After months of being cooped up at home, away from gyms and closer to our pantries than ever, it's understandable that many of us may have suffered some weight gain. Now that 2021 is here, many are looking for ways to get healthier, be more active and shed the extra pounds we gained in 2020. And while there are endless diets, workout routines and exercise apps out there to help us do this from home, it helps to know what you want to achieve before deciding how to achieve it.
"First things first, you want to decide what your goal is," said Blount Memorial registered dietitian Heather Pierce. "Are you wanting to live healthier, look better or feel better? Are you just hoping to be able to get down in the floor to play with your kids or grandkids? It's best to go with a goal that is realistic. You may want to lose 50 pounds in the long term, but even just a five percent weight loss can do so much for our cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood pressure. Maybe start by setting a goal of walking one mile if you couldn't before," she explained. "Achieving those small goals gives us confidence to continue making small changes, which ultimately will lead to achieving larger goals down the line," she added.
Pierce says one important step is to prepare your environment for success. "It's one thing to make a plan to replace all those sodas you're drinking with water, but if sodas are still in the refrigerator for easy access, you're not likely to succeed," she said. "For some people, it's helpful to keep those types of 'trigger foods' out of the home or, at the very least, hidden. Particularly when it comes to highly addictive foods like processed carbohydrates, though, it’s not as simple as having these in 'moderation.' These foods are designed to make you want more and they do a pretty good job," she explained. "It also can be helpful to ask for support from your family and friends, plan meals and snacks ahead of time, and put exercise and activity on your calendar just as you would appointments," she added.
"Another thing to consider is how you can make these changes less of a diet and more of a lifestyle," Pierce continued. "If, for instance, you really like bread, maybe try reducing your portions rather than trying to cut it out forever. It also can be helpful to swap foods you love for healthier options, rather than just telling yourself to avoid those foods altogether," she said. "Sometimes, it can be beneficial to try to modify your behavior instead of trying to change it all at once," she added.
Finally, Pierce says, visualize yourself sticking with the changes you're hoping to make. "Imagine what your new lifestyle will look like," she said. "What does your new plate consist of? Picture yourself walking in your neighborhood. Also, visualize your rewards. These could be tangible rewards, such as a new pair of shoes, or just a feeling of exhilaration once you’ve finished your first 5K. Our reward system is important because it helps us release endorphins. Those 'feel good' chemicals can fuel us to make more healthy decisions. If you are having trouble with visualizing a healthier plan for yourself, it may be helpful to consult professionals, such as dietitians or personal trainers, who can help you develop a plan. Lastly, expect that you will 'fall off the wagon.' No one is perfect, after all. If you were traveling and realized that you had missed your turn, would you keep going? No, you would turn around. Use this thinking to motivate yourself to get back on track," she said. "You have to believe you can, and the supportive environment that you’ve structured will help you get back on the right path," she added.