Each new year, nearly half of Americans make resolutions, with 38 percent of those being about weight loss — it's the No. 1 goal. But only 8 percent are successful in keeping their resolutions through the end of the year. Instead, in this four-part series, we propose becoming more resilient. This isn't about being thinner: It's about being sick less and having more energy. It's about getting better sleep and being more relaxed. It's about having a tougher emotional core as well as a physical one. Resolving to be resilient is about being stronger in every way possible so that you can bounce back from whatever life throws your way in 2014. We wish you a healthy, happy new year.
Have a game plan
“It's kind of hard to get somewhere if you don't even know where you're going,” says certified personal trainer Stacy Fowler, a Golden-based fitness club owner known as “Coach Stacy.”
Creating a strategy — particularly a written or visual one that you can access regularly — is considered to be a critical part of a successful fitness regimen, according to research, trainers and many people who have completed successful weight-loss or training programs.
“Tracking your progress, so that you can refer back to it, see where you are and what you still want to do, that's going to keep you going,” says Fowler, a former high school educator who served under four governors as the president of the Colorado Governor's Council for Physical Fitness and is the state coordinator for the Presidents' Challenge. “You can tweak your goals and set new ones when you reach them. It's very motivating, and it keeps you honest.”
To help her clients do just that, Fowler came up with FitZip, a simple chart that focuses on the basic daily components of a healthy lifestyle as recommended by the surgeon general: five servings of fruits and vegetables; three servings of calcium; no more than two hours of passive screen time; one hour of physical activity; and zero sugary drinks.
“I call it 'changing your zip code' to get people thinking about changing where they are in a life sense,” Fowler says. “It really does have to be making changes, but these don't have to be radical changes. If you just look at it each day and think, 'What am I doing, right now, to hit these goals?' It's easier than you think.”
Not only that — it can be a life-saver. For instance, the average American spends nearly five months' worth of time plugged into a device over a year, Fowler says. “You have a 6 percent risk of being overweight for every one hour a day that you watch TV, too,” she says. “Studies show that it makes us less creative and cuts down on our abilities to problem-solve, but add it to the issues of sitting being a serious health risk, and this is something we really need to change.”
Fowler recommends taking it one day at a time, though. “This is one of those situations where people panic if they imagine they have to do this forever,” she says. “But looking at it as, 'OK, I am going to hit this goal today. Just today.' That's doable. And then start again tomorrow, and see if it's doable again tomorrow.”
“The next thing you know, it's been a whole month, and I promise, you'll feel the difference. Or, as I always say, if you're moving, you're improving.”
Pay attention to when you eat
Much ado is made about what you eat — getting at least five servings (and up to eight if you can) of fruits and vegetables, avoiding sugar and trans and saturated fats, making sure plants fill up half of the plate, but registered dietitian Suzanne Farrell says that keeping track of when you eat can be just as important.
“If someone has gone past four hours of not eating, that affects the choices and the quantity of the foods they reach for,” says Farrell. “I call that being on hunger thin ice, because once your body is physiologically ravenous, then we want those fats and starchy food. And we want a lot of it.”
To keep track, Farrell recommends a food journal — which can be as informal as a small notebook where you jot down the times you eat each day to a more complex app such as Lose It! or My Fitness Pal, which allow you to record calories and plan meals.
“Keeping a journal of some sort has been linked to weight loss,” says Farrell, who owns Cherry Creek Nutrition and counsels clients on weight management as well as disease states and sports nutrition. “We generally underestimate our caloric intake by about 1,000 calories a day, which is significant.”
The other issue, Farrell says, is not eating enough at each meal. “You need to look at your body weight and know how much you should actually be eating at each meal,” she says. “If you get enough calories at each meal, that will keep you from overeating later in the day, which can have a big impact on weight gain. People tend to eat too little at, say, breakfast, and then eat thousands of calories late at night, when it's not going to get burned off.”
Farrell also strongly encourages assessing your hunger level at each meal and throughout the day, so that you avoid eating for other reasons.
“Are you eating just because you see food?” she says to ask yourself. “For instance, right now I'm not hungry, but if you put a bowl of popcorn in front of me, I would eat it. We eat because someone sets food out on the counter at work, or we eat because we're sad or bored.”
When you sit down to a meal, gauge your hunger level with a number from 1 to 5, she advises, and plan the next meal accordingly.
“If you're just in the middle, just medium-hungry,” she says, “then eat that way. Don't have a full meal. Then know that you need to have a healthy snack in an hour or two to keep yourself from overeating at the next meal.”