I’m just guessing that two thirds of you will resolve to get healthy and/or lose weight this New Year.  If that’s not you, please feel free to pass this article along to two thirds of your closest friends. 😉

These tips fall into three categories: tips for healthy eating, tips for an effective exercise program, and tips for discipline.

Tips for Healthy Eating: 

  1. Choose foods that will spoil, and eat them before they do.  Foods without a lot of preservatives most likely haven’t been processed very much.
  2. If you must choose something that has been pre-packaged, read labels.  If there are any added sugars, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), or ingredients you don’t recognize on the list, don’t eat it.
  3. Eat a rainbow.  Get as many naturally occurring colors in there as you can.  This will most likely cause you to consume the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables without even trying.
  4. Have some protein with every meal, including every snack.  This will help to keep blood sugar stable.  Protein doesn’t necessarily mean meat; there are lots of forms, including beans, soy, yogurt, cheese, nuts, quinoa, etc.
  5. If organic food is available and affordable, buy it.  Organic animal products are produced from animals fed a natural diet, and therefore the products they produce contain the proper, anti-inflammatory balance of fats (higher omega 3 and lower omega 6).  Additionally, organic foods in general are prepared without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or preservatives.  For a list of those fruits and veggies that should be purchased organically (the “Dirty Dozen”) and those for which organic is less important (the “Clean 15”), see this list by the Environmental Working Group.
  6.  Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day.

Tips for an Effective Exercise Program: 

(disclaimer: these are general suggestions, assuming you have no preexisting health conditions!  Please make sure you check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.)

  1. Engage in aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, Elliptical machines, aerobics classes, rowing machine) at 60-80% of your maximum heart rate (calculate it herefor at least 20 minutes, four times per week.
  2. Engage in a strength training program for at least 15 minutes, at least three times per week.  This should alternate upper and lower body.  If you don’t have access to a gym already, you should probably join one, assuming you do not already know how to use your own body weight as resistance.  For more information, see here.
  3. Stretch regularly before and after you exercise to increase range of motion, coordination, decrease injury and stress-induced muscle tension.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, or similar regimens would be a great addition to your workout routine.

Tips for Discipline: 

  1. Pick a specific goal.  Goals that can’t be measured can’t be attained.  You need to be able to determine whether you’ve reached your goals or not.
  2. Ask someone to help you!  It’s much easier to lose weight and get in shape with a friend.
  3. MEASURE MEASURE MEASURE! You must measure your progress, because when you see that you have progressed, you’ll be motivated to keep going.
  4. Measure your MOOD too.  Each day, write about how your day went, and include a rating on your mood.  Exercise releases natural endorphins, and is a very effective treatment for mild forms of depression.  Eating right keeps your blood sugar stable, and can dramatically improve both your energy and your attitude.
  5. Choose activities (and foods) you enjoy.  You’re much more likely to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into a way of life if you like it!  There are lots of healthy cookbooks out there with which you can experiment, and plenty of different activities to choose from.
  6. Don’t overdo it.  It’s possible to burn out if you try to do too much, too fast.  Make gradual changes to your previous routine, and be realistic with your goals.

For the month of January, I will be offering a Health and Wellness package at 60% off normal visit prices that includes a personalized plan to improve your weight, your cholesterol, your blood pressure, and your overall health in 2013.  Check my website beginning January 2, 2013 for more details!