Photo: People Running

Almost half of adults set New Year’s resolutions to improve their health, only to abandon them by the end of the first month—not to speak of staying on track for six months or longer—according the University of Pennsylvania research.  We mean well, we just have difficulty figuring it out.

The key to lasting health is lifestyle.  Without lifestyle changes to improve health and quality of life, it is difficult to make healthy changes stick.  Weight loss diets, fancy smoothies and shakes, or crazy exercise regimes are not the solution. Lasting results come from behavioral changes such as eating better and simply living a healthier lifestyle.

This New Year, think about changing unhealthy habits to new ones that are good for you.  It usually takes about 2-6 months for behavioral changes to become daily habits. Create your new "norm" of eating better, staying active and living a healthy lifestyle. 

The time-honored lessons about a healthy lifestyle that we learned growing up remain as true today as ever before:

  • Eat more plant-based proteins (beans, lentils, tofu, dried peas, etc.) instead of animal proteins.
  • Add more veggies (raw and cooked) to your meals.
  • Choose whole grains, and limit refined sugars.
  • Eat out less.
  • Walk more, do physical activities you enjoy and schedule them just like you do anything else you want to get done in your day.

Use these tips to stick with your resolution of eating healthier:

Add good food

Instead of thinking about how much weight you want to lose, focus on adding more fruits and vegetables to your plate.  Make it a positive experience and keep doing it until it becomes a habit.

Clean out that kitchen

Get rid of all that junk food in your kitchen, pantry, refrigerator, office and—yes—even your car!  And then load up on healthy snacks like fresh fruit, nuts, raw veggies you can munch on with hummus or peanut butter.  You don’t need to over-think this.  If you leave junk food laying around you’re going to eat it.  So don’t do that anymore.

Carry healthy snacks with you

If you suffer from snack attacks, take a 200-calorie protein-complex snack to work or play.  A handful of mixed nuts in a baggie, pita chips and humus, pistachios and a pear, you get the idea.  Anything but junk snacks laying around the office.

Set a workout routine

Your resolution to finally set a workout routine doesn’t need to be overly aggressive.  People don’t stick with those resolutions anyway.  The people who tend to stick with their workout routine have set reasonable goals they can actually live with.  More importantly, rather than see it as temporary routine to drop a few pounds, they view fitness as a lifestyle change.  Stick with a simple routine and watch yourself develop a healthier lifestyle over time.

Take it a week at a time

It’s easier to make a plan to go running three times this week than vow to run three times per week for the entire year.  Set your fitness goals week by week.  As you succeed each week, that in itself is motivating.  Before you know it, you’ll be surprised to see yourself running farther and longer than you ever imagined.

Start small

Make resolutions that you think you can keep. If, for example, your aim is to exercise more frequently, it doesn’t take a gym membership to run 15-20 minutes in your neighborhood three times a week.

If your goal is to adopt a healthier diet, instead of seeing healthy food as a form of punishment, start out small by replacing dessert with something better for you that you might enjoy.  You’ll be surprised how easily fresh fruit can satisfy your sweet tooth. 

Feeling a little more ambitious?

Resolve to eat less meat and increase portions of vegetables. Gradually cut out meat altogether.  Leading health experts agree that going vegetarian is the single-best thing we can do for ourselves and our families. Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and provide protection against numerous diseases, including our country’s three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer, and strokes. The American Dietetic Association states that vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; ... lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer” and that vegetarians are less likely than meat-eaters to be obese. Well-planned vegetarian diets provide us with all the nutrients that we need, minus all the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants found in animal flesh and eggs.

As Always, “Love Life! Eat Healthy, Be Happy!”