This New Year’s, why not set goals you actually want to work toward? Chances are, if you’re excited about making a change, you just might do it!
Despite our best intentions, New Year’s resolutions can end up being more draconian than aspirational. We set ourselves up to fail by establishing very specific, all-or-nothing diet and exercise goals: Consume no carbs whatsoever, run 5 miles every morning, tackle Mount Everest. When we eat a dish of pasta on Jan. 2 or hit snooze on day 3 of the 5 a.m. exercise regimen, we’re only too happy to throw in the towel and say farewell to the resolutions that, truth be told, we never wanted to stick with. This time around, why not set goals that you can and want to keep? We’ve come up with a few jumping-off points — simple changes — that you can build on and customize, which will get you on your way to better health in the new year.
1. GO AGAINST THE GRAIN
In 2014, rotate the whole grains in your culinary lineup. For years, doctors have urged us to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables for optimum health. According to Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for Oldways and the Whole Grains Council, “Variety is equally important when it comes to whole grains. If someone tells you to eat more vegetables, you don’t just eat more carrots. Different grains are rich in different vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting antioxidants.”
So explore beyond quinoa! Try, for instance, freekeh and sorghum.
FREEKEH is wheat that is harvested while it’s still green, so it retains maximum nutritional value. It’s then sun-dried and charred for a smoky flavor. Freekeh is high in fiber and protein and has a good prebiotic effect (increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in the stomach). Try adding it to your soups and pilafs.
SORGHUM, an ancient grain used to make roti in India and tortillas in Central America, has not been grown widely as a human-food crop in the United States, but this is changing: It’s drought tolerant and water efficient, and — the detail that just might take it mainstream — it’s gluten-free.
2. MAKE SOME DATES
Pick up the phone in January and schedule routine doctor and dentist appointments for every member of your family. With the whole year ahead of you, you’re more likely to get appointment times that work with your schedules. Visit MayoClinic.com for an age- and gender-specific list of health-screening guidelines; you may need to schedule additional appointments with specialists if you’re due for tests that are not performed during a routine visit. Make the most of face time with your physician by creating a list of questions to bring with you to your appointment. You’re less likely to forget your concerns if you have a written prompt.
3. EXERCISE YOUR OPTIONS
Cross-training is essential to improving your fitness level and can be as simple as adding a few new elements to your existing exercise routine. Trainer Anna Kaiser advises, “If you want to keep seeing results, you need to switch up your workout and challenge your body and mind. When you do the same activity again and again, your body becomes efficient at performing certain movements, and your fitness level plateaus. Repetition also leads to overuse injury and boredom. If you’re not excited about exercising, it won’t be a priority.”
To begin cross-training, Kaiser suggests choosing one workout from each category — cardio, strength, and flexibility — and doing it at least once a week. For example: Monday, pick one cardio activity (running, biking, jumping rope, using an elliptical machine); Wednesday, choose a strength-training exercise (TRX, Pilates, sculpting class, weight lifting); Friday, focus on flexibility (yoga, qigong, stretch class); Saturday, circle back to cardio.