Everyone knows the song "The 12 Days of Christmas"... well I capitalized on that idea with The 12 Months of Health. It's awesome; it combines the elements of creating a habit without overwhelming yourself and a New Years Resolution all in one! Some background info for you first, to ensure you that this will indeed work.
It takes an average of 21 days (3 weeks) to make or break a habit. Everything from chewing your nails to flossing can ultimately become a habit (or be broken) in 3 weeks. So it takes about 3 weeks of conscious thought and reminder but by the end of a month, it'll just be something you do.
So here is my challenge to you. Everyone wants to start off the New Year with a million resolutions or one all encompassing one; be healthier, lose weight, eat better! That's great, but many people try to change too many habits at once, and they fail and then get discouraged. Once discouraged, it's hard to pick yourself up and start over, because giving up is so much easier. Being healthy may not always be easy, but I promise you, it IS worth it. You just have to go about it the right way. So make 2014 YOUR year; ingrain these habits in your brain so that by 2015 they're something you don't even think about, you just do.
I made these pretty basic for a reason; because everyone needs to start somewhere. If there are a few that you want to tailor to your personal goals, be my guest! I also have them in a specific order for a reason, but if there is something you feel that you should do differently, you know yourself better than anyone. By focusing on one thing it reduces the amount of change you have to do, and by doing them for a month, they become a habit. So by the next month, the previous months task should be something you do without even having to think about it.
January: Drink more water!
-Try getting a glass in when you wake up, before every meal, and before bed. Always keep a refillable water bottle with you so there is no excuse. Don't worry, you won't pee every half hour forever, your body will soon become fully hydrated and get adjusted.
February: Plan and log your meals!
-Plan your meals out Sunday night for the whole week; breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Then do your grocery shopping. This will help you avoid fast food meals or eating junk because half the thinking is already done. Of course things come up and it's not set in stone, but it does help... especially if you have long days and take your lunch and snacks with you.
-Keep track of what you do end up eating. I suggest a small notebook or My Fitness Pal app. Hold yourself accountable and don't cheat- you're only cheating yourself!
March: Exercise 3-5x a Week!
-You probably hit the gym full force in January. By February you started to wind down. Now you're in the New Years Resolution slump. Don't be a lump in a slump! Get to the gym. Stay at least 30 minutes each time you go. 45 minutes is even better, 1 hour is best. Do it. Summer is coming!!
April: Make Minor Diet Changes!
-Now that you are logging your meals, drinking more water, and exercising, it is time to tweak your eating habits. Make small changes; wheat bread instead of white bread, whole grain pasta, incorporate more fruits and veggies and low fat dairy into your diet. Cut back on high sodium, high sugar, and high fat foods as well as processed foods if you can.
May: Cut Out Soda and Junk Food!
-Once you stop eating the junk, you stop craving it. Drink water or juice instead of soda. If you need the caffeine, grab a coffee (not with a ton of syrup and cream!) or have a cup of black tea with honey. Coffee and tea at least have benefits. Soda has NONE. It is empty calories.
-Many fast food places enhance their foods with chemicals so that you crave them. Once you get the toxic stuff out, you won't crave it. And if you think you do, and you have some, you'll probably get a nice upset stomach which is your body wondering why you started to poison it again! If you are planning ahead, you should rarely be stranded without a snack and need to cave in for junk.
June: Try One New Food Each Week
-Make something new; you might like it! Especially if you haven't had it in years. Taste buds change, and you can go mind over matter with it and force yourself to like things. I've forced myself to like tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, onions, fish, avocados and quinoa because it is good for me. And you know what, I've even come to enjoy those things, a lot! I started small; I had chopped tomatoes added to a burrito bowl or thin slices of avocado on a turkey sandwich. Peppers I grill and put on a salad, and now I even enjoy them raw. If you don't love it, give it a few more tries in a few different dishes.
July: Challenge Yourself
-You have gotten half way through your year and you are doing great with being healthy! Now challenge yourself; try something new at the gym or outside, sign up for a 5K or a new yoga class. Your exercise routine is probably starting to get a little dull, so keep it interesting! Take a break from running to swim, it's great cardio and good for the joints. Join a hiking club or try a dance class. What can it hurt? Do something you will be excited for!
August: Pamper Yourself!
-Taking care of yourself is important to your health too. Get a massage or a mani/pedi. If you've put on some muscle and are feeling a little sore, try seeing a chiropractor. Invest in some bubble bath and have a personal spa day once a week. When you take care of yourself, you feel better about yourself. Make the time after the shower to put on your favorite lotion and one day a week to unwind and pamper yourself.
-You should already be stretching after your workouts or when you are sore, but start waking up 10 minutes earlier to incorporate stretching into your morning routine. It will help wake you, and your muscles, up. Do a little yoga sequence or just some general stretches. Get everything moving and loosened up!
October: Portion Control!
-The holidays are coming. Start working on portion control now so that when they get here, you don't gorge! Invest in smaller plates, the American "dinner" plate is huge! Not to mention people feel a ridiculous psychological need to fill their plate. Buy or use smaller plates, think 6-8 inches instead of 10 inches (an average American Dinner plate!). Before you get seconds, sit for a few minutes, drink some more water, and think am I really still hungry? By the time you go to get seconds, it's probably cold. Just put it away. Why heat it up?
-Don't forget to be mindful of packaged foods and their serving sizes as well!
November: Watch Less TV!
-Read, do a craft, pick up a new hobby. Turn off the tv! I know it's getting cold out around this time and you put away the dresses and shorts and pull out the sweats but don't let this time of the year get you- you have done so well! Do something to exercise your brain. Try spending less time in front of the computer or on your phone too. It's not good for you!
December: Self Control and Maintenance!
-You now should have a solid year of better health habits. Don't let them fall now just because the holidays get crazy. Stick to your schedule, but also know that life happens. Don't get discouraged if you get bogged down by holiday parties or you eat a few more cookies than you planned on. Just wake up and know every day is a new day; each fresh start has a new opportunity and don't dwell on the negative from the day before. All of your hard work will NOT go to waste because of a fun weekend, but it will go to waste if you think that you can just drop your habits for the month. They will be that much harder to start again.
I hope you print this out and put it on the fridge or into your planner and I hope you enjoy the new healthier you that you will become! You can't change your whole life and everything you know in a day, but you definitely can in a year. I believe in you, now you just need to believe in yourself!