Here Are Some Simple Solutions to Help You Get Back in Shape After All Those Holiday Indulgences
For a lot of people, the holidays are like a healthy lifestyle “off-season.” Between the cooler temps, bottomless Christmas cookies, irresistible rum and eggnog beverages, and endless turkey dinner leftovers (YAS stuffing!), it’s almost impossible to stick with health and fitness goals in the last stretch of any given year.
But as one year wraps and another begins, we’re greeted with fresh opportunities to reflect on the habits that have been working for us over the past several months and those that haven’t. There is no better time to get back on the saddle and ramp up your healthy lifestyle initiatives to make the coming year the best ever.
Here are a few key things you can do to get your health and fitness game back on track.
Find the Right Motivation to Fuel Your Resolutions
Studies suggest that only eight percent of people stick to their New Year’s resolutions. Often at the heart of these unfulfilled good intentions is unsustainable motivation. We’re often inspired straight out the gate on January 1st, only to find that by January 3rd, we’re already having a hard time passing on the free donuts at work or rolling out of bed to get to the gym.
Elle Kaplan writing for Medium.org has some great advice for discovering inspiration that sticks. For one, swap your mindset from “resolution” to “ challenge” and be both realistic and specific about the parameters of that challenge. As she writes, “people who set goals that are both specific and challenging are 90% more likely to achieve what they’ve set their mind to.”
Instead of thinking up resolutions like, “I’d like to exercise more this year,” try giving yourself week-long or month-long challenges with set criteria. For example, “I’m going to hit my yoga mat four times this week” or “I’m going to try four new fitness class this month.” At the end of the challenge period, assess what worked for you and what didn’t and adjust the parameters of your next challenge accordingly.
Start Out Simple and Walk Before You Run
Motivation will only take you so far if you don’t form good habits along the way. As such, if you’re just getting back into the health game after a prolonged break, it’s crucial to start out small. The research on this is pretty clear: If you go too intense too fast, you’ll be less likely to turn good behaviors into habits and more likely to give up quickly. As research published in the British Journal of General Practice suggests, “slight adjustments to dietary intake can aid long-term weight management, and small amounts of light physical activity are more beneficial than none. Moreover, simpler actions become habitual more quickly.” Better yet—by accomplishing your small day-to-day “behaviour change achievements,” you’re more likely to continue those behaviors in the future. As the article highlights, “Forming one ‘small’ healthy habit may thereby increase self-confidence for working towards other health-promoting habits.”
So, if the idea of strapping on your running shoes and hitting the pavement (or treadmill) at full speed is filling you with dread right now, give yourself permission to town it down a notch and focus on taking on step at a time. Literally.
We’ve discussed the benefits of walking here on the blog before, but let’s discuss a few more specifics as to why walking is so great. Helen West over at Healthline has an excellent breakdown of the benefits of walking, whether your goal is to preserve muscle, burn off some fat, or just put yourself in a better mood. As she notes, walking for just 2.5 to 3.5 hours a week (that’s half an hour a day) can help “increase the amount of energy you burn day-to-day” while also helping you “build more lean muscle so that you burn more calories”—through these phenomena, walking can keep you at a stable weight with limited effort.
And, as West points out, the intensity of your walks is completely adjustable depending on how you feel each day. If you have extra energy one day, try a more challenging terrain or steeper incline. If you’re not feeling stoked about getting some movement in, hop on a treadmill, go at an easy pace, and watch some Netflix while you walk—you can burn off one to two hundred extra calories (depending on weight, gender, etc.) all in the span of a single hour-long show.
Don’t Keep Junk Food in Your House
One of the hardest habits to break in the days following the holiday season is eating too much junk food. We get used to having it everywhere, every day, and when we eat this way for an extended period of time, our bodies start to crave those foods on an ongoing basis. As pointed out in Psychology Today, “When we eat a food—especially sweets—animal studies show they have a similar effect on the brain's reward center as do the drugs of abuse.” In other words, foods on the “naughty list” are literally addictive.
A great place to start when trying to reset your food impulses is keeping processed and high-sugar foods out of the house altogether. This is one of the things the Cleveland Clinic advises people do when trying to adjust daily consumption behaviors and is part of their recommended “cognitive behavioral treatment” (CBT) plan: “The focus here is on stimulus control, such as not eating in particular settings, and not keeping unhealthy food choices in your home.” Likewise, CBT “teaches distraction—replacing eating with healthier alternatives—as a skill for coping with stress.”
If you’ve grown used to noshing on post-dinner treats or dealing with daily stressors by scarfing down a gingerbread man (or several), not having these items in your home will prevent you from immediately giving in to those urges when they strike. It may also inspire you to look for an alternative to satisfy your temporary craving; try sipping on some peppermint tea after a meal (bonus: peppermint is great for digestion!) or treating yourself to some healthy, homemade “nice cream.”
Cut Out Alcohol for a Month
Taking part in a “Dry January” is a growing trend and for good reason. According to a study summed up in an AARP article wherein five million individuals ditched the libations for a month, the benefits are indubitable: “62 percent of participants report better sleep and energy; 49 percent lose weight; and 79 percent save money.”
Indeed, if you cut down on booze—or hold off on imbibing altogether—for an extended period of time, you may notice that you consume less food (lower inhibitions mean a higher chance of overeating), sleep better (avoiding alcohol can decrease nighttime wakefulness), have more energy to fuel your workout or power you through your day, and even have clearer skin (not only can alcohol contribute to inflammation—meaning all sorts of felt and visible problems for your body—it is also a major dehydrator).
It can also help out a number of your vital organs, including your heart—and especially your liver. As New Scientist magazine states, “The liver plays a role in over 500 processes vital for functions as diverse as digesting food, detoxification and hormone balance,” and that “In 2009, of the 11,575 people who died of liver disease in the UK, more than a third were attributed to alcohol consumption.” Making it a habit of laying off the booze doesn’t just help you feel better in the short run, it can have a lifelong impact on your health.
Take Advantage of Technology
Too much screen time can be a real drag on our internal processes and can cause a host of health problems if not properly reined in. That said, when used with discretion, our smartphones can also help us meet our overall wellness goals.
When it comes to your health, there are a number of awesome apps to explore that can help you meet your goals. MyFitnessPal is one of the best calorie counters out there, and goes way beyond tracking your daily dietary intake. It can also help you set and monitor goals and connect with friends (who can keep you accountable), all while sending reminders (if enabled) and introducing you to great health-related content.
Another great option for kickstarting your weight loss journey is DietBet. DietBet forces you to put your money where your mouth is (no pun intended). There are all sorts of “games” you can join with different lengths and levels of intensity. A popular option is joining a game where you bet $30 that you can lose four percent of your body weight in four weeks. Best yet, when you join a game, you’re connected with a ton of improvement-oriented individuals who are on the same journey as you, making it easy to share with others the hardships and achievements you experience throughout the course of the game. (Okay, maybe the “best yet” is that at the end of the month, if you’re a successful DietBetter, you get to share the winnings of the bet with the other successful DietBetters—yes, you get paid to lose weight.)
There are also a bevy of apps that, for a small monthly fee, will deliver dozens of workouts straight to your phone. Having a game plan before going into the gym (whether it’s outside or inside your home) can help decrease intimidation and ensure that you make the most of your fitness time. If you’d like some specific suggestions, TechRadar has a list of their favorite workout apps available for your perusal.
Invest in Some Great Gear
Having the right gear on hand can be the difference between getting your workout in or not. In terms of the very basics, make sure you buy an appropriate pair of runners. As much as we’re all about eCommerce, the best place to buy a new pair of sneaks is in-store. Any good retail store dedicated to running will have staff members on hand that are trained in analyzing your gait—they’ll be able to tell you what shoes will work best for meeting your goals. (Or if you want to take it one step further, make an appointment with a physiotherapist).
While brick-and-mortar may be the way to go to solve your runner situation, there are still a number of ways you can take advantage of eCommerce technology when purchasing other fitness items appropriate to your needs. Amazon has almost everything from travel-friendly fitness bands to dumbbells to very basic treadmills for less than $300.
If you’re a numbers person, a particularly motivating fitness item for you may be a heart rate monitor—a good heart rate monitor will give you a more accurate readout on how many calories you burn during a workout, which will not only inspire you to keep going but may actually add a sense of excitement and challenge back to a routine that’s become mundane. We’re big fans of Polar brand, but there are all sorts of great wearable fitness tech options out there.
And if you’ve got a few extra bucks to throw around and are looking to level up your recovery efforts, check out the Hypervolt by Hyperice. This handy “cordless state-of-the-art vibration massage device” helps you target any sore areas during or after physical activity to help loosen any tension and get you ready for the next workout.
Fill the Gaps in Your Diet with a Modern Multivitamin
You knew this was coming. But for real, no matter how much you stick to your resolutions and how clean your diet is, there is a strong likelihood you won’t be consuming your daily recommended doses of all the nutrients vital to fighting off inflammation and the signs of aging, keeping you energized, and supporting your body all the way down to the cellular level. VitaYears™ Anti-Aging Multivitamin was specially designed with all these criteria in mind. Unlike competing multivitamins (many of which were formulated decades ago), our formula is a product of modern science and demands—we’re living in the 21st century, after all, and we feel strongly that our supplements should reflect all those years of accumulated data, research, and technological advancements. Our resolution has—and will continue to be—helping you make the rest of your life the best of your life.