These habits will help you lose weight, eat smarter in 2017
There’s something special about the start of a new year. We are rejuvenated with a fresh rush of motivation and blessed with a squeaky clean blank slate, providing the perfect set of circumstances to make a lifestyle change. In fact, research has shown that the most successful behavior change occurs during times of novelty. But change is challenging. It’s no secret that one of the most common resolutions is to “eat healthier, lose weight, and improve wellbeing”. But if the same resolution is resurrected and repeated year after year, this tells us one thing: Our intentions are persistent, but we aren’t so great at executing.
Here’s to getting it right in 2017 and beyond! Follow this guide to cultivate healthy habits that last a lifetime.
Rethink Resolutions
The trouble with resolutions is that they are tied to a one-year deadline, producing transient results, at best. But, if our true pursuit is lifelong wellbeing, it’s silly to think a one-year commitment will provide a lifetime of health.
Instead, use the momentum of the New Year to cultivate healthy habits that you can repeat on a daily basis and maintain for a lifetime. The automatic, repetitive, and consistent nature of habits is the key to lifelong wellbeing. After all, what we do every day matters more than what we do once in awhile.
Get Back to the Basics
In the past, we’ve overlooked the basic fundamentals to healthy living, and placed our faith in “sophisticated” and complex fads, jumping from one trendy program to the next. But how can we knock the essentials if we haven’t actually given them a chance to work their magic? This year, skip the trends and pay attention to these five basics:
1. Real Food
Real food is energizing, disease-protecting, anti-aging, and mood-boosting - everything we need to live a long and happy life. Colorful fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, high-quality proteins, and healthy fats are perfectly packaged with the vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and energy we need to thrive. Yet, studies show an estimated 50% of our diet is comprised of ultra processed foods that are not only devoid of beneficial nutrients, but also contain toxic and artificial additives.
2. Water
The human body is comprised of about 65-70 percent water, an unmistakable indicator of its importance in health. Water plays a critical role in supporting the function of every organ in the body, yet research estimates a striking 75 percent of U.S population is functioning under a chronic state of dehydration.
3. Sleep
Sleep is our body’s only opportunity to repair, rebuild, and recharge. Yet we tend to care more about recharging our iPhones than our bodies! Studies show over one third of the U.S population is sleep deprived.
4. Movement
Our bodies were designed to move, yet each year we are becoming increasingly more sedentary. Studies estimate American adults spend an average of 13 hours sitting each day. Regular exercise promotes sleep quality, strengthens cognitive function, improves metabolism, relieves stress, enhances physical performances, and supports healthier food choices.
5. Relax
“Unplugging” on a regular basis has been shown to improve productivity, creativity, energy, performance, health and happiness. Whether it’s yoga, meditation, reading a book, taking a warm bath, sipping on tea, or doing a puzzle, taking time to relax and reset is critical to our health and happiness.
Personalize Your Approach
While the five basic elements to healthy living appear deceivingly simple, in practice, they are incredibly tough to implement.  Here’s the challenge: The basics alone are just a list of ingredients that make up a recipe to create action and positive change.  And we don’t just need any recipe, we need a personalized recipe that takes into account our individual traits, tendencies, preferences, as well as our unique biology and health requirements.  Here’s how to personalize your approach:
Know Yourself Better
Your success will depend on how well you are able to identify strategies that align with who you are and what makes you, you. It’s much easier to adjust your strategies to work in congruence with your personality than it is to try and wedge yourself into rigid framework that directly competes against your human nature.
Reflect on times when you’ve succeeded, and times when you have struggled. Which circumstances led you to be victorious, and which distracted you or prevented you from following through? Consider taking a personality test to help you get to know yourself better. (Try habit & happiness expert Gretchin Rubin’s Quiz). Here are a few questions to get you started:
  • Do you need accountability, or do you rebel against obligations?
  • Do you prefer solitude or social settings?
  • Do you prefer familiarity, or variability?
  • Are you a planner or do you prefer to live impulsively?
  • Do you prefer to take big steps or baby steps?
How you answer these questions will help you identify the best strategies for bringing back the basics. For example, if you are someone that needs accountability, signing up for workout classes that charge a no-show fee may help you maintain a regular exercise routine.
Employ Habit Hacks
Now that you’ve identified habits that support you, the next step is to activate these habits. Here are a few trusty habit hacks to help get you started:
  • Downsizing: Focus on one habit at a time, and break it down into the smallest, easiest action imaginable. Mentally, this will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed, and it will also reframe the habit into a task so simple it would be ridiculous not to follow through. For example, if your goal is to drink 10 glasses of water in a day, rephrase the habit: “drink one glass of water per hour”.
  • Pairing: Piggyback on routines that are already embedded into your daily life, such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or eating a meal. Use these routines as the cue to trigger your new desired behavior. For example, when you make a morning pot of coffee, let this be your cue to drink a glass of water while it brews.
  • Scheduling: When a task is scheduled, suddenly it becomes a priority, encouraging us to manage our time around it. Try scheduling your weekly workouts into your calendar.
  • Reconstructing: Make the healthy choice the most convenient choice by reconstructing your environment. Give your pantry a makeover: place healthier choices at eye level, and store junk food on the top shelf out of arm’s reach. Make the right choice too easy to resist.
Study Yourself
The final step to cultivating a personalized healthy lifestyle is to put your lab coat on and study yourself. Use an app or keep a journal to track your habits and how they impact your mood, energy level, hunger level, performance, and weight. Not only will this serve as a source of accountability, but also the data you collect will start to reveal patterns.
For example, one person may thrive on seven hours of sleep, while others may require nine hours. Similarly, two people served the same exact meal may experience drastic differences in blood sugar, energy or weight. Logging this information will help you understand how best to manipulate variables in a way that works best for your goals — such as setting an earlier bedtime or eating small meals more often. Treat   this is just a temporary science project and enjoy the process of self-discovery!
Ready to begin? Click on the “real food” meal plan below to get started!
Lindsey Kane is a Registered Dietitian from Philadelphia. For more nutrition tips and recipes, visit her blog at biteforchange.com.

 

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