MealEnders Blog

Master Healthy Habits in 2019

Our Weekly New Year's Email Series All in One Spot

By Tami Lyon, MPH, RD
January 07, 2019

Week 1: Reset Your Mindset

Change the way you think about your goals to set yourself up for success.

Healthy Habits

 

It’s that time again when we reflect on our lives and set goals for ourselves. Many of us revisit the same goals year after year: lose weight, exercise more, eat more greens, etc. But despite good intentions, the reality is that 80% of people fail to keep their resolutions by the second week of February—why is that?

It all comes down to one thing: habits.This includes habitual ways of thinking and acting. Habits are a way for our brains to save energy, meaning that once a habit is established, it feel like it’s just a “natural” part of your life—you don’t have to think about it or make an effort to do it.

Adopting even just one new beneficial habit can make the difference between lasting success and having to re-make the same resolutions next year.

Since we all know that mindset is the foundation of everything, let’s start by tackling that. Here are 3 quick and easy tips to set you up for success in the weeks to come.

1) Find ways to enjoy the process of making your resolution a reality.  In her research on psychology, Kaitlin Woolley of Cornell University found that the key to succeeding with long-term goals is to focus on how they are benefiting you in the present moment. For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, instead of focusing on all the food you are denying yourself, focus on all the new things you get to add into your diet. Have fun experimenting with new recipes, like these healthy non-alcoholic drinks.

2) Replace the perception of your goals as a possibility with the perception of them as reality. In her book How to Get Sh*t Done, Erin Falconer says that it’s best to avoid thinking that you “should” do something, which sets it up as a mere possibility and gives us a way out. Instead, say that you “will” and live as if you have already adopted the behavior needed to achieve your goals.

3) Give deeper meaning to your goals. Switch from a “weight loss mindset” to a “health mindset.” Think about the bigger ways in which your goals will impact your life. For example, rather than trying to lose weight for the aesthetics, focus on how it will improve your energy and allow you to show up more fully at work and with your family.

Stick with us for the next 7 weeks and together we will establish a whole host of healthy habits to help you become your healthiest, most vibrant self in 2019. Happy New Year!

 

Week 2: Start Your Day Off Right

Tricks to keep you focused and moving towards your goals from the moment you wake up.

Healthy Habits
 


Starting off the day on the right foot is critical. Not only does it set the tone for the whole day, but it is also when we are most empowered to effectively exercise our willpower. Willpower is like a battery. It recharges at night while we sleep, is strongest in the morning, and then slowly decreases throughout the day. While habits are a way for your brain to save energy, creating new habits will require a little more energy at first. So why not take advantage of the time when your willpower is the strongest?

Here are some healthy habits for getting a strong start to your day:

1) Remind yourself of your goals: Taking time to think about your goals in the morning makes it more likely that you will have them in the back of your mind for the rest of the day. This can be as simple as putting an inspirational image on the fridge. Or perhaps, leave a list of your new year’s resolutions near your coffee cup to prompt you to look at them before you get your day started. Reading through your goals will only take 30 seconds and will be well worth your time.

2) Drink 8-16 oz of water as soon as you wake up: If you can make this a habit, it will be a game changer. Drinking water first thing helps rehydrate you and cleanses the colon, plus give you an energy boost. When we are dehydrated, our blood becomes thicker and moves slower through the body. This means our cells receive less oxygen and we feel tired. Simply drinking water can give you a nice little burst of energy without needing to visit the coffee machine. A third benefit is that, since our bodies often confuse thirst and hunger, drinking plenty of water prevents overeating at breakfast due to thirst.

3) Workout: If you can, work out first thing in the morning—especially if you’re trying to start a new exercise routine. Remember, willpower is strongest in the morning—take advantage of it! Additionally, exercise has been scientifically proven to increase willpower. But don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you hit the gym for two hours every day. Just try to get some type of movement in, preferably something you enjoy so that you’ll look forward to doing it. Maybe it’s meeting your friends for a walk to get coffee. Or perhaps a light jog or some yoga. For more inspiration, check out these quick workout routines you can do without even leaving the house.

4) Choose a smart breakfast: A healthy breakfast is key to eating healthy all day. If you choose a breakfast high in processed carbs or sugar, your blood sugar will plummet a few hours later, leaving you ravenous and likely to give in to unhealthy convenience foods. Choose whole grains, lean protein, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables. Overnight oats and chia seed pudding are nutritious grab-and-go options. Alternatively, hard boil some eggs or make breakfast egg muffins the night before. Grab a few along with a piece of fruit as you walk out the door.  

Try incorporating at least two of these healthy habits into your routine this week. Making small changes one at a time is the key to lasting success. Before you know it, you’ll have a routine established that will make achieving your health goals seem easy. Next week we’ll look at a few mental tricks to help you get to where you want to go.

 

Week 3: Cultivate Mindfulness

Tips for using mindfulness to support your health goals with little time or effort.

Healthy Habits
 

Mindfulness and meditation are all the buzz these days. They seem to alleviate everything from stress and anxiety to age-related memory loss. Well, turns out researchers have also found mindfulness to be a beneficial strategy for weight control.

So, what is mindfulness exactly? It simply means being fully aware of what’s happening in the present moment. In regards to eating, it means noticing the colors, smells, and textures of your food; chewing more slowly; and, enjoying the process of eating. It also means being in touch with your motivation for seeking food. Below are a few habits for you to try incorporating into your life in order to increase your level of mindfulness around eating.

1) Before eating, ask yourself “Am I hungry?” and rate your hunger level: Since we often eat out of habit, take a moment before a meal or snack to assess if you’re really hungry and to what degree. Rate your hunger from 1 to 5, then choose appropriate foods and portions that match that hunger level. For example, if you are only mildly hungry, choose something light like a salad.

2) Take 5 slow, deep breaths before taking your first bite: This will calm the mind so that you can decrease your pace of eating, more fully enjoy your food, and easily notice when you start to get full. It will also activate the parasympathetic nervous system (which puts you in “rest and digest” mode), allowing you to more fully absorb all the nutrients from your meal.

3) Do a body scan: Learning to do body scans trains you to notice the more subtle sensations, including satiety cues, which are sometimes easy to overlook. To get started, here’s a recorded guided body scan meditation. Once you have the hang of it, you’ll be able to do a quick body scan before each meal without the recording.

4) Set your timer for 20 minutes and take the entire time to eat: This is a nice little trick to help you slow down your eating. It takes 20 minutes for the satiety hormone PYY to be released. Taking at least that long to eat will give your body time to register that it’s full, making it less likely that you’ll overeat.

5) Develop a daily meditation practice. The more frequently you practice mindfulness and meditation, the better. Luckily, a daily meditation practice only requires about 10 minutes to focus on your breath. To help you get started, check out this list of top meditation apps (most of which are free).

The idea of meditating can sometimes be intimidating, but these mindfulness tricks will allow you to easily get some of the benefits of the practice with little time and effort. Keep up the good work! Next week we’ll look at a few tricks for cutting out extra calories.

 

Week 4: Beat Snack Attacks

How to kick your snacking habit and avoid unnecessary calories.

Healthy Habits
 

Did you know that Americans consume 25% of their calories, on average, via snacks? That’s about 580 calories a day—a drastic change from just a few decades ago. According to the National Health and Examination survey from 1977, most people only consumed 3 meals a day in the ‘70s. By 2004 most people were eating 6 times a day, with the top 10% of people eating 10 times a day!

Of course, you sometimes need a little something to hold you over between meals, but it’s easy to overdo it. If you’ve noticed your waistline expanding, snacking may be to blame.

Here are a few tips to avoid unnecessary snacks throughout the day.

— Drink tea or sparkling water: If you feel the the urge to snack, but recognize that you aren’t really hungry, make yourself a cup of tea or get a glass of sparkling water instead. These zero-calorie drinks will help occupy your mouth and fill your stomach to dampen your interest in snacking.

— Nap or go for a walk: It’s common to crave carbs when you’re low on energy. Instead of grabbing a snack, simply take a 10 minute nap or go for a walk for a more effective energy  boost than sugar provides.

— Have a MealEnder: At only 15 calories per lozenge, MealEnders are a sweet treat that can satisfy cravings without adding much to your caloric intake. While the outside tastes like dessert, the tingling center will help clear mouth and mind of the desire for food .

— Practice mindfulness: Take note of what triggers cravings for snacks. Is it boredom? Is it fatigue? Figure out your food cravings so that you can more effectively overcome them.

If you feel you actually need a snack, here are a couple of tips to keep it healthy:

1) Less is more: Make sure your snack is a snack, rather than an entire meal. Try to keep it within the range of 100-200 calories. Here are a few light, healthy snack ideas.

2) Choose whole foods: As a fun challenge, try to avoid anything that comes in a package. Stick to foods that you could pick up at the farmers market or in the produce section of the grocery store.

Congrats, you’ve made it through the first month of 2018! You’re doing great. Just 1 more month to go for this email series, and you’ll have a whole set of new healthy habits in your back pocket that you can draw upon all year long.

 

Week 5: Rest and Digest

Why your body needs timed breaks from eating and ample sleep to lose weight.

Healthy habits
 

We all know that eating the right foods and getting enough exercise are important for weight management, but many people don’t realize that what we do between meals and workouts is just as important.

In addition to staying away from the added calories and sugar that comes with sneaking in extra treats, it’s also important that we give our bodies adequate time to rest and digest. This means giving yourself a few hours between meals. If you’re constantly snacking, you’re stimulating the steady release of insulin. When insulin is present you can’t burn fat. It also means getting enough sleep and avoiding the increase in hunger that results from sleep deprivation.

To help you avoid succumbing to temptation during those rest periods, here’s 15% off any order of MealEnders. They’re a useful tool to have at your fingertips when the between-meal munchies hit!

Try incorporating these additional healthy habits into your routine in order to give your body the break it needs to lose weight:

Intermittent fasting: There are multiple ways to do intermittent fasting, which you can read about here, but one of the main perks of this practice is that, by eating in a time-restricted manner, you generally eat less. It also results in lower insulin levels, which means more fat burning.

Avoid late night snacking: Normally, while we sleep, our bodies switch into fat-burning mode. If you eat right before bed, you disrupt this process. Figure out what triggers your late night cravings and try to tackle the cause. Maybe you need to eat more protein at dinner. Or maybe you can use a cup of tea to de-stress instead of snacking.

Eat according to your circadian rhythm: Load up on calories earlier in the day (at breakfast and lunch) and consume a lighter meal at dinner. Your metabolism is faster earlier in the day, which allows you to more effectively use the calories you eat rather than store them as fat.

Unplug 30 minutes before bed: In order to improve your quality of sleep, try to step away from screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Phones, computers, and TVs are highly stimulating. In order to get a better night’s sleep, allow yourself time to wind down before bed and without screens.

Create a nighttime ritual: Having a nightly ritual can signal your brain that it’s time to sleep. Maybe you make yourself a cup of tea, or read a bit before bed. Find a routine that works for you so you can get the most zzzs and avoid sleep deprivation

Given the fast pace of life, it definitely requires some discipline to make sure you give your body the rest it needs. Forming one of these habits can make that discipline an automatic part of your day.

Next week we’ll look at some tips for how to stay properly hydrated — a key component of successful weight loss.

 

Week 6: Hydrate to Satiate

How to stay hydrated throughout the day for energy, satiety, and cravings control.

Healthy habits
 

You’ve heard it before and you’re going to hear it again—proper hydration is incredibly important for health and for weight loss. For starters, it helps you to feel full sooner. It also helps ward off cravings between meals. It’s not uncommon to confuse thirst for hunger. As a result, we often end up snacking when we are actually thirsty.

Furthermore, drinking water throughout the day helps maintain energy levels. Dehydration causes you to become tired, so by staying hydrated, you may be able to avoid reaching for a snack, a sugary drink, or an extra jolt of caffeine.

Below are a few tips for making sure you get enough water throughout the day.

1) Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning: Everyone wakes up a little dehydrated, and as I mentioned before, dehydration can cause you to feel tired. Rather than reaching for coffee as soon as you open your eyes, reach for a glass (or two) of water first. This will help start the rehydration process (remember, coffee is a diuretic and will dehydrate you further) and give you an energy boost without the caffeine.

2) Keep a glass of water on your desk at all times: Seeing the water there will remind you to drink it. You can even add a slice of lemon, cucumber, mint, or berries to make it more enticing.

3) Drink a glass of water before every meal: Ideally, you won’t drink a lot during your meal (this will dilute the enzymes in your stomach, which can cause indigestion), but as soon as you feel hunger strike, drink a big glass of water. This will give you enough time to absorb the water before your meal and will ensure that you are eating only out of hunger, not thirst.

4) Download a hydration app: There are tons of apps out there to help you remember to drink water and to make drinking water more fun. Check out this list of hydration apps.

Test out these various tips to see which one(s) works best for you.

 

Week 7: Keep on Moving

Tips for squeezing in a little extra movement each day to keep the doctor away.

Healthy habits
 

Is it really enough to spend an hour (or even two hours) a day working out if you spend the rest of the day sitting? A growing body of research suggests that the real key to health, which includes weight loss, is to get into the habit of standing up and moving frequently throughout the day. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to leave your desk job—just remember to get up and move around from time to time. Below are a few tips for how to incorporate more movement into your day.

1) Get a standing desk: Science indicates that standing can have enormous health benefits—from decreased blood glucose and cholesterol levels to weight loss. Although you may not realize it, muscles in your legs, butt, and abdomen all have to work (and, hence, burn calories) when you stand. Throughout the day, alternate between standing at your desk and sitting. Standing for too many hours on end can also cause problems (for example, lower back pain), so the key is to combine both into your work day.

2) Hold a walking meeting: If you are only meeting with 1 or 2 people, rather than sitting around a table to chat, take the conversation outside. Not only will it be more enjoyable, but the fresh air and movement may help everyone think more creatively.

3) Pace while on the phone: Talking on the phone is another great way to sneak in a little extra movement. Whether you are at home or at the office, find a room to walk around while you chat.

4) Keep a resistance band at your desk: Resistance bands are small, easy to use, and provide you with the opportunity to work a bunch of different muscle groups. Anytime you are doing work that doesn’t require much concentration, use the resistance band to give your arms or legs a bit of a workout.

5) Work out while watching TV: Ab work, pilates, and lifting free weights are all great options. They don’t require excessive movement or equipment, so they won’t disrupt your watching experience. If you have access to a treadmill, elliptical, or standing bike, those are great options as well. For even more ideas, check out this list of easy at-home workouts.

6) BONUS TIP: Get a fitness tracker: Fitness trackers are all the rage, and for good reason. These tools not only provide motivation and reminders to move, but they can also help track your progress so that you can make sure you are taking steps in the right direction (no pun intended). Here is a nice comparison of different devices. Some are fancy and provide you with tons of information, while others are simpler and more economical.

Have fun incorporating these new habits into your life. You’ll probably find some of them make your day more enjoyable on top of benefiting your health.

Stay with us. Just 1 more week and you will have made it through the first 2 months of 2019!

 

Week 8: Remind Yourself of Your Goals

Tips to help you remember your goals and keep up your motivation as the pace of life picks up.

healthy habits
 

It’s far too easy to let our new healthy habits start to slip while juggling the numerous demands and responsibilities placed upon us. Social events come along, work becomes demanding, and before you know it, your healthy eating and exercise plans have been put on the back burner.

One of the best ways to stick to your goals is to provide yourself with constant reminders of the intentions you set and why you set them. To remind yourself of your eating goals, and boost your willpower to stick with them, keep a stash of MealEnders every place where you tend to give in to temptation—by the TV, on the dining table for meals, in the kitchen cabinet where you keep your snacks, etc. Avoiding even just one extra snack or second helping a day can make all the difference.

And to help you stay motivated, here are a few other strategies you can use to stay inspired about making healthy lifestyle changes.

1) Put a reminder on the fridge: This can be a note, an inspiring quote, a picture, or anything else that will help you remember what your goals are and why you set them. Keep this reminder anywhere you will see it regularly. Putting it on the fridge has the added benefit of being right in front of you as you are about to make food-related decisions.

2) MealEnders Healthy Habits Checklist: Print out this checklist and post it where you can refer to it regularly. Once you’ve made one of the items on the checklist a habit, check it off and move onto the next one. This little tool can help you stay focused and appreciate each small success. The reward of getting to check off a certain habit will serve as continual motivation to keep at it.

3) Partner up with friends: Set goals with some buddies so that you can hold each other accountable and continuously inspire one another to make healthy choices.

4) Sign up for a race: If your health goals include exercise, sign yourself up for a race to hold yourself accountable for getting outside and exercising. Once you’ve paid for a race, you’ll be extra motivated to follow through. Completing the race will also provide a sense of accomplishment and renew your motivation even after the race is over. Don’t worry if you aren’t a runner. There are tons of different types of athletic competitions and events out there. Find one that will be fun for you!

Congrats, you’ve spent a whole 2 months consciously working to develop new healthy habits! Your hard work ingraining those habits will make it that much easier for you to stay on track with your health goals throughout the rest of the year and beyond.

We’d love to hear from you if you have a new year’s resolution or healthy habits success story to share!

*Individual Results May Vary