New Year, New You

38364070 - pair of running shoes and healthy food composition on a wooden table background


// by Jake Gerken

Another year has come and gone, and some of us now find ourselves with the unsavory realization that we may have let ourselves go over the last year. Perhaps you just got too busy to eat well or the holidays offered one too many tempting treats. Whatever the reason, its time to make some healthy changes, and this quick guide can help you stay on track with your New Year’s resolution.

Make Little Changes
“A lot of it revolves around nutrition,” says Halston Carnes, a personal trainer and owner of Training Evolved. “Most people, when they start a diet, just can’t keep up with what their diet demands of them. That’s why I always suggest making little changes. What I do with my clients is I don’t literally give them a ‘diet’ to follow. Instead, I’ll take little things out of their diet and add little things in. By making these small changes over time, you’re able to establish more lasting and concrete changes.”

Anya Guy, a clinical dietician with the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, agrees. “One of the best things you can do with a new diet is to begin it with really small changes,” she says. “A lot of people have a tendency to want to begin a diet that is completely different from what they’re used to, or they try to cut out entire food groups like carbohydrates. But really, the best way to have lasting results comes down to making small changes.”

According to Guy, a great place to start is simply adding in a fruit and a vegetable to each meal throughout the day. Again, it doesn’t sound like much, but that’s the point. The less radical the change, the more likely you’ll stick with the diet and be successful.

Don’t Skip Meals
“Although you may skip meals with the intention of eating less calories, its actually been shown that skipping meals leads you to eating more,” says Guy. By skipping a meal, for example lunch, you are actually more likely to go home and start snacking and eat a much larger dinner than you would have if you didn’t skip that meal.

“It also stunts the metabolism,” she adds. “Your body works by requiring nutrients about every two or three hours. Now, obviously its almost impossible for us to eat every couple hours throughout the day given the work lives that most of us have. However, having those three main meals with a snack in between is the most ideal for our nutrient requirements and maintaining a healthy diet.”

Cardio’s Great, But It’s Not The Whole Picture
“[There are] people who only do what they’re comfortable with, which is usually the treadmill, elliptical, stair-master,” says Carnes. “Not that these aren’t good things, but only doing these means you are neglecting an equally important aspect of fitness—strength training, which is especially important for the elderly.”

In fact, strength training has been shown to positively impact various biomarkers of aging, including muscle mass and strength, bone density, blood glucose, blood pressure and blood lipids to name a few.

Drink Water, Lots of Water
“Most of us don’t drink enough water,” says Guy. “Most people require anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 milliliters per day, and many of us are woefully dehydrated because we wait to feel that thirst. Unfortunately, once you realize you’re thirsty, it’s already too late—your body is basically in a state of dehydration at that point.” She also recommends that if you’re feeling hungry or want a snack, it could be that you’re just thirsty. Thus, by drinking a glass or bottle of water, you might ward off undue hunger and reduce your overall calories for the day.

When Things Get Tough, Just Remember Why You’re Doing It
“It’s rare to find someone who wants to be fit for the sake of being fit,” says Carnes. “There is almost always something more that’s pushing them along.” Indeed, according to Carnes, some of his clients want to be fit because they want their wife or husband to find them attractive again. Others may want to improve their health for their kids, so that they can be there for them, and be better parents by setting a healthy example.

Regardless of the reason, as long as you can find that emotional attachment to pull you along to your goal, that’s always going to be useful in getting you through the tough times.