By Nicole Catanese, Refinery29
As soon as the first day of the year strikes, it's easy to get all gung-ho about reversing your previously callous ways when it comes to your diet and fitness routine. We swear off overdoing it with the Veuve, then we vow to never ever skip spin class for an impromptu dinner with the girls. Do-able, right? Eh, if history holds true, probably not. Instead of setting yourself up for get-healthy-and-fit failure, try these tiny tweaks. They may not make a whole lot of bang initially, but they're more likely to stand the test of life-gets-in-the-way time than the big promises we make to ourselves year after year.
Look At The Bright Side
This one is way harder than it sounds, but it can also have a way bigger payoff than you think. "Often we focus on what we are doing wrong," says Susan Albers, PsyD, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of Eating Mindfully. "I ask my clients what they think they do well and then come up with ways to do it even better."
So, if you tend to resolve to cut out carbs, only to beat yourself up for nibbling a baguette, look to the positive. Instead, if you love fruit, focus on being the best darn fruit eater out there. Already have an apple a day? Make it two. Or, add in a cup of raspberries and an orange just for fun. "Once you focus on improving what you already do, there's a natural shift in other things positively, too," says Albers. "You don't have to, for example, worry about eliminating snacking on chips because by adding in more fruit, you end up doing that without even thinking about it. The positive behavior replaces some of the bad habits that you want to change without trying."
The same theory applies to working on your fitness. Already love to go for a run but think you need to go twice as often or add Pilates into the mix, too? Wrong. "Your focus should be to run a few seconds faster per mile or 10 minutes longer than usual," says Albers. Or take it to a super-simple form: Every meal, take one bite better. Take just one more forkful of salad over mac and cheese. And run one block better than the last. And then, you know what? Mission accomplished.
Remember: Slow And Steady Wins The Race
Albers compares healthy eating to a marathon. If, she says, you turn the idea of 26.1 miles into days, and pick one aspect of mindful eating for each one, you'll form a graduated approach. She advises patients to address unhealthy eating by being aware: Notice your pace. How quickly do you eat? And then for one entire day, slow down. To make sure you stick to the plan, eat with your non-dominant hand (lefties eat right; righties eat left) or put your fork down between bites. The next day, add another eat-healthy component like say, not eating while distracted. Turn off the T.V. and leave Instagram alone for a while. Big-picture payoff: if you eat slower, you'll probably eat less, and eating fewer calories over time leads to weight loss (and better food choices down the line, too).
This little-by-little approach holds true for fitness as well. "People tend to take on an all-or-nothing approach," says Geralyn Coopersmith, national director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute in New York City. "Really, they should almost undercommit to something - say, work out every other day for an hour, not every day for two." Go for whatever is ridiculously easy - walk 30 minutes three times a week or do some barely-moving yoga just to decompress. Once you have that down, you can reevaluate what you can do to make it more of a challenge, she says. Or even take on tiny triumphs like going to bed before midnight.
Seriously. Just take them out, put them on, and lace them up. Because if you do, you're way more likely to actually get your ass to the gym then if your kicks stay hidden in the depths of your closet. "If you get ready to work out, then you really can do it," says Coopersmith. "Most people simply can't get over the hump to get the ball rolling." Don't worry about the workout. Just ask yourself: what do I need to do the workout, if I were going to do it? Get your shoes out. Then, get your gear out. "If you concentrate on the small stuff, if you get them all out, then suddenly you're just set," says Coopersmith. "Building in the time to prep turns a psychological switch - which is no different than if you plan to do your hair and makeup for work or for a party. When it's done, you just go."
No, You Don't Deserve That Cupcake
You are not in kindergarten and no, you don't need to get a lollipop because you went to the doctor. "Women tend to use food as a reward," says Albers. "They think, 'I've been good today or bad today, so I can or can't have this or that.'" But since that good-girl mindset has been ingrained in us since childhood, it's almost automatic and difficult to change. "You have to shift that mindset," says Albers. "Once you see the negative message of using food as reward, it's hard not to see it anymore." The result: suddenly, you have way more control over what you eat and why.
There's No Place Like Home
With the surge of boutique studios, creating a customized workout schedule has never been so chic, and squeezing in a barre class or boot camp has never been easy. But you always need a backup because that snowstorm will strike or you'll score a last-minute date. Coopersmith suggests having options at home for quick, no-excuses calorie burning. Sure, you can look to DVDs that mimic some of the hottest workouts (like AeroBox System of Sleek, $59.99 for 4 DVDs).
But there are also a growing number of free online streaming workouts that you can do in a pinch. "Have two or three so that you can switch them up, just like you would if you were going to the gym, and you won't be bored," she says. "And, you'll have one less excuse if there's bad weather." Plenty of research shows that shorter workouts - where you go full-speed-ahead for 20 to 30 seconds, then easier, then hard again - results in better fat burning than slow, long-duration cardio. "That kind of high-intensity interval training affects all the energy systems, not just the aerobic system," she says. "That answers the big problem, because everyone has 30 minutes a day," she says. Yes, even you - so get to it.
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By Nicole Catanese, Refinery29