8 New Years resolutions (and modifications) that are actually worth your time

So, since you’re in the midst of the three-day “back to normal” plan, it’s a great time to think about the lifestyle changes that you want to commit to in order to get yourself a bit healthier in the New Year. The key to making lasting resolutions is to choose a small change that actually matters – something that you’re not doing now but that you could make a habit of in order to improve your personal wellness. We’re not trying to change the world here, but little differences that you truly commit to add up to a much bigger net positive than a complete dietary 180 that you stick to for a few weeks. The following list contains 8 habits that I have personally witnessed change someone’s life for the better. I’ve included an “all in” resolution for those who are already going down the healthy road, as well as a more forgiving modification if you’re new to healthy habits in that particular area.

 

  1. Eat by the Plate Method: Making sure to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables will promote healthy digestion, control calories at meals, and fill you with vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy everything. Honestly. Everything including your blood pressure, skin, immune system, and eyesight is affected by the nutrients taken in in the diet, and fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods we can eat. More is always better here.
  • MODIFY Add 1 vegetable per meal: An entire half the plate full of vegetables may be going from zero to sixty for some, so make an effort to include some non-starchy vegetable with every meal. The more often you eat them, the more used to purchasing and preparing them you will be, and the easier it will be to increase that amount in the future.
  1. Cook ___ meals at home per week: Restaurant meals (more often than not) are WAY higher in calories, fat, and sodium than you think. The only way to truly know what you’re getting is to cook it yourself! Many people let cooking at home slide when times are busy, but with a focused effort to plan your shopping trips and cook things ahead of time, any number of meals at home is possible.
  • MODIFY Watch 30 minutes of cooking shows weekly: There is such a discrepancy between the healthfulness of packaged or purchased meals compared to home cooked meals that cooking competence is essential. For those who don’t already know how to cook, watching cooking shows is a great way to gain confidence. Commit to weekly 30-minute education sessions, whether it’s Food Network, Netflix, or YouTube.
  1. Switch over to whole grains (white rice to brown rice, white bread to whole grain, etc.): Refined grains provide carbohydrate and calories, but whole grains provide so much more: fiber, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals – why would you voluntarily miss out on all that benefit?
  • MODIFY Make half your grains whole: If making all your grains whole is too hardcore, shoot for half.
  1. Eliminate sweets/added sugar: Added sugar is one of the biggest sources of unnecessary calories in the standard American diet, and provides very little in the way of health benefits. Additionally, I find that my desire for sweets is largely a learned response – I’ve had a cookie before and enjoyed it, so I want a cookie now. However, as I have become a more mindful eater I have noticed that a lot of times sweets don’t provide the satisfaction that I expect them to, and are less satisfying than a full balanced meal. If you find that the same holds true for yourself, you may find it surprisingly easy to eliminate these foods.
  • MODIFY Eat ___ sweets per week: Quitting cold turkey definitely isn’t for everyone, and there truly is a place for all foods in an overall healthy diet. So, if elimination of sweets isn’t your game, set a weekly quota and stick to it. Declare that quota now and keep track on your calendar.
  1. Eliminate sodas and sugary beverages: Sodas are made of sugar and water. Just sugar and water! There is no fiber or protein in there to slow down the way that the sugar is absorbed, leading to a blood sugar spike and crash of epic proportions. It’s just not a good thing to consume. Juices are hardly better – even if they are made from fruits, the fiber has been removed and the sugars are concentrated. Cutting out one soda per day can result in weight loss of 14+ pounds annually.
  • MODIFY switch to diet: For hardcore soda drinkers, it may be too much to eliminate soda all together. Switching to diet will result in the same weight reduction, since artificial sweeteners do not contain calories.
  1. Track food in My Fitness Pal: I’ve talked about the importance of tracking before, and My Fitness Pal is by far my favorite app for this. Weight loss is all about calories in versus calories out, and My Fitness Pal allows you to know exactly how many calories you’ve consumed compared to the estimated calories that you should be consuming in order to reach your goals. Without tracking, it’s really just a shot in the dark.
  • MODIFY Keep a hand-written food journal: While a lot of the benefit of MFP (we’re on an abbreviation basis now) comes from the data it provides, there are mountains of evidence showing that keeping a food journal results in improved food choices and weight loss, even without the calorie information. It’s a tool to increase mindfulness – before you go to the vending machine, you think “do I really want to write that down? Am I really hungry?” and there will be times when the answer is no.
  1. Bring lunch to work every day: The reason behind this is exactly the same as #2 – the food you make has a much greater potential to be healthy compared to the food that you purchase prepared.
  • MODIFY Bring lunch to work ___ days per week: Again, if bringing your lunch is just not going to happen every day, set a goal for a number of days that is attainable, but is an improvement from what is currently happening.
  1. Add weight lifting to your exercise regimen: Strength training has an insane number of benefits that I can’t even begin to touch on here. Nutritionally speaking, increased muscle mass will increase your metabolism and therefore increase the number of calories that you eat daily. Fat tissue is simply for storing energy, but muscle does work – you can see how this difference would mean that more muscle needs more energy. Many people consider only the calories burned during exercise, and by those standards cardio (like running) has the greatest impact. Don’t miss out on the long-lasting metabolic effects of building more muscle! Additionally, a lot of people use nutrition as a tool to get to specific body goals, and lifting is going to make you LOOK a lot fitter than cardio alone.
  • MODIFY Add bodyweight strength exercises to your exercise regimen: If you’re intimidated by jumping right into the weight room and don’t want to spend the money on a personal trainer to teach you how, youtube some bodyweight strength exercises. Air squats, lunges, push-ups, burpees, and planks are just a few of the hundreds of ways that you can challenge your muscles without any extra equipment. Commit to at least one strength session weekly.
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3 responses to “8 New Years resolutions (and modifications) that are actually worth your time

  1. Lauren, I absolutely LOVE this list! I think each of your proposed resolutions are attainable and not intimidating. I personally like #2 and #6 the best. With a small child at home, I know how important it is to provide healthy, home cooked meals and sit down to a family dinner. I also really enjoy using MyFitnessPal and have seen huge changes in the way my husband and I eat based on reviewing our food journals on the app. It makes you accountable and it is so easy to use! Thanks for the great post and some awesome resolutions!

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    • Thank you, I’m so glad you liked the post! There are so many small things that are so easy to do but also so easy to let slide – my fitness pal is definitely my favoriten

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  2. Pingback: Short-term nutrition goals for Lent (even if you’re not Catholic!) | How to Eat, R.D.·

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