Staying on track is tough when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, but not impossible! Are you one of the many people making a commitment to be healthy in 2021? If so, Carman Whiting, MD, a family medicine specialist with UT Physicians, has advice on how to be successful.
New year, new you
“Getting started with healthy choices after the holidays can be a daunting prospect,” said Whiting. “However, if you start to make a few changes before Jan. 1, consistency will likely be easier to maintain.”
This is the time of year when patients ask a lot of questions about their health, weight loss and exercise. It is important to consult a health care provider before major lifestyle modifications. “Eating smaller portions during the holidays and having seconds is one easy change that does not involve deprivation. Cut your calories; sugary sodas and alcoholic beverages are an easy way to pack on the calories and the pounds. Choosing water with citrus juice added or diet alternatives are better options,” said Whiting. “When eating out during the holidays, make healthier choices and save part of the meal for later. Have smaller portions for dessert is also a good way to reduce caloric intake.”
To shed unwanted pounds, it is important to reduce the amount of food you eat and make healthier choices such as green vegetables. Here are a few more tips: select lean meats, drink more water, don’t skip meals, take smaller bites and consume food that is rich in fiber.
While cutting calories and food intake is a step in the right direction, Whiting said you have to start moving, too.
“Starting a new exercise routine can be overwhelming so I typically urge my patients to start slow but be consistent. Thirty to forty minutes most days per week (5-6 days) is what is recommended. However, doing 15 minutes daily for a few weeks and increasing increments over several weeks will help patients reach their goals,” said Whiting. “It is also important to choose an activity you would enjoy. I don’t run and never will, but I do other exercises that help me build muscle as well as increase my heart rate. This is one way I have been able to maintain consistency.”
According to Whiting, it doesn’t matter if you walk or run. While walking 10,000 steps a day is not an official recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency does urge adults to engage in 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. If you hit 10,000 steps per day, you will satisfy that recommendation. Many patients are taking advantage of apps and other devices to help them keep track of their progress and hold themselves accountable. Once you start exercising and calculating how many calories you burn, you may be less likely to splurge when it comes to food selections. Whiting notes that one can of non-diet soda equals about 90 minutes of walking!
Healthy sleep habits
“A healthy lifestyle is not just eating well and exercising. Obtaining the proper amount of sleep is also important. Seven to eight hours per night is the recommended amount of sleep required to maintain good health. Having a consistent bed time helps with consistency in this area,” said Whiting.
“The most difficult part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is during times of stress. The holidays can be a huge time of stress for some and COVID-19 has added to that. Thus, it is important to have routines that are simple, easy to follow and maintain. Set attainable goals, and don’t get discouraged when things don’t go well; get up and try again,” said Whiting.
Take the initiative now so you can be a success story in 2021! Feeling better, looking healthier and happier is worth the time and effort you will put in to your New Year’s resolution. Finally, forgive yourself if you mess up and recommit yourself to your goal.