The end of the holiday season signals the time for us to switch directions and concentrate on health. Well intentioned weight-related goals come in at the top of many New Year’s resolution lists.
Attaining and maintaining a healthy weight has been shown time and time again to be associated with lower risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Unfortunately many people start off the New Year very ambitious but become overwhelmed and are ready to throw in the towel by February! As the weather gets colder and life gets busier, the willpower to eat healthy foods and exercise drops to the bottom of everyone’s to-do list.
There are many ways to achieve and maintain a healthy weight in the New Year. How about instead of focusing on subtracting weight from the scale, focus on adding some healthy living strategies? Here are some tips to beat the winter slump and stick with your goals.
ADD new healthy habits.
Old habits are tough to break. Adding a new healthy habit is easier to stick to and often has the bonus of replacing the not-so-good ones. If you can’t seem to cut something out of your routine that is interfering with weight goals, try incorporating a new healthy habit into your day.
- Include healthy snacks. These can help give your metabolism a boost and keep you from overeating at the next meal. Aim for fruit or vegetables paired with protein, such as apple slices with peanut butter. A snack choice like this will keep you fuller longer, and may end up replacing a higher calorie choice.
- Add water. Many of us don’t consume the amount of water that we should and are drinking our calories through sugar-sweetened beverages. Adding more water will naturally decrease your thirst — and as a bonus can replace some sugary beverage intake and the excess calories that come with it!
- Add some exercise! The cold winter weather and busy to-do lists make it difficult to find the time and motivation to squeeze in a workout. Small chunks of exercise have been shown to have the same health benefits as longer workouts. Breaking a 30-minute workout it into three 10-minute chunks is more attainable – go on a walk a brisk walk a few times during the day to reach your goal!
- Get more ZZZs. Long work days and busy personal lives lead many Americans to miss out on those few extra hours of sleep at night. Not getting enough sleep has been associated with a higher risk of obesity and chronic disease, like heart disease. Set a goal to get 7-9 hours each night (the amount recommended for adults).
- Add friends. One way to stick to goals is to share your healthy routines with friends. Knowing that a friend or family member can ask about your goal will make you more likely to stick to it. Teaming up with a buddy is another great way to stay accountable. Work on goals that will help with achieving a healthy weight together. Sign up for a fitness class or plan on eating a healthy meal together throughout the week.
- Get SMART. “Lose weight” is a common New Year’s resolution. Unfortunately, it is vague and hard to stick with. Instead of focusing on a large overwhelming goal, break it down into smaller more attainable goals for the New Year. Choose SMART goals — goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Some examples of SMART weight-related goals include: “I will replace one sugar-sweetened beverage with a glass of water every day this week” “I will include 30 minutes of exercise throughout the day three days each week.” Making your goals SMART will set you up for success. Eventually, they may turn into habits, and you can add new healthy goals to continue along the right path in the New Year!
Lastly, remember, nobody is perfect. When it comes to diet and exercise, there will be times where things won’t go according to plan. An office party introduces sugar-laden sweets, or you aren’t able to make your new exercise class one evening. Off days will happen, but don’t give up! Instead of spiraling downward, take back control — each new day presents a fresh start to keep trying!
Weight & Chronic disease risk:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.
Sleep & weight:
Kondracki, N. (2012, June ). The Link Between Sleep and Weight Gain — Research Shows Poor Sleep Quality Raises Obesity and Chronic Disease Risk. Today’s Dietitian, p. 48.
National Sleep Foundation – February 2015: New Sleep Durations: