It was a season of office parties and late nights out, with plenty of cocktails, heaps of holiday ham, and extra servings of pie, cake and Christmas cookies. As the dust settles and the indigestion abates, 2011 resolutions for better health begin in earnst. Many of you will resolve to lose weight or exercising more, but will it last? Why do almost a third of us break our resolutions before the end of January?
Get Rid of Your Resolutions!
Run of the mill resolutions frequently fail because 1) overcoming the omnipresent unhealthy influences in our society presents a huge obstacle, and 2) the "healthy" options that exist don't address the root of our problems, only to zero in on a "quick-fix." So our commitments to drop weight usually lead to endless dieting, counting calories, joining weight loss programs or gyms, taking pills or visiting a conventional nutritionist or doctor. These regimens, products and services suggest onerous, trendy solutions -- many with very poor success rates. It's all a product of our marketing, media and cultural cycle that's hooked on fads, magic bullets and doling out more, and more, and even more cash!
I believe that resolutions are flawed by design because if they worked, and were sustainable, we wouldn't have the same ones come up every 12 months. They wouldn't get broken so easily, and we as a collective people would be less riddled with overweight and disease each year, instead of being more burdened.
So, Embrace A Basic Framework Instead!
Instead of giving yourself orders and perpetuating the cycle of disappointment, in 2011, gift yourself with a framework for health that's enjoyable, broad-based, and can last you a lifetime. A framework is a lifestyle. It's an enjoyable approach as opposed to the grueling sacrifice and solves a myriad of health issues all at once by simply bringing you into balance. Balanced food and fitness habits lead to decreased weight, with decreased cravings for junk, which then lead to higher energy levels, which leads to better rest, and so on. It's a beautiful, integrated, powerful thing!
So here's how you can switch it up, swap it out and change the game for 2011. Below I've included five of my swaps to health that can give you a start on your personal framework for the New Year. Over time, you can add more and more, eventually creating your own framework that will work for you consistently, seamlessly and without a lot of effort. I believe that the best sustained healthy food, weight and fitness habits are simple, basic and authentic.
1) Think And Empower YOU!
Instead of trying the latest diet trend or detox cleanse, learn for yourself what your best options are. When we don't spend time thinking about our bodies, we end up with canned, generic solutions that might not be suitable to our unique needs. Many of the facts surrounding diet and exercise haven't been uncovered, are too reductive to make appropriate impacts, or aren't 100 percent conclusive. Scientific theories are continually evolving as we learn more about human health year after year. So just because its sold or advertised, doesn't mean its good for you! Next year, a new study might uncover that what your we're doing or eating this year was exactly the wrong thing to do!
Be your own trusted detective. Finding out what the "organic" label really means can take you minutes. Whole grains? Check out what options are out there on the internet. Juice detox? Learn about some of the disadvantages that come along with it.
2) Find Your Sole Mate in Whole Foods--And Mostly Plant Foods.
Instead of cutting out "carbs", going cold turkey on turkey and meat, or only eating salads for two weeks, concentrating on eating whole, natural foods in their most natural form should start you on your way to a healthier, slimmer you. It's more delicious, less-stressful and so much less restrictive than eating processed "healthy" foods or counting calories or points!
Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans all have high levels of essential, nutrient-rich carbohydrates. They're full of fiber (which gets you full and helps tremendously with portion size), yet on average, we only get about 5-7 percent of our calories from them. Bumping up this percentage is a tasty alternative to adhereing to rules in diet programs. (This step in your framework will take some organization in grocery shopping, a bit of cooking and detective work in finding out the best restaurants that provide this food, but it will be so worth it!).
3) Quality Protein, Please!
Instead of substituting more protein for those unrefined sugars, breads and processed foods, focus on improving the overall quality of your protein. Learn where your proteins are from. Look for meat from animals raised on smaller, local farms that have been allowed to graze on pasture and have been fed the diet that nature intended. I like to say "eat happy, healthy animals."
This is really important because 1) on average, Americans are consuming excessive amounts of protein calories (mainly animal protein), above and beyond what is sufficient, and 2) this protein has been compromised as its mainly from factory animals fed corn, soy and antibiotics. As the lives of animals become more and more unnatural, their nutrient composition changes (higher levels of saturated fat and cholesterol) for the worse. And vegetarian protein options like soy-based packaged foods don't remain unscathed! Heavily processed and manufactured, lots of vegetarian proteins are based on highly controversial "isolated soy proteins."
This year, add combinations of plant-based whole foods (veggies and beans, lentils and rice) or pasture-raised animals to your diet. These are all great sources of complete ("high-quality") proteins. And although there is continued, fervent, debate on which type is better of worse, focusing on this basic framework will put you (and our planet) on much healthier footing.
4) Show Off--Move Every Way Except Forward
Instead of spending a fortune on a personal trainer or fancy gym membership, completely re-think your approach to fitness. Most of what the magazines and the media tell us about fitness often doesn't yield satisfying results. I feely badly for those who hop from exercise fad to exercise fad, putting in hours of time and effort, but without getting results. For the New Year, try to mix up your routine by avoiding linear, forward movement. As human beings, our bodies are designed to move -- in all sorts of directions. When you're out exercising, try walking or jogging backwards (slowly at first!). This way you engage different muscle groups than you do in your ordinary day-to-day activities and normal workout. Also try adding exercises that move you side to side - again engaging muscles you may never work if all you do is walk, bike, or jog forward. Side gallops, side lunges, and jumping jacks are other good examples. By changing your entire approach to staying active, you'll see more gains and you'll be in more control.
5) Be A Rebel And A Rockstar! Get Off the Machines!
Instead of relying on gym machines to get your cardio in, find some alternatives. Although when you're in a pinch, jumping on an elliptical or stair master seems like a great option, machines are one of the big reasons people find working-out boring. Having a toolkit of options when it comes to getting your heart rate up is the key to continued, efficient cardiovascular improvements and calorie burn. So instead, try circuit workouts, cross-country skiing, hiking, dancing, and jumproping as alternatives. You'll be challenging different parts of your body, improving your coordination, balance and agility, and simultaneously melting away calories. If low-impact is your priority, swimming and low-impact aerobics are good options. But whatever you choose, just stay away from the machines!
So in 2011, let's not restrict ourselves, fall victim, and sacrifice. Let's instead think, get in the drivers seat, and move toward sustainable and basic lifestyle changes that treat good health as a state of balance. Develop your own framework that promotes weight loss, provides daily fitness, encourages healthy cooking and adds whole, natural food to your life. These elements will work in concert to get you looking and feeling amazing. Cheers to a New Year, a new playbook on diet and exercise, and to a new YOU!
A Recipe to Kick off the New Year: Pooja's Winter Mint & Citrus Salad
Yield: Approx. four ½ cup servings
2 naval oranges
1 large grapefruit
4 large fresh mint leaves (optional)
For Simple Syrup Dressing:
1 tablespoons coconut sugar (or palm sugar, or unrefined sugar of choice)
2 tablespoons water
1. Supreme oranges and grapefruit and gently toss in a medium sized bowl.
2. De-seed pomegranate and add seeds with bowl of oranges and grapefruit, tossing lightly to mix.
3. In a small sauce pan under low to medium heat, add sugar and water. Stir frequently until sugar dissolves fully and liquid takes on a syrupy consistency. Transfer syrup to a small bowl and set aside.
4. Stack mint leaves on top of each other and finely slice into very thin, ribbon-like strips.
5. To plate, scoop ½ cup of citrus and pomegranate mix into a bowl, drizzle about ¼ of syrup over fruit, and garnish with several mint strips.
Pooja Mottl is a healthy living advisor and Natural Foods Chef. She holds a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University in conjunction with the T. Colin Campbell Foundation as well as an NSCA-CPT certification in fitness.
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