Revolutionizing the Resolution…Set Health and Fitness Goals that Stick!

A Veggie + Chicken Stir-Fry Resolution

Image: Stoonn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Guest post by Dwayne Brown, CSCS

The date is January 1st. Today is the day when most people are trying to put into action the resolutions that they hastily made on New Year’s Eve. Gyms across the nation will be bursting at the seams with new members and I’m pretty sure Weight Watchers’ business is always at its best right after the New Year. For the next couple of weeks people will make a valiant effort to keep those resolutions. Then after the New Year buzz wears off (pun intended), people usually fall back into the same old patterns that led them to make their New Years’ resolutions in the first place.

So how can we avoid resolution hangover (the disappointing feeling of not accomplishing goals)? The first step is to take a serious look at your resolution once you’ve left the New Year’s Eve party, preferably once you have had time to let your head clear. Look at them with a critical eye and decide whether they can be realistically attained and/or if you really want to attain them. For example, you and your significant other’s decision to become vegan this year might not seem as enticing when you open your refrigerator and find the parts of four different animals staring back at you saying “eat me”. A better resolution would be “I’m only going to eat red meat once a week”. This way it’s not such a shock, and once it becomes easy, you can progress it further.

The next step to keeping your resolutions is to get them on paper. Studies show that writing things down makes them more likely to actually happen. Once you write your resolutions down, make copies and put them in places where you’re sure to see them. So if you have a weak spot for cookies and you resolve to lose weight then tape that resolution to the cookie jar. You’ll quickly begin to realize that these kinds of reminders will either deter from doing the wrong things or encourage you to do the right things.

The final tip for keeping resolutions is to keep them everyday. What I mean is whatever the resolution is…do it every day. If you resolve to be more physically active, aim to move a little bit more everyday rather than just blasting yourself with one extra workout on the weekend. This means if you have the option of taking the stairs or the elevator, then there is no option. You’re taking the stairs. When it’s feasible take the extra time to walk to the store instead of driving.

These are just a few suggestions for avoiding the “I didn’t keep my resolutions” blues. Remember:

  • Make sure your resolutions are realistic and attainable.
  • Write down your resolutions and place them in places that will motivate you to take action
  • Take steps towards achieving your resolutions every day…practice makes perfect!

Even though we only make New Years’ resolutions one day in the year, it takes 365 days (and more) to keep them.

In the Mind of a Nutritionist

Mmm, water.

Mmm, water.  At Basic, in Jersey City.

I originally wrote this post for the Hospital for Special Surgery blog, which you can find here.  The HSS On the Move blog has a great series of rehab, fitness and nutrition blog posts, please do check it out!

From the HSS On the Move Blog, “In the Mind of a Nutritionist” (me!) –

“I eat chocolate. And I eat salads. I don’t count calories, but I pay attention to my portions (i.e. I know when I’ve eaten too much). I try to eat slower, a constant battle considering my genetics. I drink diet soda a couple times a week, but I drink a lot of water every day. I drink a glass of wine or beer on occasion. I drink a green smoothie most mornings (thanks to meeting my wife). I exercise a fair number of days per week, but I’d always like to do more. And I’ve maintained my 30+ pound weight loss for the past eight years – which got me into this whole fitness and nutrition field to begin with (I used to be an engineer). These are my habits, and they allow me to achieve what I want in my life.

Will things change in the future?  Sure they can. And then I’ll tackle those goals when they come. If I wanted to train for a marathon, I’d have to change some habits. If I wanted six pack abs, I’d have to restrict a lot more. In fact, I went for them back when I was losing my weight in 2005 and when I got to single digit body fat percentage and a good outline of 4-pack abs, I felt like food was becoming my enemy – not a good feeling. I guess that’s why most bodybuilders are miserable right before competition.  So I’m ok not being ripped.  I can still deadlift 300 pounds. And I can run. And I can spend time with my family. And most importantly, I’m happy with all of those results because no one is the judge but me.

This is why the glut of fad diets and misrepresented nutrition research infuriates me. People stop listening to the most important part of the healthy eating and living equation – themselves. Yes, I have the background in nutrition and exercise science that can help someone run faster, jump higher, drop inches or recover from training better. But in the end it’s not about me. It’s about you. I can’t force someone to be motivated and accountable (a.k.a. the dream client, or a fair number of athletes). I can merely explore the hopes and dreams a person has and figure out how eating and exercise can best complement them in that pursuit.

When I meet with clients, I always remember there are two experts in the room: I may be an “expert” in nutrition and exercise. But my client is the expert in their own life, preferences, routine and habits. And to get long-lasting change, we need a partnership. I promote people, not plans.”

TELL ME: What’s your dream?

Healthy Indian Meal Mods: Keep the Taste, Cut the Calories

Delicious AND Nutritious

Delicious AND Nutritious
Image: smarnad and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many thanks to my friends and colleagues Kuber Bhalla and Kristine Schweitzer for heavily contributing to the creation of this article!

Indian meals are world-famous for flavor and richness. They leave you feeling comfortably stuffed, yet still craving one bite more. But behind all that delicious comfort are some less-than-healthy ingredients that can add up to weight gain and heart trouble in the long run. So let’s take a second look at a few traditional favorites. I asked my friend, dietitian Jason Machowsky of DeathoftheDiet.com, to show us ways to make them just a little gentler on the waistline, while holding onto the aromas and flavors we know and love.

Butter Chicken

Reference: http://www.ecurry.com/blog/indian/curries/gravies/murgh-makhani-butter-chicken/

Butter chicken is such a classic that it may seem wrong to alter it, but you can keep all the comfort food flavor and add a healthy twist, as well. The marinade and meat are perfect as they are. You only need a trifle of mustard oil to flavor up to 2 pounds of chicken. Of course, it may be useful to go lighter with the amount of sugar and oil/butter/ghee used when cooking. The biggest issue is the sauce: ¼ cup of butter and over ½ cup of heavy cream. Consider replacing some of these saturated fats with thick, plain yoghurt, or evaporated milk, to keep a rich consistency while cutting fat calories. You could also compromise with a tablespoon or two of butter and ⅔ cup of lowfat yoghurt. Another option is to leave in most of that delicious cream and simply cut back on serving sizes. That can include serving fewer carbs (i.e. naan and rice) with the meal. Load up your plate with extra veggies instead. You can even replace the rice with cauliflower.

Chole

Reference: http://indianfood.about.com/od/vegetarianrecipes/r/chole.htm

Chole doesn’t need much help in the health department. After all, you can’t go too wrong with a dish based on chickpeas. But do watch the oil. Chickpeas are a great source of fiber and protein. The real trouble comes from the fact that this dish is often paired with fried breads or rice. Instead of adding lots of fat and carbs in the form of sides, bulk up on veggies. When you’re full of those, there isn’t much room to go astray with fried foods.

Dosa

Reference:  http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/amazing-indian-dosa

The link takes you to a great example of a modified classic, from chef Jamie Oliver. Oliver uses olive oil in place of the heavier oils that most people use to make dosa. It’s an easy swap that won’t affect the taste enough to attract any notice. Sweet potatoes and gram flour are hearty staple foods, and the health benefits of tumeric, ginger, and chilies continue to unfold in nutrition labs around the world. Once again the problem lies not so much with the dish itself, but with the buttery/oily things that dosas are sometimes stuffed and paired with. Try wrapping your chutney or potato mixture in lettuce, rather than fry bread, for a more healthy alternative. You can also swap steamed spinach for the crackers many people tend to use.

Samosas

Reference: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/baked_samosas_69255

The biggest issue with samosas is our old nemesis, the frying pan, along with its assortment of artery-clogging oils. To avoid this altogether, try the baked samosa recipe we reference above. But frying doesn’t have to be unhealthy if it’s done properly. To cut fat and fry up delicious samosas and other foods, always make sure to use fresh, clean oil. Next, the oil needs to be heated to the proper temperature before you begin frying. Starting out at a low temperature means that your food will absorb too much of the oil, and end up greasy and unhealthy. Hot oil fries quickly, with a minimum of absorption. Another easy modification for samosas is to supplement the potatoes with lighter veggies, like carrots, peas, and spinach.

Be Bold. Be Healthy.

Great foods are born from love and experimentation, so don’t be afraid to make little changes, even to the most sacred of recipes. You may not get away with altering your great-grandmother’s best dish for a big family gathering, but in the privacy of your own home on a chilly weeknight, nobody can stop you from making your household meals just a little bit better for everyone.

The Olympic Pursuit of Health and Fitness

Olympics and Health

Image courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As I watched some of the world’s best athletes compete last month, I started thinking about all of the time, energy and resolve they devoted over the past four years to earn a brief, but well-deserved moment in the spotlight. Spotlights that may last as little as a few minutes (think skiing, ice skating, or snowboarding). And from there, only three of the top eight or ten competitors from across the world actually win a medal. Considering odds like that, I am amazed that anyone would want to devote that much time for a payoff that seems so distant. But thousands of athletes do. Every four years. And here’s what we can learn from their efforts:

The Power of a Motivation and a Belief

While only one person can win the gold medal every four years for an event, there are hundreds, if not thousands of Olympic hopefuls imagining, and believing, that they have what it takes to be the one to win it. And with the strength of their convictions, they train for years to have the opportunity to bring the dream to fruition.

Similarly, you must ask yourself what motivations you have driving you to improve your physical activity or eating habits. It could be running a 5K, feeling better about yourself, setting a good example for your children or wanting to make sure you’re able to enjoy your golden years just as much as (if not more than) your younger ones. When you find the right motivation for yourself, you will sense that something inside you has changed; an internal switch has been turned on that makes living more healthfully an easier decision. I call this moment “Flipping the switch.” Everyone’s switch is different and it may change over time. The key is to explore in this moment, what is so important to you, that it’s worth living healthier for. Then go get it!

Focus on Your Strengths

(This example is slightly outdated, but works well.) Being six feet, four inches tall with a long torso, a huge wingspan and hypermobile joints, Michael Phelps was designed to have the potential to be a great swimmer, not necessarily a great gymnast or Olympic weightlifter. And so he trained to become arguably the best Olympic swimmer the world has ever known. If he trained every day of his life, could he have become a good gymnast or weightlifter? Probably. But the best ever? Probably not.

So when you’re choosing what changes to make to improve your eating or physical activity habits, consider your strengths:

  • – Do you like to cook? Try preparing a few big-batch, healthy meals to eat throughout the week. Or try looking up and cooking some new, healthy recipes that look tasty. Or make it a point to try cooking with a new fruit or vegetable every week.
  • – Always on the run but don’t mind eating your fruits and veggies? Make it a point to pack or pick-up some healthy snacks to have with you every day that have a fruit or vegetable in them. Or review the menus of restaurants you frequently go to and determine the healthiest options available that you may enjoy eating.
  • – Prefer to focus more on physical activity? Review your weekly habits for opportunities to sit less, walk more, or get one extra workout in. The best changes to make are the ones that are easiest for you to do.

Results Come From Preparation and Practice

Olympians spend the majority of their lives preparing and practicing for the Games. They create training plans. They spend hours practicing daily. Many even meditate and imagine themselves successfully performing in the Olympics (visualization has been shown to have very positive results in high-stress situations such as in competitions, when speaking in public or when dealing with a food craving or temptation). But remember, even the best swimmers, skiers and hockey and basketball players did not know how to swim, ski, skate or shoot a basketball at some point in their life. They had to learn it. And then practice to get good at it.

Eating better or becoming more physically active usually requires learning new skills or improving upon some of current ones (i.e. your strengths). Learning to cook a new vegetable, tracking your energy to determine when you’re tired and can be most benefited by a healthy snack, learning how to perform a few new exercises or assessing your daily routine to find ways to walk more. All of these changes are probably not a part of your current daily routine, therefore it will take time and effort to integrate them (but do choose the easiest one for you).

The first step is creating a simple, but detailed plan on how you’re going to make the change. If you’re going to workout one more day per week, what day will it be? When will you do it? For how long? What exercises will you do? Will you go with a workout buddy? The more details you can determine ahead of time, the more likely you are to actually do it.

Then go for it…and be willing to make mistakes. Even LeBron James misses a shot every now and then. The key is accepting our mistakes, learning from them and always aiming to improve. If you remember one thing, remember this: “There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.” The more you practice, the easier the change will become, until it becomes a new, permanent habit. And the results will follow.

No Olympian is an Island

Most, if not all, Olympians had help getting to where they are today. In fact, I’m willing to bet that some of the greatest athletes have some of the best support systems around them. Athletes have some combination of coaches, doctors, dietitians, physical therapists, friends and family guiding and supporting them. Having a support system provides a source of positive motivation and accountability for when times are good and when times are tough.

Your pursuits for living healthier should not be taken any less seriously than an athlete training for the Olympics. Both of you are pursuing meaningful, personal achievements (what flipped the switch for you?), so both of you should be provided with the greatest opportunity to succeed. And that means creating a support system for yourself in addition to all of the tips listed previously.

Create a list titled “My Support Team” with three columns: Name / Contact Info / Support Role. Make a list of at least three people that can support you in your pursuit of eating better and moving more. Ask a friend to be a workout buddy. Ask a relative or close friend to be someone you can call to vent to when you’re having a stressful day and you feel tempted to make poor eating decisions. Ask a colleague who may be very fit or a great cook to give you a few pointers. Hire a great nutrition or fitness coach to motivate and guide you. Create a team that maximizes your chance for success.

The 2016 Summer Olympics are two years away and will be held in Rio de Janeiro. Where will you be in 2016? How will you feel? How will you look? Who will be around you? How will you be eating? How active will you be? What will your life look like? Now go get it!

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