Around this time every year we all make resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, and take control of errant behaviors. This year, take advantage of that January mindset to do just one thing: get healthy. Commit to a fresh start by getting back to basics and all of those other goals will fall in line.
As you may expect, an essential first step is to look at what you’re eating. Make the decision to eat clean by eliminating all of the processed food in your life. Eat whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Choose lean, clean protein like free-range chicken and grass-fed beef. Opt for minimally processed whole grains. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. This is how we ate before food was made “convenient” and all but stripped of nutritious content. By eating clean, you are giving your body the fuel it needs to function at the top of its game. Your body will begin to purge unhealthy fats and additives, attack free radicals, drop unnecessary pounds, and restore balance to your system.
Now that you know what to eat, figure out how you’re going to eat it by adopting a reasonable eating plan. No weights and measures, just eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. This basic approach usually translates to three meals and one or two snacks a day. Eat slowly and without distraction so you can feel when your body is full. After a week or two of eating this way you’ll notice that your body is satiated on a lot less food than what you’re used to, leading to natural weight loss.
Once your diet is clean and portions are appropriate, try adding in a few more healthy items to your plate. Consider your dinner. Can you scale back on protein a little? Perhaps make that piece of meat equivalent to the size of your palm? Can you increase your vegetables? Maybe add a fresh salad to your meal? By upping your vegetable content you are increasing your fiber, which works to eliminate toxins from your system and helps you feel full longer. Salad is also a way to increase your vegetable diversity and help you eat a rainbow at every meal. Not only is it tasty, but it’s a guaranteed way to be sure you get a broad spectrum of nutrients. Aim for one quarter of your plate filled with protein, one quarter with grain, and the other half full of vegetables. Add fruit for dessert, and you’ve just satisfied most of the nutrient needs in your body.
Get out and walk.
Now that you know what you’re putting into your body, focus on what you’re putting out. The word “exercise” can be intimidating, but it need not be. We’re not talking about challenging Rocky to a race up the stairs. We’re simply talking about moving your body more. This can mean going for a walk in the morning, playing with your kids in the park, or keeping your cart on the path during golf. Most of the things you do on a daily basis can be converted into exercise. At the market, grab a basket and carry it around instead of pushing a cart. The weight of your basket and lack of support provided by the cart will engage your muscles and challenge your balance. At the mall, park your car once and walk to all the stores you need to visit. Stop moving your car and move your feet instead. This all counts as exercise. Do more of it and your body will respond with healthy rewards.
Now indulge your lazy side. Sleep as much as you can. Let those droopy eyelids call the shots and go to bed when you’re tired. Aim for 7-9 hours a night. REM sleep is how your body restores and resets itself. It’s also how your memories are processed and retained in your brain. Turn in earlier than usual for one week. By the end of that week, if you don’t need your alarm clock to wake up on time, you’re getting the right amount of sleep for you.
Focus on your whole being – mind, body, spirit and soul.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, laugh! Pay attention when the littlest one at the table has a silly joke to tell. Really hear your spouse when he/she describes their daily giggle. Laugh with others and enjoy the happy things that surround you. There will always be a list of the negatives in our lives. By taking the time to laugh, you prioritize happiness. Being happy is one of the most rewarding health benefits of all!
Hopefully these ideas provide some basis for a calm, rational, and healthy approach to your New Year. Whatever you do, don’t use the concept of resolutions to beat yourself up over your shortcomings. Use your resolutions to be kind to yourself, and the benefits you reap will become not only part of who you are but also who you want to be.
Pam Salvadore of La Quinta is a nutrition journalism student at Arizona State University. For more from Pam visit her blog pamsalvadore.wordpress.com.