I just read that January 17 is usually when people ditch their big exercise plans they resolved to in the new year. This means that fitness “resolutions” that are unrealistic last less than three weeks! Three weeks won’t get you far.

While a regular exercise program is an important part of healthy lifestyle, eating well is also important, especially if you need to lose weight. Exercise does support health in terms of maintaining muscle (strength, balance, bone support), but there’s some research that’s shown exercise alone isn’t going to impact your metabolism significantly over time (genetics plays a role in how the body responds to exercise), so diet has to be managed too.

Just as it’s unrealistic to maintain long-term over-the-top exercise goals, extreme dietary changes don’t last either. “Detox diets” are popular this time of year, but they aren’t necessary. Eliminating food groups (“I’m swearing off bread!”) or obsessively avoiding ingredients (“I’m completely eliminating sugar!”) also tends to backfire. While sugar and alcohol supply empty calories (void of nutrients, high in calorie), they can still be incorporated into a diet, if chosen with moderation in mind. Bread is also not “bad” (but sure, you can overdo it). Whole grains supply the bulk of the fiber you need in your diet, so you can include bread in your diet and still maintain a healthy weight.

The “deadly” breadbox, is not deadly.

Here are my 5 Quick Tips to Ditching the Detox Mentality:

  1. Value food as nourishment. It is not toxic. Choose to plan meals based on both nourishment and enjoyment. Respect your personal food tolerances or intolerances, but don’t eliminate foods if it isn’t necessary (such as going gluten-free when you do not have diagnosed gluten intolerance).
  2. Make it fun. Choose fitness routines that are of interest to you and that you enjoy. Think about whether you are an intrinsic or extrinsic exerciser. If you need support, find it by enlisting a friend to work out with, joining a gym, signing up for a session of classes.
  3. Stay mindful. Once you have a routine you can stick with, embrace your body. Be mindful of how your body works, and what it is capable of doing.
  4. Be accountable. Announce your goals to a friend or family member, or even as a personal journal entry. Writing it out, or speaking it, can make it seem more real. If weight loss is a goal, it’s probably not a good idea to weigh yourself more than once a week, but weigh in on occasion. Keep in mind however that weight changes aren’t the only measure of successful lifestyle change. How you feel, reduction in blood pressure, increased energy, ease of movement – all are gains.
  5. Move forward. If you want to be one of the 40% or so people who do maintain their diet and fitness goals, cut yourself some slack. Nobody’s perfect. If you slip up, honor that and move on to better choices at the next meal or the next day.

I’ve written many words over the years about setting small, realistic goals. Changing a habit takes time, and it begins by being ready, and then choosing a goal you can achieve and stick to. There will be slip-ups, because life throws curve balls all of the time, and we never have complete control over our environment. Find the support you need to stick to your goals and you’ll do your best.