If you are like millions of people, you’re gearing up for New Year’s Day by making life-changing declarations about the new you in the new year. But you know as well as I do that making health-related New Year’s Resolutions is the easy part! It’s keeping them that can get tough! The major reason healthy resolutions fail is because they may be too big to achieve.
Dr. Michael Smith, chief medical editor at WebMD, physician, certified personal trainer and nutritional expert can help readers achieve five of the most common New Year’s Resolutions by taking “baby steps” that add up to long-term healthy lifestyle habits.
The following infographic includes data about the five most common resolutions and tips from Dr. Smith on how to keep those resolutions in 2014.
I was excited to have the opportunity to ask Dr. Smith some specific questions about these health-related resolutions.
The following are my questions and Dr. Smith’s responses.
1. I find it hard to quiet my mind and meditate. Do you recommend guided meditations, and if so, would love some examples of which guided meditations?
I have to admit that I used to be a naysayer about meditation. That’s because I didn’t understand it and hadn’t tried it. I’m a definite convert now. I sat through a 20 minute course and I was sold. While meditation is simple, it’s not easy for everyone because it’s hard to turn the mind off from the day’s chaos. Guided meditation sessions come in many varieties that you can assess through apps or online. Apps are my favorite. That way the guided meditation session is always with you. If you have a few spare minutes during the day, you can take advantage. The point of any meditation session is to gradually relax the mind. An example would be body image relaxation. First, you focus on how your body feels, scanning your body from head to toe. Pay special attention to the tension and notice how your body starts to relax with no effort. Then you focus on how your thoughts affect your body. Moving through the session, you focus on your breathing and end with body image affirmations. Whatever program you choose will walk you through this step-by-step. The affirmations part was the hardest for me to accept. But eventually I realized I’ve accepted the affect that stress can have on my body, so why can’t I accept that meditation can heal the body? I’m a huge proponent now and regularly practice meditation myself to relieve stress, lower blood pressure, lower heart rate etc.
2. I need to have a plan to follow to lose weight. What diet plans do you like?
The diet plan you should choose is the one you’re going to stick to. That’s why I recommend against any diet plan that’s focused on eliminating anything from your diet. We’re just not built that way. If you know you can’t have something, you’re going to want it even more. Instead, focus on eating right 80% of the time and being bad 20%. More and more research has shown that focusing on eating the right foods rather than avoiding the wrong foods is the better approach.
My favorite is the Mediterranean diet. Research shows it actually works better for weight loss than a low-fat diet. And in addition to shedding the pounds, the Mediterranean diet helps avoid type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. And people who follow the Mediterranean diet actually live longer. What more could you want from a diet?
3. What are the top “super-foods” that you recommend for healthy eating in 2014?
Nuts! They’re chock full of amazing nutrients, including healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein to help keep you full. In fact, a recent medical study showed that people who ate the most nuts lived the longest and were actually slimmer. This was true for any kind of nut (but almonds are a particular favorite of mine). What’s surprising about this is that we’re traditionally been concerned about not eating too many nuts because they are high in fat. It’s good fat but good fat has the same number of calories as bad fat (i.e. saturated fat). And while we don’t quite understand it yet, it appears that nuts may not have the harmful effect on our weight that bad fats too. So eat up!
Salmon is another favorite of mine. As far as ideal sources of protein go, you can’t beat it. It has the perfect combination of good fats and protein (much like nuts).
Then, to help stave off all sorts of diseases, from heart diseases to cancer, I load up on the colorful vegetables. Go for red, orange, and yellow vegetables, which are chock full of vitamins and antioxidants. Plus, they tend to be high in fiber, which keeps you full. You literally can’t overeat these foods (obviously don’t fry them when you’re being good).
Oh, and by the way … all these foods are central to the Mediterranean diet.
4. I am in my mid-forties. How often should I be strength training?
You should perform some type of resistance exercise (strength training) 2-3 days a week. That means you could work out all your muscles in one day and repeat that for a total of 2 to 3 days a week. Or you could split them up. It’s your preference. If you split it up, an example would be Chest and triceps exercises on Monday, Back and biceps on Wednesday, and Legs and shoulders on Friday. On the other days, you can perform cardio and ab resistance exercises.
Strength training is so critically important and is a wonderful anti-aging tool. Our muscles tend to get weaker as we age but strength training is the best way to combat that. I too am in my mid-forties but am stronger and leaner than I’ve ever been. If you’re not used to strength training, start slow and go easy. Give your body plenty of time to get used to the new exercises. But as the exercises get easier, don’t be afraid to step it up. Women are not going to get big muscles from strength training. You’re just not built that way. But you will get firm, toned muscles. And you’ll find that even just your regular activities get easier.
Thank you Dr. Smith for taking the time to share with us your expertise. By following these simple tips, we could all be healthier in 2014!
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for 2014?
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