A New Year’s resolution is a commitment that a person makes to one or more personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit. For most Americans, holiday eating is followed by weight gain and a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Studies show that about 60% of Americans are overweight. This year promise yourself that you will keep that resolution. Here are some simple lifestyle tips for jump starting your goals for the New Year and achieving optimum heart health.
Beware of Mindless Eating
Mindless eating is consuming food just because it’s there. It’s eating while distracted – watching TV, working at a computer or texting on our smartphones. It’s eating for emotional comfort instead of for hunger. The key to mindful eating is awareness. By just paying more attention to what you eat, you’re more likely to make beneficial changes.
If you pay attention to what you’re eating, you can make small changes that make a big difference. Here are some tips toward a more mindful approach:
Practice portion control. You don’t have to deprive yourself, just eat smaller portions of food and less often. Only eat when you’re hungry. Just because the clock says noon doesn’t mean you have to eat. If you’re not hungry, wait until you are. Also, don’t eat just because the food is available. Plan your meals. Prepare healthy snacks throughout the day. If you tend to get hungry between meals, bring along a high-fiber snack. Remember to drink 6-8, 8 ounce glasses of water a day. Don’t rush through your meal. Enjoy each bite. Chew food slowly and completely. This helps to give your body enough time to trigger your brain that you are satisfied. Pay attention. Do not eat in front of the TV or computer, or while talking on the phone. Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat, look at it, then identify why you ate it – was it hunger, stress, boredom? Assess these areas and see where you can make adjustments and incorporate healthy changes.
The American Heart Association recommends exercising 30 minutes at least five days a week. Feeling crunched for time? Get your 30 minutes of activity in at work or at home.
Do housework yourself instead of hiring someone else to do it, Work in the garden or mow the grass. Rake leaves, prune, dig and pick up trash. Walk or bike to the corner store instead of driving. Stand up while talking on the telephone. Walk the dog. Park farther away at the shopping mall and walk the extra distance. Walk down the hall to speak with someone rather than using the telephone. Schedule exercise time on your calendar and treat it as any other important appointment. Walk around your building for a break during the work day or during lunch.
Finally, be specific about your goals and how you will achieve them. Make it a specific routine such as, “I will get up one hour early three days a week and go to the gym.”
If your goal is to reduce your cholesterol, make the changes specific. “I will use low-fat or non-fat sour cream, dressings and cheese. “I will eat tuna for lunch twice a week and cook fish for dinner once a week. I will eat whole grain bread. I will choose only lean red meat and eat it only on weekends.”
If your goal is to reduce your blood pressure, make the changes specific as well. “I will read labels and become aware of how much sodium is in foods.” These changes may reduce your blood pressure without the use of prescription medications. By keeping your blood pressure in the healthy range, you are reducing your risk of overstretched or injured blood vessel walls, reducing your risk of blockages which also protects your heart and brain and protecting your entire body so that your tissue receives regular supplies of blood that is rich in the oxygen it needs. Eat a heart-healthy diet, which includes reducing sodium. Enjoy regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight. Manage stress; limiting alcohol; avoiding tobacco smoke.
More than 80 percent of heart disease can be prevented by simple lifestyle changes. Small steps will evidentially lead to big progress. So here’s to a heart-healthy new year!
Karen Wiggins, LPN, HWC