Happy new year! This month I’ll be offering weekly tips to help you meet your health goals in 2012. When it comes to embracing new habits, keep in mind that real change takes time. The important thing this month is to build a good foundation for a year of healthier living. That means taking small steps and being open to trying new things as you break old patterns and discover what works best for your body.
Most of all, make sure you have some kind of support system in place to help you maintain your commitment to health. None of us can do it alone. Find a friend (or two) who will hold you accountable to the goals you set for yourself and, most importantly, cheer you on.
This week, give these healthier habits a try:
- Eat more veggies. Vegetables are the most nutrient-dense, low-calorie food available. This week, begin to make them the foundation of your diet by including some kind of veggie at every meal. Try leafy greens like kale and swiss chard and brightly colored veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes and beets.
- Chew your food. Sounds obvious, but so often, our meals go by in a blur. This week, slow down, and try chewing each bite of food at least 20 times. Digestion begins in the mouth, and chewing your food more thoroughly allows you to absorb more nutrients; it also helps with portion control, since you’re more likely to notice if you become full.
- Write it down. Experiment with keeping a food journal — the best way to get an accurate snapshot of what you’re actually putting in your body on a regular basis. Once you have a clear picture of your current habits, you can begin to identify opportunities to make healthier choices. Often, the simple act of writing down what we eat ends up being a way of holding ourselves accountable.
- Get moving. Joining the gym has become a New Year’s cliche. We all know that adding activity to our lives is key to good health — human beings weren’t meant to sit all day. The key to success is setting small, achievable goals. That means picking an activity you actually enjoy, like dancing around your apartment to your favorite music, or hiking on the weekend with friends. Brainstorm some activities you enjoy and do them three days this week.
- Feed your mind. Build your knowledge of healthy eating by seeking out books, documentaries and other media about nutrition, food production methods and related topics. You don’t need to become an expert, but educating yourself will strengthen your commitment to healthier living. This week, check out Nourishing Wisdom by Marc David, which explores the factors influencing our relationship to food.
Above all else, remember: small steps lead to big change over time. Don’t worry about perfection. Just try your best, and if you veer from your commitment, skip the guilt — it’s a nasty form of stress that’s counter to good health. Just recommit to your goals and move on.
Good luck this week, and have fun!
Photo credit: iStockphoto