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The Twelve Tips of Christmas

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By: Dr. Stephen O’Neil

The holidays are notorious for overeating, overindulging and being overwhelmed. When they end, we're usually left to deal with the consequences including broken diets, a few extra pounds, and new bad habits. This generally leads to unreasonable New Year's resolutions about getting back into shape, being more conscious about our health, etc.

These last for a few months or weeks and then are forgotten. This year I am sending out a challenge to everyone to make some healthy, reasonable resolutions. However this year the challenge is to actually keep these promises to yourself and build a better you. Here are the 12 health tips of Christmas to get you started on a program and stick with it. These tips may make it easier to get fit and become healthier throughout the year.

1. Set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic, Time Frame). Research shows it takes roughly 30 days to develop a habit. Set the goal and make several small changes to achieve it. Specific - what, when, where. Measurable - how much, how often. Action Oriented, Realistic- set attainable goals so you don't end up discouraged. Time Frame - set a date to reach certain goals.

2. Consistency is the key - You are what you repeatedly do. Health and Wellness are not achieved in one event; they are created through good habits and healthy choices the whole year through.

3. Make an appointment with yourself for activity - Set some time aside for your activity of choice and make it part of your schedule. Twenty to thirty minutes per day, three to four times per week is a good start. Something as simple as a brisk walk after the last meal of the day is a great way to get started. Put it in the day planner.

4. Enlist an activity buddy - Have a friend, family member or partner join you in your venture. Working with people who share common goals will give you the added boost when you need it the most.

5. Grocery shop only after having a good mea l- You will be less likely to buy high fat or sugary snacks that can keep you from reaching your health and fitness goals. Make a well-balanced list and stick to it.

6. Eat healthy - Eat smaller meals more frequently during the day to maintain energy levels and stimulate metabolism. You will be less likely to overeat at suppertime or snack in the late evening. Try to eat foods low in saturated fat and carbohydrates and avoid processed foods.

7. Hydrate your body - Experts say we need 2 liters of water per day to prevent dehydration, regulate body temperature, maintain proper blood pressure, and to flush out body impurities. Remember soda, coffee, and other caffeinated beverages do not count.

8. Everything in moderation - Don't go overboard, still enjoy the things you find pleasurable but in smaller doses and less frequently. Small rewards for goals reached can help keep you motivated.

9. Surround yourself with positive influences - Avoid things and people that bring you down. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself.

10. Learn something new - Find a new hobby or activity. Doing something you're interested in makes it easier and more enjoyable. Find a group, team or organization to join. Meeting new people and having them count on your participation can build anticipation and help you commit fully.

11. Schedule ‘Me' time - Take at least a few minutes to half hour out of each day, devoted to fun. Call it personal development time and do what makes you happy.

12. Find focus - If you focus only on the destination, you may stumble along the way. Enjoy the trip and enjoy the smaller achievements along the way. Keep focused by re-reading, reviewing, and posting your goals often.

Applying these tips to a certain fitness goal, seeing it through and having it become a permanent, positive lifestyle change is the most rewarding way you can possibly celebrate the New Year.