Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Resolve yourself to small goals

Resolutions

New Years Resolutions are interesting. They are usually a combination of
all the stuff we wish we had done differently mixed with all the things we want for
ourselves, squeezed nicely into one massive more than likely difficult goal.
Interestingly they are usually health related. Some examples are:

To quit smoking
Lose weight
Run a marathon
Stop eating white flour
Meditate every night
Even money resolutions are health related.

Money is a huge cause of stress in peoples
lives. If you resolve to save money, you are resolving to lower your stress in preparation for your future or to make sure that you can afford to take care of your health in the future.

All of those resolutions are valid and great. I mean who doesn’t want a loved one to quit smoking, lose excess weight or become more empowered? It’s not the end goal I have a problem with, it’s the lack of pre-goal goals.

In order for a person to achieve a grand resolution such as Drink 8 glasses of water every day they would need to first try drinking just one. Even if you feel as though you already drink a glass of water every day, you are probably not making it conscious. Consciously commit to drinking one glass of water every day. The ultimate achievement and success of that goal is going to propel you to the next step, drinking two. I think you get the idea. When you finally get to your 8 glasses of water a day you will have gotten there by persistence and hard work. You will truly be an 8 glass of water a day person instead of a person who forces themselves to drink water all day long in order to keep up a goal they no longer remember why they made. Does that make sense?

Think about it in terms of your job or career. Did you wake up on the 31st of Decemberand shout, “I want to be a (insert name of current profession here)!” Then woke up again on the 1st to discover you had in fact been given said job.

Unless you have a truly amazing story, which I would love to hear all about, you are
going to say, “No Sarah, I have been working, studying, interviewing and constantly
striving to get to where I am. If you are anything like me you are still doing quite a bit of the striving and studying part. Now, when it comes to my job, this doesn’t depress me. This is fairly normal. It’s a part of the way society functions that we work hard for what we want and hopefully we will keep moving forward with our goals. Our little goals are what combine to help us achieve our bigger ones.
It makes sense with ones’ career so why are so many people distressed (including myself by the way) when their health goals don’t miraculously appear within the week, month or year. I can’t even count the number of times I have declared some decadent resolution on the 31st like, “I will never eat sugar again!” or “I will run for 5 miles every day!” Heck, even something as innocuous as, “I will work out three times a week” can be doomed.

I think the best way to achieve a goal is to break it down. Break it down to the smallest possible version of that goal and then slowly work your way up.
Let’s say you want to lose weight. (I only use weight loss in this example because it is a common goal for many people I meet.) Well how are you going to lose weight? Eating less and moving more? Ok, so I say start small. Let’s just take the eating thing to begin with. If you eat desert every night then maybe your first resolution could be to skip desert on one night of the week. Just the one, that’s certainly do-able. It’s small my friends. Or maybe you never eat breakfast. Well how about one day a week you eat a banana first thing. That seems reasonable, it could even be on Saturday.
Now onto the exercise portion of your goal: If you never exercise at all then you could
start with a 5-10 minute walk twice a week. I know that sounds simple and it should. The point is to achieve the goals. Try those little goals for a week or two. If it feels good and you are achieving your goal, then up the ante, but do it small. Pack your lunch 1 or 2 days a week with healthy food. Up your 5 min walks to every day. If you were already exercising maybe this means you want to add 1 day of week of weights. Or perhaps you want to make your walks longer. Each little goal will be different for each person.

My tiny goal this week is to make coffee at home one morning a week instead of buying it. The whole idea is to pick goals that are small enough to achieve and goals that are pushing you in a direction of a bigger goal. Eventually I would like to make coffee every day and put 15 dollars a week in my savings account.

Recently I met a woman who was talking about her considerable weight loss. I asked her how she did it. “Small goals”, she said. She walked for 5 minutes every day. After a week she upped it by 1 minute. She then walked for 6 minutes every day. She did the same with push-ups and crunches. She could do 4 push-ups on her knees when she began. She did 4 push-ups every other day and 8 crunches. When that became easier she did 5 push-ups and 10 crunches. She just kept moving forward in small baby steps. She is one of those women who I truly believe will keep her weight off because she lost it slowly. It’s the same with all your health goals. I propose that everyone take a good look at your health resolutions for 2011 and see how you can make them smaller in order to make the bigger ones stick.


Be Good To Your Body, It’s Where You Live.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rituals for Health

As we near closer to Christmas (only 5 days away) I can’t stop thinking about all the rituals in my life. I am a fan of Christmas but whether you celebrate Hannukah, Kwanza or Vesak, you are participating in a ritual and according to scientists, it’s good for us.

Rituals are described as “Who we are” and routines are “What needs to be done”.

I for one have a heaping of routines. I routinely go to bed by 10pm. I drink coffee every morning and tea in the afternoon. I walk my dog. I clean my ears, I take my vitamins… The list could go on and on.

As far as rituals are concerned, I have a bunch of those too. Sunday morning big breakfasts and rainy day movie marathons. Saving the wishbone. Thanksgiving turkey. Decorating the Christmas tree. Addressing my Christmas cards while watching Miracle on 34th Street. Blowing the pollen off a dandelion while making a wish. Holding my breath in the Golden Gate tunnel. These are all rituals. Oh and one more I forgot, exercise. That’s right my friends, exercise is a ritual for me; a ritual I routinely do. It is something I do for my health and it pays me back with a double serving of good for ya. Ideally I would like everyone to start thinking about making exercise into a ritual. Something that isn’t just necessary but something that makes you who you are. You are healthy, not you are being healthy right now. But my advice on how to make exercise into a ritual or at least a routine is for another article.

Today I want to express my hope and wish for everyone during the holidays (whatever you may be celebrating) that you embrace the ritual closest to your heart and know that in doing nothing more than that, you are living a healthier life.

I know that I am going to sit around the Christmas tree and pass out presents and eat too much sugar and listen to cheesy Bing Crosby music and watch It's a wonderful life too many times and take lots of pictures and tell everyone I know how much I love them. I am going to giggle with anticipation at having my presents opened and loved. That is part of my Christmas ritual. May yours be just as perfect, for you.

Be Good to your body, it's where you live!

Holiday Party Survival Guide

Reading the lovely Facebook yesterday, I noticed a comment from a friend of mine, “Why do magazines always tell you to stock up on healthy foods before going to that holiday party? It doesn’t matter how much broccoli I eat before a party, if there are cookies there, I will want one of those too!”

How many of you can relate?

I know that many times in my life I have eaten a meal before going out in the hopes that it will keep me from munching and somehow ended up eating two meals: the healthy meal and the “oh I’m not really that hungry, ok just a bite or maybe 17 meal.

The main problem here is that it’s pretty easy when faced with the delectables of a holiday party to eat when we’re already full. Actually, if I’m perfectly honest, it’s easy to eat when I’m full if there’s food around and I’m near it. This phenomena doubles if I’ve had alcohol.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the sentiment of eat healthy food first but I know that instead of helping me it’s going to make me eat two meals. A better idea for me and maybe for you is just to be honest with yourself.

I am going to Jane’s party. Jane will serve cookies and crab cakes and champagne. I will savor a bite of everything I want. I will enjoy it and truly taste the magnificent flavors. I will go home feeling full but not guilty because I was supposed to eat at the party. Tomorrow I will have oatmeal for breakfast and I will reminisce about how awesome it feels to just enjoy something during the holidays.

Bon App├ętit to everyone!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SAD

Well it looks as if our beautiful warm (often times hot) weather seems to have gone to sleep in order to make way for winter. Believe me I am the first to mourn the absence of warm sunshine and I am certainly no fan of cold wind and rain, however I am also aware that as the clouds creep in I must make extra sure to keep the mean reds from following suit.

I have my good moments when I start to feel all excited because I finally get to wear that cute winter coat and who doesn’t love a big cup of cocoa by the fire. Not that I have a fire, but the thought is nice J

Then there are other days when I am tired and cold and don’t want to get out of bed and think that maybe just taking the rest of the winter off, catching up on my prime time and eating everything in my emergency earthquake cupboard might be a good idea. This is when I know that I am SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that usually occurs during the winter months. It is not certain what exactly causes SAD but that it most likely has something to do with the decrease in our bodies’ exposure to sunlight. It can make you depressed or anxious, increase your appetite and weight gain, and it can also lessen your desire to be social. Scientists have also found that people who are depressed will have lower levels of serotonin.

If you think that perhaps you are SAD then I suggest contacting your doctor. If you feel down but your symptoms are less severe, then you might be harboring a case of the winter blues. Either way something proactive you can do to feel better is get outside and exercise.

I know it sounds crazy but it really does work. The natural light (even in winter) has been known to lessen the effects of SAD and the winter blues and exercise is a natural serotonin high. So when you start to feel like a bear about to go in for hibernation, remind yourself that going outside for a walk will actually improve your mood even if it seems like it won’t.

Make sure if you are exercising outdoors in the cold that you pay close attention to your clothing. I am talking about layers. Keep a fitted wicking layer close to your body. Material such as polypropylene, silk, polyester, Thermax or wool are good options. Try to avoid cotton as your base layer. Because cotton traps moisture it will stay wet and draw heat away from you. A middle layer such as fleece keeps you insulated and a top layer to protect you from the wind. Even when it’s cold, exercising will get your body heat up so feel free to de-layer as you see fit. Much of our body heat escapes from our hands and head so why not wear a hat and gloves too. It’s also a good idea to keep an extra sweater handy for after your exercise so that you don’t get chilly as your body cools down. If you are from Minnesota and you think the weather right now is warm and balmy then by all means skip the gloves. I on the other hand am from California and I am cold all the time.

So this week and for the rest of the winter whenever you start to feel like the winter blues might start creeping up on you, get outside and move! Your mood will thank you in the morning.

Be Good to your body, it's where you live!