By Lynn Difley
It’s that time again, the beginning of a new year; time to take stock of the last 365 days and decide what we want to change in the upcoming year.
It’s a great tradition, but one that often leads to regrets and disappointment when our lofty goals and admirable ideals fall by the wayside. It doesn’t need to be this way; we don’t have to fail in the drive to better both ourselves and the world around us. There are some tried and true techniques to achieve success, to reach those worthwhile goals and make the changes you recognize as best.
Resolve first off to start small. Losing weight, one of the most popular resolutions, is not going to happen overnight, despite what many advertisers claim. Let’s say your goal is to become a mere shadow of your former self. Set a realistic goal of ½ to 1 pound a week. Rather than launch into a “diet” which characteristically outlines all the things you can’t eat, decide to improve your nutritional standards. Instead of counting carbs or cals, look for the natural source of foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains.
Don’t fall prey to the false promises of artificial sweeteners; stay away from anything artificial. That includes white flour, white sugar, additives, and any ingredient you can’t pronounce or identify. Pretend that you live pre-TV dinner. Yes, there was such a time. Not only will you become slimmer, you will be healthier and I promise you will begin to enjoy the natural flavor of foods in their unadorned, delicious Mother Nature package.
Learn to enjoy your food, to savor it, and eat slowly. Studies show that those who eat more slowly, eat less. You have to give your stomach time to figure out it’s full before you can recognize the pause impulse. Slow down and find ways to celebrate even the smallest meal. Put it on a nice plate, or fanciful bowl. Set a placemat. Sit down and make a fuss over yourself. The more special you make the meals you eat, the less you will find yourself shoveling half the contents of your refrigerator into your mouth while “looking for the milk.”
Look for ways to make small, gradual, but consistent changes in your activity on a daily basis. Can you walk a little more before, during, or after work? Find a set of stairs that you can regard as a personal challenge. Walk up 5 flights a day, after two weeks walk up 6 times a day, etc.
You may not think you have time to park at a distance and walk, until you get used to it and realize how much better you feel when you have walked to and from your car, increased the circulation and burned a few calories. For that matter, can you walk to a store, community center, or post office from where you live? The smallest changes, when multiplied over time can make substantial changes in your BMI (body mass index) and your overall health.
Maintain consistency. Once you have decided on a course of action, stick with it until you make it a habit. Even though you don’t realize it, the habits you form through conscious choices will reap benefits on an ongoing basis, as they become permanent fixtures in your life.
Taking your morning walk can be an nonnegotiable part of the day. Stay with the program and once it has become a consistent practice, you won’t need to ask whether you’ll walk, you’ll just do it.
Make a place for fun. If you are always looking on the glum side of healthier choices–the foods you can’t eat, the activities you have to do–it becomes a burden rather than a joy. Find ways to enjoy the new lifestyle you are choosing. If you love sweets, make a place for them in your life; a succulent piece of fruit for dessert. Or a single square of the finest chocolate can satisfy your sweet tooth, without adding a monumental calorie load.
If you don’t like walking, find an activity you do like to burn the calories and keep the body humming. Bicycle riding, skating, tango dancing, swimming, racquetball, tennis, basketball, or kick the can. There are a million and one ways to burn your daily calorie quota. Give them all a try and have fun. Life is too short to allow it to become glum.
Best wishes and Happy New Year.