Created: 10 January 2012 | Written by Dr. Wilson for Citrus County Chronicle
This article was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on January 10, 2012.
January is the month for good intentions and fresh starts. Many people use the beginning of a new year as an opportunity to set goals and make changes in their lives. By the end of February, enthusiasm wanes and many of us return to our old ways.
Here are some tips for making your resolutions into more than just wishful thinking:
- Establish your priorities. Becoming fit and losing weight means more than looking better in a bathing suit. A healthier lifestyle adds years to your life and lets you enjoy being active for much longer. Many health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, can be prevented or managed with regular exercise and a better diet. Studies have shown that walking briskly for 30 minutes every day strengthens the immune system, improves circulation, reduces body fat and speeds digestion significantly. Regular exercise helps reduce stress, relieve mild-to-moderate depression, improve sleeping patterns, reduce mood swings and increase energy and stamina.
- Make fitness a top priority. Throughout the year, when you are faced with temptations such as skipping your walk to watch a TV show, or get a little more work done — or when you are choosing from a menu at a restaurant — remind yourself that your first priority is good health.
- Accentuate the positive. Love yourself the way you are, now. Losing weight and becoming fit happens gradually, over time. Do not wait until you have lost 20 pounds to appreciate who you are and all you can do. Having a positive attitude about yourself will motivate you to take care of your body. Whenever you start to criticize yourself, cancel those negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Every fitness journey has its ups and downs. Do not dwell on your mistakes – look ahead to your long-term goals.
- Make small lifestyle changes. Fitness is a lifestyle, not a temporary state of existence. Small, sustainable changes in your lifestyle will automatically make you fitter and improve your health. For example, fit that 30-minute walk into your daily schedule early in the morning, after you come home from work, or after dinner. Buy some new spices and experiment with Asian or low-fat recipes. Cook more meals at home, or replace large bulky meals with smaller ones, such as soups and salads. Replace white rice and white bread with brown rice and whole grain bread. Eat fruit instead of a sweet dessert. Drink water instead of soda, iced tea or coffee. Spend more time with friends or family (choose friends with healthy lifestyles!). Take a class or join a volunteer organization. Every small change you make will make you healthier and fitter and distance you from your unhealthy, sedentary past.
- Plan ahead. Healthy living is planned living. Shop in advance so that you have healthy foods at home when you feel hungry. On days when you know you will not be able to cook a meal, plan a healthy alternative. If you must resort to fast food, compensate by eating salad or fruit for your next meal. When you are going out for several hours, take along your water bottle and a healthy snack so you will not be tempted to buy a doughnut or candy bar when you need energy. Plan to exercise several times a week. If you miss an exercise session, be sure not to miss the next one, or substitute another activity such as a quick walk around the block at lunchtime, or a short swim.
- Choose to be active. Watching television, updating your Facebook page and playing video games can gobble up hours of your time before you know it. Be aware of the time you spend on activities like these. Whenever you can, choose an activity that requires physical movement. Choose gardening instead of watching TV. Take your child for a walk instead of going on the computer. Walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Make a habit of being active. Spend time outdoors.
- Everyone needs at least 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight every day, so that their bodies can manufacture Vitamin D for strong bones. Eat lunch outside, go for a walk, or spend a few minutes in your yard on days when you are not doing an outdoor activity. Remember that everyone can benefit from becoming more fit, regardless of age, size, or physical ability. You might not see pounds melting away immediately, but your body will become healthier as soon as you take those first steps. If you do not know where to begin, talk to your doctor, a nutritionist, a personal trainer or the staff at a local gym to get started. Once you start, you will never look back!