You’ve committed to health goals for the new year. Or perhaps you are just thinking about committing to some goals for the upcoming year?
Either way, whether you are hoping to lose weight, improve health, have more energy, feel better, run faster, optimize body composition, etc., the new year provides motivation that paves the way for new possibilities!
Then reality sets in: Now what? What’s your plan? How will you make these goals happen? What works? What doesn’t work? Perhaps you’ve tried before and weren’t successful. Or, the diet that you lost 30 pounds on before isn’t working now – and you feel uncertain about what is the “right” way to accomplish your health and wellness goals.
I get it! I truly understand your frustration. When a decision needs to be made; or, I’m investing in something with money or time, I want to know “What’s the RIGHT decision?”
One things for certain about uncertainty – it’s everywhere! And it seems to be increasingly more apparent in health and nutrition.
- What’s the best diet?
- What and how much should I eat to lose or gain weight?
- How do I fix my “broken” metabolism?
- How much exercise do I really need to do?
- Which exercise helps with metabolism: Cross Fit, yoga, spin class or kettle bells?
- What’s the best supplement? Do I need to take supplements?
- What foods decrease inflammation? Which foods increase inflammation?
- What do I need to eat to survive a 5K, 10K, marathon, or a triathlon?
These are the type of questions I hear from my clients, along with the confusing and misleading responses to these questions in the media. Some of these are easier to answer than others for a variety of reasons. But, we all want to know: what’s “right” for ME?
Uncertainty, according to Wikipedia, is a situation which involves imperfect and/or unknown information. We need to remember that nutrition is a science which means that the information and knowledge we have is incomplete and it is always changing. Believing that science is “for certain” can be misleading because the progress of science is based on a continuously changing picture of reality. Read More about The Science of Nutrition.
Another piece to this puzzle that makes it difficult to find a one-size-fits-all answer to the questions highlighted above is each individual is genetically and environmentally unique with their own personal and intimate relationship with food, eating and weight. I see this first hand with individuals trying to lose or gain weight. An individual struggling with Anorexia Nervosa struggles to gain weight eating over 3000 calories a day with no activity, while another individual can’t seem to lose weight eating 1200 calories and exercising 60 minutes every day. Clearly the “energy balance” equation we like to rely on seems a bit out of whack. We have many theories about why this happens (hyper-metabolism, metabolic adaptation, hormonal effects, etc), but we have yet to see one, perfect solution to either of these situations.
And to the uncertainty of the remaining questions:
What’s the best diet? Probably the one you can stick with.
How do I fix my “broken” metabolism? First off, let’s start with the fact that your metabolism isn’t really “broken”.
How much exercise do I really need to do? We need to move our bodies every day. What does “exercise” mean to YOU?
Which XYZ exercise is best for XYZ problem? What exercise do you enjoy doing?
What’s the best supplement and do I need to take supplements? It depends on what the deficiency is and whether you have a deficiency in the first place.
…and so on.
The point is this: We all “know” what we need to do, but struggle (for a whole bunch of different reasons) with doing it!
Following are a few tips or suggestions that may help you stay on track with any of your health and wellness goals in 2017:
Commit to Consistency. Whether it’s meal planning; cooking more; eating more fruit and vegetables; regular exercise; drinking less alcohol or soda; drinking more water, etc, you don’t need a nutrition expert or well-designed science experiment to tell you that these behaviors are important. But, just like eating one salad won’t help you lose weight, neither will enjoying an occasional burger and fries cause you to gain weight. It’s about what we do consistently over time that either helps or hurts.
So, what will help you maintain consistency? Do you need an accountability partner? Perhaps some education to challenge rules or beliefs about food and eating that are interfering with your success? Whatever it will take – I suggest you commit to a “365 day challenge.”
Pursue Progress not Perfection. Making behavior change that is sustainable takes time. If your plan to accomplish your goal to lose weight and get healthier in 2017 looks something like this:
- Eat less
- Exercise more
- Stop eating fast food
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Cook more at home (and you don’t know how to cook)
- Drink more water
- Eat more ________ and eat less ________
- Stop smoking
- Sleep more – and better
…which are all great goals – but how will you implement all of this, at one time, into your already crazy, busy, overworked, stressed-out lifestyle that created the unhealthy habits to begin with?
Remember “If you chase 2 rabbits, both will escape” ~ author unknown
Try to focus on one do-able behavior at a time. Perhaps you already exercise 3 to 4 days a week, but don’t take time to shop and cook meals at home. Instead of adding more exercise at this time, take that time to plan, shop and cook more fresh and wholesome meals at home. Sadly, I’ve seen individuals give up because they are only losing 1/2 to 1 pound a week when they are making these small, but important changes. When they revert back to a more restrictive (often unsustainable) plan that seems to deliver more, faster weight loss, a year later they’ve gained all the weight and more back – and haven’t accomplished any of their goals.
Focus on Non-Scale Victories. Many individuals unfortunately give up on their goals when results don’t match expectations. I’ve heard it over and over from folks who are going to the gym consistently; have cut out all kinds of “unhealthy” foods; are following through with their “clean” eating; but state that they don’t “look like they do all that.” Consequently, they feel frustrated and either invest in more supplements, a more restrictive diet, or give-in to urges that actually lead to other health problems – when the real problem likely has something to do with negative body image (a separate issue that needs attention, but no diet or supplement will fix that).
Make a list of health goals that have nothing to do with the scale or “what you look like.” Perhaps it’s feeling stronger (because you’ve taken up a weight lifting program), are saving money (from not eating out as much); have more energy (because you’re eating more fresh produce and exercising more); or enjoy cooking more at home (because they’ve learned to cook). These are all important victories that can’t be measured by any device.
The National Control Weight Registry (NWCR) is a research study that includes people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year. The NWCR reports that it is tracking over 10,000 people who have successfully lost and kept the weight off. How did they do it? Overall, they’ve modified their food intake in some way and increased their physical activity. The majority maintain their weight loss by consistently eat breakfast, watching less TV, and exercising about 1 hour every day. None of the research demonstrates that one particular diet or exercise program was superior – it was just the fact that the individuals made positive, healthy lifestyle changes they were able to stick with.
There is a great deal of uncertainty in the year ahead. But, one thing you can count on is 2017 is an opportunity for a new beginning! Remember to commit to consistency, pursue progress not perfection, and focus on your non-scale victories – and Let’s Do This!