When the calendar page flips and we begin not only a new month but also a new year, thoughts quickly turn to how we can improve. If you are in recovery, this is likely a continual focus, but with the new year comes the solidarity of New Year’s resolutions and commitments to sweeping, positive change among friends and family members that can be hugely compelling. The same changes you may have tried to make at different points throughout the year are now bolstered by others doing the same; in fact, an estimated 50 million Americans will be striving for weight loss right along with you.
If your New Year’s resolution is to boost your recovery by losing weight and getting healthy, then you are making a great choice. Dropping extra pounds that are slowing you down mentally and physically will help you to:
- Sleep better
- Feel better
- Feel more confident
- Fight off viruses
- Have more energy
All of these will empower you to be more balanced in your recovery and help you to make positive choices when faced with stressors that might otherwise trigger cravings or relapse.
Ready to make 2017 the year you get physically healthy? Here are 10 tips to help you on your way:
- Be honest with yourself. If you are obese, it may be realistic to lose 25-50 pounds in a year with dedication and hard work. But if your goal number is unrealistic or would put you at an unhealthy weight, you will either be unsuccessful and disappointed, or you may employ unhealthy weight loss mechanisms that can cause serious physical and emotional health problems that are dangerous and unsustainable. Choose a goal for yourself that makes sense for your lifestyle and your body type, and make it one that you can reasonably accomplish.
- Know your motivation. Even though the underlying goals for weight loss are to get and stay healthy, all of us have something a little more fun that keeps us going when we are in diet mode. When we keep that goal in mind, it can be positively motivating when we are bored with healthy food or disinterested in working out. It might be pictures of the places you would like to travel and wear a bathing suit, or pictures of your kids – the people you would like to keep up with and play with more easily. It might be a picture of a family member whom you lost to heart disease or diabetes – both diseases that occur in higher rates among those who are overweight and obese.
- Work out. It is true that a big part of weight loss is what you eat, but you will increase your metabolism and give your overall health a boost when you exercise regularly as well. Shoot for an average of 30 minutes a day to get good heart and muscle-building benefits.
- Mix up your workouts. Though cardiovascular exercises like running or cycling can give you a big calorie burn, lifting weights can be helpful to weight loss as well and helps to keep your workouts interesting and productive. Simply “phoning it in” on the treadmill for a half-hour each day isn’t going to help you gain as much progress toward your goal as incorporating the use of free weights, mechanical weight machines, or weight-bearing exercises like pushups and burpees to improve your strength and build muscles that burn calories at a higher rate than fat.
- Lose with your crew. When you have friends who are similarly working to lose weight healthfully and in it to win it for the long-term, you have people who will hold you accountable, encourage you, and enjoy the workouts and healthy meals with you. Everything is easier when you have support.
- Watch your portions. Of course, you will want to eat lots of vegetables; cut your intake of sugar, trans fats, fried foods, and processed foods in general; sub whole grains for processed non-nutritive carbs; and otherwise eat healthfully. In addition, portion control will be important as you work toward weight loss as well. Keep it reasonable, give yourself time to digest, and keep your snacks light.
- Drink lots of water. Not only does water help to fill you up when you are just bored, but it can also help your body to more effectively process the nutrients out of the healthy food you are eating, keep you hydrated, and improve your energy levels. Proper hydration provides a host of other benefits as well.
- Practice mindfulness. Eating mindfully can help you to avoid overeating, grabbing whatever is available when you are starving, and eating when you are bored. You can do this by planning your meals in advance, preparing yourself a plate every time you eat rather than eating out of a bag, and doing nothing but eating during mealtime so your brain and body can work together to determine when you are satiated.
- Track your progress. Everything you do that contributes to your weight loss – from what you eat, to when and how you work out, to weight loss meetings you attend – can and should be tracked so you can always look back and appreciate how far you have come as well as the patterns of behavior you are developing and/or changing.
- Stay positive. Rather than focus on difficulties that come up as you embark on your weight loss journey, focus on the positive things. Know that you can do this, that you can commit and follow through, and that you will enjoy the benefits when you reach your goal and you will begin to experience those benefits along the way.