I can’t even remember how many years my friends and I have been using February as a re-set month. Regardless of great intentions, the craziness of the holiday season with all of it’s treats and parties tends to get the best of us. It doesn’t end in January either, but by February we’ve had enough. By February we’re ready to shift gears and focus on our health. The best thing about February is that it’s 28 days…you can do anything for 4 weeks and conveniently, 4 weeks just happens to be the amount of time you need to establish new habits.
Every year we change things up a little. This year we will be using the 80/20 rule…in other words, it’s what you do 80% of the time that matters. You can have some off days, some reckless days. Your body is designed to handle that. The trick is to set some goals and live to those goals MOST of the time. Keep in mind, this isn’t supposed to be easy but it’s the middle of winter and if you work hard for the next 28 days, you’ll be on easy street for the rest of the year…well at least until the holidays roll around again.
2015 Rules (pick at least 4 that challenge you):
1. Include fruits or veggies at every meal
2. Drink half your weight in ounces of water daily
3. Consume less than 40 grams of sugar (all sources)/day
4. Sleep 7+ hours/night
5. Exercise 60 minutes/day (walking counts)
6. Start every day with 10 minutes of mindfulness
7. Restrict eating to a 12 hour window (especially helpful for weight loss)
8. Don’t eat in front of the TV, your computer, while reading or in the car
1. Fruits and veggies are great for us not just because of the crucial vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants they provide, but because of their fiber content. In a perfect world, you should consume about 12 (1/2 cup) servings/day. They help keep your digestive system running smoothly. If you’re getting enough, your bowl movements should resemble fluffy floaters, not stinky sinkers.
2. Most of us are chronically, mildly dehydrated. This affects everything you do. It affects your energy level, your sleep, your memory and your mood. Slight dehydration is also linked to colon, breast and bladder cancer. When well hydrated your urine will be almost clear (some medications also affect color). You can add a little liquid stevia to your water for flavor or even add a little fruit juice.
3. In the 1700s, the average person consumed about 5 grams of sugar/day. By the 1800s that jumped to 22 grams/day. Now, we consume (conservatively) over 124 grams/day, much of it hidden in processed food. For example: just one 12 oz can of coke has 39 grams of sugar…a 16 oz bottle has 62 grams! Constant over-consumption of sugar leads to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity so try to stay under 40 grams/day and you’ll be doing your health a huge favor. Read more at Mercola.com
4. There are a few people out there suggesting you really don’t need as much sleep as you think you do. They’re wrong. The research on this topic is thorough. If you cheat sleep you cheat your health. We can handle short-term deprivation but in the long-run, you need 7+ hours a day to function at your best. Some of the consequences of sleep deprivation include: Heart failure, stroke, obesity, depression, ADD, and accidents.
5. Sitting is the new smoking. We are becoming increasingly sedentary because of technology. There are so many distractions (including social media, 200+ channels on your television, games & apps) that keep us firmly on our butts. However, we’re designed to be in motion…we need to be in motion so buy a fitbit or some other devise that measures your steps and try to get at least 10,000/day. The biggest consequence of inactivity is muscle loss. You lose the muscles you don’t use so unless you plan to spend the final years of your life confined to a wheelchair…get moving!! If you really want to watch TV, think about doing it on a treadmill. Most health clubs have treadmills with TV’s attached these days or invest in a bike trainer and ride while catching up on your favorite series.
6. Starting the day with 10 minutes of mindfulness is a relatively new activity for me and one I wish I started a long time ago. I get up and go downstairs and sit on my yoga mat and just breathe slow and deep for about 5 minutes feeling grateful for my life. Then I spend the next 5 minutes centering the day. I think about the things that are priorities and commit to them and then visualize my best self. This is an easy thing to do and far more powerful than you might think. Why not commit to it for the next 4 weeks?
7. Choosing to eat all meals and snacks within a 12 hour window is the short-cut to maintaining a healthy weight. As an added benefit, the 12 hours of rest you give your digestive system every night has numerous health benefits. If you combine this habit with portion control and eating those fruits and veggies, the pounds will roll off.
8. Not multi-tasking while I eat is by far my biggest challenge. I have a very bad habit of snacking while I drive. I’ve also been known to eat in front of the TV and even while working in the office. Ugh! This is a mindless behavior that easily gets out of hand. If snacking is part of reading, homework, typing or relaxing, you’ll consume far more calories than you realize. If this sounds like you, it’s time to break this habit for good.
Happiness and confidence are, in part, the result of creating habits that support the person you want to be. Don’t settle for a mediocre you because the better you are, the more you have to share with the world…or as my philosophical son likes to say, “You can’t volunteer at the hospital if you need one of the beds.”