If you’re like me, the holidays have gone way too fast and you’re fighting extra pounds and fledgling motivation. Good news! The New Year is right around the corner. Which means it’s time to refocus.
Here are 20 tips to get you back on track.
- Replace one processed food in your kitchen with a fruit or vegetable each week. Maybe you’ll start by chucking those Chips Ahoy and replace them with clementine oranges. When you crave a cookie, reach for an orange instead. By the end of the week, your taste buds will be trained to crave the fruit’s natural sugar rather than the cookie’s processed sugar (and all its health risks). Build on your progress and replace another processed food the next week. By the end of the year, your kitchen—and your taste buds—will be fully transformed!
- Shake up your exercise routine. Whether you’re already active or just getting off the couch, try something new this year. Maybe it means going to a fitness class you’ve always wanted to try. Maybe it means trying yoga at home. (Yoga Studio is an awesome app for this – available on iPhone.) If you don’t like it, try something new next week. There’s an appealing form of exercise for everyone, so don’t get discouraged if you haven’t found it yet.
- Aim for zero calories in your cup. This means cutting out soda (even diet, if possible), juice, and other calorie-loaded drinks. Coffee is okay in moderation. Make water your go-to drink. Try fruit infusions in your water if you need some flavor. (Lemon and berries are my favorite!) If going from 4 cups of soda to zero is too daunting, start by eliminating one cup each week.
- Try essential oils. Research and testimonials are pointing to oils as an awesome, natural boost to your health. You can start at whatever level you want, starting with DoTerra’s Peppermint Beadlets (I’m personally addicted to these!) or going all the way up to diffusers in your home. Do your research online and find an essential oils guru to educate you. (Young Living is a good place to start.)
- Rethink how you snack. Avoid empty-calorie snacks that leave you craving more. Focus on fiber and protein combinations for long-lasting fuel. Try apple slices topped with crunchy peanut butter and raisins. Or whole wheat Wasa crisps topped with cheese. Or grape tomatoes and mozzarella cubes drizzled with olive oil and topped with basil. Be creative! Look in your fridge for foods that fit the fiber-protein combo and put them together. You may be surprised what you find.
- Take something off your calendar and spend time in quiet meditation. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our bodies is slow down. Research shows strong links between stress and weight gain. Stress is known to raise our cortisol levels, which makes our bodies cling to extra fat and crave extra food. See the problem here? Release yourself from the pressure to do it all. Take time to slow down and B_R_E_A_T_H_E.
- Eat a protein-filled breakfast. We all know the importance of eating a healthy breakfast, but how many of us actually do? Focus on getting protein to start your day off right. It not only fuels your body, but it helps you feel full longer. Strapped for time? Keep a jar of almond butter or peanut butter handy and grab a spoonful on your way out the door. Or cook hard-boiled eggs over the weekend and keep them in your fridge for an on-the-go breakfast. Whatever you do, don’t skip the most important meal of the day!
- Give yourself one cheat meal per week. Weekends can be a challenge, especially if your family likes to eat out. Let yourself enjoy an indulgent meal once in a while. Then get back on track the rest of the week.
- Download MyFitnessPal to your phone. MyFitnessPal is an awesome free app that allows you to set weight goals and track your progress. It calculates your daily calories and has a food database that is mind-blowing. You can also enter your exercise, and it will adjust your calorie needs for the day. There’s something highly motivating about entering your Zumba class and seeing you can eat 400 extra calories. Score!
- Designate one night per week as a “no-screen zone.” Use the time to go out and do something active with friends or family. In summer, go biking or hiking. In winter, go sledding or bowling or whatever else you can dream up. When you’re having fun with loved ones, it won’t feel like exercise!
- Go to bed 30 minutes earlier each night. Lack of sleep leads to all kinds of health pitfalls, including increased appetite, which leads to unhealthy food cravings. Instead of watching that extra TV show, do your body a favor and hit the sack a little earlier.
- Fill your fridge with the colors of the rainbow. As you shop at the store, challenge yourself to find at least one fruit or vegetable for every color of the rainbow. Red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow pineapple, green lettuce, blueberries, purple grapes. The combinations are endless! Step outside your comfort zone and make your fridge a work of art.
- Write down your reasons for wanting better health. This might sound too touchy-feely for you, but there’s value in stating why you want something. It might be measurable like wanting to reach a certain weight for a class reunion, or it might be intangible like wanting more energy to play with your kids or grandkids. Putting your reasons on paper will make your goals more real and can provide inspiration on those days you feel like giving up.
- Move every day. Even if it’s 10 minutes going up and down your stairs or walking in place. Something is better than nothing.
- Give yourself non-food rewards. Set a specific goal (maybe fitting into a certain pair of jeans or a number of miles you want to walk or run). When you achieve it, treat yourself to a non-food reward – a massage or manicure or that new book you’ve been wanting to read. Once the treat is complete, set a new goal and a new reward.
- Keep a bowl of ready-to-eat healthy snacks in the middle of the table. Oranges, bananas, and pears are great options. The easier to grab, the more likely you are to eat it.
- Enlist the help of friends and family. Accountability does wonders. One of the best things I ever did was teach my 7-year-old about healthy food and what to watch for on food labels. For months afterward, he questioned everything I ate. If you have an elementary-aged child, let them be your food police. I guarantee they’ll take the job VERY seriously!
- Focus more on good choices than numbers on the scale. The scale can be a valuable barometer for your progress, but don’t get so caught up in the numbers that you forget the ultimate goal of a healthier life. Numbers can fluctuate for many reasons outside our control. Take responsibility for what you can control and trust the process.
- Decide right now to be in it for the long haul. Let this be the year you leave the short-term diets aside and make permanent changes you can stick with. When you feel overwhelmed or discouraged, remember you have a lifetime ahead of you. Pick one or two tips from this list to work on each week. Then once those actions become habits, build on them by adding something new. The most sustainable changes are the ones you can live with long-term.
- MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL – Seek motivation beyond yourself. If you place your trust in God, involve Him in your health goals. Let your health journey be an opportunity to rely on Him more, to let Him give you the strength to do more than you could ask or imagine. If you haven’t read Lysa TerKeurst’s bestselling book, Made to Crave, start there. It will change your life, I promise.
If you ever need help on the journey, reach out to a friend or give me a shout. I’m on the quest just like you. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Translation: We’re better together!
Here’s to a happy, healthy new YOU!
Healthy table photo by Yastremska/BigStock.com; Yoga photo by pikselstock/BigStock.com; Egg photo by antero x/BigStock.com; Sledding photo by Gorilla/BigStock.com; Shopping cart photo by lightkeeper/BigStock.com; Manicure photo by Kzenon/BigStock.com; Scale photo by Rostislav_Sedlacek/BigStock.com