It’s 2010 and everyone is filled with the best of intentions: I will work out every day, and I will like it. I will be nicer to my sister. I will put all my effort into my work. I will surround myself with positive people and produce only optimism. Oh, and perhaps the most popular, I’ll eat better and lose that holiday weight.
The first couple months are always a bit daunting with all the resolutions we’ve promised ourselves, and then having to revisit those commitments and assess success.
My friend emailed me this past week asking, “What do you do to stay healthy?” I gave her a couple ideas and have thought on this topic a bit since our discussion. Instead of “resolutions”, how about a set of of healthy, simple tips? These are tips that I think are manageable and incorporate fairly smoothly into one’s daily life. Good luck to a healthy, productive and positive 2010. The only resolution I have for this year is to not settle for anything “LTI” or “Less Than Impressive” and I hope these tips help you do the same.
1) Eat your veggies (especially salad).
Yes, I love meat, but I also love salad. My parents made us eat a salad or vegetable at every sit-down dinner. At first I disliked this requirement, but now I cannot eat dinner or go out for a meal without having a salad to start. If I don’t have one I feel incomplete. Building a salad into your routine not only has health benefits (okay, maybe avoid the bleu cheese and dressing-soaked options with bacon on a regular basis), it also helps manage your appetite. I try to eat a serving of salad before each meal, so that way I fill up on healthy, nurtitious leafy greens and will be less likely to overindulge in the main course of meat or starch-filled dishes.
2) Limit soda and fruit juices
I’m going to make my parents sound like dictators, but we also were not allowed to have more than one soda per week. I remember enviously looking at all the other kids who regularly had a Coke before school, at lunch and after dance practice. Yet, nowadays, I do not even miss soda. I drink one once in a while, but by not establishing that unhealthy addition, I do not miss it. Sodas and fruit juices (ones that are not all natural) are loaded with tons of sugars and complex carbohydrates. Yes, there are Diet options, but I know a coworker from work who used to drink 3 Diet Cokes per day, thinking he was fine. When he decided to eliminate Diet Coke from his daily routine (no other change from his regular diet), he dropped 10 lbs.
3) Eat breakfast every day
The tip that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day” is not new news to anyone. Yet, I really believe in it. Breakfast does not have to be a complex ordeal. I recommend starting your day with something healthy: oatmeal is a hearty choice and will help manage your bodily cycles, while also keeping you full till lunch. Yogurt with fruit and granola is another good option (LOVE the yogurt & granola from Le Boulange!). My third common breakfast choice are two hard-boiled eggs – which allow a good amount of protein and salt to fuel you through the morning. I try to avoid anything too sweet in the morning, it just leads to further cravings. Breakfast gives you the energy you need to jumpstart your day and will help manage snacks before lunch time.
4) Satisy your cravings…in moderation
Yes, you read that correctly. I want you to satisfy your cravings. So many people I know make the mistake of declaring, “I’m going to completely cut xxx out of my diet.” One thing I’ve realized over time is that the more I try and avoid my craving, the more I will end up eating. What generally ends up happening is I try to substitute a less attractive option for what I really want. I eat that. Then I eat a few other substitutes. Then I eat what I was originally craving. The result? I’ve eaten probably twice what I would have from the start. Please do not misunderstand what I’m saying though. Yes, you should satisfy your cravings, but do so in moderation. Sure, I crave Ben & Jerry’s ice cream but I do not make a monster bowl of it with toppings on a regular basis. Sometimes just a couple spoonfuls is all I need. Take a small portion of your craving. Then wait 5-10 minutes and assess if you REALLY need anymore. Chances are, you won’t.
5) Cook at home.
Cooking at home not only allows you to explore your creative side, and (as in my case) can provide a relaxing break from the day where I can dive in and take control of the factors in my kitchen. It also helps with portion control. I read an article recently (and can validate with my own experiences) about how people eat 1.5 to 2 times more when they eat out vs. when they dine at home. Think about it, when you’re eating out, traditionally you don’t know all the tasty (and often fattier) ingredients that go into that beurre blanc sauce (lots of butter). All you know is that it tastes fantastic and you want to eat every last drop. Yet, when you eat at home you will probably cook less, cook healthier and can wrap up half of what you’ve cooked in tupperware. Does this mean you should stop going out? Absolutely not. I love going out to eat and will continue that pattern well into 2010. Just try and keep the balance. Your waistline and wallet will thank you in the end.
6) Have healthy snacks in the office
We’ve all been there. It’s 3PM, you have 2-3 hours left at work. Lunch is a distant memory and the hunger pains are tugging at your insides. What do yo do? Venture to the office stash of chips, cookies and sweets? That is a first class ticket to lovehandles, my friends. Instead, try and keep your own collection of healthy snacks at work. Ideas include: string cheese, fruit, nuts, veggies and dip, hard-boiled eggs (what can I say, I love eggs).
7) Avoid “crash diets”
I don’t diet. Period. I don’t believe in it and I never will believe in it. I’ve seen far too many examples of people “crash dieting”, yes ,they lose 10-20 lbs and then what happens? Three weeks later they’ve gained it all back and then some. I know a number of people who have done the “Master Cleanse” – that horrible idea of cayenne pepper, lemon juice and maple syrup being enough to subsist on for 10 days straight. I’ve even had people try to passionately convince me how well it works – I think they were just trying to convince themselves that the gnawing feeling inside was something other than starvation effects. You know what though? Every single one of those people gained it all back, about 5-10 more lbs and still struggle with their weight today. They are called “crash diets” for a reason: you CRASH. Instead, modify those cravings. Eat more vegetables. Eat less carbs. Yes, you can eat fat, but intermix it with other options. Oh, and of course, WORK OUT! I guarantee you will have healthier, longer-lasting effects.
8) Stay active.
This is probably one of the most important to being Pao Fit in 2010…Not just for losing weight, but for cardiovascular effects, mood management, and just overall healthiness. I don’t care what you do. Yoga, pilates, running, triathlons, hikes, walks, biking, climbing, spinning, lifting weights, hip hop classes, kickboxing. Really anything will help, you just have to find something you enjoy and commit to doing it or a variety of different activities a few times a week. This does not require you to be a gym rat, or to go run 2 hours. Honestly, if you can workout 3 times a week for 30 minutes to an hour, you’ll start to notice a slimmer, happier, healthier you! In talking with a number of people, this last tip, although so straightforward, it is also the most difficult to maintain. Generally I make a rule for myself – for those days that I’m DREADING going to workout – those are the most important days to drag yourself off the couch, out of bed, or away from the cookie jar and suck it up. I promise you’ll feel better and the next time it won’t be as daunting to motivate. Heck, you might even start to like it!
Have a positive and active 2010 and feel free to share any other must-have tips!