For many of us, 2016 was a doozy, but we here at Brit + Co are ready to hit refresh in 2017! Follow our Hit Refresh series through January for new ideas, hacks and skills that will help you achieve (and maintain!) those New Year’s resolutions.
Every year, it’s the same old thing: “This is the year that’s gonna be different. This is the year I’m going to keep my New Year’s resolution.” And yet, every year, it seems we’re either making the same empty vows yet again, or worse, we can’t even remember what it was we pledged to do the year before at this point (guilty as charged)!
But that’s okay… ’cause this year’s gonna be different. Right?
If we’re being totally honest… we’re not so sure. Given our collective track record as a nation (newsflash: 80 percent of these things fail), the odds are basically stacked against us from the jump. So what gives? We’ve heard all the tips and tricks, so why aren’t they working? We got to thinking: What if the problem isn’t how we’re going about keeping the resolutions, but the resolutions themselves?
Enter Dr. Travis Stork. As an ER physician, host of the Emmy Award-winning syndicated daytime series, The Doctors, and a bestselling author (you can grab his latest, The Lose Your Belly Diet: Change Your Gut, Change Your Life ($16) on Amazon), he knows a thing or two about health goals. He took some time out from giving advice on his hit show to review some of 2016’s top health-related resolutions (some of which also happen to be the ones most commonly broken) to give us an idea of which ones were actually attainable… and which ones needed a little work. Read on to see what he had to say!
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO LIVE HEALTHIER, TRY TAKING BABY STEPS
We all want to “live healthier,” but what does that even mean? There’s sooooo much wiggle room to play with here, it’s no wonder this one is falling by the wayside. It’s time to get specific, and Dr. Stork has some brilliant ideas about how to do just that.
First and foremost, you’ll want to focus on the fuel you’re putting into your bod by eating healthier (see: resolution #2). “When one makes better choices and eats high-quality foods that nourish you and make you feel full and satisfied, it increases your quality of life and life span along the way,” he tells us.
Well, that’s a nice little perk if we’ve ever heard one! (There’s more too: Dr. Stork says eating better can also boost your energy, sleep better, beef up your heart and keep you sharp as a tack.)
He isn’t solely talking about food, either. “I was inspired to write my latest book because of the role our gut bacteria plays in our overall health,” he shares. Chock-full of advice to help you keep yours at a healthy level (hint: Increase your fiber intake), Dr. Stork gave us his top tip for doing so, and it’s simple enough for anyone to try: Eat foods with probiotics (he cites yogurt, kefir, miso, live culture sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha as top examples).
Once you’ve got your gut in order, it’s time to get moving by increasing your physical activity.
“When combined with a healthy diet, [enjoyable activities] will help you target belly fat, but just as importantly, being active may help prevent heart disease, some types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression and anxiety, just to name a few,” he says. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to us!
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO LOSE WEIGHT, TRY MAKING SMART FOOD SWAPS
While it’s possible to achieve this goal, Dr. Stork says it’s better to focus on the methods used to get there than the actual number on a scale. Namely? Changing what you eat. “Rather than [hopping] on the latest diet trend for 2017 that has you eating less-than-desirable foods or feeling guilty every time you give into a splurge,” Dr. Stork suggests taking a cue from his new book and “using food as thy medicine.” Uh, come again?
In layman’s terms? Focus on the foods that are going to boost your health — you know, the ones that “give you energy and make you feel good.” Foods such as fruits and veggies (Dr. Stork suggests raw where possible), beans, legumes, nuts and seeds (which provide protein, fiber and other helpful nutrients) and what the good doc calls “friendly fats.” While his personal fave in the FF camp happens to be avocados, he says you’d also do well to chow down on tahini, real, dark chocolate (over 70 percent cacao content) and healthy oils, like olive, sesame, grape seed or coconut.
“These changes don’t have to be difficult or expensive,” he assures us. “You don’t have to be a gourmet chef or spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It can be as simple as opting for protein-packed Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to top your whole-grain quesadilla, or munching on a handful of antioxidant-rich walnuts rather than that bag of greasy chips. Swap that white pasta and bread for whole grain versions. Experiment with whole grains!” he tells us. “There are so many to choose from, like barley, bulgar and quinoa.”
Best of all, you don’t have to starve yourself to get back into your favorite pair of skinnies. “I cannot stress enough that this is not so much about eating less, but about eating right,” he tells us. “Before you know it, you’ll be forming new, healthy food habits that will carry you through the whole year, and hopefully, the rest of your life.”
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO QUIT SMOKING, SEEK THE OPINION OF A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
While Dr. Travis Stork wholeheartedly agrees this little habit needs to go (“There is nothing more dangerous, or that exacerbates and complicates a myriad of health issues, more than smoking,” he warns us), he doesn’t recommend going it alone. “Cold turkey may be effective for some, but there are many ways to quit and wean oneself off nicotine, so I recommend consulting a healthcare provider to find the method best suited to an individual,” he says.
While this one won’t likely be easy, even with the help of a pro, the health benefits truly are infinite. “Within [one] hour of stopping smoking, elevated heart rate and blood pressure calm down, carbon monoxide levels begin to normalize and lung function beings improving.” Say whatttt!?
You’ll even feel better to boot. “People who enjoy smoking don’t realize that the brain actually makes less dopamine (AKA “the feel-good chemical”) when they smoke,” Dr. Stork explains. “Although people tend to smoke when they are stressed and feel like the cigarettes calm them down, nicotine is actually a stimulant, and, in the long run, it does the opposite of calming down the body.” Who knew!?
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO QUIT DRINKING, TRY DRINKING IN MODERATION
If drinking is something that you enjoy, you don’t have to cut it out of your life completely to be healthier — in fact, as Dr. Stork points out, alcohol may even benefit your health “if consumed in moderate quantities.” That is, of course, if you’re able to self-moderate. “Moderation is key,” he says. “But moderation can quickly become abuse if you’re not careful or if you are someone [that] is predisposed to alcohol abuse.”
In that case, he recommends the same course of action that he does with someone looking to give up smoking and speaking with a profession to figure out a plan of action that works for you.
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO RUN A MARATHON, TRY EXERCISING IN GENERAL
It’s time to get real: Not everyone was born to be a runner (*slowly raising our hand*). And that’s okay. You don’t have to be. “A regular exercise program doesn’t mean you have to sign up for costly gym plans, hire a personal trainer, buy a lot of fancy equipment or run a marathon,” Dr. Stork tells us. (Phew!) “Everyone has their own fitness journey. It’s important to remember that you can get amazing health benefits by simply being less sedentary.”
Case in point? Tear yourself away from the screen at work from time to time to stretch every hour or so. Go for a walk when you’re finished. Ride your bike instead of taking the subway or driving if it’s nice out. Move your body! “It doesn’t take much — 30 minutes of walking a day is a great goal,” he says.
Of course, if you’re serious about getting into the running game, there’s no reason you can’t — if you take the proper precautions. “Speak with your physician about any physical limitations and build up slowly,” Dr. Stork says. “There are a lot of training groups who work specifically with beginning runners.”
What’s your New Year’s resolution? Tell us over @BritandCo.
(Photos via Jamie Grill Photography, Fabrice Poincelet, Gawrav Sinha, Yuri Arcurs + Ben Gabbe/Getty)