For many of us, it's a familiar pattern. We start the new year off with the best intentions and make resolutions for a new heart healthy lifestyle. But as time goes on, our commitment starts to fizzle. Here are a few ways to stay on track with 5 of the most popular "healthy heart" resolutions:
1. Exercise more
Choose activities that you actually enjoy. You might pick exercises you feel you "should" do but don't really like, then lose motivation when your early enthusiasm wears off.
Don't overdo it. Sometimes people start a new exercise program with great enthusiasm, only to overdo it and become injured. Start slowly and gradually build up your level of activity. Talk to your doctor to find out what types of exercise are appropriate for you.
Have a clear plan. This can help you see the results you need to stay motivated. Write down what activities you will do, for how long, and how often. Before starting to exercise, check with your doctor to find out what is safe for you.
2. Eat healthy
Keep healthy, convenient foods on hand. Sometimes, your best healthy eating intentions are no match for a busy lifestyle. To avoid dinnertime dilemmas, keep frozen vegetables, pre-washed salads, and pasta and sauce in your home so you can prepare quick, healthy meals.
Take baby steps. It's easy to get overwhelmed if you try to make too many changes at once. To stay on track, just make one simple healthy eating change at a time. For example, try to add just one more fruit or vegetable to your day by topping your cereal with berries.
Treat yourself from time to time. If your diet is too strict, you're more likely to give up on healthy eating altogether. Instead, make a healthy eating plan based on Canada's Food Guide and allow yourself the occasional treat (just eat smaller amounts less often).
3. Lose weight
Set reasonable goals. It's easy to get discouraged if you are expecting to lose 10 pounds a week. Experts recommend 1 to 2 pounds a week as a safe weight loss rate.
Eat breakfast. Don't sabotage your eating plan by skipping breakfast. Breakfast eaters are more likely to lose weight because eating breakfast reduces snacking later in the day and shifts calorie intake to the morning when your metabolism is higher.
Don't choose an overly strict diet. As mentioned above, if your diet is too strict it will be too difficult to follow and you could get discouraged. Use Canada's Food Guide to develop a healthy eating plan and treat yourself from time to time.
4. Quit smoking
Have a plan for coping with cravings. Cigarette cravings can derail many quit smoking attempts. Plan to cope with cravings using the 4 Ds: drink water, delay your next cigarette, deep breathing, or do something to distract yourself.
Don't keep it a secret. Some people keep their quit smoking attempt a secret in case it doesn't work out. But you're more likely to be successful if you enlist the support of those around you. Pick a date to quit, and let everyone know.
If you slip up, try again. A slip up doesn't mean you've failed. See what you can learn from the slip up and don't give up on quitting. Most people need to try several times before they can quit smoking for good.
5. Tame stress
Take care of yourself. It's harder to manage stress when you're run down. If you eat healthy, are physically active, make time for yourself, and share your feelings with others, you will be better equipped to handle stress in your life.
Say no. Are you overloaded? Take a look at your commitments and get rid of ones that are not important to your own personal goals.
Don't procrastinate. Putting things off can be a hidden source of stress.