Now that it's 2018, there are many of us wanting to start the New Year fresh and with new resolutions. I really don't like to rely on New Year resolutions because we are free to change our daily habits and lifestyle at any time and don't need a new calendar year as an excuse. Also, having been a personal trainer and group fitness instructor for 20 years, I've seen my fair share of people join the gym or a fitness program in January and only a handful are still hanging on by the middle of February. It's too much pressure to put on yourself to say you have to complete certain goals within a given time frame. I had so many clients say they wanted to change their bodies by spring break or summer vacation. People need to realize diet and lifestyle changes are gradual and forever. I like to look at making changes as "changing habits". Most of us have bad habits that are inhibiting us from reaching our health/fitness goals...it's time to break the habits and adapt new lifestyle changes. The following are my top 5 habits to incorporate into daily life...they are relatively easy and can be done gradually or all at once.
1. Eat A Hearty Breakfast Full of Protein, Carbohydrates and Healthy Fats
I can't stress enough the importance of eating breakfast, I'm sure everyone has heard that. Breakfast sets the tone for the day and kick-starts your metabolism by helping you burn calories throughout the day and helping to maintain blood glucose levels. Breakfast is essential but, more importantly, the type of breakfast is key. It's important to eat a balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Proteins being eggs, yogurt, ground turkey, sugar-free bacon (nitrate-free), all-natural sausage or nut butter. As for healthy carbohydrates, gluten free oats, grain free granola, sauteed carrots, sweet potatoes, or fruit are all great options. Healthy fats can include eggs, avocado, organ meats, and smoked salmon. I'm not here to tell you what to eat for breakfast...I'm just hoping you eat something! But I'm here to encourage you to balance your breakfast. If you eat eggs, add some sauteed veggies or sliced avocado. If you eat a bowl of oatmeal, add protein powder, nut butter or yogurt and flax seed. My point is to keep a variation in your breakfast to balance out your body. Get creative and use your imagination! If you start the day feeling full and satiated, that feeling with stay with you throughout the day and you won't be as tempted to snack!
2. Drink Water (preferably with lemon and ginger or healing teas)
I'm a huge proponent of drinking water. Other than a cup of coffee or red wine, water is all I drink and I consume massive amounts per day. I'm good with drinking plain filtered water but also love to add flavor via natural fruits. I make a pitcher of water infused with sliced lemon and ginger every week and our whole family drinks it. I also love to make hot teas, let them cool, pour them over water and drink. They add excellent flavors and nutrients. I'm a huge fan of a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) in my water. The flavor took some getting used to but it's excellent for indigestion, detoxifying the digestive system, eliminating toxins and preventing bloating. Adding a touch of honey with the ACV can help the taste. The point is that water is the purest liquid we can drink and it's essential for hydration and detoxification of both the body and skin...It's benefits are endless! (I will have a future post on the importance of high pH water).
3. Cut Out Refined Sugar
This habit took me a while to break. It's not that I ate a lot of sugar but I did love a piece of chocolate or a handful of chocolate covered almonds every night or sometimes after lunch. I always felt a need for something sweet after every meal...not good! I'm not saying a piece of chocolate here and there is bad for you, but for me, I had a constant craving that wasn't healthy. There was no need for me to finish off a meal with chocolate. After transforming my diet due to illness, I cut my sugar craving and now only indulge occasionally and usually can only tolerate a very small piece of chocolate or one bite of a dessert.
Most of the processed foods we eat contain refined sugars and add calories with little nutritional value. In contrast, fruit, unsweetened milk, honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar are all much easier for the body to process and contain nutrients. It's takes a little time to cut the cravings for refined sugars and artificial sweeteners but once you transition, you will notice a huge difference. You won't have the sugar cravings and won't feel the "dips" in blood sugar. You will soon realize how much better you feel cutting out the processed sugars and you'll have to option to incorporate natural sugar options when and if you need them.
4. Eat Hearty Meals and Cut Back on Snacking
Several years ago I ate 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day. I believed and preached the importance in eating small meals every 2-3 hours. The problem with that philosophy is that no matter how hearty the meal I ate, I still felt the need for significant snacks and inevitably ended up overly full from too much eating. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with snacking and I still enjoy them. The difference is now I truly rely on my body to tell me when I need to eat. When I changed my diet and started to eat only protein and mostly veggies, I suddenly lost the urge to snack. Every one of my meals contains a hearty protein (chicken, pork, organ meat or fish) and the remainder is various vegetables and healthy fats including complex carbohydrates...that has been a game changer in my hunger levels. I truly listen to my body and realize I get full from my meals and might only need a really small snack after a few hours. I have learned to enjoy my meals and the variety of flavors and nutrients they provide and snacks don't provide quite the satisfaction and, therefore, become unnecessary. I encourage you to try heartier meals and listen to your body on what else it requires.
5. Exercise (Stop obsessing over the perfect workout and move your body)
Anyone who knows me personally, is aware of my obsession with working out. Having been a personal trainer, exercise has been a huge part of my life and is the one thing I do well and with confidence. Dealing with chronic pain from Fibromyalgia and never ending digestion issues, I'm having to learn to slow down and cut back on exercising. Please understand, I used to workout 6 days/week (only one rest day) for at least an hour and would push myself to run faster and lift harder at every workout. My body has slowly been breaking down so I'm now to the point where I have to cut back significantly. At first, to me, that meant walking 4 miles one day in place of a hard workout and then I upped it to two 4 mile walks/week...that wasn't slowing down at all! I'm now trying to be satisfied with a leisurely 20-30 minute walk, maybe one day of lower body resistance (I can't do upper body because of the pain in my arms, hands and shoulders) and a few other light workouts mixed in somewhere. This is harder for me mentally more than anything but I'm trying to keep in mind that any movement is better than no movement.
The most importance thing is to get some sort of physical activity in 3-5 days/week and try to do what is best for your body and something you can enjoy. I think many of us get caught up in comparing ourselves to others in the gym and that can be frustrating, intimidating and eventually discouraging. Putting pressure on yourself to workout at the level of someone else sets you up for failure. Understand that you have to know your body and your capabilities and simply walking, running around with your kids, doing squats and lunges in the kitchen while cooking, or walking the track while waiting for your kid to finish soccer practice are all great workouts. Any amount of exercise will benefit not only your body but also your mental state. Exercise is an opportunity for us to do something for ourselves and I believe that is so important.
I hope these little tips help or at least give you food for thought. I have my own habits I need to work on but I'm taking it one step at a time and have learned to praise myself for the littlest amount of progress. I hope you do the same!