By Edwin Taylor, MD
It seems that every year, as the holidays come and go, our best intentions for staying healthy become merely that. Best intentions. The extra sweets, meals, and get-togethers that tend to pile up around the holidays, instead, start packing in around our midsection. And when the New Year arrives, we make that promise, yet again, to NOT do the same thing next year. Or maybe, the resolution is a “quick fix” to get rid of the extra pounds we acquired the few months before. More often than not, we lose interest in our “quick fix”, find it too hard or restricting, it hasn't worked, and we’re back to our old habits.
So what is the answer to our botched resolutions and lack of will power? Making good habits. And although it seems easier to break good habits than bad ones, it is not impossible. You can make healthy choices right now and keep them with you throughout the upcoming year and those to come. But what will it take? How can you set goals that do not end in failure? How can you achieve the goals you set without zapping the joy out of life? There is a way, but it will take effort. Here are some suggestions on how to achieve your goals and make them a permanent part of your healthy lifestyle.
Set reasonable goals
Sometimes the goals we set are so lofty that the minute we fail, all is lost and we give up. If you have a larger goal in mind, break it up into smaller milestones. If your resolution is to lose weight, instead of deciding on a number and hope it happens by osmosis, set smaller, long term goals like choosing healthier options at one meal each day. Or set your goal at losing 10 pounds to start. You can also decide to start eating breakfast daily. Research shows that eating breakfast kick starts your metabolism and essentially, “breaks the fast” by giving your body the fuel it needs to start the day.
Set exercise goals
This doesn't mean you need to find the nearest gym and get a membership. Just start moving! Set smaller goals that you can reach and maintain. Take a 30 minute walk twice a week; park in the back of the parking lot when you go shopping; walk the mall with a friend; play with your kids, grandkids, or pets. There are plenty of options in any season to get your body moving, your heart pumping, and help you reach those long term goals of living a healthy lifestyle.
Do not fast
Make it a point to eat three meals per day. Fasting only puts the body into preservation mode and anything you feed it ends up getting stored in case for those moments when you fast. Additionally, fasting causes the body to break down easy to reach proteins, such as muscle, to maintain caloric needs for daily functions. Fat is the last fuel source the body will try to consume because it takes work to break it down.
Essential as they are, simple carbohydrates should be your nemesis. Bread, rice, pasta and potatoes should not have a dominant presence on your daily meals. Instead choose foods rich in more complex carbohydrates and also decrease the amount of refined sweets, sodas and juices. You would be surprised at the amount of calories that originate from these food sources and that can essentially sabotage the best laid weight loss plans, particularly if exercise is not an integral part of your lifestyle modifications.
Ask for help
Goals are much easier to reach and maintain when we have someone along for the ride. Whether it is a friend or family member, find someone that will help keep you accountable, or even reach that goal with you! Believe it or not, social media such as Facebook can put you in the public view within a close circle of friends who will expect weekly or monthly updates from you! Check in daily for help to stay on track, for support when there are set backs, and celebration when goals are met. And remember, set backs are normal. Don't beat yourself up if you miss a day at the gym or that second helping was just too good to pass up. This is a lifestyle change, not a strict regimen made to make life miserable. Healthy changes are meant to improve your life, not take away the joy. This is a marathon, not a race. Your current situation did not happen overnight, it took years to develop; therefore, why should you expect it to resolve in weeks?
If you are setting goals to make healthy changes, be intentional about fulfilling them. Write them down and post where you can see them. Talk to your doctor to have them help you set goals that are reasonable and realistic. And take it one day at a time. Make a conscious decision each day to stick to your goals. When you have set backs, pick yourself up and start over. When you have victories, celebrate! But most of all, be kind to yourself. It is said that Rome was not built in a day…neither are lifestyle changes. It takes, so the saying goes, 3 weeks to break a habit. Stay focused. It takes work to decide to make healthy adjustments to begin with, then set up a plan, and follow through. But the work is worth it…YOU are worth it! Each day is a new day to make better choices and begin living a healthy lifestyle to improve your body, mind, and soul. Make 2016 the year for a new you. Today is the perfect time to start!
Dr. Edwin Taylor earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology at the University of New Orleans after serving 8 years enlisted in the United States Navy. He attended medical school at the Louisiana State University School of Health Sciences in Shreveport, Louisiana and family practice residency at the Naval Hospital Pensacola, Florida. He served 15 years in the Navy after overseas tours in Okinawa, Japan and Italy and various subsequent deployments. A 13 month veteran of the war in Iraq, Dr. Taylor is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and is bilingual and bicultural in Spanish. He is in private practice at Healthcare Associates of McKinney. For more information, visit HealthcareAssociatesofMcKinney.com or call (972) 268-9383.