Bite Size Goals for the New Year
There was a time when we thought of health as "the absence of disease." Today we recognize that our health is defined by so much more, including emotional well-being, quality of sleep, stress management, physical fitness, nutrition, social connectedness, and our general outlook on life.
Making healthy changes in your life does not have to be a complete overhaul to have significant impact. Aim for improvement rather than perfection with bite-size goals. Choose a single goal that you think will have the greatest positive impact on your life right now. Every two weeks take a moment to evaluate where you are and decide if you are ready to tackle something new. As you work your way through the suggested list below (or your own list), you will begin to feel more youthful, happy, and healthy.
Make more home cooked meals.
Cooking from scratch with fresh whole ingredients promotes a deeper connection with your food as well as greater control over the ingredients. Turn on your cooking tunes and enjoy chopping, mixing, and the wonderful aromas that fill your kitchen. Preparing most of your own food is essential for a balanced healthy diet. Make your efforts count even more by doubling a recipe so you get two meals for each one you prepare.
Create a restaurant-feel at your dinner table.
Create an intimate restaurant-feel in your own home. Clear your table of all clutter and electronics and put on some nice dinner music. Savor your mealtimes by relaxing, slowing down, and taking pleasure in the flavors. Eating this way lowers stress, improves digestion, and sharpens your awareness of satiety so you’ll naturally eat less.
Fill half of your lunch & dinner plate with vegetables.
Vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients which reduce inflammation while protecting you from age-related degenerative disease. They are also a great source of fiber, promoting digestive health and sustained satiety. Filling at least half of your dinner and lunch plates with vegetables will promote weight loss and overall health.
Buy high quality food.
Give your health and metabolism a boost with quality ingredients for improved nutrition and flavor that also serve to reduce toxic stress and inflammation. Buy plenty of fresh organic produce and quality animal proteins such as wild fish, grass-fed meat, free range chicken, and pastured eggs. At the same time, reduce the amount of processed foods in your shopping cart. As the saying goes, "pay now or pay later." Investing in your health with high-quality foods is well worth every dollar spent today and will later yield significant dividends in the long-term.
Drink more water.
Staying properly hydrated can improve energy, mental clarity, digestion, detoxification, and helps control hunger. Fill two 32 oz. glass or BPA-free water bottles every day before you leave the house, and aim to drink 48-64 ounces of filtered water per day. Drink your water throughout the day so you are not trying to catch up in the evening, which can disrupt sleep with too many trips to the bathroom.
Clear your kitchen and workspace of junk food.
"Out of sight, out of mind" really works when it comes to food. Make your home and workspace a sanctuary where you don't have to exhaust your willpower. Rid your refrigerator, cupboards, and desk of processed snack foods and sweets. The only things that should be out on your counter or desk are fresh fruit and water.
Set a physical performance goal.
When it comes to exercise, performance goals are often more motivating, fun, and effective than weight loss goals. Choose a goal that you can accomplish within 4-12 weeks. Your goal can range from walking a mile, to hiking 6 miles, to running a half marathon. Set your sights on something that is challenging but realistic. This short-term goal can be part of a larger, long-term goal.
Meditate for 10 minutes every morning.
Simply adding in a daily 10-minute morning meditation practice can reduce stress and anxiety while improving concentration, creativity, focus, energy, and peace of mind. As a result, you will experience greater clarity with decision making and goal setting, and enjoy more meaningful interactions with others. Gifting yourself this brief time to be still will have a positive impact on your entire day. If you do not already have your own practice, I recommend trying an app like Headspace to get started.
Learn something new.
Whether it be piano, Italian, tennis, sailing, or knitting, learning something new is enjoyable, rewarding, and is believed to have anti-aging effects on your brain. As adults, it is easy to live by routine and we often forget the pure childlike joy of accomplishing something for the first time. It's never too late to learn new things.
Relax before bedtime.
Turn off all electronic input at least thirty minutes before going to bed. Use this time to unwind, kick your feet up, read a book, or even practice relaxation yoga. A good night’s sleep can decrease hunger and cravings, reduce stress, improve energy, accelerate recovery from workouts, and brighten your outlook on life.