Cookies in the break room from a co-worker, candy on your desk from a thankful client, savory hors d’oeuvres at your office holiday party. Most of us let our guards down a little between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then, as we squeeze into our New Year’s dress or suit, we make the same resolution every year: lose weight, lose inches, workout more, eat healthier. Sound familiar?
I’ve made similar resolutions for the past 20 years. “I will fit in my skinny jeans. I will feel confident in that swimsuit.” I’ve failed many times. But in 2015, I met my New Year’s goals. And in 2016, you can, too.
Methodist Health System registered dietician Caroline Susie and fitness supervisor Ginnie Emmott join me with some great tips for sticking with your health resolutions.
Working Out: Don't be a 3-week Resolution-er
You know what I mean - one of those eager-to-workout types who joins a gym on January 4; then gives it all up by January 25 to spend more quality time with Netflix. Here are some ways to avoid that trap.
Mix up your workouts.This serves two big purposes.
- It helps work different muscle groups, which leads to more calories burned. Ginnie Emmott, Methodist Health System fitness supervisor, says strength training does more than just give you a tight figure. “The muscle mass you gain during strength training helps keep your metabolism revved up. It also allows you to continue your day-to-day activities, like lifting groceries, or your luggage into an airplane’s overhead bin. It also helps with posture and core strength.”
- It keeps you from being bored. I’m loving ClassPass. Within five miles from my house, I alternate between spin studios, yoga studios and a boot camp. Then I run on the Katy trail or in my apartment gym. In any given week, I’ve normally done four different workouts. I’m never bored, and sometimes I even look forward to the workouts! If you’re a gym member, check out all the different classes, and make sure to mix up your cardio and strength training. Emmott has an important safety reminder if you aren’t familiar with the weights at your boot camp or gym. “Ask for help. If you want to use weights, but aren’t sure how to use those weird, heavy looking things, ask a trainer or gym employee.”
Go with a friend.
My friend Jen lost at least two dress sizes in 2015 by going to boot camp about 5 days a week, usually at 6 a.m. She goes with another friend of ours, so they have accountability…and they call each other out for sleeping in and missing class!
Check in on social media.
I’m sure a lot of people think I’m annoying for checking in daily at various workout studios. But it holds me accountable; I know certain people would actually ask me why I haven’t worked out. Plus, I love it when my friends cheer me on for exercising!
I don’t understand the people who say they don’t have time to stretch. When you’re watching TV, get down on the ground and stretch it out. Nothing is a bigger goal saboteur than a pulled quad or hamstring. Plus, if you’re stretching while watching TV, you aren’t eating. See what I did there?
Set mini goals and reward yourself (not with food).
Everyone has different budgets, so rewards can come in all shapes and forms (again – except food.) For example, every 50 miles that I run, I get a pedicure.
Give yourself credit.
Don’t be hard on yourself for missing a workout or two. Emmott says, “I will ask someone, ‘Were you able to exercise last week?’ So often I hear, ‘Yea but not as much as I should have.’ I will immediately say ‘what were you ABLE to do?’ Change the phrasing. Allow yourself credit for small accomplishments.”
Eating: But everything looks so goooooood......
Here’s one problem with resolutions. We’re kind of acting on the assumption that with the holidays over, we can really focus on our weight loss goals. But Dallas is a city full of good food! Temptation is everywhere, all the time. I LOVE TO EAT, and I’m a single woman living down the street from amazing Lower Greenville / Knox Henderson restaurants. My friends and I go a lot. But all isn’t lost. You can still be a foodie and lose weight.
Don't cut any food groups completely out of your diet (unless instructed by a doctor).
In my experience, going on a complete carb or dairy cut just leads to binging on pizza a week later. Registered dietician Caroline Susie agrees: “Anytime a diet completely eliminates an entire food group, red flags should go up! Eliminating certain food groups simply is not practical long term; not to mention you might be missing out on some key nutrients essential to your health!”
Cut the soda, even the diet soda.
Okay, this is really, really hard for me. Coke Zero is my weakness, my brain food, my love. I have not completely cut it out, even though I know how bad it is for me. Hey, nobody is perfect, people! But, since going down to one can a day, I’ve been drinking even more water, and I look and feel less bloated. Susie adds, “Sick of water? Try unsweet iced tea to change it up! Some research has suggested that diet sodas may be associated with insulin resistance.”
Drink lots of water.
Speaking of water, I really see a difference when I drink my 64+ ounces each day. I’m less hungry, less bloated, and bonus – my skin looks better. My friend Kate puts the Crystal Light packets in hers to make it more appealing for her. The water flushes out your system – so don’t waste money or hurt yourself doing a cleanse. Susie says, “Want to make a dietitian cringe? Say the word, ‘cleanse’. You don’t need to do a cleanse! We are built with a fabulous filtration/detox system - our kidneys and liver! Yes, yes, you do lose weight when you ‘cleanse’, but let’s be honest…it’s because you are not eating and it is mainly water weight.”
Portion control is key.
This one may sound like a big cliché, but it’s TRUE. Do what you need to do to make sure you’re eating proper servings. Use measuring cups to dole out portions, use small plates to make it look like you’re eating more, whatever it takes! In 2015, what really worked for me was the 21-Day Fix. The program gives you color-coded cups for each food group; then you fill them up appropriately. Really, there is no reason why you can’t do that with your regular old measuring cups. But I wasn’t doing that. Using the containers somehow worked for me.
Splurge.This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not really a diet, it’s a lifestyle change. If every now and then, you’re craving the creamy shrimp and grits or burger and fries at a new restaurant, give in. Try to only eat half, and spend 10 more minutes working out, but ENJOY EVERY BITE. Susie has a great analogy: “I call this the ‘Chick-fil-A effect.’ When do you always crave Chick-fil-A? Sundays, when it’s closed! If you take a food group away or prohibit yourself for eating a certain food, it will consume your thoughts! So, if you are craving fried pickles, enjoy them! Just get back on track at your next meal. And don’t harbor guilt! Guilty and negative feelings should not be associated with food.”
The apps and gadgets
Calorie-count apps can really work.
Another oldie-but-goodie tip is to log what you eat. Sometimes I don’t realize how much I’m snacking until I see it written down. Apps like My Fitness Pal or Lose It help you keep track of everything you eat. My friend Chelsey lost 20 pounds with Lose It – and she’s kept it off for a couple of years now. You just have to be honest when you input your food so you don’t cheat yourself. Bonus – there are free versions of these apps!
Activity trackers: Friend or foe?
If you don’t already have an activity tracker, like a FitBit or a Nike Fuelband, you know 20 people who do. I LOVE my FitBit Surge. Not only does it track my steps, it calculates my heartrate, has GPS to track me when I run. It even gets text messages. These have come under fire recently, because so many people now skip the gym because they got 10,000 steps in their daily routine. Here is my advice to you – don’t include your workout in your 10,000 steps. If you get 4,000 on your morning jog, make it your goal to get 14,000 total that day. You know who has benefited from my FitBit? My Shih Tzu, Maddie. Any time it looks like I won’t get those non-workout steps, we head out for a walk. Maddie has an excellent figure.
My biggest tips
You’re going to have good days and bad. Again, this is a lifestyle, not a fad diet. Life is too short to NEVER eat Babe’s fried chicken! And if you stress-eat half of an entire cake every now and then, it’s okay. Learn from it (after a breakup, stay AWAY from the ice cream, Stacy) decide how you’ll deal with it next time, and move on.
One slip, not ten slips.
Say you overindulge at a brunch buffet on Sunday. You have two options – 1. Eat salad and lean protein for dinner or 2. Say, let’s just make this an awesome cheat day, get fettucine Alfredo for dinner, and start over tomorrow. I’ve done both of these…guess when my pants fit.
Know your motivation.
Have a clear goal (or two or three) in mind. Do you want to complete a 5k with a friend? Do you want to fit into some nice clothes that have just been hanging in your closet for a year? Does your family have a history of diabetes or heart disease, so you want to lose weight to stay healthy? I find working toward a goal makes it easier to stick with your workouts and diet.
Do what works for you (as long as it's healthy).
One eating plan may work for your best friend, but it may not work for you. My friend Jen always eats a FiberOne bar or a piece of fruit before going out to dinner so she doesn’t overindulge at the restaurant or party. That’s great advice if it works for you. But for me, I’ll still overindulge if I’m in that mindset, regardless of a healthy snack. Then not only did I overindulge, I also have the extra 110 calories from the snack!
New to exercise? Check with a doctor.
Don’t have one? Go to answers2.org, or click the link below, to find a physician. You should also see a doctor before taking on a big calorie cut or taking a pill or supplement.
Good luck, everybody! I know you can all hit your goals in 2016. I’ll either see you on the Katy Trail getting your exercise on, or see you at Sissy’s splurging on shrimp and grits! Maybe both!
Stacy Covitz oversees the public relations team to ensure media coverage and handle media requests. She works with Methodist's leadership team and community directors to develop community relations plans that support the four hospitals that are part of Methodist Health System. Stacy also supervises print and digital internal and external publications, including Shine, the consumer health magazine. Away from work, you’ll likely see Stacy out with her dog, Maddie, or cheering for the Kansas City Royals.