8 Behaviors to add to improve your Health & Fitness this year

adding healthy behaviorsLook at newsstands in January and you’re bound to find many promises of easy weight loss, cutting belly fat and basically getting shredded. You just have to move more and eat less. Right? Not necessarily. I will fully back “move more”, and especially weight training since muscle metabolism takes more energy = more calories burned. But what about eat less? Do we need to eat less?
So many diets and weight loss plans promote elimination – take away an element (or five) and you’ll quickly notice visible results. Problem is, for most people it’s not sustainable, which means old habits creep in and numbers go back to where they were before the diet plan was started. Do we like things taken away? No. Should we continue unhealthy behaviors leading to weight gain? No. So what’s the solution? Instead of saying “no” to yourself each time you want something for one reason or another, why not say “yes”? I am not suggesting caving in to a bowl of ice cream or taking off an entire week from exercising. I am suggesting ADDING healthy behaviors to your day. So instead of denying yourself things, you’re letting yourself have it. The only question is what these healthy behaviors are. Eventually, these healthy behaviors “out-crowd” the old habits and push them out of the way. Let me offer a few ideas:

Visual Cues: Replace what you See

Let’s say you decided to treat your kids to some fresh baked chocolate muffins. Now they are sitting on your counter. I guarantee, if you walk by this container of muffins a couple of times a day, you will have a bite or two. Do you really need the chocolate muffin? Is your body craving something sweet? Are you bored? Tired? ON a real weight loss plan, you should ask yourself these questions and try to understand the cause of your craving, whether you choose to have it or not. In many cases, people will have a treat simply because it’s there, in plain sight. Now, let’s make it easier and replace what you see. Set a bowl of fruit, washed and ready to go – apples, bananas, oranges, you name it. Wash some berries or cut up fruit and place them in clear containers in the fridge, right in the line of sight. Next time you feel you need a treat, you will see the fresh colorful fruits and berries and the ease and accessibility will help you choose that.
Summer Fruit SaladYou’re not saying no, you’re saying yes, only your choices are much better. Replace what you see and make it easy!

Find Ways to Add Steps

Moving more is great for your cardiovascular system, it helps your thinking and it speeds up your metabolism. So find ways to move more! It can be done even if you have a sedentary job!
walking road– If you have to drive to work/school/kids’ activities, start with parking as far as you can. You will have more room for your car, since most people try to park as close as they can to the entrance. It will be a nice way to stretch your legs after a stressful day or prepare for what’s ahead in the morning. The kids will not mind the walk (unless you have a toddler), they love movement.
– If you have a meeting at work, try to turn it into a walking meeting. Yes, you may have screens and graphs to look at sometimes, but often a meeting is just sitting at the table talking. Make that into a walking meeting and you will be amazed at the flow of fresh ideas!
– Skip the elevator or escalator where you can and just take the steps. It may be hard at first but then it will become second nature. Even one floor can make a difference over a coarse of a month.
– Plan your day so you can add more walking. Take a walk to the water fountain.

Add more Fiber

I just had to list this plain and simple. No matter what you eat, adding fiber to your meals will help keep you full and your digestion more regular. Fiber can come in many forms – plant forms being the easiest to digest – raspberries and blackberries, beans, brussel sprouts, nuts, baked potato (with skin), oats, bran, broccoli, oranges, to name a few. Not only will fiber help lower your cholesterol and improve the digestion process, it will also keep you fuller. With a busy lifestyle, I am always looking for easy solutions, so if you want to make sure you’re getting that fiber, add flaxseed or chia seed – a tablespoon or two is all you need – to your meal. I often add chia to my morning oatmeal and add flaxseed with berries to my greek yogurt. Besides keeping you full, it also adds a nice texture, which makes the meal more enjoyable.

Add a Salad

tuna salad with greensStep away from the fries and get a side salad or make salad your main meal! Whether you bring food to work, eat out or eat at home, make sure you’re getting your greens every single day. Do it for a few weeks and you will form a lifelong habit that can add years to your life. No matter what your choice is – any kind of lettuce, my favorite spinach, kale, arugula or other, add some green to your plate each and every day. Spinach is also high on iron, which is absorbed better with some vitamin C – so adding tomato or strawberries, orange or bell pepper will make your body absorb and digest that iron better – and you add extra veggies, a bonus!

Add Variety

multi-tasking - fitness for 2015

Holly Hargrave, AthleticGenius

Using the same workout plan week after week is bound to get your muscles comfortable and resistant to change. Keep them guessing and you will discover how quickly your body will respond. There are many ways to add variety to your fitness:
– changing the number of sets and reps, not only in terms of numbers but adding pyramids and drop sets
– increasing/decreasing the weight
– using different kinds of weights (stuck with the rack? head to the free weights or kettle bells. focused on power strength moves? try bodyweight training and plyometrics)
– using different cardio – from changing treadmill to elliptical or bike or that fun zumba class, adding incline, heading outside, getting into the pool
– if you’re always working on one body part at a time (leg day, anyone?) to push and pull full body training and vice versa – if all you do is full body training, try a bodybuilding approach
– add workout time or add rest days
– vary when you do your cardio – all before, all after or as bookends. However, depending on your plan, doing all cardio up front may make you tired, so be aware of that
– if all you do is cardio, add in the weight training. Muscle weight will keep your metabolism churning and weight training is a great way to build bone strength – something we all need as we get older, and women in particular
– if all you do is weights, add cardio – experiment with different machines and formats until you find the one you like
The same can be said about your food. Adding variety to your day – rather than the same breakfast/lunch all the time – will help your gut flora and improve your digestion.
When it comes to your health, variety in your diet and exercise is beneficial to your body.

Add a Plan and Plan early

We are creatures of habit and if you have a plan, you’re more likely to follow it. Pack a gym bag. Bring your tennis racquet. Leave your gym shoes in the car. Make it easy to go to the gym/park/track, so you don’t have to say no because you’re not prepared. Many of my training clients plan their sessions for weeks ahead, so they stay committed. The same goes for meals. When cooking dinner for yourself (or the entire family), make extras of the foods your can use for lunch. I always like to have extra quinoa, sweet potatoes or other roasted vegetables, eggs, brown rice, chicken. You can later reuse and mix up the extras for next day’s lunches. If you didn’t know already, making your own lunch puts you in control of your nutrition and budget. It’s all about ease – if you have things ready to go – whether it’s your exercise or food, it’s much easier to make the right choice and say yes to an easy option. Except, this time it’s healthy.

Just add water

Do you know what the cheapest liquid is for you? As well as the one your body would appreciate the most? Plain old tap water. Get a nice size (preferably BPA-free, dishwasher safe) water bottle container and keep filling it with water. This way, you are adding more drinks without … We are water creatures – water helps you rehydrate, re-energize, boosts you through your workouts and churns your metabolism. Forget the sodas and sugary drinks – they give you a sugar high and quick crash. Water keeps you going. If you need the sweetness, add a little bit of squeezed orange or half teaspoon of honey and a squeeze of lemon. If you are used to your soda or fruit juice, start by diluting them – add a little water to your Coke or Sprite, and each day keep making it more water and less of soda, and eventually you’ll be more comfortable with just water.
Important to note, that orange juice you buy at the store is not the same as a fresh squeezed orange, so if you really crave that orange juice, squeeze it yourself or, even better, eat an orange with all the great fiber you get from the fruit itself.
People often feel thirsty but mistake it for hunger. Yet, another reason to start with water. While you’re adding water, also add more soup to your day. Soup is another great liquid and can also be a great source of vegetables. But you have to be careful about how it’s made, since some soups have excessive sodium content.

Add a Team and Make it a team effort

No surprise, many food and exercise logging apps offer a sharing option, so friends can follow what you log and share their results with you. You may see your friends having a lot of veggies and it may inspire you to add more, or seeing how home-made meals amount to less sodium for others may inspire you to prepare your meals at home more often. The best thing about sharing your food logs with friends is their support and praise of your efforts. Positive feedback is a great push to keep going.

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