Happy New Year’s Eve Eve! This past month has been a whirlwind and I am so ready to get over this post Christmas flu bug and back to my usual routine. It’s a chilly day outside, but I am grateful to have a warm and cozy house where I can relax and get better. It’s a good day to kick back with some blankets and enjoy the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree. I don’t like taking the tree down until after New Year’s, so it will be staying up for a few more days before going back into storage until next year. *sad face*
Typically I post a “Photo of the Week” on weekends, but today I’m doing something a little different. I want to talk fitness and New Year’s resolutions for a bit.
Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions that I see come around every January 1st are the ones expressing desires to be healthier, exercise more, and eat more nutritious diets. Time and time again, I see people jump enthusiastically onto the “get healthy” bandwagon after Christmas, and over and over again I see them fall off almost as fast as they lace up their running shoes. I’m not being judgmental in any way by saying this. Life happens and exercise takes time and effort. After a busy day at work or taking care of young kids, it’s a lot easier to relax with some convenience food and a football game or favorite show than to get up the motivation to cook a nutritious dinner and go exercise.
I’ve wanted to write occasionally on the subject of fitness ever since I started my blog, and I just haven’t gotten around to it. Since I caught the flu this week and have already cleaned my house two times and am going stir crazy, I’m writing this post. You’re welcome. If you want to see more like it, let me know. If you dislike it, you can tell me that too. I’m feeling a bit grouchy at the moment due to my sore throat and achy head, so I apologize in advance if my writing is a little blunt today. 😉
DISCLAIMER: Please talk to your doctor before starting an exercise or diet program. I am neither a nutritionist, nor a doctor, nor an expert on all things fitness. I’ve simply been heavily interested in physical fitness and diet since I was in high school and have read/studied copious amounts of material on both subjects. This post is just me sharing some practical advice that has helped me in my exercise routine over the years. Hopefully it well help someone else in finding and sticking to a routine that works well for them.
Ok everyone, here are a dozen thoughts to get you started in the new year if you are a “fitness resolutions” person. 🙂 I’m going to number these to make them easier to follow. Please feel free to chime in with your own ideas!
- Examine your excuses not to exercise. I have to do this frequently. Even though I love exercising, I have plenty of days where I don’t want to pick up my weights and start. I often find that if I stop arguing with myself and just get it done, I feel so much better afterward. Probably the biggest excuse I hear (and that I give myself) is lack of time. I get that. We’re all busy. However, if you have time to watch your favorite TV show or be on Facebook (or any other number of time wasters), you have time to exercise. That’s all I’m going to say on that one because I have yet to see someone give this excuse who doesn’t spend time watching TV or being on Facebook (including me). Excuse busted. Also, keep in mind that exercise is a long term investment in your health. Exercise is worth the time that it takes.
- It doesn’t matter what age, size, weight (whatever) you are, exercise and a healthy diet are beneficial. This one is kind of a pet peeve for me. I am a petite person, and if I had a dollar for every time someone said, “Why do you exercise and eat healthy? You’re skinny”, I could buy a luxury yacht in cash. I’m not trying to be mean here, but that is an incredibly ignorant statement. Just because someone is skinny does not mean that they are healthy. By that same token, simply because someone is heavier does not mean that they are unhealthy. So, stop it with these kinds of assumptions, ok? Thank you. I also hear people say they are too old to exercise. Not true! Exercise is good no matter your age; discuss it with your doctor and go from there. (Quick side note: I do want to point out that in cases of severe eating disorders, there are times when stopping exercise is beneficial in order to help someone recover. I’m not going to get into that here because it’s not my area of expertise, but I did want to address that.)
- Say no to crash diets, gimmicks, diet pills, powders, shakes, etc. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Your money is better spent on whole foods and a good trainer or gym membership than the latest diet scam. Every year I see some new gimmick hit the market, and it frustrates me to no end that people pour so much money into quick fixes. I understand. We’re impatient and we want results now. But the reality is that, even if one of these diets does help you lose weight, they are not sustainable or even healthy as a lifestyle and most people will gain back the weight they lose (and often more). Not to mention they’re ridiculously expensive (did I already say that?). Steer clear.
- On that same note, if your goal is weight loss, starving yourself is not the answer. I see women in particular do this a lot as a way of losing or maintaining their weight. They will intentionally not eat for most of the day, and then go eat dinner. This isn’t good for a couple of reasons: First, it can mess up your metabolism and make it harder to lose or maintain your weight. Second, you will likely discover that your tendency is to overeat in the evenings because you’re so hungry, and you may find yourself gaining rather than losing.
- Make it a habit to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. This is way easier said than done, I know. There are times when I think that many Americans are so used to overeating and snacking when we aren’t hungry that we don’t even know what true hunger feels like anymore. Train yourself to eat intuitively and listen to your body’s signals; it will pay off. Personally I think this approach combined with healthier foods is more effective than counting calories, and it will be more practical in the long run than logging calories every day.
- Find a pattern of eating that works best for you. Different things work for different bodies. I know some people feel great when they eat vegan and others feel great eating meat and veggies. That’s fine! I get frustrated when I see one group looking down on everyone else because they don’t eat the same way. Don’t be a diet snob. Here is just one “healthy diet” example: Most of our (my husband and me) diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (oats, rice, whole wheat, spelt, quinoa), lean meats (chicken, lean turkey, fish, lean ground beef on occasion), eggs, dairy in moderation, nuts and seeds, and legumes. In my baking, I often try to use sweeteners like honey, Sucanat, and pure maple syrup instead of refined sugar (keeping in mind that those sweeteners still contain sugar). We have treats like dessert about once a week (a little more during the holiday season), and avoid eating out and/or processed foods as much as is practical. This plan works well for us, but you may find that something different works for you. That is ok! Generally aim to eat less processed foods and more whole foods, and watch your sodium and sugar intake as most of us tend to eat way too much salt and sugar.
- Don’t focus on restriction or “forbidding” foods. (Unless your doctor gives you a specific reason not to eat a food or you’re allergic. Then please don’t eat it.) If you’re constantly thinking about things you can’t have, then you’re going to want those things. Focus on lifestyle changes instead. Start with one small change and then another, if changing all at once is overwhelming. Try to keep foods that are too tempting out of the house, but don’t tell yourself you can never have them again or you will get frustrated. Example: It helps me to keep foods like cookies out of our house because I know if they are there I will want to eat them. But, I don’t tell myself that I can NEVER have a cookie. If I know I can drive to the nearest store and get cookies or make homemade cookies anytime I want, it actually makes me less likely to get them simply because I know they aren’t forbidden. That sounds weird, but it works. We always want what we can’t have. When I grocery shop I keep an attitude of, “Hey, I can buy and eat those cookies if I want, but I’m choosing not to eat them.” It really does help (at least for me). I also find that it is beneficial to plan my treats, as I mentioned before. We typically have dessert once a week on Friday nights. Knowing that I get to enjoy a slice of cake on Friday makes me less likely to eat something I don’t need on Tuesday. Moderation is key (as you can see from all my recent dessert posts, haha). Just because you want to eat healthier doesn’t mean you can never enjoy a slice of pizza or a piece of cheesecake ever again. Keeping this mindset will actually help you to stay on track. Then when you do eat a cookie on occasion you’ll be more likely to think, “Big deal. It’s a cookie.” and go on your merry way instead of reacting like this: “Oh no!!! I ate the forbidden food. I might as well eat all the cookies now.” Also, once you get used to eating along healthier lines, you may find that the foods you ate before don’t hold the same appeal anymore.
- When you start an exercise program or eating healthier, pick goals that are centered on building strength, endurance, flexibility, or improving overall health, instead of goals built around “I want to look a certain way”. For example: “I want to be able to do 10 push-ups” or “My doctor thinks my resting heart rate is too high and I want to improve it” versus “I want to look good in that outfit.” Goals based on external appearance are only going to frustrate you. (Trust me. I’ve been there.)
- Set goals that are realistic. Example: If you struggle to run a mile and set out to run 20, you’re going to give up. Start with something lower and go from there. Along those same lines, if you can already walk a brisk mile easily and you set a goal to walk two, you’re going to get bored. Make sure you’re pushing yourself (as is ok’d by your doctor).
- Don’t overdo it. This one is for you overachievers. 😉 Doing a brutal strength training workout on the same muscle group every single day OR a super intense cardio interval workout every day without rest days or lighter workouts in between will eventually break down your body and may end up in you achieving the opposite of what you want. You might get frustrated and give up or you may push yourself to the point where you are over-training and actually start making yourself sick. Add some variety to your workouts and give your body time to rest in between. When I used to go to the gym, I was amazed at some of the women who would attend brutally difficult cardio classes multiple days on end without giving their bodies a chance to rest. I also saw men training the same muscle group (usually biceps) every single day. Not cool, bro. Stop it. Give yourself rest days. If you insist that you’re not tired and want to do something on your day off, go for a walk or do some light yoga, but your body needs a break from intense workouts. If you don’t regret it now, you will if you keep it up. (Once again, I’ve been there.)
- Remember that fit and healthy looks different on everyone! Ladies in particular need to keep this in mind (though it can definitely affect guys too). The models you see on magazine covers do not walk around looking like that every single day. There is a whole group of tricks that are used to help models look slim for their photo shoots, not to mention lighting and photoshop. Also keep in mind that models are paid to look good. Trying to have or maintain such a physique on a daily basis is not practical or even healthy for many of us.
- Find exercises that you enjoy. If you hate running, then don’t build an exercise routine centered around running or you’re going to hate every minute and you’ll probably quit. Figure out what you like. If walking is your thing, then walk! If you like tennis, then find a tennis buddy! If you love bicycling, invest in a new bicycle! If your kids enjoy sports, go throw the football around with them for awhile! If you like dancing, put on a playlist and dance! It doesn’t matter if you’re good at it. 😂 Just have fun!
- (Yes, I can count. I guess this is a bonus point.) Consider adding strength training to your routine. The benefits of building muscle are numerous: increased metabolism, increased functional strength, protection against osteoporosis, to name a few. I know that women in particular tend to shy away from strength training because they don’t want to look “bulky”, but let me assure you that you aren’t going to turn into a hulk. If you don’t have any experience with weight lifting, I would recommend talking to a knowledgeable trainer who can help you get started so you don’t hurt yourself.
There you are, folks. Like I said, I’m not an expert, but maybe this will help give someone a head start. If you would like to see more posts on these topics, let me know!
Happy New Year!