2018 is finally here and with it comes a host of new year’s resolutions. The chances are that you’re feeling a little guilty after the holiday period, but you shouldn’t be! Christmas is a time for friends, family, and food – not for worrying about your waist size.
Now, the new year isn’t the only time you can change your ways, the reality is that you can start whenever you want. However, it does provide us with a good time to wipe the slate clean and kick-start our health and fitness journey. Maybe there’s something you’ve been wanting to do for a while or a goal you’ve wanted to reach – whatever it is, January gives us a great excuse for finally committing to stepping over that start line.
Many of you might not have a clear goal in mind. Losing weight and/or building muscle is a good start, but a good goal is clearly defined. Not to mention, it has a plan of how to get there. Today, we’re going to explore 8 healthy resolutions to make the start of 2018 a good one. You see, January is a bit like breakfast, and a healthy breakfast can make for better decisions throughout the rest of the day. Starting January with the right mind-set can make all the difference in the coming months, and there really is no better time to start than right now.
Stress is such an obvious barrier to happiness for so many people, and yet it’s something that we just sweep under the rug and never address. It can be easy to see stress as something unconnected to our health and fitness goals. However, it’s as directly linked as the gym and our diet.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Have you ever felt your heart rate increase because of stress or anxiety?
- Have you ever felt like you can’t concentrate with work or felt unproductive because of worry?
- Have you ever felt unenthusiastic for the gym or for food because your mind is too busy stressing?
There are two types of stress: acute and chronic. Acute stress helps us with immediate responses to immediate problems. For instance, back when we were hunter gatherer’s there were times where we would have to hunt prey, fight predators, or battle other humans for land or food. When our mind feels like we’re faced with some sort of danger, various processes kick-start to put us into a more optimal state to deal with the situation. Our hear rate increases, body begins getting flooded by hormones, our blood pressure rises, and get a little bit more energy. It’s almost as if our body starts producing its own coffee that keeps us awake, alert and on our toes. Though, as with anything, too much can cause some severe issues.
When stress starts becoming long term, that’s when we label it as chronic. Chronic stress can render you a little bit less able to cope with normal life as you normally do. Just how coffee addiction can useful short-term but detrimental long-term, so can stress. Stress isn’t inherently bad, but the devil is in the dose. It can mess with our ability to concentrate, combat illnesses, keep a regular heart-beat, prevent our blood pressure from rising, avoid headaches, sleep well, stay fit, eat well, keep motivated, and above all, stay happy.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are some helpful tips and tricks you can use to prevent yourself from over-stressing. Firstly, get organised. If you know you have stuff that needs to be done, work out a plan to execute them. We can easily put off important objectives because we don’t want to deal with them. Yet, the reality is that if we just did them bit by bit, we wouldn’t have that manic panic right before the deadline. Secondly, try meditating. There are countless studies to show the benefits of meditation for our mental and physical wellbeing. Start small with 5 or 10 minute sessions and gradually work up to 20 minute or even half an hour sessions. The key is to stay frequent and consistent, even when you really don’t want to. The final tip is detailed in the next resolution…
Sleep, glorious sleep! Something we all want more of, never get enough of, and actively avoid when we know we shouldn’t only to be filled with regret when the alarm wakes us up the next morning.
Why not make 2018 the year where you actually wake up feeling well-rested? We all know the difference a good night in the land of Nod can make, but for some reason we always think of sleep as that added bonus to our lifestyle. Most likely, the reason is because we can cancel out the effects of a bad night with a large cup of coffee or energy drink. Yet, you never quite feel as good as you do when you just get to bed at a reasonable time.
Caffeine works by binding to receptors in your brain responsible for regulating your energy. The more free-flowing adenosine we have in our heads; the more energy we have. When the adenosine starts docking into our receptors, begin to grow more and more tired. A bad night of sleep can mean that more adenosine fills up these receptors, leaving us feeling more fatigued. Caffeine, however, plugs up these receptors so that the adenosine can’t bind to them and we feel like we have more energy. As well as this, when adenosine falls into the receptors, it’s harder for dopamine (the happiness hormone) to connect to its receptors. Caffeine molecules don’t take up as much space, which leaves more room for dopamine to work its magic and keep us feeling good. This is why we not only tend to have more energy after our morning cuppa, but also why we feel a little bit more optimistic about the day.
Yet, caffeine is completely unnecessary if we just got a good night under the covers in the first place. Focusing on sleep in 2018 will not only help you feel better, but also reduce your daily coffee bill, saving your money and your mood. Not to mention, because we feel more lethargic when we’re tired, we also tend to feel hungrier. Our body is trying to find anything at all to give it more energy, and food is an obvious choice. This can make it hard to stick to our health and fitness goals. We haven’t even discussed how sleep positively impacts our ability to build muscle, lose fat, and reduce diseases and infections, either.
There are a few easy ways you can improve your sleep quantity and quality in 2018. The first step is going to be just getting into bed at a reasonable time. You can’t sleep right if you’re not in bed, and the chances are that this is going to be the first signal to your brain that it needs to wind down. Secondly, make sure to turn off any screens (laptops, phones, TV’s) at least half an hour before getting into bed. Blue light signals to our brain that it needs to stay awake. If you can’t quite manage this, then there are several apps you can download which place an orange tint on your screen which promotes a relaxed state. Lastly, doing something calming such as writing a to-do list or journal helps to clear your mind before your head hits the pillow.
- Increase Your Neat
NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. That’s the technical term, but simply put it just means that calories you burn through activities you wouldn’t typically label as “exercise”. Things like walking to the bathroom, having a shower, fidgeting, wandering around the supermarket, taking the dog out, etc. Most people burn around 200-300 calories a day just from these activities.
Now, I’m not suggesting you start going to the bathroom more and spending all your time in the shower. Though, this clearly shows that just a few little things everyday can create a big difference. It’s an age-old piece of advice, but paring a little further away from your destination, choosing the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator, and walking or cycling places instead of taking the car can really add up. The next time you’re faced with the option of taking a lazy route, stick to your guns and do that little bit of work. In the long run, your body will thank you for it.
- Make Breakfast a Good One
As we’ve already mentioned, a good start to the morning can set you up for the rest of the day. If you begin the day on a healthy note, then you’re less likely to ruin it at lunch or dinner. Breakfast can get you mentally and physically prepared to be positive, proactive and productive.
Many of us don’t eat breakfast because it takes too much time or there’s nothing we really fancy. Yet, when hunger strikes we then have to settle for what we can find out and about. As well as this, you’ll be absolutely starving, looking for anything that can satisfy your cravings. Suddenly, all will power has gone out the window and you’re scoffing down a £3 meal deal that’s close to a thousand calories. By the time lunch rolls around, you’ve already broken your new healthy mind-set and tell yourself you’ll start tomorrow, but we all know that tomorrow never comes.
There are a variety of quick, easy and convenient breakfast ideas on the web – all it takes is a quick google search. Some great suggestions to get your brain whirring are overnight oats, breakfast smoothies, greek yogurt with berries, honey and seeds, or peanut butter on toast with a bowl of fruit. Once you get into the groove of having breakfast each morning, the routine will feel much easier and more settled. With breakfast sorted, that leaves just two more meals for the rest of the day to make healthy choices. Soon enough you’ll have your entire diet on lock and you’ll be wondering why it was ever so difficult.
- Establish a Solid Exercise Routine
At the minute, you might think of yourself who exercises regularly. Maybe you hit the gym a couple of times a week or make sure to go for a run on the weekends. You might even have a favourite class you sign up for every now and again.
However, are you consistent? Do you go on the same days week in, week out? Do you always go at least three times? Do you have a plan of progression?
Going to the gym or exercising regularly is a good start, and will help you to lose fat and build muscle for a short while. Yet, the next step is making it a regular routine. The three things your exercise plan needs to have are:
- Frequency: In order to help with the other two components, you need to first be frequent. This helps to make it a normal part of your life opposed to a big deal. Without frequency, going to the gym can seem like a chore. The trick is to long-term results is to make it part of who you are. You need to attach the label to yourself that you’re someone who exercises on a frequent basis, not every now and again when they can be bothered. Once that’s established, you can move onto the next factor.
- Consistency: Once you’re regularly exercising, it’s time to start thinking about consistency. For instance, you might already go to the gym 3 times a week. Yet, without regular exercise days it’s easier to skip a session or delay it until the end of the week when you’ve got lots of other things to do. Find at least 3 days where you can commit to at least one hour of exercise each week. From here, you can get onto the final component.
- Structure: Now that you’re regularly challenging your body, the next step is working out a course of progression. For this step to work, you need to have a specific goal in mind. If you want to lose weight or build muscle, then how much? When do you want to do it by? Your goals need to SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-dependent. This will help to motivate you in times of need as well as give you a clear point to focus on. Once you have a specific goal, it also becomes easier to work out the route for how to get there.
- Try A New Class and/or Sport
Sometimes the key to settling into a regular exercise schedule is finding something you enjoy. We aren’t all born with the motivation necessary to do something just because we know it’s good for us, otherwise nobody would be in this position.
Equally, not all of us know what we enjoy when it comes to health and fitness. Just like you never know if you like a food or dish until you try it, there might be an exercise class or sport that suits all of your needs. If there’s something you’ve been itching to try for a while now, there’s no better time to give it a go than right now.
2018 is the year of positive changes, and sometimes that involves taking a leap of faith. So, if there isn’t anything you’ve been eyeing up, then take a look at what’s on offer and see if there’s anything you think you’ll like.
Classes and sports are a great way to trick yourself into exercising both harder and longer. You’ll probably remember running around as a kid kicking a ball about, throwing a Frisbee or climbing trees. All of these challenge your body in different ways, but you never told yourself you were doing it for exercise, you just did it because it was fun.
Why not try and rope a friend into it, too? There’s a high chance you’re not the only one in your friendship group looking to get into shape. That way you’re also not alone if it all goes south. If it doesn’t go well, then at least you’ve tried something knew. However, you might just find that special ingredient to spark your enthusiasm that’s been missing all those years.
- Hit Your Daily Targets
The final (and possibly easiest) resolution is to hit your daily targets. There are a variety of targets that we’re all supposed to hit, but we never seem to do. The most common and recommended are to walk 10,000 steps and eat at least five pieces of fruit and vegetables. These are all things we know we should be doing, but never quite manage to hit each day.
This is the perfect resolution for the person who might have a really busy schedule or a lot going on in their life as it doesn’t require too much commitment. Hitting these targets is actually easy to do when you’re conscious of them. All you need to do is start with the simple thing such as taking the stairs instead of the escalator or walking places opposed to driving. Both of these are easy ways to contribute to your daily step count.
In terms of your diet, making sure that you have at least one fruit or vegetable source with each meal means that you’re guaranteed to eat have eaten three of your five a day. Add in a couple of snacks and that’s your target hit. However, five is just a minimum, it’s actually better to aim for more. So, if you can, then try to have two sources with each meal to make for 8 by the end of the day. If you struggle with that higher target, then stick with five and work your way up.
Another target you might want to think about is making sure to have one homemade meal per day. It can be easy to grab breakfast and lunch while you’re out, then when you get home pop a ready meal in the microwave because you’re so exhausted. Making just one of these meals homemade either by making them the night before or getting the ingredients all prepared and ready to be cooked can be a good way to fit them into a busy lifestyle.
For the more avid fitness enthusiasts or those who are willing to make a bigger daily commitment, you can set up calorie and macronutrient targets to aid with your body composition goals. This not only helps to ensure you’re in a deficit for fat loss or surplus for muscle gain, but gives you a better idea of what’s actually in the food you’re eating. After a while you won’t need to track your diet as you’ll be able to guess pretty accurately just by looking.