How to Get Fit: 5 Habits That Will Forge Success in 2016
Perhaps the biggest resolution at New Year’s is to get fit — start exercising, start eating well, bringing lunch to work, all that language. But research shows that 73% of people who set a New Year’s resolutions to get fit jump ship and quit well before they achieve their goal.
Don’t let 2016 roll in and turn you into another statistic.
The holiday season is right around the corner – comfort foods, family time and pumpkin spice lattes – typically, it’s a time when we step off the gas with our fitness goals. But for some, this time of year is an opportunity to create some momentum heading into the New Year.
Getting healthy is one of the most referenced resolutions every time the ball drops in New York. Thousands of people use the calendar as some magical tool to leverage behavior change. For some reason, starting in January is different from starting in August.
Regardless of when people start, the fascinating aspect is that while the fit resolution is boldly proclaimed by thousands of people each year, the vast majority of them never follow through.
What this tells me is that knowing and not doing, is not knowing.
Understanding that exercising and eating well is simply not enough. It’s like how a smoker knows that smoking is terrible for them, but they never quit. Without the consistent execution of certain behaviors, the resolution you set will soon fade like a Southwest sunset.
Additionally, the concept of a resolution hums to the same melody of a boot-camp. Meaning, you do something incredibly intense for a short while, only to return to the same behaviors that go you into the mess in first place.
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Here’s the trap that you might have fallen for:
Fitness media promises the world and then some during New Years resolution time. The 30 day challenges that guarantee a body that should be on the front of a magazine. The pills that wash away years of poor eating and a sedentary lifestyle in just three weeks.
Even if this stuff works in the slightest way (maybe you lose some water weight), the real peril lies in the back-end of all these methods: Once the challenge is over, you don’t have a plan to revert to and you haven’t established a foundation of healthy habits to carry you on.
Then, for the rest of the year you let the wheels fall off. And once Thanksgiving rolls around again, the cycle starts over and you think, “Maybe next year will be different. I’ll set a resolution and follow through this time.”
The good news is that it certainly can be different – if you choose to go about it differently. Instead of attempting to do what hasn’t worked in the past, lets shift your strategy to a habit based approach – one that forges long-term behavior change.
Changing habits takes time. Rather than jamming down a 30 day challenge down your throat, these five habits should be employed one a time. Give each of them at least 14 days to mature before moving onto the next.
By tackling your New Years resolution with a habit-based approach, you’ll equip yourself with habits that serve you throughout the year, instead of feeling lost and anxious after the 30 day challenge ends.
You ready? Let’s do this.
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How to Get Fit in 2016
Habit #1 – Leveraging Willpower
Have you ever wondered how it happens to be that you start the day with the best intentions of hitting the gym after work, but actually going to the gym after a long day is like getting a child to go to the dentist? Luckily, it may not be because you’re lazy.
Your willpower, or self-control muscle, is like your bicep. When train your biceps, they get fatigued. At some point, you must cease the work and let it rest before you attack it again with some hammer curls.
When you go through a long day of decision-making, putting out fires and working on complex tasks your willpower gets fatigued. Just like your biceps, it needs rest after vigorous work.
However, we by-pass this fact, and attempt to push through the lack of mental clarity. When you do this, it causes a low-grade confusion and frustration – you want to do good – but mentally, you can’t muster up the courage to do the right thing.
This is why driving home to a glass of wine instead of into the gym is so common.
For most people, the end of the day is when their willpower – their ability to make good decisions – is lowered. It’s the same reason why research has found that people are more likely to cheat on their partners, gamble with a lot more risk at the poker table and drink more alcohol at night.
Instead of wrestling with willpower, let it work in your favor when it comes to going to the gym. Your first option is to get your training in first thing in the morning when your willpower reservoir is full. Your second option is to schedule your training midday. The second option will take some work if you have a full-time job, but the benefits are not only physical.
One studied showed that people who exercise midday reported an increase in productivity (even though they spent less time at the office). And, midday exercise reveals that subjects come back to work with a significant creativity boost that lasts up to two hours. If you’re employer show push back to you hitting the gym at lunch, throw these facts at them.
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Habit #2 – Learn How to Cook Three Meals
I get it. It’s painfully convenient to pull up to a drive through window and have your food dropped into your lap. However, leaning on fast food as a crutch is more expensive than you think. In the short-term it provides a band-aid solution. In the long-term it’s a deferred expense to you and our country.
When you choose to throw bacon cheeseburgers down your throat on the regular, the lower price of that food item is much more attractive compared to whole organic foods you get from the grocery store. But the cost isn’t really reflected accurately. It doesn’t reveal the cost over a lifetime of eating poorly.
Health and lifestyle related problems like obesity add up in medical visits, co-pays, and prescription meds. Your ability to enjoy life may also take a hit – fatigue, irritability, digestion issues, mood swings – are all possible by-products of a poor diet.
On a national level, health care expenses related to obesity round out at about $118 billion. Nearly 75% of Americans are obese or overweight. Almost 10% of all sick leave days and absence from work can be relayed to obesity related issues.
A movement doesn’t start with a ton of people – it’s start with one person. In this regards, cooking your own meals is one of the most effective ways to contribute to not only your own health, but our countries well-being too.
You don’t have to be a culinary genius either. Find three healthy meals that you personally enjoy and start there.
Habit #3 – Give Your Gut Some Love
If you don’t feel well, you probably won’t feel like practicing healthy habits.
Conventional nutrition advice screams that you are what you eat – with an undertone that eating well translates into a leaner, stronger body. And to be sure, that’s true. But the message is missing a vital component: Eating well supports a healthy gut, which consequentially supports a healthy brain, which essentially allows for optimal mental performance, and in turn helps regulate your mood.
In fact, if your gut health is out of whack it makes everything else difficult – fat loss, muscle building, sports performance, digestion and optimal cognition. Why?
Neurotransmitters like dopamine and acetylcholine (the energizing neurotransmitters that motivate you) and GABA and serotonin (the neurotransmitters that calm you down, make you feel peaceful and help you sleep) are produced in your gut.
When the food you eat throws your production of these neurotransmitters off, you have trouble with energy and intrinsic motivation during the day. At night anxiety and insomnia kick in when GABA and serotonin levels are thrown off. Anger, depression, and clouded thinking also are at risk since neurotransmitters control the balance of your mood.
Each case will be personal, however a good place to start is to examine if you are particularly sensitive to the most common foods that cause havoc on your digestive system. These include:
- Trans fats
- A diet high in refined sugar
- A diet low in fermentable fiber
Eliminate the common foods that cause poor gut health and see how you feel. Also, adding in foods that support a healthy gut is an easy way to boosts your gut health.
By doing so, you’ll aid your immune system and help off reduce cravings for unhealthy foods like sugar and highly processed carbs since they help restore good bacteria and starve the bad bacteria from thriving. Sauerkraut, kimchi raw coconut yogurt, raw cocoa or dark chocolate (90% or higher) are all suitable options.
Habit #4 – Eat Mindfully
Being productive is the hallmark of any high-performer in the gym, in the boardroom or in their home office. However, when we decide to go down the black hole and try to do multiple things at once like respond to emails, tweet out your favorite articles, research a blog post, AND eat lunch at the same time – it’s putting you at risk be less productive in the future.
Distractions are great when they prevent us from slamming down a whole pizza or polishing off several rows of Oreo’s. However, distractions fail us when they prevent us from stopping the madness.
Studies tell us that people who watch more TV are more likely to be overweight. The ones who watch less TV are thinner. The probable reasoning is that when you watch TV it leads you to be mindless of how much you eat and it prompts you to eat longer than you should (instead of stopping when your sated).
The simplest way avoid eating more than you need to is to have single task meal times. In other words, when it’s time to have lunch, that’s the only thing you’re doing – having lunch. Dock the iPad, turn off the TV, leave your phone at your desk and aim to have a distraction free meal.
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Habit #5 – Always Be Ready
Schedule changes, traffic, and seemingly impossible work deadlines will always be a part of life. Trying to change that is like waiting for your cat to bark.
Navigating a busy life can present a challenge to eating well. You’ll have to become a ninja at eating in the margins of life without letting the wheels fall off your diet.
Your best shield against “on-the-whim” junk food eating is to always be ready. Meaning, have a travel pack of healthy goods with you at all times. Here is a list of things you can keep in your car or at the office:
- Protein bars
- Mixed nuts (walnuts have the highest Omega-3 fat profile)
- Protein powder and a shaker
- Berries of any kind
- Apples and oranges
- Rice cakes
- Nut butters
- Water (get your hands on boxed water if you leave it in the car)
Having these on hand will provide an easy snack when you don’t have time to hunt down a healthy meal.
These aren’t your conventional tips on how to workout or how to cut calories. Even though those types of articles are definitely worth reading, establishing the habits we just went through will set the foundation for real change.
The great part about these healthy habits is that you can start them now. You don’t need to wait for the first of the year to get things rolling. Get a jump-start on your new body and your new health by diving into a habit based approach to your New Years resolution.
Review all five habits and see where you want to start. Remember, don’t try to do all of them at once, that will most likely backfire and send you into another firestorm of frustration.
Instead, pick one and practice it for at least 14 days (if you need more time that’s fine too). Once it becomes automatic for you to do, then employ the next one.
Good luck. You got what it takes. Just #dothework and see what happens (you won’t regret it).
“19 Reasons Why Willpower Fails You, And What To Do About It.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
“Effects of Exercise on Cognitive Creativity.” Rhode Island College. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
“Employee Self-rated Productivity and Objective Organizational Production Levels: Effects of Worksite Health Interventions Involving Reduced Work Ho… – PubMed – NCBI.”National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
“New Study Finds 73% Of People Who Set Fitness Goals As New Year’s Resolutions Give Them Up.” Bodybuilding.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
“Why Eating Quick, Cheap Food is Actually More Expensive.” Dr. Mark Hyman. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.