Every January 1 many people are motivated and excited for a fresh start. But about a week in, we sometimes start to weigh if our resolutions are really worth the effort. Lack of motivation, busy schedules and stress are just some of the reasons we abandon our resolutions and start to rationalize how we were living before December 31. So how do we keep that motivation going throughout the year, or even throughout the entire month of January?
Getting yourself organized is one of the best ways you can kick bad habits. Whether it’s by prepping meals to set you up for a week of healthy eating, or putting your workout bag by the front door so you will be ready to work out the next day, there are many ways organization and planning can improve your health. Being prepared for what may come—and even anticipating challenges--will help you maintain motivation and increase your confidence in achieving your goals for 2017.
I personally love lists; they keep me on task and increase my motivation when I am able to start checking items off a list. A great way we can get organized is with healthy grocery lists. By writing down healthier options, we will be less tempted by impulse buy foods.
We’ve all been there – walking through the grocery store hungry and without a list so we grab the first things we see and are the easiest to make. This isn’t a bad thing if the first thing we see is fresh produce, whole grains, and lean meats, but most likely we are grabbing up little donuts for breakfast and Ramen noodles for lunch. By making a list of healthier options and substitutes, we can be better prepared to say “sayonara!” to Little Debbie.
Things to keep in mind while making a healthy grocery list:
- Visualize the layout of the grocery store. Remember that the healthier, fresher, options are usually on the perimeter of the store. When making your grocery list be sure to put the fresh produce first, then lean meats, and then whole grains. Most grocery stores have a layout in that order so not only will you be securing your healthier items first, you also won’t have to back track when you’re about to check out.
- Buy lean meats in bulk. By buying meat in bulk, you save time and money. When you get home from the store, separate the meat into 1lb packages and freeze. You could also pre-cook the meat for weekly meal prep, which will be nice on your wallet and your waistline.
Meal prep is a term we all hear more often nowadays and for good reasons. By prepping your meals ahead of time you will have more time during the week to complete the tasks that are begging for your attention (kids’ homework, anyone?). Meal prep is also a great way to stay on track with healthy eating. You have control over what goes in your meals which will help you get more balanced nutrition and avoid excess sodium intake from processed foods.
- Start your meal prep by choosing a lean protein as your base, whether it be chicken breast, ground turkey, tofu, or beans.
- Then add in some vegetables - green beans, edamame, roasted carrots, etc.
- Don’t forget the whole grains! Quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat tortillas are just some of the many whole grains you can incorporate into your meal.
- Spice it up! Spices are a great calorie-free option for increasing the flavor of your meal prep creation, and they add healthy antioxidants.
- Lastly, if you have a sweet tooth (like myself), end with something sweet. Have a separate container filled with no-sugar- added fruit or pack some Greek yogurt. If you get bored with the same meal 5 days in a row, prep for just a few days at a time and then switch it up, or add a little variety, like changing the vegetable or spices, to the basic meal.
For additional tips on cutting calories, check out this blog from Dr. Terry Gehlhausen of Deaconess Clinic Oakland City.
With the hustle and bustle of the holidays over, most of us now have more time to devote to personal enrichment. We are so used to being overbooked by other people scheduling our time – parent-teacher conferences, after-school events, work meetings, carpool – that we forget that we have the option to schedule time with ourselves. Making time for yourself and for your personal pursuits can make 2017 the best year of your life.
It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. Start by carving out a little time each week to make sure you are doing what makes you healthier emotionally, mentally and physically. Whether it be exercising, meditating, or journaling, schedule it with yourself.
If your goal is start working out 30 minutes, two times a week, schedule it in your phone or write it on your calendar. Set a reminder. Get your gym bag ready the night before and leave it by your front door. It’s much harder to say “no” to exercising when you already have your gym bag ready. Give yourself permission that even if 167.5 hours of your week is devoted to someone else, this 30 minutes is dedicated to you. Take 15 minutes out of your day to rest and meditate; treat this scheduled commitment as if it was any other important meeting. You wouldn’t bail out on a meeting with your boss, would you?
This step is often the hardest when we have new goals or want to get organized. We usually assign ourselves the loftiest goal we can possibly think of and then feel like failures when we cannot complete the task. Goals are not meant to trick us or make us feel inferior, in fact they should do the opposite. They should motivate us, inspire us, and give us hope.
- Start small. Small changes in your everyday routine can add up to big differences. For instance, walking an extra 10 minutes per day might not seem like much of a goal, but over 2 weeks that’s 140 minutes of activity. For a 150-lb individual that would add up to 476 calories! Imagine what increasing your goal to 15 or 20 minutes a day would do!
- Don’t go overboard. Although you want to clear out your entire fridge and cabinet in one fell swoop, beware of getting healthy food that you will never actually eat. If your friend tells you to only eat kale, but you hate kale, don’t get kale. If you like spinach better, get spinach! Healthy food is only healthy if you actually eat it. Introduce new foods a little at a time.
- Think short term and long term. (Insert phrase about Rome not being built in a day here). If you want to lose 30 lbs., make sure you are keeping that as a long term goal. Weight loss takes time and the recommended amount of healthy weight loss is one-to-two pounds per week. So instead of being disappointed when you don’t lose 30 pounds in a week (like on The Biggest Loser), get excited for meeting your short term goal of four pounds in a month.
- Don’t attach your goals to events. Although it’s great to have a high school reunion or vacation as a due date to meet your goal, it can also tie resentment to that event if that goal isn’t met. It’s also important to remember that it’s all about lifestyle changes and not a quick fix for an event. If you meet one of your goals by that event, that’s great, but if not remember that you can keep working towards that goal after the event as well.
- Just remember every day is a new day and a new beginning. And above all, have a happy and healthy New Year!
For more information on making New Year’s resolutions that are realistic and effective, check out these articles from my colleagues:
How to Make Realistic Resolutions and Keep Them
Small Changes for Gradual Weight Loss and a Healthier Life