Are you up for a challenge this year? If you’ve tried to improve your health in the past by going all out and gotten discouraged, this year you can take it step by step with mini challenges every month. Do it alone or if you like a bit of friendly competition and support, you can enlist friends and family.
By setting out a new challenge each month, not only will you likely try new foods and habits, but you will be making positive changes over time. This is less overwhelming and can improve your chances of sticking with it.
You can make up your own, but here I’ve provided a different challenge for each month for 2017. Even if you do them alone, get on social media or tell a friend or family member so you keep yourself accountable. Plus getting support from others can help encourage you to keep going.
Here are some suggestions for January to June. I’ll give you the rest of the suggestions for the remaining months in the summer. For now, you can get started with these.
January: Be aware of your portion sizes. Do you use large plates and fill them up? A serving size for meat, fish and poultry is about the size and thickness of your palm. When you get large servings when you eat out, ask for a doggy bag to bring food home for a meal the next day.
February: Replace pop/soda with water and herbal tea. For example, if you drink three cans of pop per day, replace one can per day with a glass of water or herbal tea. You can add cucumber, lemon, berries, or mint leaves to your water to add flavour. There are many teas to choose from such as rooibos, chamomile, ginger, or peppermint. The second week of February, replace two cans per day with water or tea, and increase it as the weeks pass. By doing this you will be ingesting a lot less sugar and fewer artificial sweeteners.
March: Replace sugary breakfast cereal with oatmeal. If you start your morning with a bowl of sugary cereal, you will experience a surge of energy followed by a crash. You can replace your cereal with oatmeal which will help you feel full longer. Add berries and nuts and seeds and a sprinkle of cinnamon to it to make it more flavourful and give you antioxidants and good fats. It will also help provide steady energy. Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, or ground flaxseeds are good options.
April: Try new fruits and vegetables. Perhaps you stick with the same few fruits and vegetables or rarely eat them at all. Branch out and try one new fruit and one new vegetable per week this month. Revisit veggies you might not like boiled and try roasting them instead. Don’t like the taste of spinach? Put a handful in a smoothie. You might not even notice it’s there. You could actually grow to like fruits and veggies you once couldn’t stand.
May: Get out in nature. Sometimes if you work a 9 to 5 job, you spend more time inside than outside. And with obligations outside of work, there might not be a lot of time to get out in nature if you don’t have a dog that needs regular walks. Explore trails, parks, and waterfronts if you have access to them. Schedule time for walks, bike rides, or even yoga in the park. Exposure to sunlight will help you get your vitamin D.
June: Pay attention to what you eat when you experience symptoms. Keeping a log of what you eat and any symptoms that arise can help you pinpoint which foods you might be sensitive to. Sometimes it isn’t easy to connect a food to symptoms when they happen a day or two or three later. When you write it down, you can go back and look for the possible culprit. Some symptoms to watch out for are headaches, bloating, fatigue, rashes, and sinus troubles.
Are you up for a challenge? If you’ve tried to improve your health in the past by going all out and wound up discouraged, this year you can take it step by step with mini challenges every month. Adopting healthier eating and lifestyle habits doesn’t have to be overwhelming and something to dread. Have fun with it. With a little planning and desire, you can make this year, and those to come, healthier.
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