Monthly Archives: December 2019

20 Tips for 2020: How To Realistically Set and Keep New Year’s Resolutions.

If you’re like most people, every year you set several big, lofty goals for the New Year: maybe it’s to lose 30 pounds, to eat cleaner or to exercise more, or even to run a 10K. Most New Year’s Resolutions revolve around losing weight or exercise goals, and most people have given up their goals by February. There’s a reason that gym is packed the week after New Year’s and practically empty come Valentine’s Day!

According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, just 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals, while around 80 percent fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

You can keep and attain those New Year’s resolutions and be successful. By setting realistic and attainable goals and making a few other changes, you can make 2020 the year you accomplish your goals. Here are 20 tips for 2020 to get you started and to help you reach your goals.

1. Plan ahead. Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to make your resolutions. Plan your goals well ahead of December 31.

2. Don’t make too many resolutions. To increase your chances of success, it’s better to pick one realistic goal and set small steps to achieve it rather than making a list of several resolutions.

3. Don’t make the same resolution year after year. Perhaps you’ve made the same resolution each year—to lose 30 pounds, for example. And every year, you’ve failed to reach your goal. Instead, this year, break down that big goal into smaller goals such as “lose 10 pounds by April 1″ or “exercise 3 times per week.” Then re-evaluate and set new goals after you reach your first small goal.

4. Set attainable and meaningful goals. When making your resolutions, be specific and have identifiable steps of how you will reach your goal. One way to do this is by following the SMART acronym – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. Learn more here.

5. Write it down. Write down your resolution and break it down into smaller steps that you can follow to help you reach your ultimate goal.

6. Post it somewhere visible. After writing down your goals, post them on your fridge or bathroom mirror, or wherever they’ll be most visible for you to see daily to help keep yourself motivated.

7. Plan a time frame. Buy a calendar or use an online tracker so you can plan your action list for the coming weeks and months. This way, you can assess your short-term progress and make adjustments along the way.

8. Track your progress. Using that same calendar or online tool, track your progress. Record little achievements as well as big ones. For example, if you made it to the gym four times one week, record it.

9. Set rewards along the way. To help yourself stay motivated, reward yourself along the way. For example, if your goal was to lose 30 pounds, reward yourself for your first five pounds lost. Rewards can be such things as treating yourself to a spa day or buying yourself a new pair of sneakers, but stay away from food-based rewards especially if your resolution is to get healthy in the new year.

10. Announce it to friends and family. Tell your family and friends about your resolutions, and ask them to help support you in the new year. You could also post it on social media to enlist the support of your friend network and to help keep yourself accountable.

11. Enlist a partner. If you have a friend who has the same or similar goals for the new year, partner with them to help keep each other motivated and accountable.

12. Find digital support. If you can’t find a real life partner, look for support online. There are numerous online support groups for diet and exercise programs, as well as social media groups.

13. Take advantage of technology. Make use of tools such as Fitbits, trackers, cell phones, or other online support tools to help you track your progress and stick to your goals.

14. Have a plan to deal with setbacks. You will experience setbacks along the way, but as long as you have a plan on how to deal with them, they don’t have to unravel all of your progress. If you fall off your healthy eating plan, for example, get right back on it the following day.

15. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t obsess over occasional slip-ups. Take things one day at a time and use your plan for handling setbacks.

16. Keep trying. Once you’ve had a setback, or several, you may feel completely discouraged and ready to give up. If by mid-February you feel like you want to throw in the towel, don’t! Recommit yourself for 24 hours. Then set another 24-hour goal and build from there, and soon, you’ll be right back on track.

17. Know when to take a break. Burnout will happen if you don’t allow yourself to take breaks. Find time every day to relax and especially to let your mind relax and not hyper-focus on reaching your goal.

18. Be patient. Change takes time. Be patient with yourself and know that change won’t happen overnight or even in one week or month.

19. Re-evaluate after six weeks or six months. Check in after a period of time and re-evaluate your goals. Are you where you wanted to be? What changes can you make to help you reach your goal? Have you already reached or surpassed your initial goal? What can you do to keep improving yourself?

20. Celebrate all successes. If your resolutions revolve around weight loss or exercise goals, it’s important to have small, measurable ways to see progress. Don’t base your goals only around a number on the scale. Take your measurements before starting a weight loss or exercise program, and periodically remeasure to see changes. Are you feeling less winded when taking the stairs at work? That’s progress too! Celebrate all of your successes, no matter how small.

The Benefits of Exercise During the Holiday Season

Maintaining a regular exercise routine during the busy holiday season is important and not just because of the risk of gaining unwanted pounds, although that’s one good reason. While it may be tempting to skip your workouts with the idea that you’ll start back again after the New Year as part of your resolutions, you really should make exercise a priority even when the holidays place extra demands on your already hectic schedule. Exercise can help you face many of the challenges and stressors of the next few weeks.

Check out some of these exercise benefits:

Preventing holiday weight gain. The most obvious benefit of continuing a regular exercise schedule is avoiding the dreaded holiday weight gain. Exercising consistently can protect you from the effects of up to a week of overeating, according to a study from the University of Michigan.

Less risk of losing workout gains. While skipping one or two workouts won’t affect your overall fitness, if you regularly miss workouts during the holidays, you could face significant losses. Both cardiovascular fitness and strength could suffer if you start skipping workouts regularly; you could lose many of the benefits you’ve worked so hard to gain.

Reducing stress. Even though the holidays are meant to be a joyful time, they can produce added stress for a lot of people. The extra demands on your time, gift shopping, food preparation, visiting relatives, traveling, house guests, and financial worries can add up to lots of increased anxiety and stress. Exercise can reduce stress by releasing endorphins that make you feel good. It also provides you with an outlet to take out some of that stress and frustration, and gives you a guaranteed dose of daily time for yourself.

Reducing symptoms of S.A.D. Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), a  mood disorder related to change in seasons and less daylight during winter. Sufferers may feel depressed, fatigued, experience sleep problems and appetite changes, and have difficulty concentrating, among other symptoms. Exercise can help relieve depression and elevate mood. In addition, doing an outdoor workout during the day allows you to get much-needed sunlight exposure, which can benefit mood disorders.

Lowering blood pressure. Exercise lowers blood pressure—and does so right away. Whether you take a daily walk, run, or swim laps, every time you finish a workout, your blood pressure decreases and remains lower for several hours, which is beneficial for your overall health. If you’re prone to high blood pressure, the added stress as well as extra salty and rich holiday foods may raise your blood pressure, so sticking to a regular exercise routine can help keep your blood pressure in check.

Holiday Eating Without the Guilt

Food is everywhere during the holiday season. From office parties to family gatherings to school functions to cookie exchanges, celebrations this time of year revolve around food. And really good food too—it’s hard to resist all of the rich desserts, creamy dips, cheese balls, hors d’oeuvres, and eggnog this time of year, nor should you have to. But you also don’t want to completely unravel the healthy eating habits you’ve established this year or gain any unwanted pounds.

How can you enjoy all of the holiday goodies without feeling guilty? Here are some holiday eating tips that will allow you to savor every bite this season while still maintaining moderation and hopefully doing minimal damage to your waistline.

Skip seconds.
Don’t pass up your favorite holiday foods, but do skip seconds. By filling your plate with the foods you enjoy the most, you will be more mindful of not overeating.

Less is more.
Choose to eat two of your favorite Christmas cookies instead of four; have just one crescent roll instead of two, and so on.

Make a swap.
If there are specific foods you don’t want to miss out on, such as pecan pie or gingerbread, then limit other foods at the meal such as bread or potatoes to save on calories.

It’s OK to say no.
Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to turn down food offered to you by others. Simply say, “No, thank you,” or “I am full,” when offered something you don’t want. You are not obligated to eat everything the host offers.

Leave the leftovers.
Pass on the leftovers. Try to limit your indulgence to a special occasion such as a party or family gathering, then get back to your regular, healthy eating patterns the next day. Leftovers in the fridge are too tempting to grab when you’re in a hurry instead of making a healthy meal.

Tackle the buffet, but in moderation.
When faced with a bountiful buffet table, fill your plate with moderate portions. It may be tempting to sample everything, but instead, get one small serving of the dishes you like the most, and then feel free to add more fresh veggies or fruits to keep you full. Use a small plate to help control portions.

Take just a bite.
Have just a few bites of that rich, creamy dessert rather than the whole thing. You don’t need a large amount of food to enjoy celebrating with family and friends.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
If you plan to enjoy alcoholic drinks, be sure to drink one glass of water between every alcoholic drink to stay hydrated and to help with digestion.

Give yourself permission to enjoy all of the foods you may not normally eat the rest of the year, and then get back on track with your regular routine the next day.

Enjoy the Holiday Season with Less Stress

The holiday season is in full swing, and if you’re like most of us, you’re already feeling the pressure to shop, decorate, cook, send cards, and attend every party or event to which you’re invited. But stop right there! This time of the year doesn’t have to stress you out; there are many ways you can plan your holiday to reduce stress and put some enjoyment back into the season. After all, it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year—not the most stressful!

Let go of expectations.
The pressure to feel a certain way during the holidays is everywhere. Words like “joy,” “wonder,” and “celebrate” are plastered on everything from coffee mugs to sweaters, but many people find this time of year to be overwhelming and stressful. Overcommitting to events and trying to create the “perfect holiday” can drain any enjoyment out of the season. Comparing yourself to friends’ perfectly staged photos on social media can add another layer of expectation that your holiday should look and feel a certain way. The reality is that endless to-do lists, obligations, busy schedules, and travel logistics can often overshadow the idyllic Hallmark Christmas-movie images you have of the perfect holiday.

By letting go of all these expectations, you can free yourself of a lot of unnecessary stress. Decide what is most important to you for the holidays: Is it spending time with family? Attending church services? Giving to those in need? Focus on what makes the holidays most enjoyable for you and let go of the things that cause too much stress. If that means not sending out holiday cards this year, that’s okay. Or if it means keeping decorations to a minimum, or declining some holiday invitations, or even canceling a trip to visit family, then do so without guilt. Let go of unrealistic expectations and obligations that you dread so you can find the true joy and wonder of the season.

Make a to-do list.
Getting organized and making a list of everything you need to do for the holidays from gift-giving to dates for each child’s holiday concert and class party will help you manage stress, so you know what’s happening and when. Plus, checking off tasks from your to-do list will give you a certain satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.

Set a budget and stick to it.
Overspending and worries about money are two of the biggest stressors of the holiday season. To lessen the worry over spending too much, decide how much money you can realistically afford to spend. Consider all of the different aspects of holiday shopping including gifts, decorations, food, travel, cards, and clothing. Divide your budget into these categories and assign a dollar amount to each. If the numbers aren’t lining up, take a second look to see what changes you can make to save money. Track your spending as you go and be leery of putting too many purchases on credit cards to avoid getting a huge shock in January when your credit card statement arrives.

Learn to say no.
There is a heightened sense of obligation during the holidays—office parties, neighborhood gatherings, gift exchanges, helping with fundraisers, and visiting far-away family you only see once a year, etc. Committing yourself to every party or event you’re invited to is a sure way to add unnecessary stress. Learn to say no without guilt. You are in charge of your calendar, and you are not obligated to appear everywhere you’re invited. Lightening your schedule will instantly relieve a huge amount of the stress you feel this time of year, and it will leave time for things you really want to do.

Avoid overeating.
Sweet treats and rich desserts are intrinsic to holiday celebrations. You can still enjoy them without overdoing it. Don’t view this time of year as giving you free reign to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Try to stick to a healthy eating plan, and enjoy a treat or two when you are at a party or event;  just don’t go overboard with the candy canes, cookies, and eggnog. Overeating will make you feel sluggish and add more stress and unwanted pounds. Try to fit in your regular exercise routine even when your time is limited. Exercise will help lower stress levels and keep holiday weight gain at bay.

Make time for downtime.
No matter how hectic the holidays get, make sure to take some time to unwind and recharge. Do things that help you relax and that you enjoy, whether that’s watching a Netflix show, reading a book, or taking a warm bath. Carve out time in the early morning or late evening for yourself; it will help you to keep your sanity in all the chaos!