How to Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions

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December 30, 2014


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This post is available in: Spanish

With the arrival of a new year, many of us are being visited by the ghosts of New Year’s past – those resolutions that show up on our lists year after year only to vanish months or even weeks later. Along with those resolutions, go our plans for creating a healthier, happier version of ourselves.

Experts say it doesn’t have to be that way, particularly when it comes to losing weight and getting fit.  Combining a focus on enjoyment with a little planning can make healthy habits part of your daily life, said Yeisel Barquin, M.D., a Baptist Health Primary Care physician specializing in weight-loss medicine, obesity and diabetes. First, start with a health screening from your physician.

“It’s important when you start a nutrition or exercise program, to know what your goals are and what you have to focus on,” she said.

A screening can reveal your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, blood pressure and body mass index, a ratio of  weight to height that provides an estimate of body fat. With a clearer picture of your overall health, she said, you can set reasonable goals and develop a plan that works for you.

Dr. Barquin offers these tips for reaching your fitness and nutrition goals in 2015:

Focus on fun.  Do you like Zumba, swimming, biking or walking? What’s your favorite sport or activity?   “When I meet my patients for the first time, I don’t tell them to exercise. I tell them to think about the type of physical activity they will enjoy,” she said. Fun is important, because if you view exercise as just another obligation to fulfill, you won’t stick with it.

Include friends and family. Research shows that exercising with someone achieves better results.

Be realistic, particularly in the beginning. Dr. Barquin recommends 45 minutes of exercise five days a week for weight loss. However, 15 minutes a day may be a starting point, depending on your fitness level. 

Choose an affordable option. Exercise does not have to include expensive gym wear, a trip to the gym or a personal trainer. Choose an exercise routine you can afford.

Look for opportunities to exercise. Use half of your lunch hour to walk. Are your kids involved in organized sports? Walk or jog around the edge of the field when your kids have soccer practice. “Keep moving,” Dr. Barquin said. “Any exercise can help. What doesn’t contribute to your health is sitting down all day.”

Count calories and focus on portion control. For people who must lose weight, counting calories is an important tool, since most people usually underestimate their calorie intake.

Limit processed foods, and choose the Mediterranean-style diet. Some processed foods contain additives that may impact metabolism. Unlike restrictive diets, the Mediterranean-style diet includes all food groups, fish or lean meat, vegetables and good carbohydrates and fats.  It stops the vicious cycle of using extreme diets and then gaining back the weight.  “It’s healthy for your heart, for your cholesterol and for your mental health,” she said.

Sleep at least 7.5 hours per night. People who are sleep-deprived produce more ghrelin the hormone that increases appetite, she said. Without enough sleep, weight loss is much more difficult. (For more information check out:  Sleep-Starved and Overeating?)

Release anxiety.  Anxiety affects our sleep patterns and ultimately our eating. Prayer, meditation, and yes, exercise can help you relieve stress and maintain a healthy diet. Remember, Dr. Barquin said, exercise releases the same chemicals that anti-anxiety drugs contain. “Unfortunately, most people don’t realize the total benefits of 30 minutes of exercising.”

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