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New Year’s Success | 7 Keys to a Healthy New Year

Written by Tom Nikkola – Director of Nutrition & Weight Management

There’s something special about the beginning of a new year. Your calendar blank, with a year’s worth of opportunity yet to be filled in. You can let go of some of the baggage from the previous year. You can plan out all the things you’re going to do better in the New Year based on what you learned in the last one. There’s often a sense of hope that this year you’ll be able to accomplish many of the things you’ve hoped for in the previous year.

Your chance of succeeding in many other areas of your life – relationships, career, personal goals and finances – depends heavily on your health and well-being. If you’re body is not as healthy and functional as it could be, your chance of succeeding in many other areas is reduced. If your success depends so heavily on your health and fitness, putting together a plan for this area of your life should be the foundation to any other plans you have for the upcoming year. The following are seven things you should prioritize in your New Year’s planning.

Consult with a Fitness Professional

I know, you probably think you already know what you should be doing, or you think you can just pick up a book or DVD, or go to a group fitness class and you’ll get all the instruction you need. You won’t understand the value of talking with a knowledgeable personal trainer or dietitian until you do it. You may walk away from the consultation with a couple of great ideas you can immediately implement. You might gain a totally new perspective on good nutrition and smart exercise. You may even decide that some regularly scheduled sessions or some additional assessments are the best thing for you to get to your goals. I’m not saying you have to sign up for regular sessions, although most people gain a lot from doing so. I’m only pleading with you to schedule and complete a consultation. Take some time to speak with an expert in nutrition and exercise. You’ll probably understand how much you don’t understand about nutrition and exercise, which is the first step toward understanding what you need to know.

Make Time For Play

I remember as a kid getting lost in games of Tin Can Alley, Tag, Kickball and a ton of other games we made up on the spot. When I was in my teens, I’d get on my mountain bike and ride into the woods without any plan or purpose. I’d just ride until I didn’t feel like riding anymore and then I’d head home. I’d go cross-country or downhill skiing in the winter. I think you get the point. If you think back, you probably played games and sports just for the fun of it. You may still be involved in some athletic leagues and sports, but if you’re like most people (including me), the main activity you get is your structured exercise program. That’s still an important part of a healthy way of life, but so is time just for fun. Basketball, volleyball, squash, racquetball and rock climbing are “games” you can take part in at almost every Life Time. Run Club and Cycle Club are other options to get involved with a group of people and have fun taking part in a sport. Of course, you can find other games and sports in your community if you do a little searching. Make time for play this year. You’ll probably find your play time makes your work time more productive too.

Plan Your Vacations Now

Planning out your vacations at the beginning of the year does a few things. First, it forces you to commit to the time off. The average American works more hours than ever before. It’s not surprising that research shows people are more productive when they take appropriate time off than when they try to work all the time. Many countries take far more vacation than we do in the United States, with some basically shutting down for a whole month. Almost 40% of Americans end the year without using up all their vacation time. For a more visual picture of how work time in the United States stacks up with other countries, check out this infographic, The Overworked American. Put your plans in place now for time off in 2012. Things might change as the year goes on, but by committing to the time now, there’s a much greater chance you’ll take it. When you take time away from work, you’ll be more productive at work, and you’ll make an important choice toward better overall health. Your vacations can even be motivators for your fitness program.

Sign Up For One Athletic Event

Whether you like to run, walk, canoe, ski, skate, cycle, lift weights, do boot camp, are interested in body building or a combination of everything, there is probably an athletic event or competition that fits with what you like to do. If you have not participated in an athletic event or competition before, just pick one to start with. It could be something like a first 5K run or walk, a weight loss competition like the Life Time Weight Loss 90-Day Challenge, a triathlon or the Alpha Showdown. When you talk with your fitness professional during your consultation, this would be a great discussion point.

The importance of an athletic event is it gives you an exact deadline to be physically conditioned and ready. It’s also not as superficial as setting just a body composition goal to look better for a vacation or a special event (though those situations certainly do help).

Change Your Perspective on the Word Diet

Right now, today, going forward, never again think about the need to “go on a diet.” The word diet can be used as a noun or a verb. When I Googled diet, the noun’s definition was “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” The verb’s definition was “restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.” Going forward, talk about diet only as a noun. “My diet consists of non-starchy vegetables, meat, dairy (assuming no intolerances), eggs, nuts, seeds, fruit and small amounts of starchy vegetables.” That diet suggests there are a ton of foods I can eat and it will be hard to become bored with them. That’s a lot better than saying “I’m dieting so I can’t eat…” Too often, people focus on what they can’t eat and they lose focus on everything they should eat.

Find a New Community

If you are truly focused on becoming healthier this year, think about whether your circle of influence, the people you spend the most time with, have similar goals. Many people become sidetracked on their path toward health by getting caught up in the crowd of people they hang around with. If you do well with your nutrition and exercise during the week and get off-track on the weekend, what are you doing on the weekend and who are you spending your time with? That should provide a clue about changes you should make. Maybe your problem is you’re not around enough people during the week. Some of the clients I’ve had in the past were stay-at-home moms. They spent most of their days at home with the kids and end up eating a lot of the foods they were making for their kids, which oftentimes weren’t that good for them or their kids. The point is, think about who you should spend your time with this year. It’s much more likely you’ll find success by spending more time with like-minded people than trying to change the people you currently spend your time with.

Get a Comprehensive Lab Test

I think every suggestion above is important, but if I had to pick one that was the most important, this would be it. So many people find out something is wrong only when a disease has really attacked the body. If you want to be proactive about your health, you should make it a priority to get a compressive lab testing done every year.

When people get a physical, they typically get basics such as cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, complete blood count (CBC) and some metabolic markers measured. It’s a good starting point, but to get a complete picture of the health of your body’s metabolism, you should consider a more complete package of labs like the Life Time Premium Longevity & Vitality. It includes a thorough view of thyroid function, detailed cholesterol measures, sex hormones, inflammatory markers and more. You can check out the full list of what’s included in the Longevity & Vitality Package here.

If you decide to order the lab work through Life Time, the pricing is significantly less than when it’s done through a clinic or hospital, and you may be reimbursed through your FSA or HSA account. Otherwise, bring the list to your doctor and ask him or her to order the lab work for you. Some doctors who are more focused on proactive health care will be willing to order all the lab work for you, but not all will. Also, if you order the lab work through Life Time, one of our Registered Dietitians will spend an hour walking through your lab interpretation to make sure you understand what it means and what you can do to optimize each area of your metabolism. As the title of a new book soon to be released by Jim LaValle suggests, Your Blood Doesn’t Lie. Don’t procrastinate on this one.

Happy New Year!

Good luck in making this year your healthiest ever.  We’ll be here with new articles and success stories to keep you informed, motivated and focused on a Healthy Way of Life. If you have additional thoughts and suggestions on how you’ve achieved your health and fitness goals this past year, share in the comments section below. 

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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Reader Comments (1)

Excellent article - I will distribute this in an upcoming workforce wellness presentation that is scheduled. Thank you - great information presented in a great format. I took the article to "heart" myself!

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiane H. Hart

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