We had the best intentions going into the holiday season: we’d forgo the sweets and fatty foods, get plenty of exercise with all that vacation time, and rest up for the New Year. Nevermind that new baby at home, forget the hormonal surges causing us to crave all kinds of indulgences, and ignore the fact that we tend to expect too much of ourselves anyway. With so much on our plates figuratively, we ended up with too much on our plates literally, and we’re left with that sinking feeling of “Now what do I do?”
Never fear—I’ve come up with a real-life “rewind” button to erase your holiday splurges. Not only can you set your sights on a healthier New Year, it’s actually possible to undo some of our recent transgressions. The seven easy steps below will get you started.
All is not lost.
Remember that it takes thirty-five hundred calories to make a pound. That’s a hefty hunk of food, even for a devout chocoholic. Chances are, we didn’t take in thirty-five hundred extra calories every day throughout the season, so we may be better off than we think. Go ahead and embrace a positive mindset and then get started on the steps below.
It’s a message that bears repeating: drink more water. Claims that water can flush fat from our bodies may be a bit overstated, but there’s no doubt that staying properly hydrated is good for any body in any condition. Muscles and even brain function suffer when we’re only 10 percent dehydrated; metabolism may falter as well. Begin with an easy goal: just add one glass of water to your regimen every other day until you reach a total of forty-eight to sixty-four ounces daily. Within two weeks, even the thirstiest among us should be well-hydrated.
ACE those free radicals.
Oxidation is the process that ages every cell in our bodies. Slice an apple and let it sit for a few minutes—free radicals oxidize the surface, making it wither and turn brown. A very similar thing happens within our bodies. Think of free radicals as wild kids that begin miniature riots at a cellular level; antioxidants are the police sirens that stop them in their tracks. Vitamins A, C, and E are potent antioxidants that help cells stay young and vital. Finding colorful foods like orange yams, blue-green broccoli, rich brown almonds, and indigo blueberries is an easy way to find antioxidants in the produce section.
Eat more, not less.
Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? There is a twist: eat more foods that pack a nutritional punch. Focus on eating as many vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains as you can for a week while you ignore any resolution regarding sweets and high-fat foods. Simply focus on having a variety of healthful foods and observe what happens to the desire to splurge. Give in if you want to, but it’s likely you won’t want the “bad” foods as much. Once our bodies become accustomed to getting the nutrients they need, we find it progressively (and surprisingly!) easier to bypass foods that are high in calories but low in nutritive value.
Take it one meal at a time.
If a week-long plan seems too daunting for now, just take it one meal at a time. So, you had a danish for breakfast. Big deal! Give yourself a break and have a lunch that’s high in lean protein, veggies, and fruits. Suppose you had a four-star lunch, but by dinnertime, your tastebuds simply must have the cream sauce. Indulge in a small amount of the rich treat and know that tomorrow’s breakfast is a new start.
Who among us hasn’t learned this handy acronym for goal setting? Make your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed. For example, a S.M.A.R.T. goal might be, “I will add one new vegetable (measurable, relevant) to my menus each week (specific, achievable) this month (timed).” We set ourselves up for failure by saying we’ll “just eat better, for Pete’s sake!” Well-constructed resolutions are more effective because they’re easier to keep, and since they’re measurable, we can recognize our own achievements.
Just move it.
Adding incremental exercise—little bits of extra movement—to our daily lives makes a remarkable difference in our overall calorie burn. It’s easier than you might think, too. Check out Celebrate Without the Weight for some easy ways to add more spring to your step. By taking our ordinary activities and adding just a little more effort (raking leaves instead of blowing them, playing tag with the kids instead of just watching), our calorie burn really adds up.
There you go: simple, feasible answers to the “Now what?” feeling that so many of us have after a holiday smorgasbord of rich foods, stress, missed workouts, and very little time to ourselves. Consider it a bonus that the same tips make sense no matter what time of year you need them. Now, go celebrate some new beginnings of your own!