Hellooooooooo 2017!!!!! It’s the beginning of a new year and most of us are motivated to make big lifestyle changes with the hopes of having a happier and healthier life. The most common New Year’s changes are diet, exercise, and improving finances. Millions of people resolve to eat less calories, join a gym, and lose weight. Achieving optimal health involves so much more than just diet and exercise though. I’ve outlined a few healthy changes below that people sometimes miss. Over the coming months, I will post more on some of these topics as they are important enough to expand upon and discuss further.
The mindful eating movement is gaining momentum and popularity as more people work to make healthy changes in their lifestyle. What does it mean to be mindful, you ask? Have you ever been at a dinner party or perhaps curled up on the couch watching a movie when suddenly you realize you’ve consumed an entire meal and didn’t realize it? Do you remember how that food tasted? What was the texture like? How did it smell? Are you even aware of these senses? Most often not. You’ve downed a colossal amount of calories because your mind was busy socializing or distracted by television and your body simply went through the motion of eating. Stop living on auto-pilot.
Mindful eating is simply being more fully aware when eating. Give food and mealtimes your full attention. Take notice of your physical and emotional cues. Familiarize yourself with what drives you to reach for food in the first place. When you sit down for a meal, be aware of your level of hunger and learn to recognize when you are satisfied. Enjoy the food you choose to eat by engaging your senses of taste, smell, feel (texture), and sight. Food is meant to be pleasurable and satisfying but in today’s busy society it is easier to eat on-the-go which consequently may result in overeating and lead to overweight or obesity.
It was shocking for me to learn that I was not really aware of the difference between feeling satisfied, somewhat full, or bust-the-button-on-my-jeans full. The old me would save the best looking bite on my plate for last but the new me eats that bite first and I stop when I am somewhere between satisfied and somewhat full. Like me, you may find mindful eating a powerful tool. It has helped me tremendously!
Add Color to Your Diet
Plant foods naturally contain compounds that help to protect them from disease. Studies have found that humans also benefit from these protective properties when these foods are consumed. Phytochemicals are responsible for providing the color, smells, and flavors of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Think of the rich dark color of blueberries, the bitterness of kale or grapefruit, or the pungent aroma of fresh garlic. This diversity is due to the large variety of phytochemicals available in plant foods.
Studies have suggested some of the benefits of a diet rich in plant foods may help reduce risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and provide protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Many thousands of phytochemicals have been identified and have different health effects on the body. This is why it is strongly encouraged to eat a variety of color in your diet each day. So get crack-a-lackin and mix it up, folks!
What sort of things do you say to yourself as you move throughout the day? Do you find your self-talk is far more negative than positive? This habit must change if you are in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. To accept and respect yourself is a big step and it isn’t an easy one. We don’t all have the same body shape and size. Your first step in building a positive self-image is to recognize your own shape and accept it. Every shape is beautiful. Take celebrities, for instance. Mindy Kaling, Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, and Melissa McCarthy are all completely different in size and shape but are they not all beautiful?
Make a list of the physical attributes you like most about yourself. Acknowledge these in a positive way each day. There is healing in engaging in positive self-talk. If you find yourself tempted to have negative thoughts about yourself try to pinpoint the cause and address it right away. Personally, I have found myself having such negative thoughts under moments of intense stress. Deep breathing has been an effective tool to help me regain control in those moments. I also keep a pair of walking shoes in my office and I’ve been known to take a walk during lunch to help reduce stress on those wild days! You have more power to steer your thoughts than you realize. It takes work but it is worth it.
Get Plenty of Sleep
As reported by the National Institutes of Health, recent studies indicate a strong link between sleep deprivation and increased risk for overweight/obesity. Adequate sleep gives our bodies the time needed to restore energy. Moreover, hormonal processes, both metabolic and endocrine, require equal to or greater than 7.5 hours of sleep each night for stability.
I used to enjoy having an hour or two for myself after the kids go to bed each night. I’ve changed that habit and generally go to bed just after the kids. My new “me” time is the time I spend at Jazzercise or the gym! There has been some trial and error in making this happen but I feel much more rested and my mood is better. I’ve had to give up a few things as I worked to change my lifestyle but what I have gained is so much more beneficial to my health. Sleep! Get some!
Don’t Be Slave to the Scale
I’ve had far too many clients over the years insist on weighing daily. Some of them even weigh several times per day! Folks, if you find yourself engaging in this habit I am here to tell you that it is not a healthy relationship with the scale. I am not saying not to weigh yourself at all but once per week is sufficient. Or get bold and weigh yourself only once per month! I feel certain I heard a collective gasp from the universe as I typed that last statement.
Success in your new lifestyle changes should be measured in many ways, not just on the scale. What positive changes should you expect? Increased strength and energy, improved mood and sleep patterns, looser clothing or getting back into those old jeans you love. As the weight comes off you may have decreased joint pain and may even be able to reduce medications under the guidance of your physician (do not attempt to make changes in prescribed medications without consulting your physician). Increased activity will often cause the numbers on your scale to fluctuate a bit. Muscle is more dense than adipose tissue (fat) and takes up less space. Let’s say you spend weeks engaging in strength training and working to build muscle but you step on the scale and the number doesn’t meet your expectation and yet you’ve lost an entire dress size. That’s incredible and so much more important than the number on the scale! It means you are shrinking!
Evaluate your relationship with the scale, folks. The scale can be an important tool to keep you accountable but it isn’t the only measure of success. Don’t give the scale more power than it has earned. Don’t forget to take your measurements as you kick off your new lifestyle changes. Measurements are another important way to gauge changes in your body.
If you focus on replacing your current habits with healthier ones along with changes in diet and physical activity, then weight loss will likely follow. And the changes are more likely to be permanent than going on a fad diet and then giving up because the changes on said fad diet were not sustainable. Which would probably lead to feelings of guilt and failure which feed back into a negative self-image. Break that cycle and do it today! While you work hard to cut calories and exercise more, don’t forget the value of color n your diet, maintain a positive self-image each day, get plenty of rest, be mindful, and recognize small changes taking place in your body rather than judging changes solely by the reading on the scale. These lifestyle habits are essential on your journey to optimal health!
Happy New Year to you all! Let’s make 2017 the BEST ONE YET!
Beccuti, Guglielmo, and Silvana Pannain. “Sleep and obesity.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 14.4 (2011): 402-12. Web.