As we approach the new year, many people may be planning New Year’s resolutions. Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions often include something related to health, and more specifically weight loss. While that’s not a bad resolution, there are many ways to positively impact our health. Weight itself is just a number that tells us very little about health without any additional context, yet we put so much emphasis on it. Take the pressure off weight loss and put the focus on healthful choices. Here are a few ideas for New Year’s resolutions that are not about weight loss.
The great thing about exercise is that anything counts. Any movement is physical activity and that adds up. Exercise does not have to be a gym, you do not have to get sweaty, and you do not have to hate it. Finding something you enjoy will that will make you more consistent, and having fun while exercising will make the time go faster, along with making the task less of a chore. Sometimes our habits with exercise are thinking or choosing exercise we “should” do versus what we “want” to do. Give yourself the grace to pick different forms of exercise for different moods. There will be times when a nice slow walk is what you need, or times when you want to get your heart rate up and workout some energy or stress, other times your body may be in need of a stretch. Let your body and your interests be your guide, rather than committing to X pounds of weight loss, commit to X number of days a week to be active. Start small with two days, and after about a month keep increasing by one day a week.
Trying a New Form of Exercise
Exercise and fitness does not have to be in one single area. In fact, it’s better for well-rounded health to not just do one form of exercise. Mix it up and avoid boredom by changing up what you do, which is also a great way to see different results and find new motivation. If you have been sticking with cardio for a long time, try some strength training. If you have been a regular lifter at the gym, try some yoga. If you have been doing a lot of low intensity exercise, try a new group fitness class like Zumba. Perhaps your resolution could be to try one new form of exercise a month, which is a great way to learn more about your options out there to find something you really enjoy. If your goal is consistency, this can break up some of the boredom or burnout of doing the same old thing. Consistent exercise and trying new things is a great way to also get more in touch with how your body feels. Rather than pressuring yourself to what you think you “should” be doing, let your body tell you what it “wants” to do.
Expand Your Diet
New Year’s resolutions often involve diet and exercise to get at the topic of weight loss, and while diets regularly mean restricting food, a way to change that up is to expand your diet. Go back to the foods on your “I don’t like that” list and see if that is still the case. Maybe your tastes have changed, or you have never had the item prepared that way, or maybe, like with exercise, you have been sticking to the same old thing. This can be a great way to try foods you have never had before, or get more variety in your diet by trying to have a different vegetable every night with dinner. A healthy relationship with food is not about control and restriction, but rather about enjoyment and satisfaction. Try that new restaurant, take a cooking class, or host a potluck. A genius idea from a friend was rather than a traditional book club, they host a cook book club. Each month someone picked a different cookbook and everyone picked a different recipe out of the book so they could all gather, share in a meal, and discuss the food and cookbook (or wherever the conversation wandered).
Life can feel like it’s passing us by sometimes. To build a better relationship with you and your health, stop beating yourself up by trying to attain the idea of perfection. It is not a realistic goal, or a happy journey. Pick things that you enjoy, connect you with your body, and do what makes you feel empowered by your choices. It’s time to let go of the guilt and the rules, to find your own balance with your diet, exercise, health, and whatever else you deem important.
Kimberly Burke is a lecturer in the Department of Health and Exercise Science and the director of their Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members, while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more, see the Adult Fitness Program website