With advertisements for cleanses, diets and supplements abound this time of year, it can feel overwhelming to know where to start in our wellness journey.
A health survey in the United States found that 60% of Americans want to feel healthier, and 51% of Americans want to lose weight with changes to their diets and exercise.
This year, consider a fresh approach to achieving your New Year’s resolutions. Instead of diving in on the next weight loss trend, follow these 10 tips from Haylee Hannah, registered dietitian at the UC Health Weight Loss Center.
Add structure to your meal plan.
We often hear at the Weight Loss Center, “I struggle going all day with very little food, and then binging at night.” Or, the opposite, “I rarely eat full meals, but I tend to snack or graze all day.” Although quite different patterns, both can lead to unintentional overeating. Adding structure to your meal plan, for example, 3 meals and a planned snack, can help you get back in tune with your body’s true hunger and satiety signals, allowing you to feel more in control at mealtime.
Skip the fad diets and ‘miracle’ products.
Instead, focus on well-balanced and sustainable eating patterns. Choose foods that provide important nutrients and help you feel satisfied, full and energized. Center meals around lean protein, a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits and whole grains. Include small portions of fats with meals, mainly from fish or plant foods, such as nuts, seeds, avocado and plant-based oils. Resist the temptation to purchase expensive powders, pills, gummies or drinks that claim to “detoxify” or “cleanse” your body of vaguely described “toxins.” Despite their pseudo-scientific and often miraculous claims, these products do nothing more than drain your wallet.
Manage your environment.
Take some time to think through your physical space from day to day: your home, your workplace or anywhere else you are spending time. Does your space align with your health goals? What types of foods and beverages are present and easiest to access and consume? Are there opportunities to exercise?
Too often, we tell ourselves we’ve failed because we don’t have enough willpower or just need to learn to say no. When working on lifestyle change, remember that we cannot rely on willpower alone. Because we are human, we tend to make choices based on what is most convenient. Instead of trying to willpower yourself into success, think about arranging your physical environment to support your efforts.
Set clear, specific goals.
We often fail to meet our New Year resolutions because we are setting goals that are too broad, like “I’m going to start eating better,” or “I’m going to start exercising more.” These are well-intended goals but lack an action plan and an objective way to monitor progress. Consider breaking goals down to the nitty gritty details. How exactly will you do this? An example of eating better may be, “I’m going to add vegetables with my lunch every day.” For increasing exercise, “I will walk twenty minutes on my treadmill after dinner five days per week.”
Focus on actions, not outcomes.
Another common mistake in goal setting is focusing on the result, rather than the process. For example, “I want to lose thirty pounds,” or “I want to run a 5k.” These are great aspirations, but without a clear path, they’ll never happen. Setting process-focused goals gives us a roadmap to eventually achieve these intended milestones. Try a mindset of, “I will start tracking my food intake every day,” or “I will download the Couch to 5k app and start the training schedule today.”
Monitor your progress.
Evaluating progress toward your goals at specified time points allows you to modify your path if needed. If you are working on making nutrition changes, using a nutrition app can make this process both easy and fun. Wearable fitness trackers are popular for tracking exercise and sleep patterns. Even a simple calendar or checklist can be used to track progress. Whatever your tracking method, make time to review and reflect. What is going well? What has been challenging? If you find you are meeting or exceeding your goals, excellent! Reflect on what strategies are working and how you’ll continue the momentum. If you are falling short of your goals, think through what’s holding you back, and develop specific strategies to tackle the barrier.
Move away from an ‘all or nothing’ mindset.
You may feel that you are always “on” or “off” a diet, or you categorize certain foods as “good” and “bad.” Maybe you feel like if you can’t exercise for an hour or more, there is no point in doing it at all. Sound familiar? If so, you may be falling victim to the detrimental “all or nothing” mindset. Feeling as though anything less than perfection is pointless can hold you back from achieving your health goals. Instead, we want to think bigger picture, looking at overall patterns in our lifestyle choices, not perfection.
Check your self-talk.
“I blew it again.” “I have no willpower.” “My body just can’t lose weight.” “I’m not good at tracking.” When building a new habit or skill, it is normal to encounter bumps in the road-no one is perfect. Not one slip, no matter how extreme, is enough to ruin your journey. How you think and act after the slip is what matters most. Moving forward, try to stop negative thought patterns, and instead focus on analyzing and learning from it. What happened? Did I overeat because I was stressed? Did I order out because I forgot to pack a lunch? Learn what triggered it, think about how you’ll handle it differently next time, then move on.
It’s tempting to procrastinate a lifestyle change to a time when you think it may be easier, for example: after the holidays, once it’s warmer outside, after vacation, once fall sports are over, once life calms down a little; we will never run out of reasons to procrastinate. The truth is, lifestyle changes are a challenge, no matter when. If you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list of self-improvement tasks, consider starting small, with just one or two things at a time. Remember that every step toward improving your health is valuable, no matter how small. tart today.
Enjoy the process and focus on the positives.
In lifestyle change and weight management, it’s common to focus on what you perceive as being taken away. Try to instead focus on the positives. For example, instead of, “I have to give up fast food,” reframe this as, “I’m excited to try a new recipe for dinner.” Instead of thinking of exercise as a chore, focus how your strength and endurance are improving over time. Managing your health and weight is a life-long effort. When eating well and staying active become a positive part of your life, even a hobby, both your health and quality of life will benefit.
Get Started with Your New Year Weight Loss Plan Today
When it comes to a new year weight loss plan, it is vital that you focus on improving your overall health, rather than just dropping numbers on the scale. By following the steps above, you will be able to reach your health goals.
If you want to learn how to keep a new year’s resolution for weight loss, the UC Health Weight Loss Center can help. As Cincinnati’s No. 1 preferred weight loss surgery provider, we bring together the region's top weight loss clinicians to provide long-term solutions for the Cincinnati community.
Call the UC Health Weight Loss Center at 513-939-2263 to get started on a health and wellness plan that is tailored to you.