Now that we are in mid-month of January, and New Year’s resolutions were made two weeks ago – how well have you followed through with maintaining promises made to yourself?
Every year, almost half of all Americans set self-improving resolutions on the eve of a new year. As friends and family prepare for the New Year to arrive, they celebrate and await the countdown to midnight, share highlights and recaps of personal accomplishments and monumental events from the past year, and of course, make lists of New Year’s resolutions with intents to become an even better person, with the motivational words of: “New Year. New You. New Start.”
And as one should think positively and optimistically, with such words of encouragement, a New Year offers neoteric beginnings for people to dust behind old and undesirable habits, and moderately set new and attainable goals, that one perceives will mold him/her into the person they want to be. Whether it is to become a better spouse or family oriented individual, harder working employee, more studious and attentive student, or even a slimmer you – producing results take time, persistence, effort and none other than, self-willingness and readiness to make such changes.
According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 are:
1. Lose Weight
2. Getting Organized
3. Spending less, Save more
4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5. Staying Fit and Healthy
6. Learn Something New and Exciting
7. Quit Smoking
8. Help Other in their Dreams
9. Fall in Love
10. Spend More Time with Family
Do any of these goals look familiar to you? Maybe you recognize a few to over half of these resolutions from your list, so the question is, “Is it possible to meet all your goals?” Yes. “Is it possible to meet all your goals within a week, a month or three months?” No, not really. Not if you want lasting results, because a quick fix to things is not always the sturdiest fix in creating a solid foundation to mental and physical changes. Just like any other progressive event in life such as getting a job promotion, establishing new friendships/relationships, losing weight, training for a marathon, or building a stronger relationship with family or faith; life-altering events require internal motivation and TIME. Time meaning incremental measures, a limited period during which an action, process, or condition exists and/or takes place — or simply, taking baby steps.
Moreover, let’s talk about what seems to be the top priority on the majority of everyone’s list of resolutions, which is weight loss; and how to take baby steps toward meeting weight loss goals. First of all, how many pounds did you plan to lose, and under what time frame? If you said you wanted to lose 15 pounds in one month, then that can be a tad bit over-ambitious. As you may know, weight loss is achieved through proper diet and exercise under the premise that calories-out should be greater than calories-in. Research shows that roughly one pound of body fat equals 3,500 calories, which means for an individual to lose one pound per week, one would need to cut back on 500 calories per day for a week.
A 500-calorie deficit in one-day can be met by increased physical activity and decreased caloric intake, though achieving either behavioral change can be a hurdle for anyone who has never exercised nor considered his/her eating habits in the past. Therefore, to meet weight loss goals, it is imperative to set realistic weight loss goals. Perhaps, instead of wanting to lose 15 pounds in one month, aim to lose 4-5 pounds in one month, which could equal a net loss of nearly 50 pounds in a year – That’s a lot! But setting realistic weight loss goals will allow small dietary and lifestyle changes to become lifelong habitual practices, and not short-term changes.
Now that you’ve established a realistic weight loss goal, let’s discuss how weight loss is achieved. Weight loss and weight management are achieved through proper diet and exercise, (NOT by skipping meals and avoiding signs of hunger). Through selecting healthier food options and increasing physical activity, decreasing 500 calories per day is doable. Ways to decrease daily caloric intake include: 1. Cutting back on processed sugary foods such as candy, cookies, chips, snack foods 2. Selecting baked, grilled or steamed foods versus deep fried foods 3. Drinking water and/or no calorie drinks versus sugary beverages 4. Adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats to your plate 5. Monitoring plate portion sizes 6. Stop eating when you feel full …
Sure, common sense is to stop eating when your stomach is stuffed and your pants feel snug; but I realize many people, including myself, grew up forced to sit at the dinner table until
all food was cleared from the plate. Those acquired tableside manners, and that precious diminutive voice of mom saying “There are kids in other countries that are starving – finish your plate,” influence our dietary eating patterns as adults. Thereby, occasionally if not always, we eat all we see in front of us in efforts to prevent food waste, though causing us to ignore our bodies cues of satiety. However, during times where you feel compelled to finish every bite on your plate, but you’ve reached the feeling of fullness — just box up the leftover food, store it in the fridge, and eat it later when you’re hungry again.
In regards to taking baby steps, decreasing caloric intake does not mean to eliminate certain foods from your diet, or go without eating; rather it focuses on making incremental changes such as eating smaller meals, substituting high calorie beverages for water, selecting fat-free milk instead of whole milk, snacking on nuts or fruits instead of chips and cookies, replacing side orders of french fries with side luscious green salads, etc.
Lastly, physical activity is crucial for weight loss. Research shows that generally 30 minutes of low intensity physical activity, such as walking, for three to five days a week is recommended to maintain good heart health and weight management. More specifically physical activity recommendations for weight loss are 60 minutes a day of moderate-high intensity workouts including endurance and strength training, such as jogging, running, climbing, weight lifting.
Yet again, taking baby steps toward weight loss goals through exercise could mean to start from walking 10 minutes a day, then slowly increasing the workout time to 30-60 minutes of walking per day to maximize stamina and endurance. Once low intensity exercise feels natural and comfortable, and has become part of your daily routine, try picking up the pace and start jogging, but again starting at 10 minutes a day and slowly progressing your run time.
However, if you haven’t exercised for some time, and you have health concerns, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Happy New Year, and keep up the hard work!
— Sandra Ruan is a Bladen County native and dietary intern at Southern Regional Emory Healthcare in Atlanta. She holds a bachelor’s of science degree in nutrition science from N.C. State University and a master’s of science in nutrition and health sciences from Brooklyn College-City University in New York. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.