Every last day of the year when the clock strikes midnight, we celebrate a new start. Out with the old, in with the new! It's the perfect time to evaluate your priorities and set new goals. Every year, I join the masses and pledge a resolution to making healthier choices. It's a little cliché... okay, a lot cliché... but it's also very important. Taking care of your mind and body should be your priority if you want to live a healthy, happy, long, and fulfilling life.
In my opinion, getting started is the hardest part. Taking that first step into a new lifestyle can be scary and overwhelming, but here's a guide to help you out. Overall, making little swaps each and every day will add up over time, and before you know it- there's a whole new you. Here are my tips on keeping that New Year's Resolution to "Get Fit for 2015!"
First things first, you have to make a plan and stick to it. Write it down and hold yourself accountable. Like anything else in life: if you keep a record of your habits, you're more likely to make positive changes.
USE YOUR RESOURCES: In this day and age, we're lucky to have an array of fitness and health apps at the tips of our fingers. My Fitness Pal is great for food logging, calorie logging, and has an awesome online community. Some gyms even have their own fitness apps to keep you committed. Equinox, for example, logs how many times I've visited the gym, which classes I took, and I can even enter calorie burn and personal notes.
My first year at Equinox, I attended the gym 60 times. In 365 days!! No bueno, right? So, last year: I decided my goal was to at least double that, which I'm happy to say I did. This year: my goal is to attend the gym at least 210 times, which amounts to about 4 times per week. Wish me luck!
MY ROUTINE: I use the Aria Wifi Scale by FitBit to track my weight and body fat percentage every day. Yes. Every single day, I get on that damn scale and let it send my numbers to the FitBit app on my iPhone & computer.
I then enter that information into an Excel spreadsheet (yes, you read that correctly) and calculate weekly averages. I also use this spreadsheet to add up how many times a week I've exercised, how many calories I've burned (using the Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor,) and what I've eaten. This helps me to set goals and stick to them. Furthermore, I send this information to my trainer via Google Docs, and she critiques my diet and exercise patterns.
When it comes to exercising, I commit to 2 spin classes and 2 personal training sessions each week. I mark my calendar and never cancel. In fact, if a client or friend asks me to meet during those commitments- 9 times out of 10- I tell them I have a very important meeting that I can't move. They don't need to know that the meeting is between me and my trainer at the gym!
It's so easy to just say, "Hey you, just join a gym!" The sad truth is that many people are completely intimidated by the gym- especially if they've never stepped foot inside one or it's been a really long time! There are ways to get around this so that one day you'll be one of those mystical unicorns who actually like working out. (I swear! They exist!)
TAG-TEAM IT. If you can't afford a personal trainer, your BFF4E&E will do the trick. The buddy system is probably one of the most effective exercise systems around. They key is to find a friend who will hold you accountable and maybe even be a little competitive. That way you'll push each other to work harder and better. (She can do 10 pushups and I can only do 5? I'll show her!)
FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE and don't be afraid to try new things. If you absolutely hate running with a deep, dark passion, don't do it. Just don't. Find something else- the elliptical, a swimming club, baseball team, spin class... the possibilities are endless. As long as you're moving, sweating, and feeling the burn, you're doing the body good. At the end of the day, you won't stick with it if you don't enjoy it.
WORK OUT IN PRIVATE. Speaking of finding something you love, Spinning is my personal favorite cardio routine. I'm fortunate enough that New York City is chock-full of cycle studios with amazing DJs, uplifting communities, and outstanding instructors. If you find yourself in a not-so-metropolitan area or you just want a little privacy, you should check out Peloton. They've transformed the at-home fitness experience by creating a bike that LIVE-streams "On Demand" classes by real instructors. You're basically in a spin class in the privacy of your own home- which delivers a motivating, intense workout in your comfort zone. Ultimately, my favorite thing about spinning is that you go at your own pace. If you're not feeling it one day- do it anyway. Just slow down. It's better than not doing it at all.
COMMIT. The most important thing to remember is to commit. Promise yourself that you will work out 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time or even better- 3 times a week burning a minimum of 300 calories each time- for a solid 3 months. After those 3 months, you will see results. Scouts honor.
Be Mindful of What You Eat
For me, the diet part is always the hardest. I could work out until I'm blue in the face- and typically do so on a regular basis. But if you present me with a plate of penne a la vodka versus a spinach salad? Well, you know what I want.
KEEP A FOOD JOURNAL. And do it the right way: don't wait until you've already eaten something bad to log it. Spend some time each day mapping out what you want to eat. Plan out breakfast, lunch, dinner, and your snacks and hold yourself to it. You'll soon learn what you need to eat in order to feel satiated and full while still maintaining weight loss. Personally, I know that a high-fat (good, natural fats) and low-carb/sugar diet keeps me full and happy, so I make sure to log snacks like avocados and cashews before I reach for a bag of chips.
SNEAK FRUITS & VEGGIES. Make a healthy swap and try to incorporate fruits and/or vegetables into everything you eat. Two healthy swaps I'm obsessed with right now?
1. Using the Vegetti to make "zoodles," aka zucchini noodles. You can cover them with home-made or store-bought sauce, serve them with lean meat and a sprinkle of low-fat cheese and voila! Feels like you're eating a big bowl of spaghetti. It's naturally gluten-free, low-carb, and sugar-free (depending on what sauce you use.) You're basically eating a big ol' plate of vegetables AND it takes about 3 minutes to prepare dinner.
2. Every day around 3pm I crave something sweet. Like a cookie or a brownie. Instead, I make myself a chocolate banana smoothie with the following ingredients: 1 banana, 1/4 cup of Fage non-fat greek yogurt, 1/4 cup of organic skim milk, 1 packet of Truvia, 1/2 teaspoon of Godiva unsweetened cocoa powder. Blend that all up and it tastes like a delicious chocolate banana milkshake. I have to remind myself while drinking this that there is nothing unhealthy in it. It's that good.
AVOID FAD DIETS. You know that a bag of nuts is healthier than chips and that an actual banana is healthier than low-fat banana-flavored sorbet. Listen to your head and avoid fad diets! The only diet I am a proponent of is the South Beach, which I've discussed before on this blog. In a nutshell: it's low-sugar and low-carb, but generally speaking: if it grows in the ground or on a tree, you can eat as much of it as you like. Phase 1 is restrictive (to eliminate cravings,) but Phase 2/3 are really all about eating healthy. I recommend reading the book whole-heartedly.
STAY FULL. Don't, under any circumstances, let yourself get starving! This is very important in maintaining progress. Eat a small meal or snack every 3 hours- even if it's just a handful of almonds or an apple. Another tip is to stay hydrated. Often, when the body is thirsty, we mistake that dehydration for starvation and reach for a snack. Basically, your body wants water (and I mean water, not Coke or fruit juice) and it will do whatever is necessary to get it. Even if that means extracting the juices from a big, luscious cheeseburger. Don't let this happen. Aim for 8 glasses a day.
Don't underestimate the importance of good rest. You're body needs it to recover and your mind needs it to stay sharp! I hear people time and time again complain that they can't get to sleep, only to find that they are sleeping with their TV on and their iPhones on their pillows. Turn that noise off! Studies show that the brightness of your device or television screen can greatly affect your ability to fall asleep. Swap the late night sitcom for a good book read in soft lighting, and put your phone on silent an hour before you want to doze off. It will make the transition that much easier.
Be Honest & Fair
Listen to what your body wants and needs. Be honest with yourself. It's okay to skip a workout if you're exhausted or have a cookie if you're craving it, but don't give in too often. Remember that you are not a child. You are an adult and you don't get a break just because you want one. You need to be honest with yourself and you need to step outside your comfort zone in order to make changes. That's when all this "health and fitness nonsense" really counts.
Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. You should be an angel 80% of the time and a devil the other 20%. One cheat meal or one day off won't kill you, so don't beat yourself up over a mishap. Just pick up where you left off and remember that it's the journey that matters, not the destination.