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Motivation Monday: Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle All Year Long

January 26, 2015

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Well, here we are. It’s the beginning of “the week your New Year’s resolution to exercise dies,” according to a Wall Street Journal article of that name. And they have proof. According to Facebook data, check-ins to places with “gym” or “fitness” in the name drop 10% in late February, with the decline beginning in late January. For expert tips on keeping resolutions after the champagne is gone and New Year’s photos posted, read the WSJ article. For my own musings and advice on resolutions and fitness, read on.

Every year, it seems everyone makes a resolution to get in or stay in shape. Often, these resolutions are repeated throughout the year–”starting Monday I’m going to the gym every day” or “I’m only eating healthily from tomorrow on.” Never did I seem to make so many resolutions, nor did they seem so impossible to keep, as in Italy. It starts with a cappucino in the morning made with whole milk, and possibly a Nutella pastry if you’re feeling skinny. For lunch, it’s pizza or pasta or a panino, all based on cheese and bread. Then there’s aperitivo, where you vow to have a drink but not snack, and end up eating a plate of prosciutto and a little bread and a handful of those mini pizzas, and that doesn’t even count dinner, where a bowl of pasta awaits, followed by gelato or tiramisu or some other delicious disaster. Couple that with the fact that gyms seem either hard to find or are insanely expensive, and running is not an option unless you’re in a park or don’t mind pushing through hordes of people. It’s a problem, and one my coworkers and I moaned about daily. My deskmates and I would bring salad for lunch, showing it around with pride. An hour later we would find ourselves justifying just one slice of pizza, because salads are small, or just one afternoon snack of gelato. Just today. We’ll be healthy tomorrow. And so it continued…

One day, we decided to kickstart our health with memberships at a nearby hot yoga studio. They even had classes in English and a 20-day trial package. What could go wrong? For starters, we had never done hot yoga before. Three of us filed in on day one, gasping at how warm the room was on arrival, and how packed. (By the way, it was July, and we had been sweltering all day in our non-air conditioned office). We squished in next to an extremely fit older woman and behind a row of men in speedos. At first, it didn’t seem so bad. The movements were slow and relaxing, and the sweat felt like a much needed toxin release. An hour in, one of us was lying on the floor, never to resume her practice, and two of us were panting and dripping profusely. While holding a precarious pose, my eyes trained on a spot in front of me, I couldn’t help but watch a speedo’d man’s chest hair drip sweat onto the ground in time with his breath. I tried not to gag and closed my eyes.

We went once more after that, and then we were done. Hot yoga was out. We consoled ourselves with wine and a resolution to walk more.

This year, back in the US, I resolved to do more yoga, the normal kind, and to continue to eat healthily and stay in shape. So far, so good, but this is resolution death week, or so Facebook data tells us. So how am I going to keep mine? After lots of reading and chatting with friends, these are the best answers I’ve found:

1. Don’t call them resolutions. That implies that something was wrong before and you need to fix it, and that there’s a deadline or end goal. But being healthy isn’t like that. It’s a permanent lifestyle change. So by reminding myself that this is just who I am, and what I like – I like feeling healthy, I love fruits and veggies, and yoga relaxes and inspires me, it’s much easier to continue to turn away unhealthy foods and make a point to exercise.

2. Forgive yourself. So you ate a piece of pizza or you gave in to a cookie or you drank a caramel latte. It’s really not the end of the world. Correct and move on. Don’t dwell. Negativity makes you fat (at least that’s what I’m telling myself).

3. Don’t do it to be skinny, do it to be happy. If you’re only working out to weigh a certain amount or to look good in a bikini, you’re going to fail. Workout because you like it, eat healthy foods that you enjoy, and practice yoga because it helps you be more creative at work or more relaxed in other situations. If you want to be healthy for the everyday benefits, not a short term goal, it’s more likely to stick and you’re less likely to get discouraged if you don’t meet that certain number on a scale. This also works while traveling – if you think of yourself as an active person, you’re more likely to branch out and do active things on vacation like hiking, kayaking, climbing, or any number of alternatives to lying on a beach. (Not that there’s anything wrong with lying on a beach once you’re done!).

4. Create reasons to be healthy. For example, I’m going to Costa Rica in a few weeks, which is an incentive to keep working out. Signing up for a race or fitness challenge is another incentive to stay in shape.

5. When in doubt, just go to yoga. You’ll never regret it once you’re there. Similarly, tell yourself you’re only going to go to the gym for 10 minutes then you can leave. It’s SO much easier to go if you think it’s going to be super short, and once you get started, you’ll probably get into it and stay.

6. My favorite solution? Talk to a friend. They’ll almost always motivate you, and if you have a workout buddy they’ll keep you accountable. Even if they’re far away, friends can be huge motivators. Just this morning one of my aforementioned deskmates in Italy sent me a link to this healthy living/lifestyle site and now I’m obsessed. Sometimes all it takes is an article or a conversation to kickstart your day.

So what do you think? How do you keep your “resolutions” alive and stay motivated?

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