New Year’s resolutions. We all make them. We rarely stick to them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve declared that this would be the year I’d learn to play the guitar or start the book I’ve been meaning to write.
Well, this year, gang, I’m proud to say that I stuck to my guns and made it happen. Well… not the guitar… or the book… but the other one. I decided that every month during 2012, I would give myself a different challenge designed to help me lead a healthier lifestyle by 2013. “Why not just make your resolution to lead a healthier lifestyle?” you ask. “Why make it a month-by-month thing?”
The answer is a simple one. Leading a healthy lifestyle requires a number of things: learning about nutrition, eating correctly, learning how to exercise properly, actually exercising, and establishing an overall healthier mindset. If I tried to do all of that at one time, I’d be doomed to fail. Instead, I’ve been giving myself a different challenge every month. The goal is to turn each challenge into a habit, so that by the end of the year those 12 healthy habits will add up to healthier living. Take a look at what I’ve been up to so far:
January – Meal Planning
I tend to work long hours, and when I get home after a stressful day, the first thing I want to do is eat. Problem is, the last thing I want to do is cook! As a result, I would resort to easy go-tos like pasta or preservative-packed, calorie-filled frozen meals. To avoid this dilemma, I made it my mission to plan out my dinners ahead of time. That way, when I get home from a long day at work, I can just throw in some healthy leftovers. If I also prepare lunch, then I get the added bonus of knowing approximately how many calories I’m taking in a day. Now, every Sunday, I pick a new healthy recipe for lunch (typically a salad with tons of ingredients) and a delicious new dish for dinner (hello, Pinterest!). I make a family sized portion so I have food for the whole week.
February – Get Running
Since January’s goal was food-focused, I wanted to make February fitness-focused. I was trying to pick my goal when I got an email from work about an opportunity to run the NYC Half-Marathon on behalf of one of our clients. I enjoy running, but never ran as often as I liked. This seemed like the perfect time to make a change. I only had 6 weeks to take my usual 3-mile run up to 13.2, and I have to say, I’ve never been more motivated in my life. I ran 4-5 days a week and did a spinning class every Wednesday. The training really whipped me into shape and now I make sure to get in at least 4 workouts a week.
March – Cross the Finish Line
The Half-Marathon took place on March 18th, so my February goal merged into March. My goal was simply to finish what I started, to run the entire race – no walking, no stopping. The race was incredible. Being surrounded by all the other runners and supporters on the sidelines was so empowering, and crossing the finish line was one of the best feelings I have ever had. I am very proud of myself for doing it and would recommend the experience to anyone. Here I am crossing the finish line!
April – Meatless Mission
I’ve never been a huge meat eater. I like a good steak or burger from time to time, but I always feel better (both mentally and physically) when I pick the vegetarian option. In April, I challenged myself to see if I could stay away from red meat and poultry. Fish is still a.ok (I love sushi way too much). Surprisingly, I didn’t find this challenge difficult at all. I didn’t even crave the meat (ok, one time when my roommate was cooking up some bacon). The only thing that got difficult was eating out. It’s amazing how few vegetarian options some restaurants have! Overall, I found that cutting meat out of my diet has helped me make healthier choices. I’m not ordering the fried chicken patty or the greasy burger – I’m ordering the grilled fish or the fresh salad. I’ve also had to get more creative with my cooking and find new, healthy sources of protein. I meant this challenge to only last a month, to learn about alternatives to meat and get myself eating more veggies, but I haven’t eaten red meat or poultry since March and don’t mind it. This might become a more permanent thing.
May – Stop the Soda
Working long hours got me consuming more caffeine. I started having a Diet Coke after lunch a few days a week. I thought it was a good way to have a sweet, calorie-free, pep-me-up treat. Then I watched “The Weight of the Nation,” an HBO documentary series about obesity in America (I definitely recommend watching it), and I realized that soda and other sugary beverages are the number one cause of obesity. Sure, I’m drinking the sugar-free, calorie-free, “better-for-you” sodas, but if there’s no sugar, what exactly do those crazy chemists put in it instead? Looking at the label, I didn’t know what over half of the ingredients are. That can’t be a good thing. As a result, I decided to cut soda out of my life for the month of May. It was difficult at first, but if I found myself really craving a sweet beverage, I would have a fresh, fruity ice tea instead. A few weeks later, I had accomplished my goal. Come June, I did let myself have one soda again, but I found that I didn’t even like the taste of it anymore. I drank less than half of it before tossing it away. I’m no longer a soda fan, and I hope to stay that way.
June – Crunch Time
This month, it’s time for another fitness goal. I’m pretty good about getting cardio in, but I would like to work more on muscle tone. I’m making it my goal to work on abs 3x a week. Wish me luck!
Looking to make some healthy changes in your life? Keep your goals small and manageable. When you master one, add another small goal. Soon enough, you’ll be seeing a huge difference.