Over 40% of People Make New Year's Resolutions, but Only 9% of Them Feel They Achieve Them
Many resolutions are health-related, with things such as losing weight, eating healthier, quitting smoking, and working out more often ranking highly on people’s New Year to-do lists. But with such a small portion of folks actually feeling successful in achieving their new goals, is there a better way to approach them?
When it comes to health, personal trainer EP Massey has been working with clients for over 30 years to help them set realistic goals, and then achieve them. He brings his extensive experience to our Six Steps to a Healthier You class, which provides customized tips and guidance on designing a wellness plan that works for your specific needs.
He’s seen a lot of success, and he’s seen failures, but what they both have in common is a commitment to making small changes over time, and then sticking with them. Here are a few of his suggestions.
Eat Your Weight Off
We’re often confused about how to lose weight because of so many competing short-term diet fads and promises of fast results. If it’s a fast and easy-to-do diet, it probably won’t help you maintain your weight loss over time.
Instead, think about developing an efficient eating plan, which provides you with a strategic program that incorporates all the important aspects of proper nutrition.
This means consuming the necessary calories your body needs to function while also ensuring that you are eating the right mix of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, and water.
No More 3 Meals a Day
EP’s first recommendation is to give up the idea of eating only 3 meals a day. “I think it’s old-fashioned and outdated,” he notes. “It’s very difficult to consume the calories and nutrients needed for successful weight control by eating only three meals a day. You’re often eating too many calories at once, which makes you a fat-storing machine, instead of a fat-burning machine.”
Instead, develop a plan where you eat four to six smaller meals each day. Here’s the strategy that EP uses for his clients:
- Within 2 hours of waking up: Eat breakfast; this jump starts your metabolism.
- Every 2 – 3 hours: Eat something small such as carrot sticks, string cheese, crackers; this keeps your metabolism running high all day
- Within 5 hours of waking up / before 1:00 PM each day: Eat three small meals; this gives your body the energy it needs to operate, and ensures you’re not loading up on calories later in the day when your body is starting to slow down
- At least 2 hours before bedtime: Eat dinner, and try to minimize or eliminate starches such as bread, rice, pasta, or potatoes; include plenty of green leafy vegetables combined with a lean protein
Make Weekends Work for You
EP also suggests taking a break on from your structured eating plan on the weekend; this will give you the room to enjoy some of the higher calorie, low in nutrients foods you might love (did someone say ice cream?!), and will help you maintain your structured diet plan for a longer period of time. This is also a great time to plan out your meals for the week ahead to make sure you stay on track.
Remember: It’s all about balance!
Prioritize Your Fitness
For most of us, working out isn’t a lot of fun, so coming up with a plan we can stick with is important. Here are a few tips on how to do that:
Set Annual Goals
Instead of saying “I’m going to the gym every day!” and then giving up on your goal when you can’t make it a few times in a row, think of how many times you want to go to the gym per year, and then break that down into monthly and weekly goals.
If you’re just getting back into the swing of things, try setting a target of 150 for the year, which is about 12 times per month and 3 times per week. If you go more often than that, great! But if you have something come up and you end up skipping a few days in a row, you can always look toward your annual goal and know that you’ll make up for it later.
And when you achieve that 150 this year, increase it to 175 or 200 next year. Ultimately, being active 4 – 7 days a week is ideal, but give yourself some time to establish and maintain your new exercise habit.
Setting time aside to be active each day will ensure that you don’t overlook its importance. This could be going to the gym, taking a dance class, or running around your local park.
Whatever it is, try to do it for 30 – 45 minutes, and try to maintain your target heart rate for most of that time. You can determine your target heart rate by doing the following:
- Subtract your age from 220 = This is your maximum heart rate
- Multiply that number by 80% = This is your target heart rate
By staying within your target heart rate during your activity, you’ll burn fat, improve your cardiovascular system, and build up endurance.
If you can, get up an hour earlier and get active first thing in the morning. You’ll not only get it out of the way, it’s harder to over-schedule yourself at 5am in the morning!
“Plus, exercise produces endorphins, which will help you be more productive, have more energy, and be in a more positive mood throughout the day,” EP says. “You’ll also fire up your metabolism, so you’ll be a calorie-burning machine all day.”
It's Not All Cardio, All the Time
While cardio is an important part of staying fit, you can mix things up a bit by incorporating resistance training into your workouts. You can do this through traditional weight lifting, choreographed classes that incorporate weights, and even by using your own bodyweight.
Resistance training will not only shape and tone your body, it will aid you in burning up to 30 extra calories per hour while resting!
“You’re only burning calories while you’re actively doing cardio,” EP says. “But after weight training, your metabolism continues to soar, and you’ll continue to burn calories for up to two more hours.”
Just Add Weights
If you’re not ready to start pumping iron, you can get the benefits of resistance training by adding weights to the activities you already do. For example, try carrying three pound weights with you while you’re walking around your park, or increase the resistance on your favorite elliptical or stationary bike. Again, start small and build from there.
If you’re looking for more specific guidance on developing a fitness routine, diet plan, or setting realistic goals, consider joining EP during his next class!