Resolutions are irresistible at this time of year—stemming from our wish to regain control of the excess and chaos that define December, and to bring calm and structure back into our lives. It's no wonder the most common resolutions revolve around our weight. A quick review of Google Analytics shows a large spike in diet- and weight loss-related searches as soon as January hits. The problem is that most diet resolutions fall by the wayside before we even decorate for Valentine's Day.
Why not try a different approach this year? If you're tired of making and breaking the usual "get more exercise" and "lose weight" resolutions, here are four fresh ideas for 2013:
Resolve to enjoy your food. Our fast-paced world often inhales food, rather than savoring it. In certain European countries, food is not worth eating if you can't sit and enjoy it—the people there take the time to choose quality ingredients, prepare simple meals, and to sit and enjoy their food. These cultures also tend to enjoy better health and leaner bodies. Research shows that people eat more when they're eating quickly, as well as when they're distracted while eating. Consciously sitting down to eat, paying attention to your food, and actually enjoying it can shave a significant number of calories that you didn't even realize you were eating.
Resolve to be happy in your own skin. Diets are mean. Workouts can be punishing. We're only able to tolerate mean and punishing regimens for so long, until our body says "enough" and we find ourselves on the couch inhaling a bag of chips. Instead of forcing ourselves to go on another horrible diet, resolve to take care of the body you're in right now. Nourish yourself with a healthy breakfast, boost your mood with a brisk walk, and purify yourself with ample water. Resolve to do something healthy for your body every day, and focus on your health, rather than a number on the scale.
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Resolve to cook. One of the best ways to get healthier is to simply prepare more food for yourself and your family. Make this the year you get acquainted with your kitchen and local grocery store. While you're at it, focus on squeezing more fruits and veggies into your day—this alone can make a huge difference in your overall health (and, yes, your weight).
Resolve to walk. The National Weight Control Registry tracks Americans who have successfully lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off for a number of years. Researchers continue to follow this group to identify the secret to their success, and guess what they've found? The majority of participants rely on walking as a form of exercise. It's free, easy to do anywhere, and the intensity can be adjusted as a person becomes more fit. Wearing a pedometer each day can make it into a game—for example, aim for at least 10,000 steps a day, or try to increase each day's steps by another 100 steps.
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Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, is the Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics and lecturer for the Nutrition Program at Arizona State University, and a Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Follow her on Twitter @MelindaRD.