Your One Stop Shop to Make a Healthy New Year’s Resolution
New Year, New You?
Happy New Year! How is 2021 going for you so far, did you make a New Year’s resolution? If you did, this post will help give you some ideas to tune up and strengthen your resolution. If you have not made a resolution, it is not too late…make a January 9 resolution! There is nothing magical about the date of January 1 to commit to self improvement, the only truly important factor is your commitment and follow through.
Getting Started on the Path Towards a Healthier You
Given the theme of my blog, I assume you are reading this post for ideas on Health or Fitness related resolutions. The framework I am going to outline can be applied to other goals as well, but the examples will be related to Health and Wellness. Last year, I wrote a fairly extensive blog post about goal setting, please take a look if you would like some additional information about the general topic of goals.
First, start with where you are. Take inventory of your daily and weekly routines of nutrition, exercise, stress, and sleep. A great way to accomplish this is a daily journal, to help you log specifics within each category. It is important to be as detailed and specific as possible when journaling, as this will help inform your goals. Also, be honest with yourself, you cannot make goals to improve if you are not being real about your starting point. Here is an example of what I daily journal can look like, to help give you an idea to get started:
Exercise: 2,000 steps during the day.
Food and Drink:
Morning: Coffee with cream and sugar.
Around 9 am: McDonald’s Bacon Egg and Cheese Breakfast Bagel, Hashbrowns, Coffee with cream and sugar.
Around 12 noon: BLT Sandwich with Mayo, 1 granola bar.
Around 3 pm: 1 Diet Coke, 1 Nutra-grain Bar.
Around 6 pm: Baked chicken breast with honey mustard glaze, side of rice, side salad.
Around 7:30 pm: Snack (bag of Doritos), 12 oz Beer.
Sleep: To bed around 11:30 pm (did not fall asleep right away), woke up at 6 am for work.
Stress: I was stressed out by my commute to and from work, my meetings at work, and dinner preparation.
Keep daily journal entries for a week before you think about making any changes, and be honest and accurate with yourself. Once you have a week of “baseline data”, you can then start to look at goals, and how you will work towards them.
If you are looking to make a change to your diet and your journal looks something like above, do not worry about counting calories or macro-nutrients if this is not something you have done before. Rather, take note of the food choices, and estimated portion sizes to give you an idea of your starting point.
If you have weight loss or nutritional goals, start with the obvious answer before taking measures such as counting calories and macro-nutrients. Can you identify the low hanging fruit/obvious improvements to the food journal above? Here are a few that will result in improvements if practiced consistently:
- Ditch the cream and sugar in coffee. Drink black coffee, or substitute black or green tea.
- Ditch McDonalds, and make your own breakfast. Even with similar food choices at breakfast, you can control the ingredients and limit processed/fried food.
- Ditch the soda, substitute water, seltzer, herbal tea.
- Ditch the late night snack and drink, you don’t need to eat so soon after dinner, you could move the beer to Saturday as a treat if you like beer. Substitute a cup of herbal tea or other calorie free beverage.
Are there other areas for improvement in the food journals above? Sure there are, and I bet you found a few. The basic concept I wanted to demonstrate is that we all know the parts of our routine that provide little to no nutritional value and do not enhance our health, it is truly not rocket science.
What are your Goals?
Realistically, you probably had an idea about your goals before you did a daily journal to see your baseline. Here are a few examples of common goal categories related to Health and Fitness:
- Desire to lose weight or some other physical/appearance related goal.
- Desire to change something in our diet (stop drinking soda, for example).
- Desire to improve our physical fitness (increase steps per day, get stronger, start running as examples).
If you have not had a chance to think about specific goals, take some time and do this before you start making changes to what you find in your daily journals. If you do not know your goals and outcomes, you can’t really be intentional when making changes to what you are currently doing.
Find Your Theme
In addition to goals, I recommend creating a guiding theme for you to follow and reference during 2021. I had a guiding theme in 2020, and saw some of the best sustained results I have ever experienced. A guiding theme is not a specific goal you can achieve, but rather a phrase that inspires you and keeps you moving towards your goals. For more information on guiding themes, check out the Goal Setting Post I referenced above.
Analyzing your Personal Data from Journals
Now that you have goals, and (hopefully) a guiding theme, take a look and see if what you found in your daily journals is serving you in achieving these results. I will use the sample daily journal above for this example:
Sample Goal: I want to add weight training in to my daily routine, 3 days per week, for 30 minutes. For the example above, assume there is no weight/resistance training at all.
Challenges: I am very inexperienced with weight training, I do not have a Gym membership, I am uncertain about Gyms due to the state of COVID in 2021, I don’t have time during the week.
- First, find the time! Based on the daily journals above, this person could find time in the morning, or the evening to do 30 minutes of exercise. For the morning, they would need to go to sleep earlier, so they can wake up earlier to exercise. If they are not a morning person, they could exercise in the evening. Personally, I have a hard time winding down to go to sleep if I work out in the evening, so I choose the morning.
- Go on Google or You Tube and find some basic, body weight exercises, you don’t need a Gym to train! The internet is a wonderful tool, and this person will find that you don’t need a Gym (or equipment) to get an excellent workout routine using body weight exercises. In your home with no equipment, you can do push ups, modified pushups, sit ups, crunches, lunges, squats, chair squats, etc, etc. You can even find some free workout videos to follow along with, even better!
- Pick very basic exercises, and spend time learning the technique of them before following along with a workout video. You can teach yourself enough of the basics to get moving and get some results.
- Considering hiring an online personal trainer or coach. As mentioned above, you can learn enough of the basics to get moving and get some results. However, if someone is inexperienced, it is always advisable to seek professional help to make sure your movements are safe and functional. For example, someone might be powering through push ups and see great results, but if their technique is even slightly off, they may end up with sore elbows and have no idea why.
- Once you meet your goal, stop and reassess. It is a big deal to build a routine of consistency when it comes to exercise, but once you accomplish any goal you need to think about what is next. This is where a guiding theme will motivate you for constant improvement.
- Keep journaling. Write down your own ideas for goals, challenges, and solutions as you make improvements.
Example Next Level Goals: Using the example above, once you accomplish your goal of weight training three times per week, here are some possible next steps.
- Hire a trainer or coach to help me learn better technique, new exercises, and develop a plan.
- Find variations of the exercises I have learned to make them more challenging.
- Add time to my workouts, perhaps increase to 40 minutes per day 3 times per week.
- Add cardio exercise or steps to the days of the week I am not weight training.
- Make a change to my diet which will help increase my energy levels and results, such as cutting out added sugar/artificial sweeteners gradually, starting with soda.
Tip: Regardless of your goals, I highly increasing the quality of your sleep. Sleep by nature is restorative, and will enhance any area of your health and wellbeing you have as a goal. I plan to write a more comprehensive post about sleep in the future, but for now just try and make sure you are getting 7-8 good hours of sleep per night.
Also, continue to journal as you make progress and set new goals. The daily journals will help you keep track of what is working for you, and perhaps what may not be working. Journals can also be a source of motivation, they help you see progress along your journey.
Make It Happen!
Remember, there is nothing magical about January 1, you can make meaningful change any time of the year. Make 2021 your year, it starts now!