New Year + Small Changes = New Life
So here we are in the year of double, double digits: 2020! It’s a new year now and if you’re like most people, you made your New Year’s resolutions thinking, “It’s time I made some changes around here and got back in shape!” But how are you doing so far in fulfilling those resolutions?
Starting off a new year with plans to improve your health is a common practice; but sadly, a lot of those resolutions are eventually sacrificed as the year progresses. Why? Because a lot of people start off the new year by making HUGE resolutions that are not realistic and often prove daunting once undertaken. Don’t believe me? Look at the statistics: The International Health, Racquet & Sports Club Association estimates that 12% of new gym memberships start in January, but 80% of those new members have quit by mid-February. Instead of making sweeping changes that won’t last, I suggest some simple small changes you can make every day so that your new year’s resolution for health isn’t a casualty.
Baby Steps, Baby Steps
Telling yourself that you’re going to lose 100 pounds, get six-pack abs, and lower your cholesterol thirty points by March is insane. And when you don’t hit those goals, it’s depressing. Instead of setting lofty goals that will plague you in the middle of the night and make you obsessed during the day, be realistic. Instead of shooting to lose 30 pounds, aim to lose 5 pounds in a month from now. That’s a goal that can be achieved with diet and exercise. If you lose more, congratulations! If you lose less, at least you aren’t far from your target and you will stay motivated to keep losing. Take baby steps to get to your goal instead of a massive leap that may actually be dangerous and require unhealthy diet or exercise practices. At a rate of 5 pounds per month, you should be swimsuit-ready by June!
Warm Up, Don’t Jump Up
So many people decide that starting in the new year, they are going to jump out of bed and hit the ground running in the morning! Don’t. Seriously, don’t. Here’s why: blood is thixotropic. Don’t know that word? Don’t feel bad; aside from being a killer point victory on Scrabble, it’s not commonly used. It means that a liquid, when left idle, will thicken and congeal until it’s stirred and caused to become less viscous. Why does that matter? At night, our heart rate slows so blood moves less rapidly, allowing it to thicken a little. When you jump out of bed and start working out, you’re asking your heart to pump a material that is thick and sluggish instead of fluid. This means your heart has to work harder, and your blood pressure will increase due to resistance in the arteries. All of that science means that you increase your risk for heart attack. If you’re a morning exercise person, great! Stick with it! But get up and have at least one glass of water and get moving your muscles a little so that the blood will become less thick and easier for your heart to pump before you hit that treadmill.
There Is Strength In Numbers!
That old adage applies to military strategy as well as exercise success. Working out alone can be easier and more convenient if you’re at home. But if you’re the kind of person that craves socialization (and you know who you are), then get out to the gym and find a class you like. Or call up some neighbors and make a running group! Or cajole your workmates into taking yoga at lunch! For a lot of people, exercising in a group setting lessens anxiety about working out, increases a little friendly competition to push your boundaries, and psychologically obligates you to stick to the routine and keep working out. By not disappointing your workout buddies, you will stick to your goals and satisfy yourself as well.
You Are What You Eat
Now that we are past the days of cookies, snacks, and cocktails, we can get back to a quality diet. That means drop those carbs you don’t need, switch to lean meats, increase your fruit and vegetable intake, and have more water than coffee or alcohol during the day. But you can do this in small ways: reduce portion sizes, change your cooking oils to olive oil and not butter, try carrot slices instead of potato chips. Here’s a game for you to play: Try to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces during the day. If you succeed, reward yourself with a hot bath or a trip to the bookstore that day. These little changes can go a long way!
Skip the Detox for Now
A lot of health practitioners will tell you that now is the time to do a cleanse. I disagree, and here is why: It’s cold outside, despite the last few odd days of 50 degrees. But detoxification requires a lot of energy on the part of your body to remove toxins from the liver and fat cells. That’s energy your body also needs to stay warm this time of year, as well as get you moving on the treadmill or lifting those weights or punching that bag. Whatever you’re doing to work out, if you’re also trying to detox then you’re asking your body to do double-duty and you will be exhausted and grumpy. That means you may end up reducing your immune system’s performance and leaving yourself open for sickness, which is the last thing you want. I recommend that you focus on your exercise right now, get yourself into a solid routine, and wait for the spring to detox. By then, you should have access to more fresh vegetables and fruits that will aid in a juice detox or a food-based detox.
Avoid the Scale and the Mirror
Yes, that’s what I wrote: Avoid them both. A lot of people start an exercise routine and expect magical weight loss overnight. “I did thirty crunches, why don’t I look like Chris Evans?” Weight loss takes time, just like weight gain. The road to better health is not an express lane; it’s more of a gradual climb up a mountain to an amazing viewpoint. Looking at the scale or examining yourself in the mirror too early or too frequently can be abusive to your psyche. If the numbers aren’t budging or you don’t look like Jennifer Aniston, you may lose inspiration and give up. Don’t do that to yourself. Instead, go by how your clothes fit. With diligent persistence in your diet and exercise, you should notice a difference within thirty days or less. Also, unless your scale shows fat percentage and weight, then you’re just looking at a total. Which means you could be losing fat and gaining muscle, but your total weight is staying the same. That could frustrate and deter you because you’ll think, “All this sweat, and I’m not losing weight!” If the number goes down, you could be losing both fat and muscle, or one and not the other. If the number goes up, you could be adding one or the other. That’s why I suggest avoiding the scale for a month and going by how you feel instead. If you have to check that scale, then perhaps now is the year to invest in a better scale that will allow you to know how your numbers (and your body) are shifting.
Be Kind to Yourself
Finally, be kind to yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Aim for small goals that are realistic and can be achieved in reasonable time. It will save you frustration and help keep you on track to better health and better future. Remember: It’s the steady rain that fills the lake!
As with any change in your diet and exercise, if you have concerns about your health then you should consult your physician before going forward. A physical examination may be necessary before undertaking vigorous exercise, and exercise modification may be needed based upon your injury history or medical conditions. If you need further information or are in need of a physical exam to establish baseline health factors, please contact your physician. The treatment team at Sylvan Chiropractic Clinic and Wellness Center is also always available to assist you in achieving your exercise, diet, health, or weight loss goals in order to maximize your body’s potential for performance and longevity. Happy 2020!