens (spinach, arugula, kale or romaine lettuce) and top them with something you crave, such as cutting pizza into squares and using as croutons or pouring taco fillings onto the greens and making a taco salad**. Adding fruits and vegetables to the foods you love slims your waistline because they take about 10% more energy to digest. It’s called the thermic effect of food**.
Put foods on your plate in the right ratios. When you place foods on your plate in the right proportions, your dish becomes a healthy and low-calorie meal. Fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with protein, and the remaining quarter with whole grains like quinoa. To vegetables, add a healthy fat, such as 2 – 3 tablespoons of nuts or avocado.
Resolution: Get more sleep
Have a caffeine cutoff time. Caffeine stays in your body for eight hours, so drink your last caffeinated beverage around noon. Decaffeinated teas are a good substitute for afternoon caffeine cravings.
Have a tech cutoff time. Light from your phone and TV inhibits the hormone melatonin that helps you sleep**. Put tech gadgets to bed 60 minutes before you go to sleep and use that time to read (not from a tech device), meditate or stretch. If 60 minutes is too daunting, start with 30 minutes for 2 weeks and then increase to 1 hour.
Stay cool. Because your body temperature falls as you sleep, set your thermostat closer to 65°F (18°C). Research** shows that if it’s too hot or too cold, your body will waste energy trying to regulate, causing you to toss and turn.
Resolution: Reduce stress
Spend time outside. Exercising outdoors may lift your mood better than indoor exercise**. Gardening – including activities such as digging soil, planting seedlings, weeding garden beds and trimming leaves – can also reduce stress. Some local botanic gardens allow visitors to garden onsite.
Listen to feel-good music. Turn on your favorite music station or playlist. Online music services such as Pandora or Spotify offer playlists from classical to pop music. Calming music lowers stress.
Spend time with your favorite animal. Some studies** have demonstrated that petting or playing with a dog or horse, for example, reduces anxiety.
Eat well. For an afternoon pick-me-up, try green tea instead of coffee. Researchers found that levels of stress were 20% lower in people who drank green tea daily.
Bonus strategy that lowers stress and helps you lose weight: If you find that going to the grocery store and cooking is stressful, simplify the process by practicing delicious monotony**. Choose a few meals you love. Pick two breakfast recipes and three dinner recipes for the week. You can eat leftovers from dinner for lunch. Researchers** found when you have too many choices, your willpower decreases and you make poor decisions.
*In curating the success strategies for our resolutions list, we consulted registered dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner’s book, The Superfood Swap, and sleep expert Nancy H. Rothstein’s website, http://thesleepambassador.com.
Blatner, Dawn Jackson (2016). The Superfood Swap. Chicago, Illinois: Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Reed, G. W., & Hill, J. O. (1996). Measuring the thermic effect of food. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 63 (2), pp. 164-169.