What’s the story with resolutions? On New Year’s Day we make them, by Valentine’s Day they are a distant memory. Why is it so difficult to make lasting improvements to our lives? One theory is that we focus on making massive changes which trip the defense mechanisms designed to maintain our equilibrium. Even if it not healthy for us, this balance system keeps us in our comfort zone, unable to shift to a healthier paradigm. If you’ve had trouble keeping your resolutions in the past, may I suggest these four stealthy hacks to fly in under your system’s radar:
#1: Hack Your Metabolism
The oldest person I ever trained was 95 years old. When I asked the secret of his longevity, he told me he ate a healthy breakfast every day. One piece of whole-wheat toast, one egg, cheese, fruit and coffee was his elixir. Our metabolism, encoded in our primal DNA, requires an early meal. The more balanced between protein, fiber, fat and healthy carbs, the better. If nothing is consumed within an hour of waking, our metabolism slows down to conserve what we will be ingesting later that day. This “store-it-rather-than-burn-it” adaptation was a great survival mechanism to prevent starvation when we had a bad day hunting on the savannahs. Today, it is a roadblock to maintaining a healthy weight.
Action: Eat a small, balanced meal shortly after you wake up.
#2: Hack Your Portion Control
“Caution, the portion you are eating is larger than it appears!” Many overweight people eat healthful food…just too much of it. Before you begin to chow down, be aware of what is considered a portion, especially in restaurants. Back in the day, people used to eat one meal outside of the home per week. Today the average is six. Restaurant meals have larger portions made with more calorie-dense preparations and ingredients.
Actions: Check WebMD to compare portion sizes to real world objects like baseballs, dollar bills, light bulbs, golf balls, decks of cards, etc. Also, if you would like the free chapter How To Dine Out Mindfully and in Style, from my book Leave the Cannoli Take the Weights: Practical Guidance on Eating, Exercise and Empowerment, shoot me an email me and I will send you the link to a print off a copy.
#3: Hack Your Muscles
Strength training will help build your muscle mass. Muscles are the engine of your metabolic burn rate, as each additional pound burns between 30 and 50 calories per day—even while you are sleeping. It is not unusual to add three to five pounds of lean muscle mass, while reducing a commensurate amount of fat, over a six-month period. This can result in a weight loss between eight and twelve pounds per year.
Action: Dust of the exercise equipment you already own and start pumping iron. If you need guidance or a jumpstart, ask a trainer to design an exercise program tailored to your goals and physical limitations.
#4: Hack Your Cardio
The Surgeon General recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate cardiovascular exercise. Yikes…that’s a lot, two and a half hours worth to be exact. First, doing cardio is exercise designed to strengthen your heart—it is a muscle after all, just like your biceps. And like your biceps, it needs enough of a challenge to respond by becoming stronger. Just as you won’t develop Jersey Shore, beach-ready arms if you curl a one-pound weight, your heart won’t get stronger if it doesn’t beat in a training range. The intensity of your cardio is determined by how fast your heart beats when exercising. You can take your own pulse or use a heart rate monitor or fitness band. According to the American Heart Association, for cardio to be effective, your heart needs to beat in the following ranges, based on your age:
20……….100 to 170
30……….95 to 162
40……….90 to 153
45……….88 to 149
50……….85 to 145
55……….83 to 140
60……….80 to 136
65……….78 to 132
70……….75 to 128
So, now you know how fast your heart has to beat and how long you need to exercise. How do you do it…
Action: Fit cardio into your busy schedule by breaking the bouts of exercise into two or three sessions per day. Good news, cardio is cumulative on a daily basis. Fifteen minutes before work, 15 minutes at lunch and 20 minutes in the evening will result in about 45 minutes of benefit…yes, a little is lost in the translation. If you can stick to this program four days a week, you will exceed the minimum, and the Surgeon General will be pleased with your dedication.
Let 2017 be the year you keep your health and fitness resolutions. These four small hacks are achievable and designed to deliver big results by flying in under your body’s defenses and working over time. Never underestimate the power of small things. If you look at the vault next time you stop into your bank, you will see big doors swing on small hinges.
What special hacks have you discovered? I’d love to here what has works for you.