It’s easy to slip off track with our health goals during the holiday season, but the New Year is the perfect time for a fresh start. Whatever your fitness level or weight-loss goals, try incorporating one or two of these smart tricks to help you speed your results.
- Become “breathless”. Regardless of what types of activities you normally do, make sure to fit in cardio at least twice a week. While less aerobic activities, like yoga or weight lifting, have countless benefits, workouts that leave you breathless help jumpstart your metabolism and drop weight more quickly.
- Mix it up. Some people think we’re more likely to stick to a program if we create a weekly schedule and stick to it. Not me. Our lives are too hectic. Instead of committing to a specific routine — Monday night spinning, Tuesday night yoga, Wednesday night kickboxing, and so on — commit to exercising a certain number of times per week. One week you might take three morning Pilates classes, while the next week, you can only fit in lunchtime Spinning classes. This way, just because you miss your favorite workout, you don’t skip the gym altogether.
- Add movement, whenever, wherever. Movement is more about a lifestyle, rather than an hour-a-day commitment in a class or at the gym. It’s about squeezing in health every chance you get. Here are a few tricks I love: Take a walk when you’re bored. Walk home after work, the gym or dinner out instead of taking a cab or train. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk up the escalator in stores. Use bathrooms on different floors at work. Get lunch from a place further away and opt for take-out, not delivery.
- Book one “Surprise Myself” exercise class each week. After I reach my workout goal for the week, I add one more class I didn’t plan on taking. I think about it as ‘treat” to my health! It varies. Some weeks, I’ll take a new instructor; other weeks, I’ll try something completely different. I burn more calories and always find new activities I love. If surprising myself doesn’t happen, I don’t get discouraged because I’ve already hit my targets.
- Upgrade your salads. Take your health up a notch by not wasting your time on romaine or mixed greens. The smarter choice? Kale, spinach, arugula and watercress, which are higher in vitamins and minerals. One you’ve got your base, load it with nutrient- and fiber-dense vegetables. You’ll get fuller faster and cut down your calories without feeling deprived. I top mine with flax seed or extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and herbs, rather than dressings especially when I don’t know what’s in them!
- Make veggies your main plate. Most people follow the formula: choose your protein then build side dishes around it. I say flip the model and pick your produce first. Start with roasted veggies, salad or veggie soup, then top them with grilled chicken, poached salmon or a cup of whole grain like quinoa. Finally, use spices and herbs to jazz up flavor, rather than butter and salt. It’s a great way to try new vegetables or taste combinations, rather than stick with the traditional, boring and tasteless romaine with tomatoes combo (I couldn’t stick with that menu either!). Nearly all my clients start with this easy strategy to jumpstart weight loss.
- Keep it simple in the kitchen. It doesn’t take a culinary degree, a library of cookbooks or a pantry filled with high-tech gadgets to make a fantastic and healthy meal. Look for simple recipes that call for what you already have in the kitchen or require 5 or fewer ingredients. If you need inspiration, try this trick: Next time you buy fish, ask the salesperson for their fastest, easiest, most flavorful preparation. Same strategy goes with dining out and delivery. Choose entrees with the fewest ingredients and simplest preparation, like grilled fish or chicken with no sauce. Cutting down on just two restaurant meals a week will dramatically change how you look and feel.
- Don’t listen to your mother (when it comes to eating!). Sorry, mom, but we don’t have to finish what’s on our plate. That’s the fast track to weight gain. After a meal, you should leave feeling energized from your food, rather than lethargic and stuffed. My favorite trick? I stop eating when I feel that if I had to get up and take an easy exercise class, I could handle it. That’s pretty easy to do when you eat slowly, sitting down (versus on your commute) and with the TV off.
- Keep healthy snacks ready to go. Stash them everywhere you might need to nosh — your gym bag, your office, your handbag, your apartment. Snacking between meals keeps your metabolism revved and blood sugar levels balanced. Plus, when you get to meals feeling like you can eat like a horse, you usually do! Opt for raw vegetables and fresh fruit instead of processed bodega snacks. Or, make your own trail mix and divide it into small storage bags. I mix cocoa nibs, dried fruit, raw almonds and raw cashews. Sometimes I don’t feel hungry, but if it’s there, it’s much better than grabbing a bag of chips or a high-calorie, processed bar.
- Remember your motivation. Why do want to lose weight? To look better in your clothes? To feel more energetic? Or to simply improve your overall health? First, get clear about what you want, and then use that desire to inspire you throughout your journey. Train your brain to think positively and don’t let negativity mess with your health (or your head!). Next, eliminate the phrase “I can’t” and replace it with a phrase that says, “I can and I will.” Use this mantra to stay on track. Mine is “I can do this — I am living the Smart Life.” Whenever I start making excuses to skip a workout or cheat on my diet, I say my mantra aloud and instantly feel energized.
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