Eating Fresh in the Winter Cold

Unless you live someplace like California or Florida, eating fresh can be tricky during the winter months, and even in those warm locales, changing seasons still means changing availability of favorite crops. It’s not impossible to keep up your fruit and vegetable rotation in the cold seasons, but it does require some extra knowledge and technique.

Embracing Variety

Most families have a limited range of fruit and vegetable intake, stocking up every week with bell peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, apples and the like. You can find these year-round in most mega-marts because they ship them in from the southern hemisphere — by means that reduce their nutritional benefit. By opening yourself to new experiences, you vastly improve your options for eating fresh.

Some winter-season options to try include brussels sprouts, persimmons, leeks, kiwifruit, beets, guava, kale and most citrus fruits like grapefruits and oranges. You can even buy winter-season cookbooks to help you cook these new options into the most delicious meals possible.

Knowing Your Canned and Frozen Goods

Although not exactly “eating fresh,” it still serves the purpose and can get you through the winter. Many fruits and vegetables retain their nutrition and even taste better when frozen than if picked unripe and shipped long distances — so opt for frozen berries in your smoothie, and frozen broccoli in your stir fry.

On a similar note, a few vegetables are better canned than shipped, including favorites like peas and green beans. Tomatoes are a special case, as the canning process not only preserves the nutrients, but actually releases nutritional value that’s unavailable in the raw form.

Visiting Farmer’s Markets

You probably already hit the local farmer’s market in the summer to get your favorite produce fresh. Winter markets are typically smaller and less crowded, and offer exactly the kind of new produce you need to eat fresh all winter long. Ask the folks in the stalls what those brave, new foods are called, what they’re good for and how to cook them.

Many communities have one or more farming cooperatives in which you can buy shares of a crop. This amounts to a food subscription, where you go every week to pick up your share of whatever the local farmers grew. These are often known as CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and can be found around the country. CSA boxes are often the easiest way to eat fresh and local all year ’round.

Getting Tricky

A final option is to grow your own favorite produce under conditions that convince the plant that it’s still summertime. An indoor garden, be it in your garage, a greenhouse, or your windowsill, is one way to do this. By keeping the heat at an elevated temperature, and intensifying light through windows, you create the conditions that get your crops to produce all year long. If you’re up for a real experiment, you can use hydroponics to accomplish the same thing.

Indoor gardening requires extra space and not a little time, but if you do it right you’ll have your favorite fresh produce all year long. Most communities will have a resource, club or similar group to teach you how.

What are some of your favorite ways to cook winter foods? Share your recipes in the comments to help fellow readers make it through to next summer. 

Sources

“Eat, Drink and Be Healthy”, Dr. Walter Willett, et. al., 2002

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20070316/canned-fruits-veggies-healthy-too

Finding the Sweet Spot: The Best Sweetener for You

Although sugar has a long history of human domestication and consumption, with records of its use going as far back as 510 BC., the sweet stuff has come under attack in the last 30 years.

Common sugar, more correctly called sucrose, is generally taken from sugar cane or sugar beets and is available in many forms. But, regardless of whether it’s white or brown, sucrose has been blamed for the increase of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in America. In 2009, obesity expert Robert Lustig went so far as to call sugar “toxic” and, according to the New York Times, new research has even suggested a link between sucrose and cancer.

With all of this negative press, many people wonder about alternatives to processed sugar. There are many out there, both artificial and natural. But which one is the right one for you?

Artificial Sweeteners

These synthetic, man-made sweeteners offer a zero-calorie alternative to sugar and come under a number of different names. The most popular artificial sweeteners include aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet’ N Low) and sucralose (Splenda), each of which is many times more sweet than sugar.

Many of these sweeteners are featured in so-called “diet” products because they have virtually no caloric value, unlike sugar, which contains 15 calories per teaspoon. This makes artificial sweeteners attractive to dieters. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, there’s evidence that links these sweeteners with weight gain, although the link is not yet fully understood.

Because these substances are not actually carbohydrates, they don’t usually have any effect on blood sugar level and can be useful to diabetics, but always check with your doctor before using any sweetener, especially if you’re a diabetic or at risk for diabetes.

In the 1970s, a notorious study was published linking saccharin to bladder cancer in rats. This is likely responsible for a negative view of all artificial sweeteners that has spread throughout the years. According to the National Cancer Institute, however, there is no solid evidence backing these claims, and several newer studies have failed to conclusively link these sweeteners with cancer or any other illness.

Stevia

Stevia is an umbrella term that refers to several products that contain some form of extract from the stevia plant of South America. The products vary in terms of which part of the plant they use and how much they are processed before reaching the market.

Like artificial sweeteners, stevia is non-nutritive and has a negligible effect on blood sugar levels. However, there is no evidence that stevia has any advantages over artificial sweeteners.

Still, people who distrust artificial products may be more comfortable opting for a stevia extract. If you’re looking for the most natural product possible, do your research and select a stevia extract that is minimally processed. A note: stevia has an after-taste that some people dislike.

Agave, Honey and Others

There are also many natural sweeteners available including agave, fruit nectars, honey, maple syrup and molasses. Although these options each have unique nutritional benefits — for example molasses is high in several micro-nutrients —  they don’t seem to have any other benefits over sugar. They all could contribute to weight gain because of their calorie content and cause spikes in blood sugar, which makes them off limits to diabetics.

Have you found a sugar alternative that works best for you? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Sources

http://www.sucrose.com/lhist.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/artificial-sweeteners/MY00073/NSECTIONGROUP=2

Resolution to Run this Spring

Ask Coach Jenny

Q: I had a wonderful holiday season but really let my fitness go to the wayside. I’m not one for setting resolutions, but do you have any tips for where to start and how to get moving again? I was running four times per week for 4-6 miles and I’d like to run a few 10K’s this spring and lose the five pounds I put on during the holiday season.  Thanks,  ~Jana

A: Hi, Jana. I’m glad you had a wonderful holiday season. Although taking a break from fitness may seem unhealthy, sometimes it can refresh your motivation to get moving again. As you start back up, the secret is to avoid the number one mistake most people make this time of year with fitness goals: doing too much too soon. Your mind will want to quickly return to what your body used to be able to do. If you take that road, it can lead to burnout, frustration and injury.

Here are tips for getting back into your running regimen efficiently and without the risk of injury along the way.

1. Start from where you are. A 25-30 minute workout may not seem like much, but if you’ve been off activity for a while it will be plenty of stress for your body. Start back with a realistic schedule of shorter 25-30 minute workouts at an easy effort where you can have a conversation. Save the high-intensity workouts until you’re back in the swing of things. Here is how your first three weeks should look:

Weeks 1-3: Three running workouts of 25-30 minutes + 3-minute walking warm-up and cool-down.

If you were off running more than a month, I’d recommend alternating run-walk intervals during this phase (ex. 4-min. run, 2-min. walk, repeat for the duration of the 25-30 minutes).

Fill in with low-impact cross training (cycling, swimming, elliptical) or strengthening workouts (yoga, strength, Pilates) one or two times per week. It will be tempting to increase the time or intensity, but hold yourself back, as this phase is just like building the foundation of a house – it takes time. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel at the end of this phase. (I promise.)

2. Build slowly. Once you’ve successfully worked yourself back into the regular habit of running and exercise, your body is ready to build slowly back to your regular routine. Here is one strategy to do this:

Weeks 4-6: Run three times per week for 35-40 minutes at an easy effort level and include one or two cross-training workouts in between (strength or low-impact cardio as mentioned above).

Weeks 7-8: Run four times per week for 40 minutes at an easy effort level and include one or two cross-training workouts in between.

Weeks 9-11: Run four times per week, twice for 40-45 minutes and twice for 45-60 minutes. Slowly increase the longer distance workouts by five minutes each week (50, 55, 60).

Weeks 12-16: Run four times per week for 45-70 minutes with two workouts shorter and easier effort (45 minutes), one faster for speed work and one long endurance workout.

This may seem like a long progression time, however, I guarantee you’ll have a solid base from which you can build, race and perform at your best come springtime.

3. Inventory your fuel. Weight loss should follow the same principles as your training. That is, if you lose too much too soon by hypo-caloric diets, you’ll set yourself up for low energy levels, decreased performance and storing fat. An easy way to lose weight is to be mindful of your diet and take inventory of what you’re eating day to day. Write down or log your foods for two weeks on a site like LIVESTRONG.com’s MyPlate. This will give you a good idea of what you’re burning each day and what you’re taking in.

Create a small deficit between your caloric intake and expenditure by reducing your calories by no more than 15 percent. If you are eating 3,000 calories per day, that would mean eating 450 fewer calories per day. The combination of exercise and caloric reduction will help you safely lose weight and keep it off. As you begin to decrease calories, eliminate the wasted fuel as well (processed easy food, white food, fried food) and replace with clean options (fruits, veggies, lean meat). Again, three weeks of modified eating and you’ll feel a great deal better and create the momentum to making better dietary choices.

4. Be accountable. Finally,create an accountability system for yourself. That could be running with a buddy or a group, or posting your goals on social media. Research shows that people that exercise socially stick with it longer and perform stronger as well. Getting back to your running program is easier than you think if you take your time and enjoy the ride along the way. Happy New Year!

What are your running goals for this year? Share with us in the comments.

Perceived Effort a Better Way to Train than “Race Pace”

Ask Coach Jenny

Q: How do you find your ‘marathon pace’ or ‘race pace’ (5k, 10K pace)? I know my usual pace for training runs, and have done a couple of half-marathons, but I’m not sure what is meant by those terms for training purposes?  ~Pam

A: There’s nothing more confusing than to be a first time marathoner being guided to run long runs at your ‘marathon pace’ or better yet, one to two minutes slower than your planned marathon pace. First, you haven’t acquired a marathon pace yet, and second, this is about as accurate as my chances of picking the winning lottery numbers.

Okay, I’m stepping off my soapbox. Sorry, this gets me a bit riled up as I spent the better part of 20 years coaching runners to avoid this training myth. Training by a race pace will teach you only to run at that pace, and depending on the day, that could be way too fast or slow based on your fitness. It’s a great way to get injured, as we all want to run fast and we naturally plug in faster than we should be running paces.

The most effective way to train isn’t all that technical. It doesn’t have to include lots of hard-to-pronounce words or calculations. In fact, it’s quite easy. Train based on your body – by effort or how your body is feeling – and for a specific purpose on that day.

When you’re running for fitness, you can afford to play with the intensity of running workouts or even run harder more often because the program you’re on is horizontal in nature (you’re not building mileage weekly). When you’re training for a race, specifically a long distance race, you’re building mileage and – for seasoned runners – intensity until you peak and then taper to the race start.

All this is to say, replace the word “pace” with “effort” and you’ll always train at the right place on the given day. For example, you’re training plan calls for a six-mile workout with four of the middle miles at planned marathon pace. You could guess what your pace will be in several months, or you can replace the word “pace” with “effort.” So you’re now running a one-mile warm up at an easy, conversational effort followed by four miles at marathon effort and then finish with an easy-effort mile.  Marathon effort for newbies will be one notch above an easy effort run and for seasoned marathoners it will be at a moderate to hard effort (where you can talk but only in one word answers).

Training by focusing on “effort” vs. “pace” on any particular day will be more beneficial to your training overall. For instance, you’re still tired from this last weekend’s long run and you’ve got an easy run planned for Monday and a tempo run on Tuesday. If you run at a pace you think is easy on Monday, it is likely too hard if you’re still tired. Therefore, you end up running hard on an easy day and delaying the time it takes to recover. This carries over to the tempo run, which you run by pace, and is too hard of an effort, taking more out of your body and further delaying your recovery. This can lead to overtraining, fatigue and injuries.

Training by effort makes all things as easy as using a tablet device. Think of it in three zones: the easy effort (yellow), the moderate effort (orange) and the hard effort (red).

Yellow Zone: This is the effort level where you can’t hear your breathing, you’re able to easily talk and you can run here for a very long time.

Orange Zone: This is the effort level where you start to hear your breathing, but you’re not gasping for air. You can talk, but it is more challenging to get out sentences, so you use one- or two-word answers.

Red Zone: This is the effort level where your breathing is vigorous. You can’t talk, you’re reaching for air and counting the minutes until it ends.

The point at which you go from the orange to the red zone is called “the redline,” or the threshold at which your body begins to burn glycogen more rapidly. This is important to know because you can train to increase the point at which you hit the redline, and therefore run faster at easier efforts. I’ll cover this in another blog post.

Long story short, the goal is to make every workout purposeful and on target. Our performance varies based on the day, sleep, nutrition, training demands, age and more. By training by how you’re feeling on the day and by what you’re body is telling you – you’re dialing in the exact effort that will maximize performance and recovery rates, which translates to improvement.

As you gain experience, you’ll begin to gain a sense of pace based on performances and can predict to a closer degree what you may run on race day. But even then, training for a specific finish time both puts you at risk for injury and limits your performance. Break out of the usual pattern of go-to paces, and tune into your body.  Before you know it, you’ll be running faster, longer and stronger and using pace only as the outcome of the performance.

Do you have a question for Coach Jenny? Submit your question here.

Diet and Exercise for Seasonal Depression

Short, grey days and cold weather are generally enough to drive even the most optimistic of us into a bit of a funk. But if you’re an avid exerciser who can’t get in your regular workout because of bad weather, the stress and rush of the holiday season can really throw you off your game. These frustrating bouts of sadness and moodiness are known, informally, as “the winter blues.”

But for about six percent of Americans, these mood shifts can be much more serious, and account for a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Unlike the winter blues, SAD can occur during any season, and include much more severe symptoms, including suicidal thoughts. Since SAD can be related to hormone imbalances and may require prescription medication, it’s important to work with your doctor if you’re experiencing severe depression.

The good news: for both SAD and the milder winter blues, there is strong evidence that simple changes in diet and regular exercise can help you endure these seasonal mood swings until the sun shines again.

Work It Out

Especially during the colder months, exercising can be difficult if your energy levels are low to begin with and the weather makes it difficult to get outside. Focusing on the benefits you can expect to reap from exercise, though, will encourage you to get yourself up and moving.

The American Council on Exercise recommends remembering your past successes and setting clear goals to keep you moving. Joining a class or finding a workout buddy will help you stay focused.

Thinking in terms of “activity” rather than exercise may also help. Look for opportunities to inject some added activity into your day: take the stairs, skip the shortcuts and turn some of your household chores into workouts. Don’t underestimate how many calories you can burn working around the house. For example, an hour of pushing a vacuum around can burn 238 calories in a 150-pound person.

Simply taking brisk walks outdoors can go a long way toward improving your mood. The sunlight is directly responsible for production of serotonin and melatonin, two mood-regulating hormones. Any exercise will increase the release of several endorphins which can help improve your mood, help you sleep and regulate your appetite.

Specifically, cardiovascular exercise and mindful exercises like yoga and Pilates can be especially useful. Because these workout modes help you focus on your breathing and heart rate, they help to modify your stress response, and consequently fight depression. Look through the top rated elliptical machines to find one that will complement your home gym and help you keep up your cardio routine, regardless of the weather.

Eat Right

Depression can increase your cravings for simple carbohydrates, which absorb quickly into your body but also cause a crash in blood sugar. And since fatty, starchy treats are easy to come by during the holiday season, it’s important to pay particular attention to how you’re eating in order to avoid SAD symptoms.

Stock up on complex carbs, which can give you the same serotonin boost as their simpler cousins, but keep your blood sugar steady and balanced. This would include foods that contain whole-wheats and oats, like whole grain breads, bran muffins, brown rice and oatmeal.

Since seasonal depression, in most cases, is related to reduced exposure to sunlight, researchers have examined the impact of vitamin D, which is produced by sunlight, on depression. The research is still inconclusive but promising enough to spur more studies. While fortified foods, like milk and cereal, have vitamin D added, very few foods contain it naturally.

Two foods that do provide vitamin D are salmon and tuna. These fatty fish are also rich in omega-3s, which have shown potential in several studies for improving mood and brain function. If you don’t enjoy fish and choose to supplement, though, try to select a supplement that is particularly high in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), since this variety of omega-3 is thought to be the most effective.

These small changes in your activity and diet could help you improve your mood and get you through your bout with seasonal depression. However, always consult a doctor if you are battling depression.

Have you experienced the benefits of proper diet and increased activity on depression? Please share your experience with us in the comments.

Sources

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/food-nutrition/facts/foods-help-seasonal-affective-disorder1.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195/DSECTION=lifestyle-and-home-remedies

http://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2012/10/seasonal_affective_disorder_he.html

http://www.acefitness.org/blog/2950/does-the-season-change-affect-your-health-and/?utm_source=Health%2BeTips&utm_medium=email&utm_term=November%2B2012&utm_campaign=Consumer%2BOutreach&CMP=EMC-HET_1112

Could A High-fat Diet Save Your Health?

Fat gets a bad rap. We work hard to burn it off our bodies, keep it off and rid our diets of it. Regardless of this social stigma, fat is an essential nutrient that is vitally important to a healthy lifestyle.

True, there is an important distinction between healthy and unhealthy fats. Still, the very word “fat” remains a vulgarity in fitness circles. Understanding exactly why we need fat and what sort of fat we should be taking in will help restore this misunderstood nutrient to a healthy place in your diet.

What Fat Does

Primarily, fat is a source of fuel (calories) along with proteins and carbohydrates. Fat, though, provides 9 calories per gram while protein and carbs only offer 4 calories per gram, making fat a much richer source of biological fuel.

Carbohydrates are burned for fuel first during exercise but your body doesn’t store many carbs and typically runs out after about 20 minutes of activity, at which point it begins to use fat. For prolonged exercise, there needs to be fat present in your body.

But fat does a lot more than just keep you moving. Dietary fats carry linoleic and linolenic acids, which cannot be made by your body and must come from your food. These essential acids control inflammation, blood clotting and contribute to healthy brain development. Fat is also necessary for the proper absorption and movement of the vitamins A, D, E and K, all of which keep your hair and skin healthy.

Of course, the form of fat that gets the most attention and causes the most grief is the form that gets deposited around our bodies. This is the body’s method for storing excess calories from all sources, whether it be protein, carbs or dietary fat. This means that dietary fat isn’t solely to blame for fat deposits.

Remember, too, that this is where that fuel comes from when you’ve exhausted your carbohydrate supplies. The trick, then, is eating the right amount of calories to fuel your goals and focusing on the right types of fat.

Good Fat vs Bad Fat

There are two types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. These two types can be divided down even further.

Unsaturated fats are the celebrated “good” fats, and include poly- and mono-unsaturated fats. Both of these fats may help to improve overall heart health by lowering your cholesterol and slowing the formation of plaque on the walls of your arteries. Olives, nuts and fish are all excellent sources of these good fats, including omega-3 fatty acids.

Saturated fats are the ones you really have to look out for, and the American Heart Association recommends keeping them below seven percent of your total daily caloric intake. Not only are saturated fats connected with heart disease and increased cholesterol, but there is evidence that they may also increase the risk of colon and prostate cancers. This group also encompasses the infamous trans fats which are frequently used in fried and baked foods. Saturated fats are found in red meat, poultry, coconut and dairy products.

Eat Fat to Lose Weight?

So while the evidence suggests that small amounts of healthy dietary fat, accounting for about 25 percent to 30 percent of your daily calories, may be good for your heart, those numbers have been called into question. Some recent diets champion much higher levels of fat –closer to 50 percent — and recent research hints at merit in this approach.

The study was conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was designed to test the impact that meal timing has on body composition. During the 18-week-long study, a group of mice was feed a high-fat diet on a strict schedule so that they received the food at the same time and were given a limited time to eat their meal. These results were compared to three control groups: one ate a low-fat, scheduled diet, one with an unscheduled, low-fat diet, and another with an unscheduled, high-fat diet.

At the end of the study the scheduled, high-fat mice weighed less than the other groups and had also entered a unique metabolic state where their dietary fat wasn’t stored but was immediately burned for fuel.

Before you take this information and switch to a high-fat diet, remember that no human studies have shown the same effects. Also, the study does not detail the source of fat that the mice received.

The study does suggest, however, that a properly controlled diet that includes rather than excludes fat could aid in weight loss. These findings go a long way to clear the name of fats.

Have you tried a diet high in healthy-fats? Please share your experience with us in the comments.

Sources

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002468.htm

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/skinny-fat-good-fats-bad-fats

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120912084430.htm

Working Out During Cold & Flu Season

I’ve only recently realized that there’s more than cold weather and busy schedules working against my exercise regime during this time of year. It’s also the cold and flu season.

Although many hardcore exercise enthusiasts will simply work through their illness, is this always the best decision? When is it safe to work out and when should you take some time off? Also, are there any ways you should modify your workouts to encourage a speedy recovery?

When to Continue

According to Dr. Edward R. Laskowski, of the Mayo Clinic, a general rule of thumb is that moderate exercise is usually safe as long as your symptoms are “above the neck.” This include symptoms that accompany the common cold, such as a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat. These things don’t have to derail your exercise routine, provided you feel OK energy-wise.

In fact, a series of studies conducted at Ball State University showed that not only will a minor cold not impair your performance, but moderate exercise might actually help you recover more quickly.

Regular exercise, accompanied by a good night’s sleep, can be a powerful boost to your immune system. Not only does the act of exercising itself help white blood cells, which fight disease, travel more quickly through your body, but it also affects the hormones that control your sleep cycles. So exercise indirectly helps you sleep more deeply, allowing your immune system to repair itself more effectively.

When to Take a Break

Conversely, “below the neck symptoms” like chest congestion, a hacking cough or digestive problems shouldn’t be ignored. A fever is another symptom you shouldn’t try to exercise through. Listen to your body and give it a rest.

If you’re experiencing muscles soreness or fatigue, take the day off as well, since exercising will only worsen your symptoms. If you have any doubts, discuss your symptoms and your routine with your doctor.

Getting Back in the Game

Just because your fever has passed and you only have a slight sniffle, it doesn’t mean you should launch back into your normal routine immediately. When you’re still dealing with the minor “above the head” symptoms, keep your exercise to a moderate level even if that means lowering your regular intensity. If you normally run, you may need to jog or even walk until you are completely recovered.

You may also need to cut back on the length of your workouts. Doctor Howard LeWine, of Harvard Health Publications, warns that viral infections like the flu can weaken the heart, leaving it susceptible to damage by strenuous exercise. Stop if you feel exhausted or have difficulty breathing. Be especially careful if you start to develop tightness and coughing in your chest.

Have you struggled to maintain your workout schedule despite a cold or flu? Please share your experience with us in the comments.

Sources

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/AN01097

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/25/health/nutrition/25best.html?_r=0

http://healthyliving.msn.com/diseases/cold-and-flu/working-out-after-flu-1

10 Tricks to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

scale with tape measureHappy New Year! If you’re like many Americans, you’ll resolve to lose weight, hit the gym every day, drink less alcohol or kick your cigarette habit. Unfortunately, few New Year’s resolutions last past January. But that doesn’t mean you should give up hope and enter the New Year without a resolution.

Redefining Resolution

A resolution often involves forming a new habit. It’s difficult to create new habits, which is why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. Experts say it often takes about six months to form a habit. After the first six months, the new behavior — whether it be going for a walk each day or drinking more water — will be easier to do.

However, getting through the first six months is challenging. It’s common to fall off the wagon, get disappointed and give up. With some careful planning, realistic goals and determination, you can stick with your resolution throughout the whole year.

10 Tricks to Make Resolutions Stick

Follow these 10 tips to turn your resolutions into lasting habits:

1. Be realistic. Create a plan that works for your lifestyle. If you’re not a morning person, don’t try to work out at 5 a.m., instead plan to exercise after work.

2. Think baby steps. Do not go cold turkey. If you’re trying to cut out caffeine, start by first switching from caffeinated coffee to half caff. Changes are sometimes easier to make if you modify behavior gradually instead of going all or nothing.

3. Track your progress. Write your plan down and post it in a visible place, like on the fridge or your desk. As you meet small goals, check off a box. Seeing what you have already accomplished can encourage you to keep going.

4. Make one change at a time. If you want to revamp your diet, start slowly. Do not eliminate soda, fried foods and sweets from your diet in one fell swoop. Changes are usually easier to make if they’re small. Cut down on the soft drinks first and once you’re used to that, try to eliminate French fries.

5. Focus on the process. Saying you want to lose 50 pounds is a vague goal. How are you going to get there? Focus on the process of getting to your goal instead of on the end result. Say you will start keeping portion sizes in check and counting calories.

6. Set up an incentive program. Once you have started modifying your behavior and habits, reward yourself for your success. For every two weeks you go without a cigarette, treat yourself to a movie or a massage.

7. Be flexible. Some days are harder than others. If you can’t make your afternoon cycling class because you have a dentist appointment, make adjustments. Go on a walk first thing in the morning or during your lunch break.

8. Seek support. Share your goals with your loved ones so they can cheer you on. Or find a friend with the same goal as you. Then you can share tips and support one another throughout the process.

9. Have a plan for obstacles. You may have the best intention of avoiding the snacks offered at your morning meeting, but if you’re hungry, you won’t be able to turn them down. To resist temptation, make sure you eat breakfast and bring an apple or other nutritious snack with you so you have something to munch on.

10. Anticipate setbacks. Falling off the wagon now and again is normal. Know that minor slip ups happen and it’s not a reason to give up. Remember how far you’ve come and don’t dwell on the setback.

Have you ever made a successful New Year’s Resolution? How did you do it?

Sources:

http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/fitfacts_display.aspx?itemid=2630

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/lifestyle-changes.aspx

http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/New-Years-Resolutions.shtml