Gluten-Free Living: Tips for a Healthy New Year - Setting Up for Success

Since resolution making is in high gear we're talking about healthy lifestyles and weight loss today in this gluten-free living series post!  Check back later this week for a healthy, make-ahead recipe that will help you reach your goals. DISCLAIMER: Please note I am NOT a doctor, registered dietician, nutritionist, personal trainer, or fitness expert. I’m just sharing my experiences and opinions! Always check with a doctor before changing your diet or exercise.

January is one of the most popular months for health and fitness industry since it is the month where weight loss, fitness, and health resolutions are made and people begin to eat healthy and get active. Between magazines covers offering quick workout routines, online sources claiming to get you slim in two weeks, and retail stores putting all their fitness gear front and center, it's hard not to think about diet and exercise. All of this is done to cater to the influx of new gym goers (January Joiners) and dieters who are anxious to get fit. Unfortunately, many people who start working out and eating healthy in January go back to old habits by February or March. One of the main reasons people have a hard time forming new, healthy habits is that they feel overwhelmed by all the changes and the time commitments associated with those changes.

end of August 2010 (c) Cecily Garcia

August 2011(c) Jack Looney

October 28, 2011 (c) Jack Looney

I admit that I was one of those people who resolved to lose weight every year but never really made significant progress until last year. Last year I lost about 25 lbs and made significant strides in my overall fitness, health, muscle mass, and athleticism. Forming new habits like hitting the gym at 6am, avoiding gluten, and healthy eating wasn’t easy. It still isn't easy, but it has become much more manageable now that I have good habits in place. Now, healthy eating is a no-brainer and I look forward to working out every day. One of the main things that enabled me to lose weight in the first place was shifting my thinking - I now view view living a healthy lifestyle as a journey and not a means to an end. I still have some more weight I want to lose and other fitness goals I want to achieve and I'm looking forward to making progress. To help keep myself motivated and maybe spark some new ideas, I thought I would share some of my favorite tips that have helped me lose weight and get healthy.

1. Be prepared and plan ahead:

Exercise: Plan out your workouts for the week and write them down somewhere – a workout journal, a spreadsheet, or just a piece of paper. Look at it often and check off your workout when you’re done. There is nothing more satisfying than being able to look at your accomplishments every day! At home, I have workout calendar and at the gym, I carry a small notebook with me to write down my lifting routine and also keep track of the weights I use. This helps keep me organized and moving forward towards my goals.

Food: Prep and plan meals on the weekend for the week ahead and you will save tons of time. I like to prep at least one lunch item, like soup, and various snacks/small meals that I can grab and take with me. Between my husband’s work schedule and my work schedule, we often don’t have time to cook every meal, so having some ready-made options makes it easy.

2. Start small: Trying to overhaul your life in a day is too difficult and shocking to create long-term, sustainable habits. Instead, try implementing something new or changing one thing each week. One week, vow to incorporate more greens with your meals. The next week, maybe try to work out an extra 5 minutes each time you hit the gym. Make small goals and celebrate your small accomplishments and pretty soon, you will have formed tons of new healthy habits. I like to set a new challenge for myself every week, like practicing yoga at least 3 times, to keep myself motivated and interested.

3. Make friends with your freezer: During my prep for the week, I like to make big enough batches of food, like soups and grains, so that I can stash a few meals in the freezer. Freezing soup in individual portions is a great way to ensure you have some healthy lunch and dinner options, especially if your schedule gets hectic. I also like to freeze batches of grains like quinoa and brown rice in individual and larger sized portions to ensure that I always have a ready-made grain to throw into a quick stir-fry or to add to a hearty lunch.

4. Give it two weeks: Several people have asked me how I can wake up at 5:30am every day and get to the gym.. My answer is simply that the 5:30am wake-up call is just part of my everyday routine. Although, It wasn't always that way. I’m naturally a morning person but I've always struggled with getting up early to get a workout in. I would do great for a week and then fall off the early gym wagon the next week. To successfully form my early gym habit, I initially said that I would get up early for 2 weeks and then see how I felt. Two weeks turned into a month, which turned into two months, and so on. If you’re struggling with consistency in your diet or exercise, commit to two weeks and re-evaluate after that. Chances are you will be feeling great and will want to stick with it.

5. Diversity is key:

Exercise: Change up your workout routine often to keep yourself and your body interested. I like to include lots of weight lifting, HIIT cardio, running (when I'm not injured), and vinyasa yoga to get a good mix of strength, intense cardio, moderate cardio, and flexibility training. Working out should be fun and interesting reward, not a boring and tedious punishment. If you're in a rut, try out a new class at the gym or try a new routine from magazines like Oxygen.

Food: If you’re newly gluten-free, finding a diversity of foods that you can eat can be overwhelming and difficult. Try picking up one new-to-you item at the grocery store every week and incorporating it into your diet. Eating a variety of foods helps keep your diet interesting and fends off diet boredom and burn out.

6. Get rid of excuses: It’s simple really, either you do it or you don’t. When it comes down to it, you are the person who chooses to live a healthy life. There are so many excuses that we can tell ourselves – I’m too busy, I don’t have time, I’m too tired, etc. (Please note that I'm not talking about legitimate emergencies, injuries, illness, and general life things that happen - it is important to listen to your mind and body and take time off to deal with those things.) If you want it, you have to work it and the only way to do that is to, well, do it. This perspective helps keep me motivated and keeps me in check when I find myself slacking off. Keep yourself motivated to reach your goals through mantras, motivational pictures, or inspirational stories. If you need some great mantras or motivational words, check out Pinterest.

Exercise: Twenty minutes of exercise is better than no exercise so if you’re short on time, try incorporating bodyweight workouts that you can do it 20 minutes. If you don’t have a block of time, try doing mini-training sessions: do 20 jumping jacks when you wake up, 20 push ups on a work break, walk a few blocks during your lunch break, do 20 lunges at your desk, 20 crunches when you get home, and 20 squats before bed. Also, try enlisting a gym buddy to help you stay accountable and motivate you to get your workout in. Plan your workouts around times that are the most excuse-proof for your schedule. For me, that means getting up, getting dressed, and heading to the gym first thing in the morning - I typically don't have any other commitments at 6am.

Food: Prepping your food ahead can help eliminate excuses to eat unhealthy foods. Try to keep a small snack with you at all times, like almonds or an apple, so that you can quell your hunger until your next meal. If you do need to eat and you don't have a snack with you, try to find a healthy option at a restaurant or grab a small string cheese, nuts, or a banana from the nearest convenience store or gas station.

7. Focus on what you can do: One of the most helpful and important tips I can give is to stop obsessing about numbers on a scale and your ability to compete with the next gym goer. People tend to focus on what they can't do or what they haven't achieved yet rather than focusing on what they can do. I can't do a pull-up or a handstand yet, hell, I'm not even close but I can do regular push-ups, hold crow pose for a few seconds (working on getting back to that level post-foot fracture), and regularly use 25lbs. for bicep curls. There are tons of people who can do much more than I can, but I try and focus on the goals I have reached, like doing a regular push up, rather than comparing myself to others. Focusing on what you can do helps you feel strong, accomplished, and motivates to keep reaching for your goals. Much like living a gluten-free life, focusing on can rather than the can't makes life much more enjoyable.

This article sums my point up nicely: Go out there to kick ass and stop worrying about the number on the scale.

I hope those tips are helpful for those just starting out and a good remainder for those who are already on their healthy living journey. I know that they have served as good reminders for me!