Being fit and healthy is probably the most popular New Year’s resolution. Here are three simple tips that will help you fulfill it this year.

1)      Take a look at what you eat: If you want to feel better, be more productive, and loose a few extra pounds in 2012 looking at your way of eating is the right place to start.

  • For general tips on healthier eating please read this earlier post.
  • For loosing extra pounds, I do not recommend dieting in general. Dieting often causes rebound weight gain with a net-increase in body weight over several years. For most people, optimizing their diet in combination with the right type of exercise does the trick.
    • Avoiding processed foods and fructose, cutting out refined carbohydrates from your diet (or at least not eating them later in the day) and increasing your intake of lean protein or beans can make a big difference. I usually suggest a ratio of 2 parts of complex carbohydrates to 1 part of protein for every meal or snack with most carbs coming from vegetables.
    • Don’t skip meals! Eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism active. Don’t overeat. Eat smaller meals more frequently. Calories are used much more efficient this way. Skipping meals also causes low blood sugar levels that make you crave and over-eat foods high in carbohydrates and fat. This also raises your cholesterol and can make you feel irritable and depressed. Smart phone apps like myfitnesspal can be initially very helpful to get an understanding of how many calories you need in a day based on your activity level, gender, and age, and how many calories you are actually consuming.
    • Switching from coffee to green tea (without sugar) will make you loose weight rather than gain it (see linked articles for more information about the affects of these two substances on metabolism and digestion).
    • Consuming moderate amounts of low-fat dairy rather than cutting out dairy completely will assist this as well.
    • About fats: your body needs fats so don’t avoid fats but choose the right ones (e.g. olive oil, avocado). But watch the amounts of calories these foods come with. If you ingest too little fats your body will start to crave them (but usually not the good fats).
  • If you are an emotional eater you might benefit from stress management or therapy depending on what the underlying issues are. If you are able to establish a healthy relationship to food, appreciate its nutritional value and the positive way it affects your health you might be well on your way.

2)      Exercise: You do not have to set aside time for hours of boring exercise in your already busy schedule. Make it fun, quick, and effective. Cardio interval training seems to be most effective for weight loss. You can do this in the gym, at home, or outside. This gives you a lot of flexibility. With 30 minutes (including 4 minute warm-up) two to three times per week you will be in great shape very quick, especially if you combine this with one day of resistance strength training. A lot of gyms also offer high-intensity cardio classes that are fun. What ever cardio exercise you do focus on high intensity types.
A word of advice though: whenever you start exercising after a longer break it is helpful to check in with a healthcare provider familiar with sports medicine and exercise therapy to make sure that you are doing your exercises properly and to avoid unnecessary injuries later on. Some people get overzealous with their New Year’s resolution and injure themselves. This can easily be avoided.

3)      Manage Your Stress: Stress interferes with the healthy functioning of virtually every organ-system in your body. It inhibits proper digestive functioning and absorption, strains our immune- and reproductive systems, interferes with proper sleep and energy production, and can cause weight gain. Proper sleep and exercise are very important in managing stress. Other effective modalities include acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and psychotherapy. For a short presentation on how stress affects your health please click here.

Eat every 2-3 hours to keep you blood sugar levels stable because they have a

tremendous impact on your overall health and eating habits. Low blood-sugar

levels will make you over-eat high-carb/fat foods and raise your insulin,

cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Low blood-sugar levels can easily make

you feel cranky, irritable, and depressed.