More often than not, when someone dedicates themself to a goal or resolution, especially around the New Year, it revolves around weight loss, sugar addiction or exercise. "I will lose weight this year," or "I am going to cut down on sugary foods," or "I will start exercising more" all sound great, but there is one problem...there is no clear path to get there. All of these statements are certainly attainable health goals, but the road to getting there is a little uncertain.
Anyone can lose weight. There is a big difference, however, between dropping 20 pounds in a month by crash dieting (only to have it come back on after the crash diet is over) and losing 20 pounds slowly over several months in a sustainable way.
A lot of people want to cut down on sugar, but sugar addiction is tricky. It's not just about what you cut out of your diet, it's also about what you add in.
Exercise is great! It's one of the best things you can do for the mobility and strength of your body. When are you going to carve the time out of your schedule to exercise? How are you going to start? What will you do?
If any of these broad goals sound like something you want to achieve, I strongly encourage you to get on board with a few of the following more specific goals. These are extremely attainable health goals that make it easier for you to hit the bigger goals of weight loss, or cutting out sugar or exercising more...or anything good you want to do for your body.
Attainable Health Goals
I'm a big fan of the ABCs of goal setting: Achievable, Believable and Committed.
Wherever you set the bar for your goal (s), make sure it's achievable. Setting the bar too high may lead to disappointment and a loss of motivation. For example, if you're not much of a runner, but decide you want to run a marathon in three months, you may not be setting yourself up for the achievement your desire. Start smaller with a 10K or something more doable that won't result in injury or the inability to maintain.
Believe you can do it! This may seem obvious, but if you have doubts before you even begin (often a sign of lack of desire), it will be very difficult for you to maintain confidence in achieving your goal. Either re-evaluate your decision and choose another goal, or give yourself some perspective. Our bodies and your abilities are very often capable of so much more than we could imagine! Believe in yourself.
Commit through thick and thin. When most people set a goal, they're running toward it like the Road Runner. Remember, staying committed to a goal means sticking with it through the good times and the bad times. If you fall off the wagon or get fatigued on the way to achieving your goal, rest, but don't quit. There are bound to be periods of time that make you want to throw your hands up and stop. You're human and tough times happen. Whether it's an emotional reason, a physical reason or a logistic reason, give yourself some space and return to your goal when you're ready. Whatever you do, don't throw away the progress you've made.
Grab a piece of paper, take a look at the goals below and write down three that you think you can stick to. They're all achievable. The commitment is up to you, but I'm guessing many of you already have a couple of these goals mastered.
Goal 1 - Cut Back On Sodium
Sodium is the new sugar. Sodium is nearly as responsible for weight gain, water retention, high blood pressure and vascular inflammation as sugar.
The best way to cut back on sodium is to make more food at home. When you eat out or buy processed foods, you almost always increase the amount of sodium in your body. Even healthier fast-casual foods, like Chipotle, have tons of sodium in their dishes to preserve food.
According to the World Health Organization, the average person consumes 9 to 12 grams of sodium a day. This is the equivalent of 2 to 3 teaspoons of salt, or over twice as much as we should consume in a day.
Sodium intake is strongly correlated to heart disease, stroke, obesity, and coronary heart attack. Cutting back reduces all of these risks.
You don't need to cut out, just cut back.
Goal 2 - Increase Fiber to 35 Grams a Day
Not sure how much fiber you're actually getting? There are free tracker apps you can download that will give you a sense of how much you're getting each and every day.
Higher fiber diets not only reduce cholesterol, improve digestion and control blood sugar levels, but they also reduce central obesity (belly fat).
The average person consumes somewhere between 12 to 15 grams a day.
Fiber is abundantly available in fruits, vegetables and grains. Just about anything that grows has fiber in it.
Of course, keeping these foods in as natural of state as possible keeps fiber in check. For example, potatoes are a good source of fiber, but French fries are not. Make sense?
Still need more help? Join me on January 10th for my coaching group (get 40% off today). My group includes weekly meal plans that take the guesswork about fiber out of everything.
Goal 3 - Reduce ULTRA-Processed Foods to Twice a Week
Ultra-processed foods are things like fried foods, store-bought cookies, candy, soda, processed vegetables oils, etc.
All of these foods contain very little nutrient value and greatly increase inflammation. When you increase inflammation, you naturally hang onto extra weight. Translation: when you have inflammation, weight loss is a permanent uphill battle.
Why twice a week and not entirely eliminate them? For practicality purposes. Of course, eliminating ultra-processed foods entirely is better. But especially this time of year, enjoying a cookie the odd time while sticking with a less refined diet the other 95% of the time should be of little consequence.
If you still need a little more guidance with understanding the difference between an ultra-processed food vs a processed food, I check out this post on Instagram.
Goal 4 - Drink One Cup of Water Every Hour
This is not a lot. It's eight ounces. Herbal teas and sparkling waters count. You boost your metabolism by 30% with every cup of water you drink. You don't need to overdo it, but drinking the equivalent of a juice cup of water every hour will help reduce cravings, boost metabolism, keep your skin looking amazing and improve your digestions.
Remember, even if you don't like drinking water, you can drink herbal teas and sparkling water. This might make it easier for you to maintain your hydration.
Goal 5 - Cut Out Processed Vegetable Oils
Dietary fat is good. Actually, dietary fat is great. But, like everything in the food world, there is good fat and there is bad fat.
Good fats help to benefit your heart, help to keep you feeling fuller for longer and absorb nutrients, like vitamins, A, D, K and E.
Bad fats, especially processed vegetable oils, are already oxidized by the time you consume them, which increases inflammation in your body.
The biggest offenders in the vegetable oil world are corn, canola and soybean oil. Simply cutting back on these oils will help you cut back on a great many inflammatory foods. When you have inflammatory foods under control, getting your arms around your weight becomes much, much easier.
Goal 6 - Move 30 Minutes a Day
Did you notice I didn't say exercise. Although solidly exercising for 30 minutes, or maybe 45, every single day would be great, it may not always be in the cards for your schedule or current lifestyle.
Research has shown regular exercise helps to reduce insulin resistance, decrease inflammation and, of course, develop muscle and joint health! Don't have time for a solid 30 minutes? Break it up into two (2) 15-minute chunks or three (3) 10 minute chunks.
You don’t even need to get into workout clothes to do this, just get up and move a little bit.
Goal 7 - Turn Off Screens One Hour Before Bed
This isn't a plea to get you off of Netflix or social media. Rather, when you are staring at a screen before bedtime, you're sending signals to the pineal gland of your brain that you need to stay awake. This might make sense if you're watching TV, but after you try to wind down and get some sleep, your body's sleep hormone, melatonin, won't get released as it should. In fact, some research shows that proper sleep can be delayed by up to three hours.
You literally get less quality sleep if you have a screen in front of your face shortly before bed. And since sleep is a linchpin when it comes to weight management, it's pretty important!
Goal 8 - Spend One Hour a Week Meal Prepping
Meal prepping is the absolute best way to get your arms around impulse eating and weight gain. When you eat food that you make from home, you’re much less likely to consume the amount of sodium, processed foods and sugar that you would otherwise eat.
Eating nutritiously is more about quality than quantity. Meal prepping ensures that you can control the quality of food you’re eating. Relying on restaurants and packaged food that sit on a shelf in the grocery store greatly diminishes the quality of what you’re eating.
Speaking of meal prep, one of my personal goals for 2022 is the better teach people how to meal prep in a healthier, more attainable way. Follow me on Instagram if this sounds like something you want to learn more about.