Plan for a Healthy New Year

Cold Weather running_stretching

Staying fit and healthy (which goes hand-in-hand with maintaining an appropriate weight) is a great resolution for everyone.  After all, it reduces your medical costs, can add years to your lifespan, enables you to enjoy a huge spectrum of activities, reduces stress, keeps you from buying increasingly larger clothing every year, and provides inspiration to your family and friends. So what’s not to like?  You would think this is a no-brainer.  Sign me up, right?

But as many of us know, life’s journey creates barriers and obstacles that can knock us down and change our path, over and over again.  We start an exercise program, and then long work hours get in the way and our routine ends.  We start eating better, and then a potluck invitation, a night out with friends, and those omnipresent treats that coworkers bring to share all seem to sabotage our efforts.  Holiday stress prevents us from getting adequate sleep (adults need 7-8 hours), and perhaps we catch a cold.  So our confidence waivers, and, heck… it was only a New Year’s resolution, right?  No harm, no foul?

Wrong.  What part of living longer do you not like?  What part of being able to hike and bike with your kids and grandkids sounds weird?  Being able to climb stairs, not lugging an extra 30 pounds around every day of your life, being able to tie your shoes, avoiding cancer, being free of back pain, insulin shots, knee replacement surgery… oh, there is harm, all right.  This resolution IS your life.  What made you think it was optional?

I am confident that a majority of adults want to lead healthy lives (kids are more oblivious to the consequences, which is why parents, teachers, and youth leaders need to be great role models). However, people tell me that the barriers to wellness somehow seem too insurmountable.  There are 168 hours in a week, yet they just can’t seem to find 3-5 hours to exercise and another 2 hours to plan and grocery shop for healthy meals. 

Concerned about the higher costs associated with buying healthy food? A study published by researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health (http://goo.gl/6E8dhL) found that the healthiest diets (diets rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts) cost about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy diets (those rich in processed foods, red meats, and refined grains).  I think this $1.50 extra per day is a small price to pay for optimal health.  For me, I find that healthy food is actually less expensive (I don’t eat meat).  Regardless, you can pay for healthy living now or pay for illness later. I’d rather live longer, and increase my enjoyment of living life to its fullest. 

We must develop skills to power through our challenges in order to succeed at wellness.  We want more days to be planned wellness days, and fewer unplanned laissez faire days.  Yes, for 2016 you plan to buy a treadmill for your spare room, you are thinking about a session with a personal trainer, and more purchases of peaches, kale, brown rice, and quinoa sound doable.  But don’t forget… the treadmill doesn’t help when used as a coat rack.  Quinoa and kale smothered in butter misses the point, and a companion who will exercise with you is less expensive than a personal trainer.  As useful as these steps may be, I encourage you embrace and dedicate yourself to the concept of “stick-to-itiveness,” the unwavering quality of perseverance, as an essential first step. 

Now let’s get back to your New Year’s resolutions, and that commitment to wellness.  You’ve got to want it.  Think of your progress as similar to getting a 4-year university degree.  Your success is linked to your completion of all the assignments in all of those courses, semester after semester.  There is no shortcut.  Each quiz, each test, some harder than others, is a step in the right direction.  You failed a class?  Take it again.  Finally, it is commencement day, and you receive your degree.  Your confidence and happiness is intoxicating and wonderful.  Please, won’t you take that first step of committing to wellness today?  Take the steps that are necessary, and if you enjoy the journey, so much the better.

I hope I get an invitation to your graduation!  Be Well!