A Message for the New Year’s Resolution Haters

A new year for many of us means New Year’s Resolutions. But since we rang in 2015, I’ve taken notice to a lot of resolution bashing going on in the media.

Although the statistics show most people do not keep the goals they set for the year, I still think there is value in setting intentions for yourself — if they are done right.

The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is they often aren’t specific enough.

Lose Weight

Quit Smoking.

Be Happier.

Be a Better [Mom, Wife, Student, etc]

What these goals lack are the “How” and the “Why.” When you set an intention for the New Year, or for anything, you have to be specific.

Take the common goal of losing weight for example —

How will you lose weight? Will you start a diet? Commit to a workout routine? Get a gym membership? How much weight will you lose, and by when?

And just as important is the “Why.” Why do you want to lose weight?  Are you overweight? Are you at risk for diabetes? Do you have a big event coming up?

Understanding why you chose your goal and writing it down will help keep you motivated.

Another problem is when resolutions are too large.

Break your intentions out into smaller, more attainable steps so you have some minor wins to celebrate on the way to achieving your major goal. This will keep you motivated and help you track your progress.

Here is an example of some steps for a weight loss resolution:

Resolution: Lose 10 pounds by June

Why: Look good in a bikini

1. Join the gym

2. Work out 3 times a week for 3 months

3. Sign up for Weight Watchers

4. Create a book of easy, healthy recipes to make at home

5. Lose 5 pounds by March

Halfway to your goal (in this case, March) re-evaluate your goal, track your progress and set new steps.

If Weight Watchers wasn’t successful, try something different. Maybe you want to explore food journaling or a Paleo Diet… the key is not to give up if one step doesn’t work for you.

The reason many New Year’s Resolutions “fail” is because people give up after one try. If you don’t get to the gym three times one week, it’s not the end of the world! Setting smaller goals allows you to separate a tiny loss from the failure of your entire goal.

The key to New Year’s Resolutions is to remember — you haven’t failed until you allow yourself to give up.

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A Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go — Part 4: Maintenance

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You made it! This is the last step in the Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go. I hope by now you have a few takeaways for implementing healthy habits into your own busy lifestyle. If you missed the first three sections of this guide check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 before scrolling down below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

… No really. You can’t handle part 4 until you’ve experience 1, 2, and 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 4: Maintenance

So, you’ve hit your goal — now what?

Celebrate with cakes!

Wrong.

Carrots?

What kind of celebration is that?

A small piece of cake with a side of veggies?

Now you’re talking.

The key to maintenance is creating a healthy habit but also allowing yourself to cheat once and a while. Depriving yourself can only work for so long, and then you’re bound to crack.

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Once you’ve hit your goal it’s really hard not to fall off the wagon and start eating like crap again.

There’s no such thing as perfection, especially when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. The goal is to continue the healthy behaviors you’ve learned until you don’t need to think about it anymore. You just do it. 

For me, exercise has become intuitive, and I’ve gotten to the point where I need it every day to maintain my energy levels. As an introvert, I’ve come to value my time at the gym as valuable alone time. With such a busy schedule, the gym allows me to think to myself and recharge. 

I’m not quite there with my eating habits yet. But I have noticed that when I do eat poorly for an extended period of time. (i.e. the holidays or vacation). My stomach starts a protest, and I feel both sick and lethargic. This has deterred me to a certain degree, but I’ve still got work to do.

I also find that after prolonged periods of unhealthiness, I start to crave veggies and fruits. This is the key to maintenance.

You hear it all the time with the big diet names, and Weight Watchers is no exception — it’s about a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Crazy fad diets don’t work because you can’t keep up with them long term.

If you do choose to employ a diet or exercise plan to take off the weight, make sure its something you can sustain long term. Or if it’s a jump start program, have a separate plan for maintenance.

When you do choose to go off plan — whether it’s missing a workout or satisfying a burger craving — you should still feel in control. You should actively decide to eat a piece of cake on your best friend’s birthday rather than scarfing down 3 pieces in the kitchen while no one is looking.

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Weight Watchers, specifically,  gives you extra “Weekly Points” in addition to your daily allotment. You can distribute them throughout the week, if say, you’ve got an evening sweet tooth. Or you can save them up for the weekend and have one full day of eating whatever you want.

When I did Body for Life a few years ago, they offered a weekly “free day” for you to eat all of the unauthorized foods that you desire.

Take a day off once or twice a week or allow yourself a small treat each day. The same goes with exercising, set a schedule and stick to it, but allow yourself a few off days. I usually work out Monday through Friday and take the weekend off, but you might prefer a mid-week break. Find out what works best for you. 

This cheating allows helps you not to feel deprived of your favorite foods and give in to your cravings in a controlled way.

Once you recognize that you can’t be perfect, you can truly start living a healthy life. 

A Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go — Part 3: Accountability

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If you missed part 1 or part 2 – head on over there first – this post will be here when you get back.

Part 3: Accountability

Once you’ve mastered planning and variety, it’s time to establish some sort of accountability. While plans do help stay on track, you will need another way to monitor your progress and keep you motivated.

First, it is essential to keep track of what you put into your body. I use the Weight Watchers app to count points, but you can use a food journal, a calorie counter app, the Nike FuelBand – whatever works for you! By entering what I eat into Weight Watchers, I make myself accountable for my actions.

This is also a great way to see how bad your current habits are if you’re having trouble sticking to a plan. If you count your calories for one week – you may shock yourself into making a change for the better.

You also have to establish accountability for daily exercise. For me, the schedule in my planner is enough. I am a list maker, and the satisfaction of crossing off my workout for the day is enough to get me there.

If you’re not as neurotic as me about to-do lists, you might want to try a gym buddy, a personal trainer, or attending regularly scheduled gym classes. By making specific appointments to go to the gym, you’re less likely to skip out.

You could even blog or post about your progress online. No one likes an obnoxious gym selfie, but social media can be a great place for finding a support network. If you publicly announce your goals it makes you more accountable.

You can also try talking with loved ones about your health goals. Saying it out loud will make it more real and sharing it with people who care about you will give you someone to be accountable for.

For instance, my boyfriend is so used to my evening work out sessions that if I come home still in work clothes the first thing out of his mouth is “You didn’t go to the gym?” He’s supportive of my lifestyle change and never judgmental. Find someone who can play this role for you and ignore the haters. If you have friends who judge you for making healthy decisions, they aren’t friends at all.

How do you maintain accountability for your health?

A Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go — Part 2: Variety

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Welcome back to the Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go! Did you start planning menus, workout plans or shopping lists? If so, great! If you missed part 1, click here to go back.

Part 2: Variety

Once you’ve been on a plan for a while, you may start to get bored. This is why fad diets often fail — because they expect you to do the same things over and over and over. If you’re looking to make a lifestyle change, it’s important to add some variety in all aspects of your plans to stay on track.

Sick of the same old chicken? Look up some new recipes! There are tons of healthy recipe bloggers out there that can help to spice up your dinner table. And don’t be afraid to experiment on your own, too!

If this is how you feel about what’s on your menu for this evening, it might be time to try something new.

Have fun with it — spend some time finding a delicious healthy recipe and plan to make it on a day where you have some extra time to play around in the kitchen.

Some of my favorite food blogs are Skinny Mom’s Kitchen, SkinnyTaste and Hungry Girl, but Pinterest is also a great way to find new recipes — just be conscious of the ingredients and be sure to keep tracking. You can check out my recipe board if you need some inspiration, but fair warning — not everything in there is healthy lifestyle friendly. Feel free to follow me while you’re at it ;)

You will probably develop a set of “go to” recipes as you get used to your new schedule, but it’s also important to switch it up and try new things once in a while to keep things interesting.

Each week, I almost always have a pasta meal and some type of grilled chicken, but I also try a new recipe every few weeks. If I like it, I add it to my recipe book so I can make it again.

Your workout may also start to get boring if you’ve been on the same schedule too long. You should vary your exercises and intensity so your workouts don’t get too easy for you. You won’t be bored if you’re pushing yourself hard enough.

Try a new workout class or a new machine. Increase the weight or duration of your workout. Vary which days you do which routines. Or try a new program or interval workout you find on the internet. Mix things up and don’t let yourself get in a rut!

Try using machines in a new way. (Warning: Do not attempt: this pup is a professional)

Try using machines in a new way.
(Warning: Do not attempt: this pup is a professional)

However you decide to vary your workout, make sure you’re getting a good mix of both intense cardio workouts and weight training for all your muscles. I usually try to include at least 2 or 3 intense cardio sessions, 1-2 days of ab exercises as well as weight training days for arms and legs.

Also, when you set a new schedule, make sure you aren’t doing the same exercises or machines every day. This will get old much quicker than a routine that is different every day.

Everyone has a different philosophy on what schedule is most effective. Longer cardio. Short intense cardio. Heavy lifting. But there is no magical formula — the key to success is commitment and hard work.

Just pick what works best for you and stick to it. This may take some trial and error. So if you’re not seeing results, increase your intensity and re-evaluate.

Here is an example of my current weekly workout schedule. For my weight training days I do a circuit of the weight machines, but you could try free weights, bands or whatever works best for you. I typically do 3 sets of 12 and increase my weight over time as it becomes too easy to lift.

  • Monday: (PM) Boot Camp class
  • Tuesday: (AM) 20 mins stair climber or treadmill intervals and arm weight training
  • Wednesday: (PM) 30 mins heart rate interval on the ARC Trainer and leg weight training
  • Thursday: (PM) Spin Class
  • Friday:  (AM) 30 mins heart rate interval  on the elliptical and ab exercises

Doing this helps me get to the gym every day, but also ensures that I don’t go too easy on myself. However, I also realize that this schedule must be flexible. I spend a few minutes every Sunday preparing for the week ahead to decide how I can fit my workout in.

For example, if I have an event after work on an evening workout day, I may work out in the morning that day. If my legs are sore, and I’m supposed to lift that day, I do arms instead and move legs to another day.

But I never let myself skip a workout. By specifying the exercises, duration and time of my daily workout, I prevent myself from making excuses to skip something or take an easy day.

When you start to lose motivation and you dread getting up in the morning or dragging yourself to the gym after work — It’s time to switch things up. 

Since I’m in grad school, I make a new schedule before every semester to best fit my class/work schedule. I plan out which days I’m going in the morning, over lunch, or after work, and I stick to it. I use a mix of group classes and individual workouts to keep me interested and accountable to myself. 

How do you vary your workouts and meals? What are some of your favorite recipes and exercise routines? Share below!

I also stumbled across this article today called “Why you’re not losing weight in your 20s” — check it out for some bonus tips!

A Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go — Part 1: Planning

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I don’t have time to cook. I’m too busy to go to the gym. I can’t fit being healthy into my schedule.

Sound familiar? If you’ve fallen into the trap of these excuses — this series is for you.

When you’re constantly on the go, it’s difficult to stick to a nutrition plan and a workout schedule. But It’s not impossible. Getting your health in order will make you feel better both inside and out. You’ll feel more confident, have more energy and be able to do more of the things you think you don’t have time for. 

The truth is — you don’t have time NOT to be healthy. Older relatives are always telling us to enjoy our metabolism while it lasts. But if you develop bad habits now they are more likely to follow you through life.

About a year ago, just six months after graduation, my freshman 15 had become a permanent fixture. My self-esteem was at an all time low and my energy was dwindling. I decided to make a change and signed up for Weight Watchers as a method of keeping track of what I was putting into my body and a resource for healthy recipes and support. After a few short months, I had dropped the weight and a year later, I’m happy to report it’s still off, and I feel great.

Throughout my journey, I’ve learned a few things that I believe are the keys to healthy living for millennials on the go, and I hope they’ll inspire you to make a lifestyle change too.  In this weekly series, I will identify the factors that I found most helpful as a busy young professional trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s up to you how you plan to get healthy, and the method you choose should also depend on your goals and your individual needs, but these tips will help you select a plan that you can stick to. 

Part 1: Planning

The first step to any lifestyle change is making plans. When creating a new habit, you should start out by planning for every detail. Although it may seem like overkill, planning makes healthy decisions easier and with practice, your planning will just become a force of habit.

One of my favorite blogs — A Life Less Bullshit — talks about decision making overload in her Goal Setting Formula. When you have to make too many decisions in the day — what to wear and what’s for breakfast, let alone making work decisions — you start to get overwhelmed and you shut down.

That’s when cookies become your dinner or you end up crying on the floor in a pile of the contents of your closet. Or is that just me?

The result of decision-making overload

The result of decision-making overload

If you allow yourself to “decide” what to do at the end of the work day — its a slim to none chance that you’ll select an intense cardio workout over your bed, the couch or the dinner table. However, if you set a workout schedule and make yourself accountable to it, you’re more apt to follow through.

Planning meals is more difficult. When you first get started you have to try out new recipes and learn how to cook and eat healthily. You have to train your body to stop when it’s full and not start up again when it’s bored. Once you have your go-to recipes and basic knowledge of healthy cooking, the time it takes you to plan your weekly menu will decrease.

Planning meals also means… dun dun dun… weekly food shopping. UGH. This is one of my least favorite chores. It’s hard for me to put into works how much I hate going to the grocery store, but this GIF sums it up pretty well.

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However, when you make the switch to healthy eating, it’s important to always have fresh fruits and vegetables and this requires more frequent trips to the grocery store. On Weight Watchers, most fruits and vegetables are ZERO points, so I try to eat as many as I can to get the nutrients my body needs and feel more full. And if you’re like me and you hate food shopping — try to avoid the busiest times, go to the store on a full stomach and make sure you have enough time to browse.

Along with planning what you’re eating, you should plan when you eat. I try to eat 6 meals a day, roughly every 2-3 hours. Plan out your meals and snacks to keep yourself within a healthy range — whether you count in WW points, calories, or some other system, planning is the key to staying within your limits. For example, I always save a few WW points for an evening snack because I’ve found that no matter how late I eat dinner, my sweet tooth kicks in around 9 p.m. This way, I’m less likely to go over my points for the day.

Over time, healthy eating and daily exercise will become intuitive. Now, I don’t think about whether or not I want to exercise each day, I just do. Healthy eating hasn’t quite become a habit yet, but I’m on the right track. After a few days of poor eating my body will let me know that it needs nutrients, and I get back on my plan.

It’s not about being perfect — it’s about making a lifestyle change one step at a time. If you’re committed to becoming a better, healthier you, you have to make a commitment to yourself and find the time.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week!

Happy Halloween! — The Takeaways of Being Terrified

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I hate Halloween.

There i said it.

Ever since I was little I have always been the scaredy cat. I don’t watch horror movies, I won’t step foot in a haunted house, let alone one of those haunted trail things. And I have always hated Halloween — I don’t like being scared and I can’t understand why anyone would.

I’m afraid of spiders and the dark, chainsaw killers and ghosts. You say boo — I scream.

But despite my aversion for peeing my pants in fear, I recognize that if you allow fear to control you, you can’t grow.

If you’re not scared, you’re not taking a chance. And if you’re not taking a chance, then what the hell are you doing? — Ted Mosby, How I Met Your Mother

Change is always scary, but if you allow fear of failure to stop you from trying, you don’t give yourself a chance to succeed.

Sometimes you have to do something scary in order to move forward.

In high school, a friend of mine used to work at an amusement park haunted house. She knew how afraid I was to go in, and no matter how much I was begged, I would never join my friends on the ride.

One day while visiting her during her shift at the ride, she pushed me and my other wuss of a friend into the seat — leaving us no choice but to enter the haunted house.

After a last minute plea for help, she threw me a flashlight. With our arms wrapped around each other in fear, our cart slammed through the front door.

My friend kept her eyes closed, but I clutched the flash light and pointed it around the room.

My fear began to dissolve as I laughed at how stupid some of the “scary” skeletons and ghosts looked in the light. I urged my friend to open her eyes, and soon we both were laughing and could even spot things before they jumped out at us.

Today, when I face my fears it rarely involves ghosts and zombies.

Most recently, I was rotated to a new position at work, and I tried to resist.

I liked my current role, my boss, and I felt comfortable. But comfortable is a dangerous place to be.

Although I loved what I was doing, I realized that I was also scared of the unknown. When I realized that my fear was paralyzing my growth, I embraced the change and moved forward.

I knew that by trying something new and a little bit scary, I would learn another skill and grow as a professional.

Taking a chance and embracing change was ultimately a good decision for me. It’s been a few weeks in my new role and I’ll admit I’m still uncomfortable, but I know it’s because I’m learning and adapting.

More often than not, your fears are not what they seem. When you take a step back and shed light on what you’re really afraid of you’ll realize it’s not that scary at all.

By facing fear instead of running from it you can erase it  — and THAT is a great feeling.

A Lesson in Failure

Failure isn’t fatal. Success is never final. It is the courage to continue that counts. I hear this quote or variations of it all the time.

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A few weeks ago, I attended a presentation by a 19-year-old, whose goal is to cure aging. Simple, right? Laura Deming’s resume is incredibly impressive for anyone, let alone a teenager, but her outlook on life is mature beyond her years.

She’s had countless successes before most of us will even graduate college, but what struck me as most interesting about her was that she attributed all of her success to her one big glaring failure.

Her first attempt to start a business and open her own fund for her research was, as she put it, “a miserable failure.” But she looked at this failure not as an ending, but a beginning.

She chalked it up to a learning experience and moved on. She hasn’t found the cure to aging yet, but I have no doubt that with her tenacity, she will achieve her dream. You can learn more about Laura and watch her TED Talk here.

I came out of this presentation thinking. — holy shit, I’ve never really failed at anything! And while this might sound incredibly narcissistic, I started to believe that I needed a really big failure in order to succeed in life.

Then, recently I visited the Thomas Edison National Park – I know dorky, right? – But while there, I learned an important lesson about failure, success and myself.

Most people know that Edison invented the incandescent light bulb, but did you know it took him nearly 1,000 times to get it right?

I don’t know about you, but I doubt I wouldn’t have made it past the first five tries. But Edison said, he didn’t fail 1,000 times he simply learned 999 ways NOT to make a light bulb and he claimed to be stronger and smarter because of it.

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Without even realizing it, I’ve been living life like Thomas Edison. It’s not that I haven’t had failures in my life, it’s just that I’ve never considered them losses.

I realized that with every failure, you have two choices

1. Let it go and move on to something new

If what you’ve failed at isn’t a passion or a dream or yours, let it go!

I suck at sports — and while I could have sought out tennis lessons or fought through an injury to become a track star in high school– those things just weren’t important enough to me to put in the time and energy.

2. Get back on the horse and try again

When it comes to things I care about, I am determined to succeed — and you should be too! Goals aren’t supposed to be easy, it is your passion that will keep you motivated when the going gets tough.

After putting on a considerable amount of weight in college, I enrolled in Weight Watchers, dropped 20 pounds and so far (fingers crossed!) I’ve kept it off. I am motivated to look and feel good.

If you are passionate and care enough about something, you cannot fail. If you don’t get something right the first time, try again, try a different approach, ask someone who’s successful at “said thing” for tips and advice.

FAIL

So what I realized was, I have failed, but never at things that mattered to me, because when it comes to my passions I refuse to accept a loss. I truly believe that if you allow yourself to fail, you didn’t believe in your goal in the first place.

So next time something doesn’t go your way, take a step back and think about whether or not its worth pursuing.

If not – don’t sweat it, everyone has different dreams.

But if it is — give ‘em hell and don’t stop ‘til you get it right.

NOTE: I felt like I couldn’t post this without giving credit to “A Life Less Bullshit.” I’ve been working on this post about the idea of failure for a while, but I couldn’t seem to get to a conclusion and I kept writing in circles. One of the reasons I love reading other blogs is it helps me to process my own thoughts. I want to thank Nicole, for her recent post The #1 Secret to Success, which inspired me and led me to the conclusion above. Thanks, Nicole!