12 Changes to a Healthier, New You
New Year’s Resolutions are so last year (and the year before that), so don’t make one! If you are trying to improve your health, try inching your way closer to your health goals by focusing on one new lifestyle change each month of the year. By focusing on small goals each month, you can really turn those changes from temporary to permanent. By next year, you will have 12 new, healthy habits!
12 Months and 12 Changes to a Healthier New You in 2016
Write down 12 different things, one per each month of the year, that you can focus on throughout 2016. It does not need to be weight loss centric either! If you want to be happier – what can you do each month to change that! If you want to be more spiritual – what steps can you take each month to get you closer to God or your higher being? If weight loss is a goal, or you just want to live healthier, keep reading!
January: Toss your trigger foods out!
Purge your pantry at home of “trigger foods” that promote binging and overeating. Do the same at work, too. Throw out any candies, chocolates, or other vices you have at work that usually call your name around 3:00pm in the afternoon. Make the majority of the snack-type foods you keep at home and work fresh and whole, such as nuts, seeds, fruit, and veggies (carrot chips, celery, and cucumbers are great alternatives to chips, crackers, and pretzels).
February: Put a cork in it!
Opt out of your nightly cocktail or vino. Yes, it’s only one glass, but this will not help with weight loss. Leave your alcoholic beverages for social gatherings or maybe one night of the week instead of seven.
March: Cut the carbs!
Make one meal out of your day a carb-less one. This means skipping out on potatoes, grains, beans, flours, or other starchy veggies (yes, corn and peas are starchy. In place of your carb, choose vegetables.
April: Shed the sugar!
Cut out added sugars as much as you can. When reading a label, 4g of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon. Try to limit added sugars to no more than 5 teaspoons per day if you are a woman or 9 if you are a man. The easiest way to do this is to stop eating foods in packages and to always buy plain or unsweetened versions of food. (Tip: When choosing any fruit product or plain dairy, the label will still include sugars since fructose in fruit and lactose in milk are naturally occurring. These is okay—just skim the ingredient list to make sure there are no other sugars added)
May: Reset in the spring!
Do a food-based detox. Spring is a great time! The body inherently wants to “let go”. For 14 to 21 days, cut out foods that tend to be problematic and are inflammatory such as sugar, dairy, gluten, soy, and corn for a start. Don’t forget to remove alcohol and caffeine during this time period as well. Incorporate more cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower) as well a high quality proteins such as organic chicken and wild caught salmon. There are many types of food-related detoxes, some more scientific than others, so I advise seeking assistance from a professional who specializes in integrative nutrition to ensure you are helping and not harming yourself. (Hint hint – FunctionalOrigins.com with yours truly.) I also recommend learning all of the basic food and nutrient related components to support healthy detox, which is more than I can offer in this short paragraph to you right now. Maybe we can talk later about this, come May!
June: Work it off with a work out!
Make an appointment with exercise, activity, movement, or whatever you choose to call it. Start with dedicating a specific amount of minutes per day on certain days of the week. Being specific is key! Add this to your Outlook or Google calendar. Don’t let something else get in the way; this is a priority! Also, be sure that your exercise is not just a walk in the park (figuratively speaking). Your cardio should make you breathe heavier, but you should still be able to mutter a few words between breaths. When lifting weights or doing other resistance exercise, you should gradually see yourself increase the amount of weight you are lifting. This means you are getting stronger and building muscle. More muscle = higher metabolic rate = more overall calories burned in a day.
July: Make breakfast, your best fest!
Wake up earlier to allow yourself to eat a real-food, balanced breakfast. Make flour-laden breakfast foods like bagels, breads, bars, and cereals a thing of the past! It’s essential to get breakfast right because it can really guide your whole day of eating.
- Eat leftovers for breakfast! The other day I had leftover chicken and butternut squash soup! Easy peasy, balanced, and yum!
- A smoothie made with protein powder is a balanced breakfast. Try to limit fruit to no more than 1 cup and add some veggies (like carrots or spinach) for added fiber and nutrients.
- Poached eggs with 1 cup of roasted sweet potatoes (prepared ahead of time) and leftover vegetables from dinner is my jam!
- Try overnight oats! Add 1/2 cup plain oats, 1 Tbsp chia seeds, and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to 1 cup of unsweetened coconut or almond milk. Shake it up in a mason jar and store in fridge overnight. For protein, add protein powder to your oats (you may need to add more liquid) or eat protein on the side like 1-2 hard boiled eggs.
August: Hydrate to say bye to weight!
Take an assessment of how much fluid you consume in a day. Most of my clients do not even meet half of their fluid needs! I frequently see hunger being confused for actual thirst! I have also seen clients make a complete turn around from never being thirsty to being able to acknowledge thirst once they make it a point to hydrate. I like to use a simple equation to recommend fluid requirements. Take your weight and divide it in half and that would be the total fluid ounces to aim for in a day. For example if you weight 150 pounds, you would aim for 75 fluid ounces. Here are some ways to make drinking water more easy.
September: Love your gut!
Pay some love to your gut! I’m talking about your intestines and all of the little guys that live in there. It’s thought that humans have evolved with gut bacteria and that we would not be us without them! More and more research keeps popping up linking everything from obesity to heart disease and depression to the balance and type of bacteria of your microbiome. Here are some ways to take care of your gut:
- Eat more fermented foods to help support a thriving community of bacteria. Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled foods, and organic yogurt and kefir are foods that provide the body good bacteria (aka probiotics) that can translocate to our colon.
- Eat prebiotic foods which help feed your bacteria and keep them happy. Some prebiotic foods are raw garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, onions, leeks, asparagus, oat bran, and bananas.
- Consider a probiotic supplement. Talk to your nutritionist or doctor about if a supplement is necessary.
- Avoid substances that promote imbalanced bacteria such as artificial sweeteners, alcohol, “dirty” foods with pesticides and herbicides (wash your produce or buy organic), excess sugar, fried foods, and chlorinated water.
- De-stress! Did you know that stress can make your bacteria become disease-causing?
- Try to only resort to antibiotics when it is dire to use them.
October: Become a mindful eater!
Start to practice mindful eating. Mindful eating is the act of engaging all of your senses while eating rather than eating while working, texting, Facebooking, watching TV, etc. If you are new to mindful eating, start by removing any distraction around you. Look at your food and allow yourself to wonder and awe over what it looks like. Notice the smell of food and texture and taste while on your tongue. As you eat, become aware of the feeling of food in your stomach. Put your fork down a few times. Pay attention to how many chews you take before you swallow. Practice this daily at every meal and snack. This practice will help to prepare you for the next few months leading up to the holidays, where often healthy food can be scarce in social settings. Slowing down and eating less can be the most helpful strategy in maintaining your weight during this time of the year.
November: Commit to not fall off the exercise wagon!
Recommit yourself to your exercise program. At this point, the days are shorter and it is darker earlier. It’s easy to fall off the wagon. Maybe you need to choose a different type of exercise that you would be more willing to do during this time of the year. Exercise so that you won’t find yourself in a total weight loss relapse come January.
December: Write it down!
Keep a food journal of what you eat on a daily basis for every meal, snack, and anything else in between. This act of writing it down may seem simple (or plain annoying), but it will keep you accountable to yourself as well as bring awareness to what and how much you are eating. With the availability of sugary and high calorie foods wherever you turn at this time of the year, it’s easy to lose track of how frequently your consumption of these foods really is!
Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!! Leave comments! I would love to hear what other changes you would make that I didn’t mention!
About the Author
Audrey Fleck - MS, RDN, LDN
I’m Audrey Fleck, a dedicated dietitian with over a decade of experience, and the founder of Functional Origins, my private practice located in Bucks County, PA. With a strong educational background, including a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics and an MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, I specialize in providing an integrative and functional approach to healing, primarily tailored for women.