It's getting close to the end of January, but have you made your New Year's resolutions yet? Millions of Americans resolve to lose weight each January but often abandon the effort relatively quickly, defeated and frustrated at their failure to achieve their resolution. However, this does not need to be you!
This is a great time of year to focus on reaching your fitness and weight loss goals. A new year feels like a fresh start. The holidays, characterized by excess eating and drinking, are over.
Your energy, which has been focused on purchasing gifts and entertaining friends and family, can be directed towards taking care of yourself. This year, why not consider a new approach to your resolution to lose weight? Here are some suggestions which just might make all the difference in achieving and maintaining weight loss:
Set realistic goals for yourself
You want those extra pounds to disappear yesterday. Who doesn't? Often, people will strive for a weight loss goal that is often unrealistic because it's too much too soon. You can safely lose one to two pounds per week but any more than that can be dangerous and it's doubtful you'll maintain that loss.
This year, think of weight loss as a result of changing your lifestyle, and therefore an ongoing process. Focus on changing exercise and nutrition habits for the long term. There's no quick fix.
Remember, it's about losing AND maintaining or it's not successful weight loss.
Focus on the basics
Successful weight loss happens when you consume fewer calories than you expend. You consume calories through food, which means it is critical to make changes in your eating habits in order to consume fewer calories. You expend calories through exercise, which means the more exercise you do on a daily basis, the more calories you'll burn. This is what leads to weight loss. That's it!
So avoid the fad diets and think about putting a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and good fats into your body every day. Make sure your regular dose of cardiovascular exercise (exercise that raises your heart rate) is something you participate in consistently.
But always remember to ease into an exercise program based on what is appropriate for your individual level of fitness, not only to avoid injury but to ensure you don't burn yourself out by doing too much too soon.
Work up to 30-60 minutes of exercise five days a week. It is also wise to consult with your physician before beginning a fitness program.
The joys of strength training
Your fitness program is not complete without participating in at least 30 minutes of strength training two to three times a week. Strength training is an important component of a healthy fit lifestyle and contributes substantially to weight loss and maintenance.
Muscle burns calories for fuel - the more you have, the more you burn. Not only will you feel stronger and function more easily in your daily routine, you'll find yourself seeing muscle definition you'd forgotten all about (no need to worry about bulking up-it's almost impossible to do with moderate weight training).
Always start with light weights and ease into a routine to avoid burn out. If you've never strength trained before you might want to think about working with a professional to avoid the risk of injury.
Get professional help
Consider working with a personal fitness trainer to get started with your exercise program. A good trainer can write you an individualized safe and effective strength and cardiovascular fitness plan and help you make changes as your fitness level improves.
You can work with a trainer on a one-time, weekly, monthly or semi-regular basis. Always ask about the trainer's certification. Two of the most widely recognized and respected certifications are the American College of Sports Medicine (www.acsm.org) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (www.nsca-lift.org.) It's also a good idea to ask friends and family for referrals to their trainer, if they work with one.
Get a support system
Work out with a friend. Get your family involved in planning healthier meals and snacks. Organize group walks or bike rides or hikes. Go for an evening walk with your spouse.
If you surround yourself with people who are supportive and encouraging of your fitness goals, as well as those who are striving toward their own goals, it will help keep you on track.
It's all about YOU
Make yourself, your body, your health and your fitness your priority. No one else will. Get into your new habits and your new lifestyle at an easy pace. Put your exercise sessions into your schedule and set them in stone. Plan your meals so you won't find yourself eating that entire bag of chips in a hunger-induced frenzy. You live in your body every single day, and you should enjoy it!
It's a brand new year! There is no reason you can't successfully resolve to become fit and happy through a healthier lifestyle. Wouldn't it be satisfying to find yourself not needing to make a new year's weight loss resolution next year?
Now, that is a goal worth striving for!
Pritam Andreassen, NSCA-CPT, is an independent fitness trainer in Seattle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.