Healthy Resolutions: A Healthy Parent = A Healthy Family

Well, it’s the end of the first month of the new year. Have you set any healthy resolutions?  Have you thought about how you plan to make 2011 healthy/healthier for your family?  What message does your personal lifestyle communicte to your children?  I think these are all questions we should contemplate for the sake of our family’s future wellness.

I was contacted by Everyday Health to provide answers to very important questions regarding New Year’s Resolutions and wellness goals. As a big advocate for being a healthy role model for children, I felt it was important to answer these questions for all moms and dads trying to make 2011 the healthiest year yet. Many of these questions discuss weight loss and getting fit, however, they can be used for other nutrition and wellness goals as well.  So here we go!

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1) We all make New Year’s resolutions, and often these resolutions involve weight loss or fitness goals. But many of us quickly lose traction and don’t achieve our goals. What are the psychological and emotional reasons behind these failures?

A person truly needs to be ready to make changes.  Any purposeful, positive change in life is rarely an easy thing, so you must be dedicate time and effort.  In those that come to see me for nutrition guidance, I usually can tell in the first session if they are truly ready to make the changes needed to achieve their goal.  Confidence and optimism at the start of any effort are both critical. Confidence certainly feeds into optimism and vice versa. Believe that you can achieve the goals that you set before you. Check your confidence level – and make sure you go into your resolutions with the right attitude.

2) What is the biggest mistake people make when making a resolution?

They don’t get specific enough with that their resolution(s). They cannot just say, “I want to be healthier in 2011.” Well, what does that mean? And how do you plan to go about doing that? Goals need to be written down along with a game plan on how to get there and posted with a completion date. Lastly, choose an accountability partner that knows about the goals you have set and have them follow-up with you on your progress.

Are you setting yourself up for failure when you make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight or get fit?

I don’t believe so. I believe every single day brings with it a new beginning – a renewed opportunity to head down the optimal path in any area of your life. Your past mistakes should be seen as learning curves, and not as a gauge to how you will do going forward. So, whether it’s a new year, a new month or even a new day – they all bring with it a chance to start fresh.

3) How do you set reasonable, healthy expectations when you resolve to lose weight or shape up at this time of year or any other time of year?

One must resolve not to fall prey of fad diets or quick fixes. Many out there are desperate to get the result and this is the cause of that temptation. Instead, set very specific, realistic and measurable goals that include just a couple impactful nutrition goals and a couple exercise goals. Again, write them down and have someone else sign the document with you for accountability. Re-evaluate those goals and objectives every six weeks or so to work through any stumbling blocks or just to adjust goals to fit your progress. This helps to keep the challenge going as you get closer and closer to your goal.

4) What kind of support should you seek to help you achieve your goals?

I truly believe the guidance of a Registered Dietitian (RD) in the area of nutrition expertise is extremely helpful. RDs are nutrition scientists that practice evidence-based nutrition that are also equipped to assist in goal setting, accountability and practical tools that will help you get there. Dietitians that work specifically in weight management and wellness have experience working with many types of people and can tailor a plan that fits your specific needs. You can find an RD in your area by going to the American Dietetic Association website at http://www.eatright.org/.

5) What are three things you can do to improve your chances of success before you make a healthy lifestyle change?

1. Be motivated to live a healthy lifestyle for more than body weight only. In my experience in working with hundreds of weight loss clients, I find that most of those only motivated by weight loss or attaining a number on the scale are the least successful. But those wanting to have more energy, optimize their health, feel better – are the ones that do better. The cool thing is that the weight takes care of itself! I believe that this is true because the desperation leaves the scene and it allows a person to fully grasp healthy lifestyle concepts. Come to the realization that everything flows from a healthy body and you want to be healthy for more than a jean or dress size. Do you want to be a better parent? Do you want to climb the ladder in your profession? Do you want to positively influence others? It is all more achievable from a healthy and well body.

2. Clear the clutter out of your life. What are you involved in that is keeping you from living a healthy lifestyle? Many times we are involved in too many activities and they are not really nourishing to our lives. You may need to make a life goal list and then tailor all that you are involved in to that life goal list. Bow out of things that do not align to that list.

3. Know what a healthy lifestyle is and what it isn’t. Healthy lifestyles ebb and flow with the changes and adaptations of life. It should not be a militaristic approach that doesn’t allow for flexing. It is the simple changes made over time that have their biggest and long lasting impact.

6) Why is it so hard to keep the weight off after a diet, and what can you do to maintain weight loss?

Many people go on fad diets and they are very impractical – some 500 calories a day or less. Crash diets do nothing to train you for the real world. Again, seek the advice of a Registered Dietitian so they can put together a reasonable plan that will allow for a modest weight loss per week. Modest, but consistent weight loss preserves lean tissue – which is what drives the rate at which you burn calories. We lose lean tissue just by aging. We don’t need a fad diet’s help to do that for us!

But also, much research has shown that people that have previously been overweight need to be even more active to maintain a lower body weight as compared to others that have never been overweight. High levels of physical activity (one hour most days of the week) must be a regular part of a successful weight loser’s life. Other great things have been learned by the National Weight Control Registry out of Brown Medical School. Check it out!

7) Can you rearrange your life in any way to make it easier to avoid diet temptations?

If there is any food in your home or office that sends you into poor eating patterns then I would suggest keeping those foods away to avoid the trigger. Instead, enjoy them in moderation away from your everyday location. Also, your taste buds change as you start eating more nutrient-rich foods. After having lowered sugar and fat in your diet for a period of time, many people find when they go back to eating those foods they seem much richer and more sugary than before.

We also must dismiss all those reasons why a person may eat when not hungry. Be sure to address any emotional reasons why you might be turning to food when making changes to your lifestyle. If needed, seek the help from a counselor or psychologist and they can help you identify your deeper issues here.

8) What advice do you have for people who just don’t like to exercise or who avoid it for other reasons?

I say that a weak heart wants to stay weak. What I mean by that is that your heart is a muscle. When you are sedentary, the heart muscle gets easily fatigued. I don’t know about you, but it’s a scary concept to think about having a weak heart! It’s the organ that pumps blood to everything else. So I say, challenge yourself. Start off slow and observe the feelings after exercise. The body is made to move and must do so in order to be healthy. Don’t’ decide to work out or not to workout based on emotions. Do find something that interests you, but don’t decide to work out because you “don’t feel like it.” I absolutely love running, but there are still times that my mind tries to talk me out of it – and I teach this stuff! Set your exercise goals by detailing what days and times you plan to do them and follow through. I never regret going for a run. On the contrary – I say, “whew. I am so glad I did that!!”

9) When you’re making a resolution to improve your health, who should you recruit to be on your wellness team?

Annual medical checks by your physician are vital. In addition to being followed by a dietitian, encourage your loved ones to join you. Surround yourself with like-minded people and you will be more successful. As your lifestyle changes, you may surely find that the things you used to like to do will change as well. And that may involve a shift in the people you hang out with on a regular basis.

10) It’s easy to make excuses when you’re juggling work and family responsibilities. How can you make time for your resolutions in a hectic schedule?

Prioritize. If you truly feel something is important in your life, you will find the time. Bottom line: If you think you don’t have time for something, it’s truly not that important to you yet.  Ouch!  Yep, I said it.  It’s just the truth.

If you have set any healthy New Year’s Resolutions, I would love to hear from you by commenting below. Or, if you have had past success by setting New Year’s Resolutions, let me know what component(s) of your plan helped to make you successful. Let’s all learn from each other!