Everyone has past goals that they did not accomplish. Stop beating yourself up about that five pounds you didn’t lose before vacation or the 10K race that you didn’t finish. Dwelling on those things only creates barriers between you and your fitness potential. Wipe the slate clean, and start from scratch with your goal planning. Assess where you are in your fitness journey and set your goals based on who you are today.
Focus On Motivating Activities
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean you have to love every activity. If you struggle to find exercises that you enjoy, start evaluating what motivates you. What puts you in a good mood and increases your energy levels? Is it being surrounded by nature or an upbeat song? Maybe you are energized by being with others or feel renewed after spending time alone. All of these factors can help you determine the right exercise for you. Also remember that not all workouts have to take place in a gym. Hiking or trail running may be the perfect fit. Maybe hip-hop or ballroom dance classes would make you excited to get moving. Focus on what uplifts your spirits and motivates you, and then set your fitness goals around these activities.
Find a Balance and Push Yourself
The general guideline still stands that your goal should be achievable. When you set unrealistic goals like losing 10 pounds in a week or trying to run a 5K with no training, you only set yourself up to fail. At the same time, safely pushing yourself can force you to step out of your comfort zone and accomplish more than you thought possible.
Your goals should have balance. They need to be achievable, but just far enough out of your reach that they motivate you. Have you always wondered if you could run a half marathon? You can. People just like you do it every day. The key is to find the right training plan that will help you prepare based on your current fitness level. Want to squat huge weights like the bodybuilders that motivate you? Pick up a barbell you can handle now and work your way up. Everyone has to start somewhere and push themselves to reach challenging goals.
Pick One and Be Specific
Having too many lofty goals can complicate your efforts. You will struggle with which to focus on, and you may not achieve any of them. Pick the one thing you want to accomplish. It might be for this quarter or for this year. Avoid general goals like losing weight or healthier eating. What is the one goal that will truly influence your health? For example, cutting out soda will have several results. If you don’t replace those calories, you will lose weight. You will reduce your added sugar intake and reduce your intake of caffeine. This is an example of a specific goal that will result in the general positive changes you seek.
Foods that fill you up faster and keep you feeling full longer help to decrease your calorie intake. With a few simple steps and minor changes to your meals and snacks, you can feel full with less food.
Eating quickly may cause you to consume more food than you realize. When you don’t take the time to focus on your meal, it’s harder to enjoy the taste and texture of each bite. Not only does this make the meal less satisfying, it disconnects you from your hunger and fullness cues. When you eat slowly, a practice common in mindful eating , it forces you to stop and evaluate how you feel throughout the meal.
Hormones are released and signaling occurs when you eat and the food is digested. These signals indicate to the brain that you have had enough. This can be easily overlooked if you are eating too quickly. You will fill up before your fullness is registered, leading to an increase in the calories you consume. Research has shown that eating more slowly results in feeling full sooner, and a decreased food and calorie intake.
Eat whole foods
A whole food is a food in it’s natural form versus it being heavily processed. For example, whole fruits and vegetables instead of juice. These whole foods contain dietary fiber and water, and they are larger in volume. All of these characteristics contribute to the ability of whole foods to fill you up and keep you fuller longer. Research shows that eating foods that are higher in volume, but lower in calorie density, results in eating less at a meal and throughout the rest of the day.
Add more lean protein
Research shows that including more lean protein in your meals and snacks can help you feel full. It may be even more beneficial if you include protein at breakfast. A study that compared women who ate a protein-rich breakfast with eggs versus a higher carbohydrate breakfast with bagels found that the protein-rich breakfast helped the women feel more satisfied and reduced calorie intake throughout the day. Switch to a higher protein breakfast by incorporating eggs, beans and smoothies, add chicken or beans to your salad at lunch, and replace drinks like juice and soda with higher protein cow or nut milk.
Marketers of fad diets try to appeal to your desire for quick-fix weight loss. Unfortunately, these diets are not the answer for long term health and many do more harm than good. Use these tips to spot and steer clear of fad diets.
It is very low calorie.
Weight loss requires that you burn more calories than you take in, but this doesn’t mean that an extremely low number of calories is a good thing. The National Institutes of Health warn that diets with 800 or fewer calories should be avoided unless you are being monitored by a doctor. An eating plan that provides 1,200 to 1,500 per day calories helps most women lose weight safely while an eating plan with 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day is ideal for men. Eating too few calories prevents you from consuming the nutrients your body needs, drains your energy, and leaves you feeling hungry.
It requires the purchase of special foods or supplements.
A fad diet that requires you to purchase special meals, bars, and powders is not a sustainable way of eating. You may find this convenient at first, but soon those same boring bars will lose their appeal and the extra costs will add up. Often these fad diets require a big initial investment, which ends up wasted when you don’t achieve the unrealistic results promised by the program. A healthy eating plan needs to be both flexible and affordable to fit your lifestyle.
It is too restrictive.
Cutting out entire food groups, eating only certain foods together, and avoiding foods at specific times of day are all indications of a fad diet. These practices restrict your ability to eat when you are truly hungry and may prevent you from satisfying cravings in a healthy way. Restrictive eating leads to deprivation. When you feel deprived, often all you can think about is the one thing you can’t have -- that food. Few people have the willpower to stick to such strict rules, making you more likely to give in and overindulge. A balanced diet that allows you some of your favorite treats on occasion is a much more effective way to gain a healthy relationship with food and lose weight for good.
It ignores the importance of exercise.
It is possible to lose weight without physical activity, but research shows that those most successful at keeping weight off are regular exercisers. A fad diet that promotes only dietary changes for weight loss is not providing you with the balanced plan you need to be successful. A healthy lifestyle is about much more than losing a few pounds. Exercise combined with healthy eating will help you lose weight while also improving your fitness and energy levels.
It emphasizes that you don’t need to change anything.
A plan that assures you that you don’t need to change your eating and activity habits to lose weight is likely a fad diet. The truth is that you do need to make positive changes to see results. If you are currently unhappy with your weight and your fitness level, you cannot continue your current eating and exercise patterns and expect to see results. Getting fit requires commitment. Anything worth having, including good health, is worth working hard for.
While obesity is linked to a variety of health issues, simply being at an ideal body weight does not guarantee you perfect health. Your eating habits, exercise patterns, and how you handle stress all contribute to your wellness and risk for disease. Give these health indicators some consideration as you continue to evaluate your progress and reach your fitness goals.
Heart health is influenced by a number of factors including your weight, diet, exercise, age, and family history. While you don’t have control over all of these factors, there is plenty you can do to incorporate a healthy diet and stay active to benefit your heart. Get regular check ups from your doctor and gain a better understanding of the factors that contribute to heart health, such as blood pressure and blood cholesterol. The American Heart Association considers a blood pressure of less than 120 over 80 to be normal, and a total cholesterol reading of less than 180 mg/dL to be optimal.
Many unhealthy habits can zap your energy. Foods and drinks that are high in sugar with little nutritional value, not eating enough, lack of sleep, and excess stress all influence how you feel. If you fall into a mid-morning or afternoon slump that leaves you drained, you may need to pay closer attention to your diet, sleep, and exercise patterns.
Reduce simple carbohydrates that can spike blood sugar and then cause it to crash, leaving you sluggish and hungry. Eat the number of calories recommended to reach your weight loss goal. The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you still feel low on energy despite adequate sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation, napping can improve alertness and enhance performance. Keep naps to 20 to 30 minutes so that it doesn’t interfere with good sleep at night. Stick with your regular exercise routine, but be sure you work in at least one rest day per week. Your body needs this time to recover. Overtraining can lead to fatigue and disrupted sleep patterns.
While maintaining a normal body weight is linked to improved health, a healthy weight does not ensure fitness. Strengthening your heart through cardiovascular exercise and your muscles through resistance training are important parts of a healthy lifestyle. Flexibility training also keeps you mobile as you age and allows you to perform cardio and strength exercises. Test your fitness level regularly to track your progress and ensure that you are not only losing weight, but also getting fit. If you belong to a gym, inquire about fitness testing. Sometimes an initial fitness assessment is included with your membership fees. You can also try out the self-guided Adult Fitness Test provided by The President’s Challenge that is available online.
Lean Body Mass
Maintaining muscle (or lean body mass) and reducing fat mass, especially around the abdominal area, can improve your health. Body fat percentage can be assessed in a number of ways, including skinfold caliper measurements, handheld BIA (bioelectrical impedance analysis), and underwater weighing. Your gym should be able to assist you with a body fat percentage assessment. The American Council on Exercise considers women with a body fat of 21 to 24 percent to be in the fitness category, while a body fat of 25 to 31 percent is acceptable. Men with a body fat of 14 to 17 percent are classified in the fitness category while 18 to 24 percent is acceptable.
Mood and Attitude
When you feel bad, it shows in your mood and attitude. There are many reasons you might feel cranky and irritable, such as excess stress, lack of sleep, and frustration with your health or your body weight. These feelings translate into a negative attitude towards healthy habits that can be difficult to overcome. The good news is that healthy eating can improve your mood and energy levels. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel happier and healthier. When you find yourself in a bad mood, evaluate your current habits. Have you missed a few workouts or could you improve your nutrient intake? Identify what is causing these feelings and make the necessary changes to improve your mood and embrace a healthy lifestyle.
Portion control is the key to reaching your weight loss goals. Understanding more about healthy serving sizes and reducing portions to meet these recommendations provides a way to satisfy cravings while sticking to your nutritious eating plan.
Portions versus serving sizes
A serving size and a portion are not always the same thing. A serving is a healthy amount of a food recommended by health professionals, and a term used by food manufacturers as a base for determining nutritional information. A portion is how much food you serve yourself. A healthy goal is to reduce your portion sizes so that they more closely align with what health professionals consider to be an appropriate serving. For example, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, one serving of grains is one slice of bread or a half-cup of pasta.
Gaining control of portion sizes doesn’t mean you have to carry around measuring cups. These tools can be helpful in your own kitchen, but you can also make yourself familiar with common objects and how they compare to appropriate serving sizes to make healthy eating easier.
Reduced portions and total calories
Regardless of the food, the more you eat of it, the more calories you consume. By simply reducing portion sizes, you can create the negative calorie balance necessary to initiate weight loss. Choosing nutritious foods is still an essential part of improving your health, but reducing portion sizes allows you to include your favorite treats while still losing weight. Choosing a mini cupcake over a full size dessert, or adding a half-cup of whole wheat pasta as a side instead of a main course are ways you can satisfy cravings without consuming excess calories.
Portion control and fullness
Research shows that the more food people are served, the more they eat. As a result, large portions, like those served in restaurants, cause people to eat much more food than they need. It takes time to get back in touch with hunger cues and to recognize true hunger and fullness. As you gradually decrease portions, you will begin to feel full after eating much less food. As a result, your calorie intake will decrease and you will be on your way to reaching your goal weight.