2013: A Year of Healthy Mantras, not Resolutions

I could rattle off a long list of ambitious new year’s resolutions. Snack less on garbage and eat veggies instead. Squeeze in at least 30 minutes of cardio a day. Eat less red meat. Try one new class at the gym each week.

A lot of people give up on their resolutions after only a couple of weeks. If I had a bunch of health and fitness new year’s resolutions, I’d probably give up, too. I don’t want a list of rules to follow. I want the changes I make about what I eat and what I do to feel natural, not mechanical. Plus, a lot of those resolutions are not realistic and are simply unattainable. I don’t want to set myself up for failure.

So instead, I decided to create a list of healthy mantras that I will try to remind myself in 2013 (and beyond). These will help me stay on track and make more improvements to benefit my health. I created these based on what I already know works and doesn’t work for me. So these might not be effective for everyone.

In sight is better than out of sight.
This is kind of like the inverse of the old “out of sight, out of mind” proverb. If I have healthy snacks in my line of vision, I am more likely to eat them. So for example, I keep a large purple Nalgene bottle on my desk at work at all times. It’s kind of an eyesore, but since the water bottle sticks out, I remember to fill it up and drink from it. Also, if I keep a clear Tupperware container of sliced veggies on my desk, I’m more likely to eat them. Although the crisper drawer in my fridge supposedly keeps produce fresh, it’s more likely to spoil in there because I forget about it. If I move the veggies to the front and center position in my fridge, then they won’t go to waste.

Abstaining is better than moderation.
I’ve tried various techniques to avoid the 3 p.m. slump that invariably leads me to my co-worker's candy dish. I’ve tried short walks, eating just one piece, limiting myself to one treat at work a day, and thinking very hard about if I NEED this particular piece of candy. None of that works for me. If I eat one tiny Reese’s peanut butter cup, I will spend every single minute of the rest of the day thinking about how I can get another. 10 crumpled foil wrappers later, and I feel guilty and discouraged over my lack of self control. There is one technique that actually really works for me: 100% total abstinence. Now that all the Christmas goodies have been devoured around my workplace, I am returning to my “no sweet treats at work” rule. It’s strict, but it’s actually much easier for me than having to weigh the pros and cons of a particular snack. When said snack is not even an option, then I don’t have to worry about it.

Variety is the best routine.
My gym schedule varies little week to week, but I make it a point to never do the same workout back-to-back. I even try to avoid doing the same workout twice in one week. To keep myself motivated and focused, I need something new every single day. A lot of my workouts are variations of similar exercises, but that’s plenty of variety for me. For example, if I make it to more than one yoga or spin class in one week, I’ll attend classes taught by different teachers with different teaching styles (and I prefer teachers who mix it up every single week). If my feet are dragging en route to the gym, I try to attend a new class or try out a different machine to make my workout fresher and more exciting. This is how I discovered my new love/hate relationship with the Stair Stepper machine.

Quality is better than quantity.
A health conscious friend once told me “If you want to lose weight and be healthy, you need to spend more money on food.” I eat red meat and it’s unlikely I’ll ever give up steak, bacon, or burgers. Yet because I try to buy more expensive and higher quality meat, I buy less of it and feel better about the meat I do eat. This same mantra applies to eating out. By substituting a vegetable side for french fries, I’m usually getting less food for more money. But it’s better quality food, and I am making a better investment for my health.

Positive reinforcement is better than negative reinforcement.
If I have a bad day and end up eating an entire bag of M&M’s and half a frozen pizza (that’s never happened... okay maybe just once... or twice), I’m so frustrated with myself that I’ll vow to double my workout the next day. In other words, I tend to want to punish myself for slip ups. Instead, I need to focus on rewarding myself for my successes, which will encourage me to have more of them. I’ll keep track of the days I eat and exercise well and once I hit a goal of, say, 50 “good” days, I’ll reward myself with something I have always lusted after: a pair of Lululemon yoga pants.

So there you have it. My mantras will help me “earn” a pair of swanky yoga pants, avoid temptations, and eat my veggies before they spoil. What about you? Do you have any healthy resolutions or mantras for 2013?

Betsy Mikel | betsymikel.com