Making the resolution to completely rearrange your health is incredibly daunting–to say the least. Anyone can say “I’ll eat better next year,” and completely give in to their resolution by mid-January. We all know that losing weight, changing our diet, starting to exercise, and living life in an overall healthier manner is easier said than done. And one of the reasons is because people tend to make their resolutions too strict. No one is going to re-shape his or her body in just one week. not even in one month. It’s too easy to just give up. But if you accept your goals as a step-by-step process, you can reach your goals of a much healthier YOU sooner than you think.
Are you ready for the 12 Steps to a Fitter YOU?
Step 1/January: Eliminate ONE unhealthy item from your diet
- All you have do to kick your New Year Resolution into high gear is to eliminate just one unhealthy food item from your diet. The best part of step one is that you get to pick what that item is! Are you a soda binger? Maybe you can ditch the soda and substitute water or even an herbal tea (sugar free) instead. The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that limiting access to sugary drinks may help reduce obesity. In a recent study, 641 normal-weight schoolchildren ages 4 to 11 volunteered to drink eight ounces of a 104-calorie sugar-sweetened or noncaloric sugar-free fruit-flavored drink every day from identical cans. Over 18 months, the children drinking the sugar-added version gained 16.2 pounds. The same rings true for adults. Estimates show that two cans of soda per day adds approximately 24 to 35 pounds of fat per year, depending on body size, age, and other daily habits. Some people (weighing in at 140 pounds) have reported that by giving up two cans of soda per day, without exercise, they lost 20 pounds in six months.
- Are you a fast food junkie? Forget the burgers and fries and grab the salad and fruit cup instead. You’ll get much more fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, nutrients, and will have much more energy to finish off your day. Greasy burgers high in fat combined with carb-rich buns and fries, slows down digestion and you could actually end up storing many of those calories as they fill up (or create new) fat cells. Are you scared that a salad won’t fill you up and leave you satisfied? Eat a handful of almonds or mixed nuts to help ward off hunger. The “good” fats in the nuts will keep you satiated and give you a healthy dose of Omega 6 essential fats.
- Maybe you’re a sugar/creamer in your coffee drinker? Try substituting the sugar and artificial creamers for one of these much healthier options: coconut oil, full fat cream, coconut milk, or full-fat milk. The cream and milks are all low in sugar and higher in good fats which will keep you fuller longer; and more importantly, they stave off insulin spikes which helps aid your weight loss efforts. And coconut oil is one of nature’s best kept secrets. Not only does it make your coffee taste amazing, but it can also help control blood sugar and thyroid hormones. For some, coconut can help improve insulin use within the body. It even can increase metabolism, energy, and endurance while also helping with indigestion and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Another benefit to using coconut oil is that it’s linked to improving the HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood and helps regulate the LDL (not-so-good) cholesterol. It’s also linked to improving hair and skin, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, bone strength, and even overall stress relief.
So whether you give up dessert, purge your house of sodas, or just stop adding sugar to your coffee, step one is simple. One bad item–gone.
Let us know in the comments section below: What are YOU choosing to give up this January?
- New York Times: “Avoiding Sugary Drinks Improves Children’s Weight”: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/22/health/avoiding-sugary-drinks-improves-childrens-weight-in-2-studies.html?_r=0
- Fitday.com: “Want to Lose Weight Fast?” http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/weight-loss/want-to-lose-weight-fast-cut-out-soda-from-your-diet.html#b
- Dr. Oz: “The Surprising Benefits of Coconut Oil”: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil
- Organic Facts: “The Health Benefits of Coconut Oil”: http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-oils/organic-coconut-oil/health-benefits-of-coconut-oil.html
Step 2/February: Add ONE Healthy Item to Your Diet!
February: STEP 2:
Step 2 is easy and it’s fun. All you have to do is continue January’s Step 1, and now add something healthy to your diet. I’m horrible at drinking enough water each day, so I challenge myself to this ALL THE TIME. How about you? Can you add another glass of water to your diet? Current studies show that you should drink what would equal 2/3 of your body weight (in ounces) each day. So if you weigh 200 pounds, you’ll aim for about 125 ounces of water a day–roughly a gallon. (I totally estimated that, I’m HORRIBLE at math.) Most serious bodybuilders and competitive athletes aim for this gallon goal no matter what. Water not only helps keep you feeling full throughout the day but it improves everything: skin, hair, digestion, brain function, muscle development, athletic performance, etc.
What about a healthy food item? Again, I think it’s a struggle to always reach the appropriate servings of vegetables every day, so why not add a couple servings here and there? With veggies being sold in single serving packs or steamable bags, it’s so easy to eat your veggies these days. And don’t think that your veggies always have to be fresh; frozen veggies actually hold more nutrients because they’re flash frozen immediately. The longer a vegetable or fruit sits out, more and more nutrients are becoming depleted. Flash frozen veggies and fruits will actually hold a bit more vitamins and minerals! My faves are Nature’s Promise steamable organic bags–I usually get spinach, asparagus, and broccoli–even though broccoli doesn’t always agree with me. :/ My other go-to’s are cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Love them! And by the way, I eat the whole bag–every time. What better way to fill up on low calories, high fiber, and higher nutrient value? One bag is usually 4-5 servings. If you ate just two bags of frozen veggies each day, you’d have ALL your required servings! Lunch and dinner–done!
Another simple thing you could do is make a “healthier” food switch. Love bacon? Have you ever tried bacon from an organic farm with no nitrates, antibiotics, or growth hormones found in the meat? It’s AMAZING. I switched over recently and it’s a Sunday staple in my house. You can do the same thing with beef and chicken too! How about some organic veggies? I know, the hype is that there really isn’t that much of a difference, but with some veggies and fruits, there is a big one. Anything “leafy” or considered a “berry” is at higher risk for pesticide contamination. Maybe switch those purchases to organic. Anything that you peel, I would say stick to the regular produce if you’re on a budget. Even though organic still has a better taste (in my opinion), I know we aren’t all made of money–especially me!
And maybe you’re not ready for a huge switch such as finding different meats or trying free-range eggs–that’s ok! Are you eating a sugary cereal? Switch to something with more whole grains and less sugar. I try to choose foods–no matter what kind–that have 4-6 grams of sugar or less. I’m sure you can find a simple substitution for almost all of your “unhealthy” food fixes.
What about that fish oil you’re dying to try? Glucosamine? Supergreens supplement? Whey protein powder for protein packed smoothies? Now would be a great time to experiment with supplements. I try to take fish oil, glucosamine, a multivitamin, whey, and greens powders every day to stay as fit as possible. True, I forget more often than not, but it’s just another one of my goals. Unfamiliar with supplements? Visit our STORE to read up on my most trusted and recommended items. If you have specific questions about any, please ask in the comments section below, our forum–for real good discussion–or contact me for more private issues.
Step 2 should be fun, simple, and 100% good for you. Whether you choose to add more veggies, drink more water, add a fiber supplement, make a food switch, take a multivitamin, the possibilities are endless. I’ve only listed my top suggestions but I know there are more ideas. LET US KNOW what you think we can add to the list! Comment below!
Step 3/March: Start MOVING!
March: STEP 3:
Beginning an exercise routine is scary for everyone. I remember when I joined Gold’s Gym about seven years ago–I was given a free week guest pass and was BEGGED by a friend to go with her. The only way she got me there was by promising me that I could read a book on the elliptical while I worked out. I’m pretty positive that’s when I read Dan Brown’s The Divinci Code. My point is, the gym can be scary–if you let it. It can also be a place to meet new people, find support, and share recipe ideas, and enhance your fitness education. Lord knows I’ve learned at least half of my fitness and nutrition information just from getting advice from people in my gym.
And we all know that going to a gym is not the only way to add exercise to our daily routine. With P90x, Insanity, thousands of instructional DVDs, fitness on demand TV, buying your own equipment, or just going for a jog or talking your dog for a walk–there are more ways to get fit at home than I can begin to describe. You can even get fit just by following the workout advice of helpful websites! 😉
My advice is to try to add 30 minutes of movement into your schedule daily. Whether you join a gym, walk the dog, buy a yoga DVD, or simply start taking the stairs, we want you to move more. Need more ideas?
- Jump ropes are extremely cheap. They are also excellent for producing crazy good weight loss results.
- Perform body weight exercises like squats, lunges, pushups, and burpees throughout the day. Set realistic goals for yourself: 10 burpees when getting out of bed. 15 squats before lunch, 15 lunges after, and 10 pushups before bed at night. There aren’t any rules–just your commitment to do better than yesterday.
- Pick up a new (or an old) hobby! Love tennis? If you have a friend who can play with you, both of you can work on your fitness–and have fun–together! What about bike riding? You can ride solo or with groups. You’d be amazed at how many local bike clubs are probably surrounding you.
- Take a class at the local gym. Most gyms give out free passes–whether it’s for a week, a one-class trial, etc., you can most certainly find a class that appeals to your level of fitness (and your idea of fun) and try it out! No commitment required–just a try. My favorite class at my Gold’s happens to burn up to (and in some cases more) 800 calories per class.
- Buy a Kettlebell! The kettlebell is the ONE piece of equipment that you can use ANYWHERE and it improves your cardio conditioning, builds strength, and burns fat. In other words, one piece of equipment builds a HOT physique, and it’s very simple to learn the basic moves. I’m also very excited to announce that I’m working on a kettlebell eBook as we speak–that’s how much I love this bell. Definitely look into it!
- What about rock climbing? Zumba? Bikram yoga? Your choices are endless and who says you can’t try them all? Conduct your own experiment…what will motivate you the most and keep you coming back for more?
- Speaking of extreme motivation, CrossFit motivates me to get out of bed every morning at 5am. Most people are intimidated of it because of what they see on TV. Yes, those people really do exist, but in small, rare quantities. And they also had to get a start somewhere–just like you. Check out some reasons why CrossFit may be YOUR best fit–especially if you want a faster boost into your weight loss goals.
Didn’t see anything you like listed above? That’s ok–it’s what I’m here for. I love helping people out and I believe it’s my job to motivate you. I don’t just ask you to contact me because it’s the nice thing to write, I’m really asking you to contact me for help. Whether you need help finding the right gym to suit your needs, the best exercises for your goals, or the best piece of equipment so that you can start exercising at home, it’s MY JOB to assist you. PLEASE CONTACT ME so that I can better do my job.
Step 4/April: Eliminate ONE Processed Food Item from Your Diet
Step 4 sounds easy: eliminate one food item. And guess what? This will be SO easy to do…once you understand what processed foods are.
Processed foods are foods that have been altered from their natural states. And honestly you might be surprised at how many foods are processed. Most people think of processed foods as chips and cookies, bologna, or mac-n-cheese. Unfortunately, ANYTHING that has been altered or changed at all–even for safety standards–is processed. Kind of crazy right? Now obviously, I’m not going to tell you to give up organically farmed tuna just because it comes in a sodium-packed can–but I may tell you to think twice about diving into a box of fish sticks. And it’s a change like this that I’m asking you to think about making. Switch your fish sticks to a less “altered” seafood. Switch your white rice to a sweet potato. Can you try eliminating pasta or even bread from your diet? (Gasp!)
About.com lists some of the more popular processed foods that people should remove from their diets:
Processed foods that may be bad for your diet:
- Canned foods with large amounts of sodium or fat.
- Pasta meals made with refined white flour instead of whole grains.
- Packaged high-calorie snack foods such as chips and candies.
- Frozen fish sticks and frozen dinners that are high in sodium.
- Packaged cakes and cookies.
- Boxed meal mixes that are high in fat and sodium.
- Sugary breakfast cereals.
- Processed meats.
My Processed Food Elimination Journey
Let me tell you a quick story. Most people tell me “I could never give up bread.” Or “Pasta is my favorite dish!” And I 100% sympathize. I grew up on Tuna Helper. I loved it. Probably still do but I haven’t had it in over six years. And I ate boxed mac-n-cheese at least twice a week–EVERY week–growing up. And I’m talking well into my 20s. When I was in college, I experienced fettuccine Alfredo for the first time in my life and I continued to eat it at a minimum of twice a week for lunch and often times for dinner. The Olive Garden breadsticks dipped in Alfredo sauce became my favorite monthly splurge, and if I wasn’t having pasta for dinner (without veggies) every night, then I was ordering Chinese (with egg rolls) or pizza (with cheesy bread). Oh and with cinnasticks too. You know, now that I think about it, I can’t believe that I didn’t gain MORE than 40 pounds in college. But my point is, bread and pasta made me FAT. Seriously fat. And though I don’t have celiac disease (being allergic to gluten–a product in wheat and in many processed foods) I do most certainly have a sensitivity to it and it completely screwed me up. So making a decision a few years ago to give up pasta and bread (and as many processed foods as possible) has completely changed my life.
And I guess my other point to this whole story is that if I can do it--anyone can do it. I haven’t had pasta in years and other than an occasional pizza splurge, I can’t remember having bread unless at a Thanksgiving dinner or something of the sort. Bread/Pasta-free living is totally doable.
BUT–if the thought of giving up either of these items is too much now, don’t get discouraged! That’s not what I’m here for. If you aren’t ready for a step as big as living without bread, just don’t do it! Just pick something else to leave out! Can you cut Tuna Helper or Hamburger Helper from your diet? What about the mac-n-cheese?
How about one of these? The Huffington Post lists its top 10 processed foods recommended to remove from one’s nutritional plan and I’ve added my own thoughts on replacement foods:
- Chicken nuggets (eat grilled or baked chicken instead!)
- White rice (whole grain or brown rice. Or better yet, a sweet potato!)
- French fries (A baked potato or sweet potato)
- Canned fruit in heavy syrup (Duh, fresh fruit)
- Potato Chips (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds…)
- Soda (Zevia, water, Unsweetened Green Tea)
- Foods with High Fructose Corn Syrup (foods made with “real” or naturally found sugars)
- Processed Meats (grass fed, organically raised and minimally processed meats)
- Fast Food Hamburgers (see above!)
- Sugary Cereals (Steel cut oats, eggs from free range chickens and uncured bacon, or heck, SKIP BREAKFAST altogether!)
As you can see, there’s a lot of “bad foods” that exist in our markets but fortunately, there’s ALWAYS an alternative! And that’s usually what I tell people. Losing weight may by 80% diet and 20% fitness, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat salads for the rest of your life. Take what you love and simply find its replacement. It may be a slow and steady process but after a while, I have a hunch you won’t just be eliminating ONE processed food from your cabinets–I fully believe you’ll be eating a complete diet of fresh, whole foods just as soon as you start seeing–or feeling–the results!
If you’re eager to read more, check out this blog post I found while researching: 10 Reasons to Cut Out Processed Food.
STEP 5 is coming this May! Stay tuned, and make sure that you’ve subscribed to Strong Figure so that you don’t miss any of the 12 Steps!