If you think about it, January isn’t the most intuitive time to try to adopt a healthy new lifestyle. It’s cold, the days are short and the nights are long. Those aren’t exactly conditions that make you crave lighter, fresher foods or pre-dawn workouts. And yet January is a great time to adopt healthier habits—whether that means hitting your favorite fitness classes with more regularity, saying no thank you to dessert or taking on a meditation practice.
Because after the celebrations and indulgences of the holiday season, pretty much everyone feels like hitting the reset button. And those frigid and dark conditions? They’re also not all that conducive to socializing, which means there’s less pressure to go out and meet up, so it’s easier to take three to four weeks for yourself for focusing on establishing healthier routines.
Maybe think of it as the gift you give to yourself. Carve out the time and space you need to make those healthy changes and…here’s the important part…allow them to become your new way of life. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years with my own body, it’s that HEALTH IS HABIT. And while bad habits may be difficult to break, good ones aren’t that hard to start. The key, of course, is sticking with them. Here are my five tips for turning your well-intentioned New Years resolutions into lasting lifestyle changes that help you feel confident, happy and healthy all year round.
Try new cooking methods.
Here are three things you need to have in your kitchen to cut a bunch of excess fat from your diet: Cooking spray (I love coconut oil cooking spray for its clean taste and higher smoke point), baking sheets and parchment paper. Instead of sautéing veggies, try roasting them on baking sheets lightly coated with cooking spray. I also cook my egg-white omelets in a cast-iron pan coated in cooking spray instead of using a knob of butter. Last, I love cooking my fish, chicken and turkey on baking sheets wrapped in parchment paper. The meat stays tender and moist and it helps seal in the flavor if you’re using spices and herbs for flavor.
Make spices and garnishes your friends.
If the food you are eating isn’t delicious, your meal won’t give you pleasure and you won’t feel satisfied. Many chefs (and most packaged foods) rely on the triumvirate of salt, sugar and fat to make food taste good, but you can easily—and painlessly—cut back on those additives by replacing them with spices. I love tossing my zucchini noodles with crushed red pepper and garlic, stewing my cauliflower with curry and roasting my carrots with cumin, for example. Another easy way to add an extra element of pleasure to your meal (so you run less of a risk of feeling deprived) is to pretty up your plate. Invest and use nice tableware and take a little extra time to sprinkle on herbs, spices or other colorful edibles like pomegranate or pumpkin seeds.
Pick a time when you work out and stick with it.
Habit is routine and routines work. Your body gets used to working out at a certain time, just like it gets used to having coffee in the morning or an herbal tea before bed. I like to work out early in the morning before my children (and business associates) get up because I know that at that hour nothing is going to get in the way of me going to the gym. It was hard in the beginning getting up at 5 am, but after three to four I got used to the routine. Now if I don’t work out early in the morning, I don’t feel right.
Trick yourself into a good workout.
On days when I really don’t feel like going to the gym, I tell myself “I’ll take it easy today.” Once I’m ten minutes into my workout and starting to sweat, my energy completely shifts and I’m ready to hit it hard.
I used to drink a lot of my excess calories in the form of cocktails, wine, or so-called healthy beverages like green juices (many of which are loaded with sugar and devoid of fiber). None of these calories contributed to my feeling of fullness and so it was easy to forget about them. If you do nothing else but make a commitment to drinking eight, 8-ounce glasses of water (and no other beverages) a day for two weeks, you’ll be surprised at the results. An extra tip: Try sparkling water with a few dashes of bitters if you’re like me and like to have a cocktail at night.