Mainstream, bumper-sticker New Year’s resolutions don’t work, so stop wasting your time with them. This isn’t the year you’re finally going to lose weight or get back to exercising five times a week like you used to—not if you think of your resolutions only in terms of the results. The sad fact is that millions of people each year focus on outcome-driven goals over resolutions based on what works. What works, you might ask? Changing behavior works. It’s important to recognize weight gain is a symptom of behavior. It doesn’t randomly happen by itself, out of the blue. To get to the root of your weight gain and start down the real path to weight loss, you need to find out why you gained weight in the first place. If you have trouble sticking to your exercise plan, then you need to unearth the root causes.
Most of us get stuck in the what when we need to focus on the why. Our behaviors and decision-making are driven by our relationship with our environment. We’re intertwined with the world around us. We know we should make healthier choices, work out regularly, and manage our stress mindfully. You know that; I know that; we all know that. So, what’s stopping us? What’s stopping you? How do you make a sustainable difference in your health?
First, you can stop treating your body like a car. Don’t just drop it off at the mechanic when something goes wrong—learn to diagnose problems and fix them yourself. Where your car is concerned, you rely on your mechanic to know what to do. But have you ever asked how they do it? You don’t have to, because cars have problems, not symptoms. When engines don’t work, ninety-nine percent of the time your mechanic figures it out. It’s not that easy when it comes to your body. Changing the behaviors that lead to health, wellness, and weight loss is more than just changing out a radiator hose or installing a new CV axle. The media and overwhelming majority of fitness professionals dumb things down. They have you believing all you need to do is eat less and move more. You’re never forced to examine the reasons you don’t do those things in the first place.
This New Year, take a deep dive into what drives you. Try these five resolutions we bet you’ve never made:
Walk at Lunch Time
Most people define the success or failure of their fitness routine by the number of hours they spend at the gym. They assume they need to go somewhere and do an activity for a defined period for it to make any impact. Just like a team is a sum of its parts, your physical activity is the sum of everything you do during your day. If go to the gym for an hour a day, five days a week, but sit at a desk for eight hours beforehand and sit on the couch for three hours afterwards, that’s not enough movement. You have to work it in. Here’s a realistic goal to set, which will also save you money on that gym membership: walk for fifteen minutes during lunch time every day and see how it makes you feel. It may not be as sexy as a HIIT class, but when you knock down that first domino, the chain-reaction you start can be powerful. And you might just end up getting in great shape without all that pressure of making it to the gym at a specific time.
Eat Fat with Every Meal
Full disclosure: the science is still not completely settled on this one yet, but it makes a whole lot of sense—especially if you read the book “Eat Fat, Get Thin” by Dr. Mark Hyman. Read this New York Times blog post for a great synopsis if you’re not up for the whole book. The upshot of both the book and the post is this: despite getting plenty of exercise and following a Standard American Diet (SAD), many people gain weight and get out of shape as they age. Food industry marketing has the biggest influence on what we eat, but unfortunately it takes marketing and the public years to catch up with the latest research. The bottom line is that it’s time to stop fearing the fat. It’s time to include healthy fats with every meal. I know; we’ve all been scared to death of cholesterol forever, but we need to get past that. Eating fat at every meal can help reset your hormones and get you back in touch with your natural sense of satiety (feeling full). When it comes to your workouts, understand your body is an organic engine that needs the right kind of fuel to function at its best. What you put in your body should be a priority, not an afterthought. The type of fuel you feed your amazing organic engine will dictate how well it runs and promote or inhibit your overall fat loss.
No Emails or Phone Use After 6:00 p.m.
Eighty-four percent of cell phone users claim they can’t go a single day without their device. Are you one of those people? Do you find it difficult to unplug even when you’re home with your family? With the way technology is taking over our society these days, the trick is not adding behaviors to your routine, but taking them away. We live in a world where everything is immediate and everyone wants an answer yesterday. Counterbalancing all areas of your life requires boundaries. When you get home from work, spend time with your family—real, quality time with eye contact, hugs, and everything. Get down on the floor and do Legos with your kids or roll around with your dog. Half-way paying attention to conversations with your partner or children while scrolling through your social media sites or work inbox doesn’t count. Go all in.
Stand Up at Work
Just about everyone experiences lower back pain at some point in their lives, and it rarely happens overnight. There’s a simple fix for this: when you’re at work, stand more than you sit. Standing properly puts your body in a better position, biomechanically speaking, than sitting does. Granted, there are factors to consider such as core strength, leg strength, and any aches and pains you might have. And of course, you’ll have to address practical things like the height of your monitor and keyboard, if your work involves hours of computer time. The benefits of standing are not just biomechanical: when you stand, you get more fidgety and expend about twenty-five percent more energy than when you sit. All that movement can add up, especially if you implement some fun workstation rules such as taking a brief walk or performing dynamic mobility for at least two minutes every half hour. If you already have a desk at home, or your office mates and boss aren’t receptive to changing everything around, then think about getting a VariDesk. This product is great because it’s totally adjustable, works with have you already have, and allows you to raise and lower your work surface exactly how you want and when you want. That way you can gradually transition to standing at work without causing problems for yourself or others.
Start a Breathing Practice
Now, I must admit I’m not the go-to yoga and meditation expert at Skyterra, but I do understand the power of the breath. When you breathe correctly you strengthen your diaphragm and replenish your organs with essential nutrients. An intentional breathing practice teaches you to consciously control this typically involuntary process. Deep diaphragm breathing helps manage stress, promotes muscle elasticity, and improves your immune system. It’s not hard to start. Set aside ten to fifteen minutes each day. Focus on expanding your belly as you inhale on a count of four, then allow your belly to contract as you slowly exhale on a count of four. That’s it: four in, four out; belly out, belly in. Lots of people like to do this first thing in the morning, but I like to do it at lunch time, since most of my stress hits me after I go out into the world, not at home before breakfast. Either way, think of it as a positive reset for your system. You breathe twenty to thirty thousand times a day anyway—so it makes sense to master the process.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel Every Year
These resolution suggestions clearly aren’t rocket science. They don’t even require drastic life changes. Losing weight and getting fit don’t have to be extreme, over-the-top endeavors. The key is identifying simple behaviors that make everything in your life easier. You want to hone in on behaviors that put the brakes on the cyclical nature of weight gain. Think back to our analogy about the mechanic. Examine why you started eating more and moving less in the first place. Get under the hood of the problem, look past the symptoms, and uncover the root cause.
This New Year, make a resolution you’ve never made before.
Make it one you’ll keep.