It’s that time again.
As we enter a new year, millions of Americans will resolve to commit to new, positive habits or get their old, good habits back on track. Some will strive do a better job of enjoying life or spending more time with family and friends. Others will aim to spend less (and save more) money. Still more will set out to learn something new or travel to places they’ve never been. As usual, however, topping the list of Americans’ New Year’s resolutions for 2017 will be losing weight and getting in shape.
Sticking to any New Year’s resolution is tough, and staying on track with healthy lifestyle changes is no exception. Even if you’re able to successfully commit to eating better and exercising more, you might have set faulty goals for yourself without even knowing it. For example, many people who pledge to exercise more do so thinking that they can focus on cardio exclusively when their workouts should actually consist of both cardio and weight training.
There are even more misconceptions about what constitutes healthy eating. Not only do many people think it’s OK to eat whatever they want as long as it’s healthy, many also think that eating fat will make them fat, or that they have to completely avoid any “bad” foods. The truth is, the secret to healthy eating isn’t about what you should always—or never—eat, but rather striking a balance between the two.
Here is the truth about some healthy eating myths:
“I need to stop eating junk food.”
While cutting back on unhealthy food is good, cutting it out of your diet completely can be both unrealistic and counterproductive. Sure, eliminating chips, cakes, or ice cream can help you lose weight at first, but, over time, you will undoubtedly feel deprived and tempted to binge.
Research has shown that the more people are told not to think about a particular food, the more of that food they will eat compared to people who are encouraged to freely think or talk about that food. Instead of banning all junk food from your diet, resolve to eat healthy foods 80 percent of the time and allow yourself to eat whatever you want the remaining 20 percent.
“Eating fat will make me fat.”
Just as there is a misconception that there is no room for junk food in a healthy diet, many people think that they need to completely avoid fatty foods, as well. That is simply not the case. In fact, fat provides nutritional benefits that your body needs. Instead of cutting out fats completely, it’s more important to pay attention to the kinds of fats you’re eating.
According to the American Heart Association, 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories should come from fat, with only 7 percent of those coming from saturated fats. Limit the amount of saturated fats (like fatty meats, cream, butter, and cheese) in your diet, and do your best to completely avoid trans fats (like donuts, biscuits, frozen pizzas, and stick margarines). Replacing them with monounsaturated fats (like olive oil, avocados, and nuts) can actually help you lose weight.
“I can consume as many calories as I want as long as I’m eating healthy food.”
While eating healthy foods is better than eating unhealthy foods, calories can add up quickly no matter what you’re eating. The key is to pack the most nutrients into the least amount of calories and to watch your portions.
A diet similar to the Mediterranean diet is a good choice. The diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts. You can augment it with boiled of baked potatoes, a golf ball-sized portion of peanut butter, a couple of ounces of low-fat cheese, and a square or two of high-quality dark chocolate.
The key to losing weight is to burn more calories than you’re taking in. While watching what you eat is key, getting regular exercise is equally important. The sooner you can find a healthier lifestyle that you can maintain in 2017—and beyond—the better. Consider consulting a registered dietician to help get your diet on track, as well as a personal trainer who can help you establish a long-term fitness regimen you can live (and succeed) with.
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