Monday, December 9, 2019

Make your New Year’s health goals manageable

With the end of the year approaching some are strategizing how to improve their lives in the New Year. Resolving and achieving rarely seem to go hand in hand: Surveys show that 80 percent of resolutions fail by February 1st.

Health goals always seem to be the first proposed and the first to go. It’s difficult to break old habits and make news one. A wholesale change of lifestyle can be a little overwhelming.

It doesn’t help, either, that there is an incredible amount of expectations and opinions. There are too many ideas out there of what you should and shouldn’t do and eat -- with a lot of those idea-makers looking to make a decent buck off you, for good or for bad.

I’ll add to the cacophony and tell you to take a step back. Simplify. Make your health a manageable priority. Living a healthy lifestyle is far easier than what all the books, newspaper articles and gym rats will tell you.

I turn 45 this week. My 45th and 44th birthdays have seen me healthier than I’ve been in many years. Pristine blood work. A resting pulse in the 50s. A good BMI.

It’s not that I was unhealthy before (if I was, it wasn’t for long) as I had a roller-coaster relationship with weightlifting for 20 years. But, I haven’t touched a weight in 2 years and am far more in tune with what my body needs, can be and how to get it.

This comes despite the constraints of running a business, volunteering and coming home to a full house. I simplified my approach to personal care and found the attainment of health to be easy under a handful of rules that will work for anyone, regardless of age or schedule.

Find exercise you’ll enjoy.

The best way to get physical activity is to make sure that it doesn’t feel like work. Find something you like doing that gets the blood following for at least a half hour at time, something that you won’t bore of and hate doing. You don’t need that expensive Peloton bike or a full-featured gym membership – unless that’s your cup of tea. Choose running, kayaking, weightlifting, tennis; whatever you enjoy.

I like the outdoors and punching things. My workouts are either a brisk hour-plus hike or going 10 rounds with a heavy bag, mixing in pushups to exhaustion between each round. Those routines give me the aerobic conditioning and physicality that I need.

Let me put this into a perspective Bills fans can relate to. When Doug Flutie was playing in Buffalo he often eschewed the treadmill and weight room to play basketball instead. That gave him the endurance, agility, and hand-eye-coordination he needed to quarterback at a high level -- and he loved doing it.

Realize that life happens.

It’s completely unrealistic for you, your doctor, or your trainer to expect you to get intense exercise every day. You have work, your kids’ activities, and your own social events. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a day here and there (it is believed that this guilt often drives people away from exercise because they haven’t met their or others’ hard expectations). If you get 5 days a week, even 4, consider yourself successful. You don’t have to live at the gym or on the trail to impact your well-being.

Eat a balanced diet.

Keto. Vegan. No sugars whatsoever. High protein. Gluten-free. Crash diets.

Fad diets have become such a mess that too many people wrongly believe that fruits are bad for you as are lean meats or that meats and fats are all you need.

Don’t rob your body and brain of necessary nutrients and energy. You’re always better off getting what you need not from vitamins and supplements but rather from a colorful and diverse palette of lean meats, vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and healthy fats. Eat a little bit of everything (except for processed foods), the fresher and closer to nature the better.

Tupperware is your friend.

The most important part of maintaining appropriate weight and not developing obesity and all that comes with it is portion control. I pack my lunch, brining with me a single, appropriately-sized serving of whatever my gruel might be. Small glass or plastic containers keep me from overdoing it.

Similarly, if I do find myself going out for a business lunch I tend to bring half of it home with me. American restaurants treat consumers well, sometimes too well, and you really shouldn’t eat all they give us in just one sitting. Remember, leftovers are just as tasty the second day (and they save you money).

Keep a journal.

It’s human nature to think we do better than we actually do. We might think we exercise enough and eat appropriately. By maintaining a small notebook noting what you eat and how you exercise you’d be surprised at how often we don’t follow our own rules. A journal will keep you honest, show where improvements can be had, and give you the ability to celebrate successes.   

Best of luck in the New Year. Hopefully these simple rules can help you get the results you want.

From the 16 December 2019 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

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