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 Seven Questions: A Journey to Sustainable Fitness, Part 3

Action Accomplished

Habit Accomplished?
Image: Microsoft

This is the third and final part of the Seven Questions series designed to help you chart a course to your own path to sustainable fitness.  There’s 10,000 ways to lose weight and get fit, but only one matters: the one that works for you.

In Part 1, you determined why you want to improve your health or fitness.

In Part 2, you determined which habit(s) to change as a step in the right direction.  You’ve even detailed the steps needed to take action on changing your habit.

The only thing left to do is…take action! As you get started, though, it’s important to know whether your good intentions are translating into actual results – increased movement or healthier eating.  And that’s the purpose of these final two questions.

Question #6: How will you track that you’re sticking with it?

World-renowned business and finance theorist Peter Drucker once said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”  So to make your plan measurable and see if it’s working, you need a baseline (what you’re currently doing) and a way to consistently determine whether your efforts are bearing fruit (hahaha, fruit…dietitian humor).

If you have a consistent habit now, then you already know your baseline.  For example, you may already know you work out or go running about twice per week.  For other habits, you may know you need to improve, but you don’t really know where you’re starting.  That’s where a brief assessment period can be useful.  Track the habit you intend to change at least three days (include at least one weekend day) – ideally seven days.  Write down, either on paper or on your phone or computer, how often you perform your target habit each day.  Include as much detail as possible.  Death of the Diet has assessment templates for the eight most common healthy habit changes, including:

For water intake: Where did you drink it?  When did you drink it? Was it prepared with anything, like ice or lemon?  How much did you have – how big was the glass, or if the bottle has a label, how many ounces?  Btw, “one more glass per day” usually means 8 more ounces of water.

For vegetable intake: What meal?  What veggie? How much did you have?  Were there any toppings or dressings on it? Where did you have it?  Did you like it?

For daily step count: Use a pedometer, unless you really like counting.

Total up your times performing the action, then divide that by the number of days you tracked – that is, take an average.  That’s your baseline.  For water, a rule of thumb is to aim for half your body weight in ounces of fluid every day – so if you’re 200 pounds, go for 100 ounces of fluid.  For steps, 10,000 per day, or 5 miles, is the recommended total.  But remember, no need to get there overnight – try increasing by one glass of water or 1,000 steps at a time.

Now that you know where you’re starting, you can determine where you’re going with your intended habit change.  Just like with your baseline assessment, start tracking your progress on taking action.  You can create a checklist for going to the gym or having servings of veggies.  Or you can keep a running tally of your water intake or daily step count.  The best tracking method is whichever one you can keep doing consistently.  Death of the Diet walks you through crafting your own daily evaluation template, which you can fill out within a couple minutes each day. Regular evaluations like this provide valuable insight into what aspects of your habit changes are working, and where you may be able to improve.

Question #7: Who can you go to for support if you have challenges?

You’ve made it, woo hoo!   With a plan in place and a way to track progress, there’s one more important piece of the puzzle to make taking action and getting results as easy and successful as possible.  Time to get a little help from your friends:

Who can you vent to if you’ve had a long day, ask to be a workout buddy or talk to for helpful feedback about your health and fitness goals?  Not only is social support one of the most useful ways to make sure you stick to your new healthy habits, being surrounded by caring friends and family can even help you live longer, according to happiness researchers (yes, people who research happiness).

You don’t have to limit this list to just one person.  Write down all the people who can help you, how they can help and how you can reach them. A huge chunk of a chapter is devoted to this subject in Death of the Diet, not only describing how you can work with others for support, but also how you can develop your own “inner coach” to guide you along the way.

Wrapping It Up: Moving Forward After the Seven Questions

This may be the end of the Seven Questions series, but this is only the beginning for you.  Now you need to take action every day, until those new actions become habits.  And from habits come results.  While you certainly don’t need the book to succeed, Death of the Diet can be a useful resource for delving deeper into answering these seven questions.  That’s because these questions are central to how and why the book was created.  And of course, there are lots of extra tips, insights and templates to make the process as simple and manageable as possible.

If you want to delve into these questions further and create a personalized action plan, feel free to contact me at jason@deathofthediet.com to determine if nutrition or fitness coaching is right for you.

In Health,
Jason

Close It