By Karan Summitt, B.A.
The diet commercials are in full force, and gym memberships are at their yearly high. In hopes that this year will be different, Americans renew their determination to eat healthier, exercise more and lose those unwanted pounds.
Trying again is not a bad thing. Multiple studies support the fact that our bodies have an amazing ability to recover from years of neglect and mistreatment. Exercise can firm up sagging muscles and build heart and lung strength. A good diet can boost our autoimmune system and reduce the complications of diabetes and heart disease. If you are wondering whether it’s worth the effort to get healthier, the answer is a resounding “yes!”
Maybe what you need to do differently this year is tweak the process. It’s not that a healthier diet and exercise didn’t work. I am willing to bet that they did work … for a while. It’s the long-term, make-it-my-lifestyle-so-I-stay-healthy changes that trip us up.
True and lasting changes begin in the mind long before we change our actions. So this year before you throw out the snack foods, buy that first protein shake or load up on frozen dinners, try these five resolutions:
- Ditch the word diet: Diets tend to be temporary, but a lifestyle is the way we live, every day. Losing weight slower by adopting behaviors we plan to keep for the remainder of life is a much better way to ensure lasting change.
- Find your personal “Why’s”: Zero in on why you want to be healthier. Identify some short-term and some long-term reasons. Look at the impact your health will have on your ability to live out the goals you have for life. Write them down and read them frequently. Take ownership for the responsibility to become self-motivated. After all, you are the one who will benefit most from better health.
- Rewire the voices in your head: We all have them—the excuses, rationalizations, and procrastinations for NOT doing the healthy thing today. Use your why list to formulate a “yes, but …” answer to all those excuses. Teach yourself to focus beyond the challenges of the moment by remembering those personal reasons why good health is important to you. We reach it one choice at a time.
- Believe in the power of small changes. One of the greatest setbacks to a healthier lifestyle can be trying to make too many drastic changes all at once. Instead of a rigid diet and exercise plan, set a goal for your health in January of 2016. Plan to get there by making one healthy change each week. Layer these changes on top of each other and believe that over the course of a year, 52 small changes can make a measurable difference in your health.
- Commit to accountability and support. For most of us who struggle with unhealthy behaviors, one of the biggest variables for success or failure is the willingness to put ourselves in a position that demands accountability and provides support and encouragement. Find folks at work with similar goals and challenge each other. Have weekly weigh-ins with a health coach or enlist the aid of a trainer. Join a local weight loss program or an online group. Reality check: if you could do it by yourself, it would already be done.
Whether it means multiple changes or just a few small tweaks, I hope this is the year you join that slim eight percent of people who actually keep their New Year’s resolutions to get healthier. Won’t January of 2017 be so nice!
This article was written by Karan Summitt. Karan is a Community Health Educator and an Employee Health Coach at St. Bernards Medical Center. She holds a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences from Harding University in Searcy and has extensive training and experience in weight loss and healthy lifestyle management, with emphasis on healthcare needs of seniors. She submits a weekly lifestyle “column to The Jonesboro Sun entitled “The Diet Gal” and also writes a “Successful Aging” column for the magazine NEA Seniors.