This month we answer questions you sent us about New Year’s resolutions—here’s our take on what resolutions to make and how to make them stick.
Q: I make the same resolution every year—to lose 20 pounds—and it never lasts longer than the month of January. Then by February, I’m even heavier than when I started. What am I doing wrong?
A: The first resolution should be to give yourself respect. You can do this by accomplishing a small task every day—no excuses. Let’s set the goal of walking 10,000 steps a day and calling or emailing a buddy and telling them you did it. This is a wonderful goal because it helps you get healthy in many ways, and when you do it, you establish respect for yourself. If sometime in February you fail, just make a YOU turn—you know, the kind the GPS in your car tells you to make at the next available moment. Just make the YOU turn, start again and establish respect for yourself again.
Q: I’ve joined a gym that I’m still paying for but don’t use. I just can’t seem to motivate myself to go after work. How can I get myself to exercise?
A: There are a couple of ways we like to overcome what we call “excuse inertia.”
1. Set aside a time that you and a buddy will both show up at the gym. That way, if you don’t show up you are disappointing your buddy—and you wouldn’t do that, would you?
2. Make a bet! Make like you’re in Vegas and bet money on how many times a week you work out. Yep, bet on yourself. You’re more likely to hit your goals if cash is on the line. There’s even evidence of this. Dieters who were offered a cash incentive lost 13 to 14 pounds over 16 weeks; dieters who got zilch lost only 3 pounds.
3. Not ready to lay down your hard-earned cash? No problem! Pick a reward you like better than cash (not food!). Indulge yourself in whatever it is. (Maybe a day of doing absolutely nothing but going to the gym.) Then, reinforce your rewards with these other big-loser tips.
4. Set clear goals like, “Use the elliptical 30 minutes every day.” Reward yourself with a high-tech pedometer. It makes counting steps and miles fun.
5. Write it down. Keeping a journal to track exercise helps you stay on track and gives you incentive as the days add up.
Q: I made a resolution to eat better at work—no more donuts or cake on company birthdays. But I still need to eat lunch out with co-workers and clients from time to time. What can I do to eat healthy at restaurants?
A: Before you go, eat something like a handful of walnuts—we don’t want you to arrive starving! Eat a little healthy fat, like those six walnut halves, before a meal. The healthy fat in walnuts triggers a chain reaction that slows the rate at which your stomach empties, so you’ll feel fuller faster. But the chain reaction takes 30 minutes, so plan for it.
When you get to the restaurant, making healthy choices all comes down to what happens in the first and last 10 minutes of a meal.
The First 10 Minutes
> Raise a glass—of water. This can fill you up, so you don’t overeat. Drink one glass for every 15 minutes you are at the table—bathroom time doesn’t count.
> Ask for cut-up veggies instead of bread. Most quality restaurants (including inexpensive ones) provide this option. We’ve only had to leave one restaurant after a glass of wine without ordering anything else because they couldn’t figure how to cut up some veggies for us—any restaurant that won’t do this doesn’t deserve our patronage, let alone bucks.
> Order oil and vinegar on the side, and request the bottles. Go heavy on the vinegar. Relying on the kitchen to dress your salad can deliver as many as 480 extra calories!
The Last 10 Minutes
> Share. Get one dessert for every four or five people, and eat just a few bites. If there are just two of you, take half of the dessert home and freeze it for a special occasion.
> Savor your wine. Ending a meal with a glass of wine lets you avoid the longing for sweets and the calorie-bomb that comes with them.
Q: If I could make just one New Year’s resolution and really stick to it, what do you think it should it be?
A: Get 7 ½ to 8 hours of sleep a night. Yup, that’s what we are missing, and you know you want it. You need it. You crave it. You ignore buzzing alarms for it. You put pillows over your head to get three more minutes of it. You love it.
The truth is that getting quality sleep is as important to your health, ability to perform and happiness as just about anything else.
So how do you get more? Sleep management is really about time management. So plan for it; count back 8 to 8 ½ hours before the alarm clock needs to ring, and spend 10 minutes on absolute musts for the next day (making your kid’s lunch), take 10 minutes for meditation and 10 for hygiene… then go to bed.
Some other ways to help:
> Create the perfect sleeping environment. A cool, dark room is best.
> There should be no laptop, no TV, no food in bed. Ideally, the bed is used for sleep and sex; it’s not an office or a restaurant.
> Be consistent. Your body clock loves it when you follow a predictable schedule. Even on the weekends, try to rise within an hour (at most, two) of when you have to get up on weekdays, even if that means you need a power nap later. Otherwise, your body thinks you have jet lag on Monday morning and will protest big-time!
> Other interrupters of quality sleep are caffeine, which keeps you from falling asleep as well as staying asleep, and alcohol, interrupting your sleep cycle and contributing to the “hangover” that many experience.