Along with well-wishes and an optimistic outlook, the New Year inevitably brings a host of New Year’s resolutions, most of which are broken and forgotten by Valentine’s Day. Forgo the guilt this year by making simple lifestyle changes that you can stick with for years to come.
Look at the big picture. Losing weight is probably the most frustrating of all resolutions. So, you need to lose 30 pounds because you haven’t been to the gym in a year? Forcing yourself to spend 5 days a week on the treadmill will probably leave you less than excited about your new resolution.
Stop fixating on the number on the scale and start focusing on becoming more active in general. Getting the dog out for a brisk walk or cleaning house for an hour once or twice a week is a more realistic starting point. Once being active becomes a regular part of your life, not only will you have already lost some of that weight, but you’ll be in a much better position to develop and stick with a regular workout routine.
Stop “dieting”. The term “diet” has become synonymous with “deprivation”, making the whole process a mental test of willpower rather than a positive lifestyle change. If this rings true for you, you may need to change your mentality. Stop thinking about what you can’t eat and start thinking about all the foods that provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function. The easiest way to do that is to seek out foods in a variety of colors. Adding color from fruits and veggies ultimately means that there’s less room for processed, packaged, fried and artificially colored foods.
Need inspiration? Have taste-testing parties with friends or family where everyone can try a new or exotic fruit or vegetable. Get creative and mix it up by including nuts, seeds, beans, herbs and salsas. Opt for seasonal picks but don’t forget about the freezer section. Before you know it, you’ll have some new favorites to make up a very colorful plate.
Team up. Having someone else invested in your cause is a surefire way to stay on track. Whether you want to get active with your spouse for health’s sake or meeting a friend for coffee instead of a shopping spree for your wallet’s sake, having a partner rely on you to uphold your end of a deal is much more motivating than any pep talk you can give yourself.
Partner with a trusted friend or advisor and consult them before making purchases to help curb spending. Take a class at your local gym or YMCA and befriend the instructor or classmate so you’re more inclined to attend. Or, share a meal when you dine out to save money and calories.
It’s not all about you. Studies show that the happiest people in the world take an active role in contributing to their community. And we’re not talking about money here. Simply spending one day a month reading to underprivileged children, helping out at the local animal shelter or volunteering at the county food pantry can broaden your social network, elevate your mood and improve your outlook on life.
Not sure how to get started? Websites like volunteermatch allow you to search volunteer opportunities by area and interest.
Learn something new. Have you always wanted to learn a new language? Dance the tango? Learn to decorate cakes like they do on TV? Choosing life experiences over material possessions is a simple and realistic way to improve your quality of life and boost your self-esteem.
Bonus: If you can apply your new or improved skill in the workplace, not only will you be wiser but there could be a raise, promotion or new job in your future, as well. Be sure to check in with human resources – many companies offer reimbursement for tuition at community and technical colleges or offer their own continuing education courses.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.