Happy New Year! You’ve made your New Year’s resolutions and I bet one of them is to lose weight right? Isn’t that on your list every year? For most people they are either on a diet or off a diet. They go on a diet and lose some weight then they go off the diet and the weight comes back. Now I’m not saying diets don’t work. They do when you are on them, however, for a diet to actually work and have long term success, you should think of changing your eating and creating a new, heathier lifestyle. Healthy eating and exercise behaviors work hand in hand and will help you control your weight for many years to come.

The best way to change your lifestyle is to first analyze what you have been doing for the past 12 months in regards to eating and exercise. Start a Heath Notebook and write down questions like these and your answers so you can look at them through the year and look back on them again a year from now. Be as honest as you can about your answers. The more honest you are with yourself, the better your goals can be achieved.
How does your weight compare with a year ago?
Do you feel healthy and have a lot of energy or are you tired all the time?
Does your diet include a variety of foods? Do you take vitamins or other nutritional supplements?
Do you eat at home most of the time? If so, what types of foods? Whole fresh foods, boxed foods or TV dinners?
If you eat in a restaurant, what types of restaurants do you go to and what types of foods do you choose?
How physically active are you? Do you exercise regularly?
Do you eat healthy size portions, or do you stuff yourself with every meal? Do you ever stop when you’re full?
Do you smoke?
How much alcohol do you drink each week?
Have you had your bloodwork checked recently for cholesterol, thyroid, and vitamin D levels?
Now it’s time to set your goals. Make them achievable and allow yourself some flexibility. Try and work on each goal a little at a time. For example, if you eat out on a regular basis at work, make it a goal to bring a healthy lunch at least 3 days a week. Or if you exercise inconsistenly when you find extra time in your day, make it a goal to try and exercise at least 2 days a week before work. Schedule exercise times in your day planner and treat them like appointments.

Next decide what changes you are willing to make with your eating and slowly begin cutting back on calories. You may be asking yourself “How many calories should I be consuming?” A good rule of thumb is to decide what you want to weigh then add a zero. For example, if you are currently 180 lbs but you’d like to weigh 150 lbs, start off consuming around 1500 calories per day. If you weigh 160 lbs and you want to weigh 130 lbs, try consuming 1300 calories per day. Remember this is just a rule of thumb…make a visit to a Registered Dietitian to have a more accurate calculation. But starting off with a good target calorie ranger per day will help you at least get started. You can always adjust your daily caloric intake if you are losing too quickly, too slowly or need to add more calories for intense exercise.

Now that you know your calories, you can start a food diary. Completing an accurate food diary on a daily basis can keep you in line with your calories per day but can also shed light on the composition of your diet. You will be able to tell if your diet is lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables or if your diet includes too many high sodium processed foods or too high in sugary foods. Make a grocery list every week that includes the foods you need to incorporate into your heathier eating so they are always on hand. Make adjustments daily to your food intake and slowly you’ll begin to improve the overall variety in your diet. Every little adjustment leads to a larger improvement in your overall health.

Healthy nutrition is just part of a healthy lifestyle. Another component is fitness is exercise. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you need to get out and get moving. Walking, running, aerobic exercise and weight lifting are all great exercises to help you lose weight. If you need to increase your strength, then you need to start resistance training such as lifting weights. Decide if you’d prefer working out at a gym or alone at home. Theres a wide variety of at-home gym equipment that are inexpensive and will help you achieve your fitness goals. Keep in mind exercise doesn’t make up for poor eating. Keeping your calories in line, eating a wide variety of nutritious foods and consistent exercise are all pieces of a healthy lifestyle.

Think about the stress in your life. We all have stress, but some of us handle it better than others. Ask yourself if stress leads you to overeating, poor food choices or skipping your exercise? If you can find ways to reduce your stress, it will be easier to control unhealthy eating behaviors which can prevent you from losing weight. Exercise is a great stress reliever so be sure not to skip your exercise appointment! You can reduce stress too by taking some quiet time for yourself each day, even if its’s ten minutes of alone time. Or try getting a massage or taking a bath. Stress can lead to serious medical conditions, so keeping it under control will help make a better lifestyle.

Do you smoke? If so, you will really do yourself a favor by quitting. Smoking has been connected to so many chronic diseases…plus you will save a lot of money over the next year if you quit smoking. If you feel like you don’t want to quit because you are afraid of gaining weight, put that fear aside. Doing the food diary each day will keep you accountable and will help keep your calories in line to help prevent you from gaining. Keeping your hands busy with non-food related items will help you stay on track and will keep you from lighting up.
How much alcohol do you drink? One drink per day has been shown to be beneficial and there are antioxidants in red wine. More than one drink per day, however, can be detrimental to your health. Plus keep in mind alcohol can quickly add calories to your diet and has no nutritional benefit. If you find yourself drinking more than four ounces of wine or twelve ounces of beer each day, then you may need to decrease your consumption of alcohol.

Sometimes getting started with a new healthy way of eating and fitness plan is the easy part. Many of us, however, hit occasional road-blocks due to busy schedules, loss of motivation and sometimes we hit weight loss plateaus. Those weight loss plateaus are the times when we feel like we do everything right, but the scale doesn’t seem to budge. When this happens, don’t give up. Give yourself credit for the hard work you have already done and the positive changes you’ve made. A healthy lifestyle is not a sprint….it’s a marathon. You have plenty of time to work on your behaviors and make adjustments…remember….you have a whole year!