So You Want to Stop…Ditching Your Resolutions by January 5th

businessman lost in field using a map

The Map: Finding Focus and Direction for Your 2014 Health + Fitness Goals

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When I was 10 or 11 years old, I got separated from my parents at a national park in Washington. Luckily, I was a Boy Scout and had my trusty park map with me. So for the next 3-4 hours, I walked back and forth across the main path waiting to run into my parents. Needless to say, they were worried sick when I eventually found them and more than a little upset when I acted like it was no big deal. “I wasn’t lost,” I explained. “I had a map; I just didn’t know where I was on it.”

Being on the path to a fitness goal is not different. It requires two things: knowing where you want to go and knowing where you’re at. Lots of people set off towards their goal with a path in mind. Atkins, paleo, Crossfit, walking, running, yoga, Zumba, cycling, intermittent fasting: these are all paths that one can take to many health and fitness goals. But none of them work equally well for everyone. And it can be easy to stray off even the most well-paved path. Ask anyone who has ever set a weight loss goal as a New Year’s Resolution.

So here’s the question: how do know if you’re getting closer to your destination or just clutching to a map?

The Smallest Goal Embiggins

The of the simplest things you can do to keep yourself from getting lost or distracted on the way to any goal is to take care in how you define the goal it self. The goal of good goal-setting is create a goal that is as

  • clear,
  • simple, and
  • meaningful to YOU

as possible.

But before you embark on the process of constructing a goal that fits these criteria, it’s helpful to remember what the point of having a goal is at all. According to Weinburg et al. (1993; 2000), athletes set goals to “provide direction and focus for their actions.”  That’s right – the point of a goal is to keep you oriented and moving forward. Therefore any goal, however noble or visionary, that does not make you feel grounded and keep you moving forward is no longer a goal, by definition. It’s a burden. So, if you’ve set dozens of New Year’s weight loss resolutions or health goals in the past that were discarded by the wayside by January 15th, ditch that approach and find a new one that works for you.

Here’s an example. To many people, “I want to lose 20 pounds” feels impossibly far off and vague. Instead, try wrapping your head around a goal or Resolution that you have complete control over and is still connected to your grander destination. You need to lose weight? How does one lose weight? By eating less and moving more. How does one eat less? By deciding to eat less and actually doing it. Now, you can formulate a goal that is relevant and clear, and ultimately contributes to a habit that will snowball into the ultimate vision of weight loss.

Here’s one such habit I love to teach my own clients: “I will put down the fork when I am 80% full every day for 14 days.” Much more manageable than aiming to lose 20 pounds.

Eliminate Data Overload with a Key Metric

With a tool like MyFitnessPal, you can quickly accumulate a lot of data about your progress toward your health, weight and fitness goals – big and small – by recording what you eat and how much you move. You can also see how you’re doing, place yourself on the map to your goals in real time, and use that data as a safety net to make sure you are on track. Or you can log all that invaluable information then get distracted watching cat videos online.  It’s like having the map and not knowing where you’re at on it.

Way back in 1971, Simon Herbert said that, “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” How do you pay attention to what matters when you have information overload? By focusing on a key metric that is tied tightly to your small-scale, right-now goal. Say for example you set the habit goal I just mentioned, the goal of ceasing eating when one is 80% full. Your key metric would be food amount: calories. Remember – for now, you’re just trying to eat less. So for 14 days, the only number that matters toward your goal is the average number of calories consumed for those 2 weeks – that’s your key metric.

Run the report in MyFitnessPal, get the data you need, check yourself, and find out where you’re at – all the way to your individual small goals. Collectively, that will keep you focused and on track to achieve your big ones.

Coach Stevo is the nutrition and sport psychology consultant at San Francisco CrossFit  He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, has a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, and is finishing his MA in Applied Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. His specialty is habit-based training and he contributed  to Intervention by Dan John in 2012.

So You Want to Start…Cooking Healthy

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Cooking healthy. For many of us, saying these two words together is a culinary kiss of death. You see, somewhere between the fat-free, reduced salt and sugar-free fads, “healthy” became synonymous with bland and unexciting.

Back when I decided to start “cooking healthy” shortly after graduating from college, I, like many others, made every mistake in the book. I skimped on the fat and sprinkled salt only sparingly. For years I chewed…and chewed…and chewed dreadfully dry chicken breast and tried to get excited about steamed, butterless broccoli.

That never happened–but with the help of cookbooks, beautiful food blogs, and a whole lot of hours in the kitchen, I gradually discovered that healthy cooking could actually be really tasty–and it didn’t mean skipping the butter on my broccoli. I grew to love cooking so much I started my own food blog, went back to graduate school to become a Registered Dietitian made myself a career out of enjoying healthy food!

If you too want to start cooking healthy, here are some tricks I learned along the way to take the headache out of, and put the taste back into, cooking healthy:

1. Find some reliable recipe resources. Don’t do what I did and get stuck in a bland broccoli rut for lack of a reliable recipe collection. Ask friends for cookbook or recipe recommendations and poke around online for some healthy food blogs to follow. The internet is laden with millions, maybe even billions of delicious, healthy recipes. When you find one that catches your eye, just bookmark, Pin or print it for later. CookingLight is a personal favorite for quick, easy, and reliably delicious recipes since they taste-test every single one in their amazing test kitchen.

2. Take it one dish at a time. Learning how to cook takes a bit practice, so start simple and take it slow. Begin by selecting one new recipe, preferably one that’s done in 30 minutes or less. If you like it enough, perfect it next time by adjusting the seasoning to your tastebuds. Do this a few times a month and before you know it you’ll have a rotation of familiar favorites to choose from. You can even add your top recipes to the MyFitnessPal food database for quick and easy logging!

3. Don’t be afraid to try something new. When selecting healthy recipes, sticking to those with ingredients you know and enjoy is always a safe bet, especially if time is tight. But don’t forget to occasionally give a new, totally delicious looking recipe a try, or pick up an unfamiliar grain, fruit or vegetable the next time you spot one at the grocery store. A few years ago my husband introduced me to brussels sprouts in a way I had never had them before: roasted with just a bit of olive oil, sea salt and a dash of pepper. They’ve since become one of my all-time favorite veggies! Which leads me to #4…

4. Roast your vegetables. If you’re like me and don’t love raw veggies or salads (there, I said it…) roasting is an easy way to bring out great flavor. They almost always come out of the oven more sweet and irresistibly delicious. And because there’s no boiling involved, they tend to retain a good amount of their water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Coat them with a bit of olive oil to retain moisture and you’ll up the absorption of those healthy fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K too.

5. Learn some simple ingredient substitutions. Oftentimes adapting a decadent dish into something a little more nutritious can be as simple as swapping out one or two ingredients. For example, dollop some 2% Greek yogurt on top of your spuds in place of sour cream for a protein-packed potato. I’ve found Pinterest to be a great resource for healthy ingredient substitution ideas.

6. Write a grocery list. With takeout just a phone call away, not having the right ingredients on hand could be bad news if you’re trying to cook healthier. Grocery list writing is an underrated skill that can  not only save time but spare you the headache of having to beg your spouse to run back to the grocery store for you. I speak from experience. Once you have a recipe selected, jot down your list of items to buy as you poke through the kitchen cabinets and take inventory of what’s in the refrigerator. If you know your market well enough, organize foods by groups as they’re arranged in the grocery store (i.e. produce, meats, cheeses etc…) to save yourself even more time.

7. Make small Investments in cooking equipment. I never realized the value of an inexpensive slow cooker until I owned one. Now that I do though, I can’t imagine life without it. Certain kitchen gadgets really can simplify cooking, make your food taste better and reduce the amount of time and effort you spend in the kitchen. On my long list of must-haves:

8. Stock your pantry with some healthy essentials. When they’re on sale, stock up on canned beans and tomatoes, herbs and spices, soup stocks, nuts and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and oats. Having a stash of healthy pantry staples will save time and money and allow you to pull together flavorful dishes when you have food in the fridge that needs to be eaten up.

9.  Put your trust in your tastebuds, not the recipe. Very rarely do I find a recipe that doesn’t need some sort of tweaking, even if it’s just a tad more salt or a little less spice. Whatever you do, don’t make a recipe and wait until it’s on the table to taste it. Recipes are guides, at best, and the only really way to end up with a truly satisfying dish is to taste along the way.

10. Make cooking a friend and family affair. I admit, with all of the peeling, slicing and dicing involved–with those veggie-heavy dishes in particular–sometimes cooking can feel like a chore. Involving the kids, your spouse, or inviting friends over to make dinner on the weekend can quickly make cooking healthy a fun and delicious occasion. Who knows, you may even acquire some buddies to swap recipes with in the process!

11. Resolve to learn a new culinary skill in 2014. Sign up for a cooking or knife-skills class this year. Becoming a better, faster and safer cook will only be more incentive to skip the takeout and make more healthful meals at home. As an added bonus, you can show off your new skills in the kitchen when your friends come over for dinner. 

12. Consider a meal plan. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, signing up for a weekly meal planning service might help get you started. Meal plan recipes are generally geared towards newbie cooks, can typically be tailored to meet your individual dietary needs and many services provide some added perks like preparation tips and tricks or printable grocery lists. Check out our holiday gift guide for a few healthy meal planning services to consider.

I hope these tips help you be a little bolder in the kitchen when it comes to cooking healthfully.  Feel free to share any healthy cooking tips and tricks you’ve learned in the comments below!

101 Health + Fitness Resolutions That Rock

101 health and fitness resolutions that rock myfitnesspal edited 1

In years past we’ve all probably made resolutions to get healthier, lose weight, sleep and exercise more. While our intentions may be good, these vague and sometimes overly lofty resolutions are usually swept under the rug and forgotten shortly after the start of the New Year.

To help you make 2014 your healthiest year yet, we put together 101 rockin’ health and fitness resolutions that won’t leave you feeling overwhelmed. Remember, small changes add up. Whether you choose one, two, or want to combine a few,  write yourself daily, weekly or monthly resolution reminders and, before you know it, they’ll become healthy habits!

Eating resolutions myfitnesspal

1. Take 1-2 minutes to log your food either just before, or right after every meal.

2. Swap out your large dinner plates for smaller salad plates.

3. Eat lean protein with every meal and snack.

4. Make fast food restaurants within 50 miles of your home off-limits.

5. Cap fried or fast food at 1 time per week.

6. Give up shopping the packaged snack aisle at the grocery store.

7. Steer clear of the vending machine. Bring your own fruit, nuts and bars with you from home–just leave the potato chips in the pantry.

8. Spend 15 minutes each week writing a healthful shopping list before heading to the grocery store–and whatever you do, don’t go there hungry.

9. Start reading and investigating ingredient lists on the foods you buy. Avoid foods with “partially hydrogenated” oils and added sugars like corn syrup.

10. Make 2-3 days worth of packable lunches at a time and just grab one from the fridge on your way out the door each morning.

11. Ditch dieting this year. We all know deprivation just doesn’t work. Make good choices most of the time and enjoy your indulgences guilt-free on occasion.

12. Eat veggies with breakfast two times per week. Saute some spinach, peppers and onions to go with those eggs. You can even make some veggie & egg muffins for a quick grab-and-go veggie-licious breakfast.

13. Have at least three food groups at every meal–a combination of fruit, vegetables, protein, grains or dairy will pack more nutrition and keep you feeling fuller, longer.

14. Look at food as fuel. When making mealtime decisions, focus on getting those nutrients your body needs to run its best: lean & plant-based protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins & minerals.

15. Ditch mealtime distractions. Leave your desk, put down your cell phone or turn off the television. You’ll enjoy your food more and likely eat less.

16. Notice where your food comes from. When possible, support your local farmers and cut down on greenhouse gasses by choosing locally grown produce and livestock.

17. Read one book, cover to cover, about the food industry. Some of our favorites: In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Fast Food Nation, Salt Sugar Fat.

18. Eat meatless one day per week. Meatless Mondays are actually quite trendy!

Drinking resolutions myfitnesspal

19. Swap sugar-sweetened drinks for club soda with a splash of 100% juice.

20. Downsize your morning glass of juice to 4 ounces. For reference, 4 ounces is equivalent to ½ cup or ~120mL.

21. Set a two drink maximum on beer, wine, cocktails or sugar-sweetened sodas at parties and log them before the festivities begin.

22. Drink 32 ounces of water before lunch and another 32 ounces by dinnertime.

23. Go booze-free during the workweek.

24. Cap those fancy, high-calorie coffee drinks at 2 per week.

25. Trade soda for water (sparkling or still) at least once per day.

26. Add fresh fruit or cucumber slices to a pitcher of water for refreshing, calorie-free flavored water. We promise it makes drinking water more exciting.

27. Bring a water bottle with you every time you fly. Just make sure it’s empty before going through airport security and fill it up at a water fountain before boarding the plane.

28. Gradually cut down on the sweetener in your daily cup of coffee and be amazed as your tastebuds adapt. Just 1 less sugar packet per day cuts nearly 5,500 calories and almost 3 pounds of sugar out of your diet over the course of a year!

Cooking resolutions myfitnesspal

29. Cook with oils like olive, grape seed or canola instead of melted butter or margarine.

30. Substitute plain 2% Greek yogurt for sour cream, even on those baked potatoes.

31. Substitute bananas or apple sauce for at least half of the sugar in baking recipes.

32. Whenever you cook, make a double batch of dinner and freeze it into individual servings. That way you have a healthy meal for nights you’re too tired and may defer to take out.

33. Cook morning oats with low-fat milk instead of water for extra protein and calcium–and add some fruit for a nutritional bonus.

34. Cook 1 night more per week than you do now.

35. Plan out your meals every Sunday for the whole week. Write a shopping list while you’re at it to save time and money at the grocery store.

36. Once a week, bake something you would usually fry.

37. When baking, replace half of the fat (oil, butter, shortening) with Greek yogurt, or pureed avocado when baking chocolate cookies or brownies.

38. Instead of buying, bake sweet treats like cookies, cakes and pies. You’ll likely eat a lot less dessert if you have to make them from scratch.

39. Cook one new recipe a week. Check out CookingLight for quick, easy and delicious recipes, buy a new cookbook or ask friends for make-ahead recipe ideas.

40. Take a cooking or knife-skills class. Becoming a better, faster and safer cook is more incentive to make your meals at home.

41. Host a healthy potluck once a season. Have your friends to bring their favorite, healthy-but-you-wouldn’t-know-it dishes and swap recipes.

42. Roast vegetables you normally boil, steam or saute. You may just like them better! Brussels sprouts are one of our favorites to roast.

Exercising resolutions myfitnesspal

43. Try a new workout each month for the entire year. Some ideas: CrossFit, Zumba, boot camp, yoga, pilates, spinning, strength training and high-intensity interval training.

44. Make an standing exercise date with a friend 1 day per week.

45. Set a weekly activity goal in MyFitnessPal (150 minutes is what the CDC recommends) and log your active minutes in MyFitnessPal after every sweat session.

46. Plan your workouts in advance (one or two-weeks at a time) and be sure to work in variety so you don’t get bored.

47. Add one more strength session to your exercise regimen each week.

48. Sign up and train for a race in 2014. If you want to dive into running, check out these great tips!

49. Plan 1 additional active outing or workout for every social event on your calendar.

50. Mentally commit to morning workouts by packing your gym bag or set out your workout clothes the night before. It really does make getting out of bed easier.

51. For every hour you at your desk, set a timer and do 30-60 seconds of body weight exercises. Here are 8 to get you through the work day: push-ups, squats, burpees, lunges, jumping jacks, tricep dips, plank, mountain climbers.

52. Treat yourself to a personal training session once a month.

53. Try two new fitness apps each month. You may just get hooked on one! For an added bonus, check out some of our great partner apps and have your workout data automatically sync with MyFitnessPal.

54. Set up a small (and inexpensive) home gym with a mat, some light dumbbells, a jump rope and try one new, at-home workout per week.

55. Plan an active weekend reunion with friends once a month. Think destination road races, a hiking trip, hunting with the guys, exploring a new city by foot, or bicycle.

56. Do jumping jacks, crunches, squats, lunges or push-ups every time your favorite television programs cut to commercial break. And don’t cheat by fast forwarding through them if they’ve been recorded.

57. Instead of driving, bike or walk to work, to run an errand or visit a friend once per week.

58. Adopt a stair-only policy. If you have 6 flights or less to go and you’re not hauling a heavy bag, pretend elevators and escalators don’t exist.

Tracking resolutions myfitnesspal

59. Log your eats and exercise at least 5 days per week.

60. Make at least 1 new friend on MyFitnessPal each week. Our data shows, the more friends you have the more weight you lose!

61. Stay hydrated. Set a water goal in MyFitnessPal and meet it by tracking your daily water intake.

62. Log inches or centimeters (not just weight) every two weeks. Your body may be changing even though the scale isn’t moving.

63. Log exercises as you do them, or right after your workout–every time.

64. Make a goal to not exceed your calories by 100 at least 5 days a week.

65. Commit to always eating the minimum number of calories-which means eating back those exercise calories!

66. Meet your fiber goal 4 days out of the week. When that becomes easy, go for 5.

67. Choose one day each week to analyze your food diary and reports in MyFitnessPal. Look for foods that put you over your calorie, fat and sodium goals but also those that helped you meet your fiber, protein, vitamin and mineral goals.

68. Track your steps. Studies show that 10,000 steps a day can have big health benefits, and simply wearing a pedometer can influence you to walk more. Connect a step tracking device like Fitbit, Fitbug, Jawbone Up, or Lumo with MyFitnessPal and have your steps automatically sync with your exercise diary.

Sleeping resolutions myfitnesspal

69. Set a bedtime–preferably 7-8 hours before you need to wake up–and stick to it.

70. Stop working by 7PM every night.

71. Turn off phones, tablets, computers and televisions one hour before bedtime. The lights they emit stimulate your brain and make it more difficult to fall asleep.

72. Read a book, magazine or write in your journal each night before nodding off.

73. Abstain from eating and drinking 1 hour before you go to bed, to help you sleep through the night without having to make a trip to the bathroom.

74. Exercise early in the morning or mid-afternoon instead of late at night. Exercising too close to bedtime may interfere with your sleep.

75. Turn off the television and keep blinking laptops and other electronics in another room. Lights of any size or brightness can impact your sleep cycles.

76. Keep all phones, computers and tablets out of the bedroom, or at the very least, far enough away so you can’t reach them from bed.

77. Turn your alarm clock around and don’t look at it once the lights are off. Doing so only promotes anxiety about how long you’ve been awake or how little time you have left to sleep. Trust that your alarm will wake you when it’s time.

Mind body resolutions myfitnesspal

78. Choose 1 day per week to catch up with a friend or family member–make phone call, send an email, meet for coffee or go on a walk together.

79. Set aside a certain amount of cash each week for a solo getaway weekend.

80. Take 5-10 minutes every morning to do a light meditation or quiet stretching before starting your day.

81. Volunteer a set amount of time each month for a cause that is dear to your heart.

82. Check in with yourself once a week to asses how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally and jot it down in a journal.

83. Learn how to accept a compliment. Here’s an article to get you started.

84. Take a close look at your finances and make a budget for 2014.

85 When you catch yourself mindlessly surfing the web, power down your laptop, phone or tablet.

86. Open a retirement account and budget to save the maximum amount allowed by the end of the year.

87. Learn a new skill. Study a new language, take a workshop in sewing, crafting, woodworking, sign up for a cooking lesson… the possibilities are endless.

88. Plant a garden, preferably one that’s edible.

89. Get to yoga at least once a week.

90. Wear sunscreen religiously. Buy a daily moisturizer with SPF and keep an extra tube of sunblock in the car and in your travel toiletries so you’re never without!

91. Take a long walk with your loved ones (dogs count!) at least twice a week.

92. Back up your phone and computer on an external hard drive on the 1st of every month.

93. Take a digital Sabbath one day per week.

94. Kill the clutter. Go through 1 closet or bookcase per week and donate unwanted items and poorly fitting clothes to those in need. When those have been organized, section off the garage, basement, attic and tackle those next.

95. Set up a stand-up desk in your office and use it at least one hour per day. Encourage your co-workers to use it too!

96. Lose the negativity. Write down one thing you love about yourself in a journal each day.

97. Only purchase clothing that fits, flatters and makes you feel good–no matter how heavily discounted it may be.

98. Write down 5 things you want to achieve this year and check in on your goals every month to stay focused.

99. Swap a chemical-filled household cleanser for safer, more eco-friendly, vinegar.

100. Stop saving your china, silverware and favorite perfume/cologne for special occasions. Enjoy what you love every day.

101. Unsubscribe from 5 catalogs and email subscriptions per day until your inbox and mailbox are de-cluttered.

What health & fitness resolutions are on your list this year? 

So You Want to Stop…Eating Your Food Kryptonite

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by Tara-Nicholle Nelson, MA

Even the most committed health devotees have them: a kryptonite food. Your kryptonite food is that one delectable food, savory or sweet, that is decidedly indulgent, definitively unhealthy and seems to be wired directly into your brain’s “eat more” neurons. It’s that food to which you are so vulnerable, you find yourself completely helpless to resist – so you don’t.  One bite, and it’s a wrap. It’s the food that you feel has the most potential to totally derail your “eat right” efforts.

I know multiple people who say pizza ranks as their kryptonite food – the prospect of eating a single slice is almost laughable to them, no matter how hard they try. In my world, one truffle-oil drizzled french fry begets about 3 or 4 dozen more.

About 15 years ago, I lost about 60 pounds – and have kept it off. I can recite a laundry list of food-related lifestyle changes and fitness habits I credit for being able to stay on track, but mindset management ranks among them. Here are a few tricks, tools and insights for how you can keep your own kryptonite food from derailing your efforts to eat healthfully:

1. Indulge and enjoy, on occasion.  One night of indulgence every once in awhile will neither kill you nor will it totally destroy your health and fitness goals. In fact, studies show that indulging intentionally in your food kryptonite once a month has the power to help you stave off the cravings that tempt you to make it an everyday occasion.

But here’s the rub: indulging in your food kryptonite will not help you manage your cravings if you do from a place of guilt, shame and self-deprecation. Instead, plan to indulge and commit to savoring every bite. You’ll be less likely to lose control when you do eat your kryptonite food and you won’t walk away from your indulgence feeling depleted and deprived.

2. Rethink it. Don’t imbue your food kryptonite with so much power. Instead, stay conscious about it. On the days you indulge, read the ingredients list, the nutrition panel and track your kryptonite in your food diary before you eat it. Knowing what you’re eating will help you make the decision to take every bite as long as it’s actually worth it – and will empower you to stop eating when you think the trade off no longer sorts out in a way you’re okay with.

Also, learn and know what you like about your kryptonite food, so you can really enjoy that characteristic and get it out of your system. For example, I like the crust of all those artisanal breads, but their high glycemic index is not so great for my blood sugar levels. So I slice it thin to get more crust with fewer calories than a big thick slice. I also add olive oil and fresh vegetables to my occasional bready treats so that I get full faster, with no blood sugar spikes.

3. Come up with a go-to alternative. To curb the everyday cravings, explore other foods that that may capture the essence of your kryptonite food. If you love salty, snacky fries, see if a handful of kalamata olives or homemade sweet potato fries does the trick. If you love the crunch and the hand-to-mouth back and forth of eating chips, try a beautiful bunch of vegetables and vegetable chips with an assortment of yummy, yogurt dips.

4. Hydrate and satiate. It’s common to feel like snacking when you’re actually thirsty. It’s also common to eat much more of a kryptonite food when you’re actually hungry. Try this Anti-Kryptonite Action Plan

  • Every time the craving hits, drink two glasses of water first and wait 10 minutes.
  • If you still have the hankering, have a healthy snack of almonds, fruit, olives or vegetable chip and wait another 15 minutes.
  • Then track one serving of your kryptonite food in your food diary to see how the numbers add up.
  • If the craving persists, eat and enjoy a single serving, savoring every morsel to the absolute fullest.

5. Hook your craving to a healthy habit. If you’ve been indulging in your craving every day and are trying to break the habit, try hooking the craving to a new, healthy behavior. If you’re trying to make your nightly bowl of ice cream a once-a-week occasion, when you’d normally reach for the ice cream, take the kids or the dog out for a 15 minute walk instead. And if you track the walk in your exercise diary you’ll get credit for both breaking your undesirable habit and building the new one!

6. Stay well-rested and well-fed. Well-rested people have vastly more significant stores of willpower and self-control than people who are exhausted. Same goes for being well-fed: your brain needs nutritious food regularly in order to help you be the executive of your life and exercise optimal self-control. If you’re trying to work on making big changes to your food or fitness habits, make sure you’re getting a great night’s sleep and are getting sufficient calories and nutrients (our Nutrition 101 series is a great place to start learning good nutrition basics). It’ll help you have the self-control you’ll need to level up your eating patterns.

7. Take baby steps toward your vision of a healthy lifestyle. Don’t try to overhaul every single thing about your lifestyle in one fell swoop. Researchers have found a phenomenon called ego depletion, which simply means that your brain has a set amount of mental resources you can use toward your behavior change goals at any given time. Neuropsychologists now believe that you can use these resources up if you try to make too many life changes at once.

If you’re trying to go on a financial budget, start working out for the first time, stop eating out and stop eating your kryptonite food–all this week–you’re not setting yourself up for success. Instead, pick one healthy habit to try to work on for a few weeks. Once it’s become a part of your daily life, move onto the next goal.

8. Understand the circumstances that lead to uncontrollable cravings. Think back to the times you most often find yourself eating your kryptonite foods in an out-of-control scenario. What are the common circumstances?  Does it usually tend to be at night when you’re home alone, or are you the most vulnerable at parties or social gatherings? Is it always after you’ve had an alcoholic drink or two, or after you’ve had a stressful day at work?

Once you become aware of the situations and scenarios that tend to exacerbate your vulnerability to your kryptonite food, you can solve for them in advance. Don’t keep your kryptonite food at home – make it harder to get to it. Make sure you eat and feel full before you show up to the party. Or decide to use the pizza party this weekend as your “splurge” day: track a full week of healthy meals and workouts in your diary, track a few slices of pizza before you go, and then indulge and enjoy.

9. Harness the power of social contagion. Social contagion theorists have proven that people with healthy friends tend to live healthier lives. You can harness the power of this truth to limit your vulnerability to your kryptonite food. Make friends who are healthy or trying to get that way, offline and in the MyFitnessPal community. If everyone else at the table is ordering a salad and fruit for dessert, you’ll be less likely to order the cheeseburger with an ice cream sundae chaser. Even if you do decide to splurge, maybe you can split dessert four ways, instead of each having your own personal kryptonite food show-down.

Also, commit to tracking even your indulgences, and make sure that you’ve shared your food diary with some friends on MyFitnessPal. People who connect with other MyFitnessPal users lose 3X as much weight as other users, and members who share their food diary with friends lose twice as much weight as others.

P.S. Want to read more?  Here are a couple of books that open up the science of changing habits and building your self-control “muscles”:

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength | The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

So You Want to Start…Running

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jacquelyn fitsouffleJacquelyn Brennan is a health and wellness expert who shares her knowledge daily at Fitsouffle.  She holds a bachelor’s in Kinesiology, and currently teaches Pilates, group exercise, and is a Certified Personal Trainer. Jacquelyn loves inspiring others to get moving, stay healthy, eat healthy and learn how to exercise effectively.

So you want to start running. Great!

Running is a great form of cardiovascular exercise–to be honest, my favorite. I have been running since I was 17 years old and fell in love fast. I love working up a sweat quickly, having the time alone to think, distress, and the endorphin high I get is unlike anything else. Two of the most important things to remember when trying something new; you might not be very good at it when you start and it might not be easy.

After working with numerous clients over the years I have found there are some key things one can do to find success:

1. Have a plan! You have to start small. Running is a process and you have to respect your body. Try going for a run/walk; a few minutes of running followed by a few minutes of walking and repeating that allowing yourself to build up to a straight run. A great app called C25K, which also syncs with MyFitnessPal, coaches you telling you exactly how to progress.

2. Get fitted for proper running shoes for YOUR foot. Feet are very unique. The wrong running shoe can result in discomfort, pain, and ultimately injury.

3. Cross train. Running is very repetitive. While running you use the same muscles over and over again in a linear (forward) only motion. It is important for our bodies to be balanced muscularly to avoid injury. It is also important to cross train to avoid burnout. Yoga, Pilates, strength training and swimming are great forms of exercise that compliment running, helping to keep you healthy and strong.

4. Find a buddy or join a running group. Having a partner will help you stay motivated, inspired, committed and it is great to be able to encourage one another. A little positive peer pressure can be a great thing.

5. Invest in quality exercise clothing. 100% cotton and running do not go together. Moisture wicking fabrics are best to prevent chafing, skin irritation and worst of all blisters. If you aren’t sure where to start quality running socks in my opinion are key. When your feet hurt, every step hurts.

6. Start stretching! A good dynamic warm-up is great to “warm-up” your body. Post run, a 5-10 minute stretch session is very helpful. It will help ward off soreness and potential injury.

7. Make friends with a foam roller. It may look a little funny but foam rolling can provide similar benefits to a deep-tissue massage. With regular use, it can increase flexibility and decrease tension in muscles which can prevent injuries and improve performance.

8. Stay safe. If you are heading out alone, carry your phone, a small amount of cash in case of an emergency. Also, let someone know and take an ID with you, or better yet get yourself a RoadID. Map out your course before hitting the pavement by using an online tool like MapMyRun.

9. Fuel and hydrate. Check out these fueling tips from Elle, the MyFitnessPal RD & Runkeeper. As an added bonus, if you track your runs with Runkeeper, they’ll automatically sync with your MyFitnessPal exercise diary so all you have to do is log your fuel!

10. Sign up for a race! Having a goal is a great way to get and stay motivated. Rather than being overly ambitious and registering for a marathon, start with something you know you can achieve, like a 5K!

11. Have fun! Grab a buddy, listen to music or podcasts you enjoy. Soak up the sunshine (when it’s out) and make sure you enjoy the fresh air.

Remember, the key to enjoying, and sticking with running is starting small, pacing yourself, being comfortable and making it fun! You’ll be able to go farther and faster eventually–but if you don’t enjoy the process from the get-go, you may never get there. If you eventually decide running isn’t for you, there are plenty of other ways to be active–at least you gave something new a shot!