By Rennie Aranda, Skinny Gene Nutritionist
Welcome 2014! A new year to start over and commit to resolutions to work on throughout the year (or pick up on last year’s resolutions). Every year when the clock strikes midnight, people are determined that this will be the year they shape up, eat better, save more money, or finally kick their smoking habit to the curb. Resolutions can be fun to make, but difficult to maintain. A study found that one out of three Americans resolve to better themselves in some way, but a smaller percentage actually keep up with them. The majority will stick to their goals for at least a week and less than half are still on target six months later. So how can we make this year different? Many people try to make drastic changes that are unrealistic. Rather than resolving to lose 50 pounds or to run monthly marathons, welcome the new year with a renewed commitment to living healthy by starting with small, simple changes to carry on to the next year. Pick one of the following worthy resolutions and stick to it. It may be hard to keep up the enthusiasm, but not impossible! Cheers to a healthy new year and a healthy new you!
1. Fit in 30 minutes of exercise or physical activity into your day
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of both moderate and vigorous activity throughout the week). 30 minutes a day, five times a week can be an easy goal to remember, but you also experience benefits if you divide your time into two or three 10-15 minute segments each day. This includes anything that makes you move your body and burn calories, such as brisk walking or climbing stairs.
If you don’t currently exercise and aren’t very active during the day, any increase in physical activity is good for you. Aerobic physical activity (any activity that causes a noticeable increase in your heart rate) is especially beneficial for disease prevention. Even walking briskly for 15-20 minutes a day starts to decrease the chances of having a heart attack or stroke, developing diabetes, or dying prematurely. Don’t be afraid to start slow and then increase activity each day to reach your goals.
Other health benefits of daily aerobic exercise include weight loss and maintenance of lost weight, increased stamina, increased immunity to viral illnesses, reduced health risks (obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancer), better management of chronic conditions (helps lower high blood pressure and control blood sugar), stronger heart, clear arteries (less buildup of plaque), better mood and reduced tension, stronger muscles, reduction of cognitive decline in older adults, and a longer life (in comparison to those who don’t exercise regularly).
2. Replace unhealthy beverages such as soda with more water
One of the major causes of obesity is soda. In fact, soda has become the primary source of calories in the American diet. The high sugar content along with caffeine is a deadly combination leading to a lifelong addiction to these carbonated drinks. Soda is high in calories, but provides no nutritional value. It also contributes to obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, and weakened bones. If cutting out soda altogether is too difficult, try replacing one soda a day with water. Then two sodas a day and so forth. Water is the number one alternative to soda that provides many health benefits.
Drinking water helps maintain the balance of body fluids to keep you in good health and hydrated. Water is especially important when trying to lose weight because it can help control calories, especially when replacing higher calorie beverages. Even water-rich foods help in weight control such as fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal, and beans because they help you feel full. Other benefits of drinking water include more energized muscles, good looking skin, better kidney function, and maintenance of a normal bowel function (prevents constipation).
Reap the benefits of water by increasing your daily intake. Here are some tips:
– Have water with every snack and meal.
– If you need taste, incorporate slices of your favorite fruits.
– Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration.
– Keep a bottle of water with you in your car, at your desk, or in your bag.
Fiber provides many health benefits. Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body does not digest or absorb. You may see it listed on a food label as soluble fiber or insoluble fiber, but both types have important health benefits such as lowering blood cholesterol and glucose levels and preventing constipation or irregular bowel movements.
Eat a wide variety of high fiber foods such as whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fruits and vegetables to maximize the health benefits. Not only does a high fiber diet help to normalize bowel movements and maintain bowel health, it also aids in achieving healthy weight. Dietary fiber adds bulk to your diet and makes you feel full faster and helps to control your weight. The Institute of Medicine recommends 38 grams of daily fiber for men and 25 grams of daily fiber for women, age 50 or younger, and 30 grams of daily fiber for men and 21 grams of daily fiber for women, age 51 and older.
4. Work on staying mentally fit
Maintaining a healthy mind is just as important as staying physically fit. Staying mentally and physically fit requires work and an investment of time. Set goals for yourself to help you maintain a balance between your emotional and physical wellness. Here are some mental wellness tips to help manage and reduce stress:
– Get plenty of sleep (preferably eight hours of uninterrupted sleep), which is essential to health and happiness.
– Learn to relax. Remind yourself to take a break. Incorporate yoga, meditations or other forms of relaxation into your day.
– Laugh. It truly is the best medicine and can be very therapeutic. Incorporate laughter into your day to make you feel better about yourself and the world around you.
– Do something for others. When you’re feeling down, helping others can make you feel included and empowered. Nothing feels better than making others happy.
– Nurture friendships. In this world of technology, face-to-face interaction is being substituted by other avenues of communication. Email and texting is no substitute for a real live visit with a friend or family member. Stay in touch and schedule short lunch breaks, movie dates, or shopping excursions.
– Avoid unnecessary stress. Trying to meet expectations of a household, family, friends, or employer can be overwhelming at times. Make a realistic to-do list each week. Tackling those priorities and crossing them off as you go will give you a gratifying feeling of accomplishment and serve as encouragement to carry you through your next list. Realize your limits and learn how to say no. Above all, keep a positive attitude that will help you make the appropriate changes to your lifestyle and time.
– Make time for fun. Your body needs time to take a break from your responsibilities and recharge. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy and contentment, such as reading a book, watching a movie, spending time with loved ones, or taking a relaxing bath.
– Incorporate physical activity. Focusing on being physically fit also provides benefits for your mental well-being since it plays a role in reducing and preventing stress. Incorporate daily physical activity such as walking, riding a bike, working in your garden, dancing, or playing sports with friends and family.
– Eat healthy. Start each day with a healthy breakfast and maintain balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day. Try to limit excessive caffeine and sugars in your diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress and are kept mentally sharp.
This year, try committing to a realistic, healthy New Year’s resolution that you can carry on to the next year. Just small changes can lead to life-long healthy habits. Set goals for yourself and take small steps toward achieving them, whether it be replacing one soda a day with water, increasing physical activity to 30 minutes a day, or eating more fiber. Don’t stop at just one! With a new attitude and determination for good health, include more healthy resolutions as the year progresses and have your friends and family join in on the fun!