January 1 is when you finally resolved to live a healthier lifestyle, but less than two weeks into the new year you find yourself looking longingly at that final cigarette you didn’t have the heart to throw out or the last piece of cake at the back of the fridge.
While many people still set those groundbreaking goals when the clock strikes midnight, New Year’s resolutions aren’t the only way to get healthy and stay on track. There are plenty of ways to make and keep healthy habits, say specialists at the Woolwich Community Health Centre (WCHC).“I think setting lofty New Year’s resolutions can be very stressful for some people because they have yet another expectation, another activity that they are trying to fit into their already busy lives,” said program coordinator Lynda Kohler.
The centre’s last community assessment showed that people who set health goals can feel more stressed out, usually because their objectives are too difficult to achieve. For this reason, Kohler says, “setting realistic goals can also enhance your mental wellness.”
WCHC health experts agree, claiming that though the rolling over of the calendar is a traditional time for resolutions, health goals should be approached practically and with better follow-through.
“For myself even, I try to set goals every week or every month, making them realistic and specific and achievable. … I think it should be engrained in your lifestyle of how you live,” said registered dietician Tiffany Krahn.
Krahn encourages her clients to pick from a list of specific health changes they want to achieve and start small.
“One of the things is developing self-efficacy – one of the greatest ways to do that is to do the easiest thing first and then you can go on and achieve bigger and bigger goals.”
The centre’s physiotherapist, Bernadette Vanspall, agrees, adding that when it comes to an exercise regime, start with something you enjoy. When you hit a snag in your new routine, cut yourself some slack and look at how you can modify your goals.
Often we get caught up in a certain routine and do not take obstacles into consideration, she says. If pouring rain or heavy snow stops you from your outdoor exercises, for example, there are still ways to improvise: all it takes is a little imagination.
“If I have stairs in the house I can go up and down those stairs so many times; sit down and get up from a chair: if I do that enough times those are good leg exercises and a good cardio workout,” Vanspall said.
What they both agree on is the need for more physical activity all day, not just while working out. Our lifestyles have made us lazy, Krahn says: from opting to take the escalator instead of the stairs to driving everywhere, people eliminate small opportunities to stay physically fit, and the little things do add up.
“As you see more fast food and more convenient living you see the increase in weight and the trend in obesity. Yes, we need to work out, but be physically active through the day,” she said.
If you are set on making that resolution stick this year, two basic principles can help:
For one, telling a friend may help keep you on track and feeling accountable for your New Year’s resolutions, Krahn says.
“Some people put it on Facebook or tell a friend, but if you have some sort of responsibility – if you put it out there – then you are more likely to carry it through.”
The other tip: mix it up, Vaspall says, and keep your exercise routines interesting.
“Variety is the spice of life, so that we are not doing the same old things. You do something new that not only stimulates you physically but mentally and even your spirit.”