New Year’s resolutions come and go but for a lifetime of good health, one has to make lifestyle choices instead of seeking quick fixes. Instead of fad diets and jumping on the latest workout trend, the recipe for health success is starting out by making small positive changes one at a time, until they become habits. And if you stumble, focus on the long run.
1. Calories in, calories out
If losing weight were easy, everyone would be thin, but weight loss is basic science. Take in less calories than you expend and as grandma always said, eat foods in moderation. Have a slice of cake if you crave it but stop at one slice. “First, toss all those diets out the window. Permanent weight loss requires a lifetime of making good food choice and being physically active,” says Barbara Schmidt, MS, DN, a nutrition life program specialist at Norwalk Hospital in a video posted on the hospital’s website. Rather than focusing on the scale, she suggests focusing on one’s actions. “There are four things you can control: what you eat, how much you eat, how the food is prepared, and being physically active. Plan ahead: plan your meal times and snack times so there is no spontaneous eating. You want to eat every four hours … breakfast, lunch, a snack, and dinner. In order to lose weight and keep it off it takes the three Ps — planning, practice and perseverance.”
2. Get moving!
“Schedule your exercise on your calendar just the same way you would any appointment,” Schmidt adds. “Start or restart your exercise program, planning indoor as well as outdoor activities so that weather does not become a barrier to your exercise program.” If you can get a friend or spouse to join you in your fitness journey as a workout buddy, be it for walks around the neighborhood or the local gym, your success rates increase. Having another person to be accountable to makes it harder to skip that workout.
3. Be smart with technology
Face it, most of us are addicted to our phones or tablets. It should come as no surprise that the more time we spend sitting and engaging in screen time, the more weight we tend to pack on. “Get off your gadgets. If you spend hours on your mobile devices, you’ll likely find yourself with a lower fitness level and a larger waistline,” the Western Connecticut Health Network’s website, westernconnecticuthealthnetwork.org, states. “Limit yourself and the entire family to two hours of at-home screen time.” Use technology, however, to help achieve fitness goals. Besides wearable devices like a Fitbit, you can also use apps to keep track of what food you eat, how many calories you consume, and your daily physical activity. Redbook magazine recently published its list of top 25 apps, and standouts included Fooducate, Lose It!, Nudge, and My Fitness Pal.
4. Slow and steady
“Small changes in a person’s lifestyle can yield big rewards. You are more likely to succeed if you set realistic or SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely),” says Mary Ann Genuario, director of health and fitness, and chronic disease prevention program coordinator at the Riverbrook Regional YMCA in Wilton. “Have confidence in your ability to succeed and take it one day at a time … understand that changing your habits take time so be patient and trust the process.”
5. Don’t forget the flu shot
“I am proud to announce that our mothers were right when it comes to winter health, particularly in light of the ridiculously cold weather that we have been enjoying,” says Dr. David Pazer of Family Medical Associates in Ridgefield. “Make sure you dress in wicking layers to stay warm, and use wind blocking to help create a stable warm air pocket in your clothes. If you have respiratory issues, such as asthma or COPD, wearing a warm muffler can also help protect your lungs from the intense cold and prevent flares of respiratory illness. Make sure you drink lots of fluids since most people forget to when it’s cold. And of course, make sure you have joined the flu shot herd to protect yourself and others.” Pazer notes while the flu shot gets a bad rap since it might miss the key strain that makes its way around during a particular year, the shot is designed to ward against several strains that can also cause problems.
And if you have a bad day or get off track, don’t beat yourself up. Good health is a journey, there are bound to be detours here and there. Just get back on track the next day and keep embracing positive changes.