As the new year approaches, so do new resolutions and health goals. January is often met with strong motivation, willpower and determination. The gym clothes at the bottom of the closet get dusted off and a new shiny pair of sneakers becomes the perfect reward for all the positive intentions.
However, for many people, all the pressure and unrealistic expectations around weight loss and getting in shape often lead to throwing in the towel. Restrictive diets, intense workouts and not seeing the results you’ve been working so hard for, are the perfect recipe for burning out and giving up.
Why do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result? Here are a few tips to help you ring in the new year with a much more positive outlook on your health and fitness goals.
1) Stop depriving yourself and guessing how much to eat
If you’re looking to lose weight, improve your fitness or just maintain good health, you don’t have to resort to extreme calorie restrictions and bland diets. Believe it or not, most clients I see are not eating enough when they try to lose weight, so their bodies go into survival mode, slowing down their metabolism and holding onto fat. They are often surprised when I tell them to eat more; and they feel better doing so. At PHASE IV, we use scientific testing like the Resting Metabolic Rate Test to calculate exactly how many calories you are burning at rest and how much you should be eating in order to reach your health and fitness goals.
2) Look for solutions, not excuses
No time? No problem. You can meal prep one day out of the week: pre-chop vegetables and fruit, cook large batches of whole grains, and make sauces ahead of time. You don’t have to cook like a gourmet chef to eat a delicious and healthy meal. Try using a crockpot for meals that cook themselves and are ready in time for dinner! This delicious Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup is the perfect dinner for the whole family! In addition, there are a ton of meal delivery services available that will either deliver ingredients or pre-made meals right to your door! If you tend to eat out or travel a lot, research what restaurants or grocery stores are in your area ahead of time; and browse menus so you know what is available to you. Instead of feeling defeated, look for ways you can make healthy eating a part of your lifestyle no matter where you are.
3) Protein, fat, fiber
As a general rule, all of your meals should consist of healthy sources of protein, fat and fiber from whole foods. For protein, look to eggs, lean meats, fish, nuts/nutbutters, and plant-based protein powders; for fat, choose olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds and avocado. Fiber should mainly come from vegetables, dark leafy greens, and whole grains.
4) Match your calories to your activity
One of the biggest mistakes I see when it comes to healthy eating is eating the same way every day of the week. Your body requires different amounts of food depending on how active you are and what type of activity you are doing. Generally speaking, reduce calories and carbohydrates on your rest days, and focus more on healthy fats and protein. Slightly increase protein on weight lifting days. Slightly increase carbohydrates on days you do interval training, and increase overall food consumption on days you do long runs or rides. Everyone’s metabolism, physiology, goals, and needs are different; so it’s important to note that there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula. At PHASE IV we take the guesswork out of meal planning, providing you with science-based guidelines on exactly what to eat, how much and when.
5) When in doubt, look for balance
If you’re not sure how much protein, carbs or fat you should be eating, use this general formula to ensure you are eating a well balanced diet at the very least. Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables (the more variety of color, the better). Fill one quarter of your plate with protein. Fill one eighth of the remaining quarter with a healthy source of fat and the remaining eighth with a whole grain or starch.
6) The truth about alcohol
I often get asked, “Can I still drink alcohol and lose weight.” The short answer is yes. However, multiple nights a week and multiple glasses a night can add up quickly. We’re not talking just calories and sugar here. When the liver gets overtaxed continuously working to detoxify alcohol (and refined sugar, processed foods, etc.), guess what it puts on the back burner? Metabolizing fat. So if you want to improve your health and boost your metabolism, pass on the extra glass of wine or cut it out altogether.
7) Drink more water
One of the best things you can do for your body is staying hydrated. Drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water a day will support digestion, detoxification and rehydration. It’s best to drink room temperature water as cold water can impair the digestive process. However, cool water after a workout or on a hot day is absolutely fine to bring body temperature down.
8) Eat more, earlier
It’s not just about what you eat, but how your body makes use of what you eat. Digestion is strongest around noon, so making lunch the main meal of the day and dinner the smallest (when digestion is weaker) will ensure your body is efficiently assimilating nutrients and eliminating toxins and waste that can otherwise lead to inflammation, weight gain and other health issues.
9) Slow down
Do you find it difficult to stick to your goals 100%? Most people do… Breathe… The best way to ensure you not only see results, but you sustain healthy habits for the long run is to start slow. Choose one or two changes to make every 2 weeks and really commit yourself to those. Once you feel like you’re in a rhythm, then add another. The surefire way to success is progress, not perfection.
10) Get support
When all else fails, remember you don’t have to embark on your health journey alone. Habits are difficult to make and break. Having someone in your corner to help you navigate challenges, make sense of all the conflicting advice out there, and someone to cheer you on can make all the difference between success and falling off the wagon, again.