Not Bikini Ready? Here are 5 Tips to Jump Start Your Wellness Journey This Summer
By Dr. Magdala Chery
One of the top rated New Year’s resolution for Americans typically involves losing weight or healthy eating . Nearly 80% of adults under 36 years old, admit they could be healthier and typically pick Jan 1st as their start date for starting their wellness journey. But by the end of the year, reports cite that usually only about 8% of Americans actually stick to their resolutions. So as we get deep into the summer, there is no surprise that you are likely off-track. Time to do yourself a favor and avoid putting it off any longer. Even if you are currently far from bikini ready, remember health and wellness should always be the goal year around! Below are some helpful tips to get you started this summer!
1. Look in the mirror and do some self-reflection.
When making the decision to get back into shape or make lifestyle changes, the impulse is always to run and get gym membership or buy exercise equipment. This is a common mistake and often leads one down the path of quick fixes, crash diets, and not a true change in lifestyle habits. Research findings from human and animal studies support a two-way link between three concepts, mood, food, and obesity. Usually there is a correlation between life changes and its associated emotional impact to when in life we looked our best and unfortunately our worst. Therefore, before embarking on your fitness journey, take the time to look at yourself in the mirror and reflect on when you were the healthiest and happiest with the way you look.
Now comes the hard part, think about the things that kept you away from making the right choices to stay in shape. Was it a stressful job? A relationship break up? The loss of a loved one? Etc. Mood states such as anxiety and depression affect food choice and energy metabolism. Overeating and obesity is often associated with depression and anxiety in humans. Allowing the time for some insightful reflection is the only way to move forward and develop wellness goals. This also helps ensure that you have taken the time to heal and cope from life stressors that may have been the cause to you falling off track. Health and wellness isn’t just a physical journey but it’s a mental and emotional one as well.
2. MAP OUT THE SUMMER AND THE REST OF YOUR YEAR.
Attempting to get into shape, during the summer is one tough task. Summers are usually loaded with graduations, weddings, brunches, rooftop day parties and so much more. With all of that comes alcohol, sweets, and all the celebratory food one can imagine. Let’s not forget that fall/winter is quickly approaching thereafter and with all the holidays jammed in there, if you don’t start your wellness journey now. You probably won’t any time soon.
A nice quick tip is to pull out a calendar and map out your summer with events/travel/life moments that are important to you. This helps with you create realistic goals for how you will get back into shape. Meal planning and logging in intentional exercise around those events is going to be critical to helping you achieve balance. And you want to be able to enjoy important special moments in life without feeling guilty. I even recommend mapping out at least 6 months in advance on a calendar. You can learn to use an event, as motivation to get into shape. While you are at it, look at your schedule, see when it is feasible for you to work out and go food shopping. There is really no big science to it. The wellness plan you create has to be one that vibes with you, your schedule, and your lifestyle. If it doesn’t, the likelihood that you will stick with it is slim to none.
3. Head to Your food pantry.
Alright if you are still committed to jumpstarting your lifestyle changes; then make a UTURN from the gym and head to the food pantry. Nutrition plays the biggest part to weight loss and weight maintenance goals. Yet it’s the part we seem to overlook and fail to place appropriate emphasis on. But whether you realize it or not, food is everywhere. We eat it to survive, we celebrate with it, we snack and retreat to food at any time no matter the location or event. Thus, it only makes sense that you start by taking an inventory of your food pantry at home. Take a look at the kinds of foods you are buying. Are you stocking up on fresh or processed foods? Are you getting a balanced diet? What’s your sugar intake? Water consumption? Even ask yourself, are you eating enough? Skipping meals, is the number one way to pack on extra pounds!
In the meantime, don’t forget to check your office, the car, and/or think about your “favorite” work commute. We often consume the worst foods on our way to and from work. Think about any guilty food pleasures that you are having more often then you should. Then make plans on how you can improve your nutritional choices. Not a fan of the kitchen? Maybe this is the time to see if a meal prep service may be the better option for you. Remember, how you look is a reflection of what you feed your body! Bikini bodies are built in the kitchen.
4. Check in with your Primary Care Doctor.
A balanced comprehensive wellness plan should always incorporate your primary care doctor (PCP). For starters, it is important to rule out any medical conditions that may be contributing to your weight gain. Your PCP will make sure you are up-to-date with all your age appropriate preventive screenings,and when appropriate, workup for any concerns related to your health and being out of shape. You want to be sure you get the clear go-head to start any nutrition and fitness program. This also provides a means to address any medical conditions that call for an alternation in your wellness goals and plans.
Now it is encouraged that you make an appointment with your doctor to explicitly discuss your weight and wellness goals. Try your best to NOT simply add this topic to the agenda of an already scheduled visit to the doctor. If you do, there most likely will not be enough time in the visit to give this topic the attention it deserves.
Be PROACTIVE and don’t expect your doctor to be the one to bring up your weight! A recent study, called The ACTION Study, which looked at patient and physician perceptions regarding treatment of obesity, found that 65% of the physicians they questioned said they didn’t bring up a patient’s weight because they thought the patient would be too embarrassed to discuss it—but only 15% patients in the study actually said they would feel embarrassed.. Call up your PCP and schedule that visit.
5. Get moving: Figuratively and literally.
You have done the work emotionally, mentally, and cleaned up the diet. Now you are ready to incorporate the intentional physical exercise. Being aware of your schedule and when you have down time is clutch here. The recommended exercise is 150 minutes weekly. But of course to shred pounds expect to have to put in more time working out. But remember it’s not all or nothing. Often we expect that if we can’t spend 30- 60 minutes working out in one session, why bother. Well, the goal is activity, it is encouraged to fit it where you can. Maybe splitting up your physical activity between your lunch break and after dinner or after the kids are put down works best for you! Focus on when and where you can get the exercise in and make it convenient for you. Then you can work with a trainer or do research on what exercises work best for your body goals. Also don’t forget about the simple things like parking the car further, walking to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator. All activities that can keep you moving!
Now you are ready to start your wellness journey and keep it going all year long!
Magdala Chery, DO, MBS is an Internal Medicine Physician, educator, community leader, motivational speaker, and health policy enthusiast. Dr. Chery serves as a primary care general internist and assistant professor at Rowan Medicine in New Jersey, serving the South Jersey and Greater Philadelphia community. Her career focuses include women's health, lifestyle behavioral coaching for chronic diseases, addressing health disparities in vulnerable populations, and academic medicine.