It's that time of the year again, when we collectively vow to eat healthier, exercise more, read more books, get organized, unplug, quit drinking, save more money and just become better people in general. Around half of all people make New Year's resolutions, but sadly only 8 percent of them manage to meet their goals, according to statisticbrain.com. A full 25 percent don't even stick with their resolution through the first week of January.
So what are some of the most popular health goals that people set up at the end of the year? And, more importantly, how do you actually meet them?
When it comes to health goals, losing weight is a perennial favorite. With weight loss, it's important to be motivated and patient enough to stick with it even when the results aren't immediate. "You want results yesterday, and desperation mode kicks in," says Pam Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women to health.com, but "Beware of the valley of quickie cures." If you really want to lose weight - and keep it off - you need to make healthy habits part of your lifestyle and not resort to yoyo dieting. Try this approach to losing weight successfully:
- Break down your goal into smaller, more manageable steps. If you want to lose 20 kilos, you have a higher chance of success if you tackle one kilo at a time.
- Eat foods that are filling but low in calories. Exercise is great, but your diet accounts for as much as 80 percent of your weight loss, according to friskvard.se, so choose your food wisely. Potatoes, fish, chicken, oatmeal, apples and oranges are a few examples of foods with high satiety and a low calorie count.
- Stick with the Healthy Eating Plate. Fill up half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with carbohydrates and a quarter with healthy protein. You may also want to replace saturated fat with unsaturated and increase your protein intake somewhat. Shoot for eating 2-3 grams of protein per kilo of your bodyweight every day.
- Choose healthy snacks. Snacking provides steady fuel throughout the day, and helps prevent extreme hunger and dips in your blood sugar. But junk snacks that are high in sugar and full of empty calories can quickly wreak havoc with your new healthy routine. Instead, choose snacks with low glycemic index, like fresh fruit, legumes, and our organic This Is Perfect Cashews and Honest to Goodness Peanuts. High-protein snacks, like our Miss Valencia Almonds and Wonderful, Whole Walnuts, are also effective for curbing appetite.
There's a reason why January is the busiest month for gyms, as getting fit ranks among the most popular health resolutions. Just as with weight loss, your fitness goals are more likely to be successful in the long term if exercise becomes a natural part of your lifestyle. It may sound cliché, but the best exercise is the one that you actually do, so choose a form of physical activity that you enjoy.
- Set measurable goals and write them down. "Getting fit" is great, but what exactly does it mean to you and how do you know that you have succeeded? Decide to run a certain number of miles per week or do so many push-ups or sit-ups per day. Check on your goals regularly and adjust them if needed.
- Be realistic. If you've never run before, don't immediately sign up for a marathon and start a punishing schedule that will likely set you up for failure. Instead, start by walking and increase your pace gradually to get your body and mind used to your new routine.
- Keep a schedule. Fitting exercise into your daily routine is key to success. Pick a time of day when you usually feel energetic and are less likely to be interrupted. Many people find that an early morning workout is a good way to start the day and make sure that it doesn't fall by the wayside.
- Get a personal trainer. A PT acts as your personal cheerleader and will help keep you accountable when you're tempted to skip a workout. He or she will also create custom workouts that fit your body and your goals.
When people make a New Year's resolution to eat better, they often jump in too hard and too fast, adopting an “all or nothing” attitude that is not realistic, according to Jae Berman, a registered dietician at Stanford University School of Medicine. "Instead, closely examine your routine and note one thing you can improve. This behavior may be something obvious, such as you drinking soda every day and wanting to stop. Or, it could be an aspiration to make healthy habits more sustainable, for example, bringing your lunch to work," she says to Stanford's Scope Blog.
- Plan ahead. Planning meals ahead and shopping accordingly helps cut down on last-minute runs to the fast-food joint. If time is an issue, cook large meals and freeze the leftovers or save them for a quick meal later in the week. (For a quick meal that is packed with natural goodness, try our "Hey Pesto" Raw Zucchini Pasta with Cashew Sauce.)
- Go green. There are about as many ideas of a healthy diet as there are people on this Earth, but one thing most experts agree on: most people in the Western world need to eat more fruits and veggies. Try to eat five to eight servings per day, the more colorful the better.
- Cut out the processed food. Processed foods are often deceptively marketed as healthy, like "low fat," "low carb," "vitamin fortified," or "no trans fat," when in fact they make us unhealthy and sick. Skip the sodas, shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the "real" food is typically located, and cook as much as possible from scratch. If you do need a sugar fix, choose treats with no harmful additives or preservatives, like This Is Nuts' line of Nature's Sweets -
- Bring snacks to work. The health benefits of snacking are many, as long as you make good choices. Fresh fruit, nuts, seeds and dried fruit are great natural sources of energy. Order your snacks from This Is Nuts ahead of time and bring them to work to avoid the last-minute scramble to the break room vending machine when your cravings set in.
Regardless of what your health goals are for this year, remember that once you start eating better and exercising more, your motivation will follow automatically. At that point, your new habits will become part of your everyday lifestyle, rather than just another strained - and failed - New Year's resolution. And you will become one of the 8 percent that made it!