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Another Year…Another Elephant to Eat

January 17, 2018

So how long is your list of promises to yourself this year?  I know why I sometimes veer off my path when pursuing this list.  It contains large promises that quickly mold themselves into an elephant sized task list. Then, with the best of intentions, I make my plan of attack that includes  eating that entire elephant in one bite.  What’s the old saying? Something about one bite at a time, I think.

Promises we make to ourselves about our health may tend to become that elephant.  Whether we are too fat or too thin, eat too much or too little, or when we just eat the wrong things for the wrong reasons, making those large promises to ourselves may create a task that is just too big to tackle all at once. So how do we take the first bite?

Taking the First Bite and Establishing Routines

Just take the first bite, chew well, swallow, and repeat.  The repeating part is the hardest and the most important. Building a routine means sticking to a routine. It is physical and mental training that takes time to establish. On the other side of the coin, breaking down our current routines is an equally challenging task.

So what’s the solution here? Instead of tearing down the old and building up our day to days from scratch, we can make smaller, more palatable alterations to our routine. Perhaps instead of promising to start in the gym 5 days per week, how about we begin, this week, with 1 or 2 days, and a specific program in hand so that we are more efficient and effective when we walk into the gym.

The same applies to our diet. Don’t promise yourself that you are going to eat salad for every meal for seven days a week for the whole year, if it’s a promise that you are likely to break. It’s going to be hard to keep that promise when it’s the weekend and you’re driving by your favorite restaurant or if the smell of bacon is in the air. If you aren’t consistent, you aren’t developing a lasting positive habit. Try starting with a plan that includes cutting out snacks, eating salads for lunch, and sticking to a smaller portioned dinner.

Your goals should be relative to your current lifestyle. Take your existing plan and make moderate improvements. Once these improvements have been ingrained and comfortable, it is time to implement the next step toward your goals. A plan that takes 3 months to bolster is far more sturdy than a plan that falls apart after 3 weeks.

Finding the Right Path to Your Goals

There is more than one way to eat healthy. There is more than one way to get exercise. Sure, there are some hard rules when it comes to health and different practices typically will carry their own pros and cons. However, you can reach your fitness and health goals by a number of different paths. Ultimately, the best path is often the one that you are most comfortable with.

It seems like there is always some new diet trend popping up or some new power food that is all the rage. Soy milk, almond milk, skim milk, cashew milk - what milk is the best for you!? Do you cut out calories, carbs, meat, or fat? The sea of available (and sometimes contradictory) nutrition information can make trying to eat healthy more convoluted that it need to be. Some generally agreed upon things are the benefits of reducing and/or eliminating processed sugars, alcohol, and tobacco. Many other parts of these specific diet plans like the atkins, ketogenic, vegetarian, etc. seem to be in hot debate.

All of these diets have worked for different people. While there is science behind the potential benefits and consequences of each, the common factor of success is sticking to the plan. Consistently controlling and moderating your eating habits will eventually provide you results, no matter what form that diet takes.

This same principle applies to how you get your exercise. People often equate fitness with running on a treadmill and lifting weights. Many people enjoy such activities and consider it a hobby. Maybe the gym is not for you.  How about biking, hiking, walking, climbing, yoga, skiing, snowshoeing, walking in the mall, or taking a class? 1 mile…1 floor of the mall…1 class…1 bite.

There are certain considerations, of course. Are you trying to bulk up, trim down, or just improve wellbeing? What existing injuries and physical limitations do you have? Do you need a more convenient activity? The bottom line remains, especially in Colorado, there are many options worth exploring. Exercise and fun do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Thinking of Your Goals as Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions can be a very effective way of jump starting your often procrastinated and abandoned self promises. It helps to give a definitive start date to your efforts. Once these efforts are underway, it is time to drop the “New Year’s” off of “New Year’s resolutions”.

This will help you establish a long term mindset. Just because you’ve slipped does not mean it is time to abandon your plan. If you’ve made it a few months into the year, don’t let that vindicate your desire to pick up bad habits again. If either of these situations occur, you will probably find yourself making the same New Year’s resolutions year after year. Instead, try to imagine to pride and satisfaction of having improved your health for the whole year.

If you are not sure what you can do to meet your goals for the year, have old injuries, or pain that is not just muscle soreness after activity, you may need to seek assistance in building the right program specifically for you.  Trainers working together with physical therapists to build this program will help ensure your success.  Need help? Call us: 720-870-8900.  We are well versed in elephants.