As you sweep up the last of the New Year's confetti, ponder how you'll make 2011 your fittest yet. Instead of measuring your success only by numbers on a scale, try these expert-recommended approaches to make 2011 your healthiest ever.
Rein in emotional eating
Instead of simply resolving to stop eating or overeating certain foods, find the root cause. "Most overeating is emotional eating," says Denise Lamothe, Psy.D, HHD, author of The Taming of the Chew, a holistic guide to stopping compulsive eating. The emotional-eating roller coaster starts with feeling bored, angry, depressed or otherwise uncomfortable.
Stop the cycle. When you find yourself reaching for something to eat when you're upset, take a moment to close your eyes and breathe deeply. What are you really feeling? If it's true hunger, eat something nourishing. Otherwise, give yourself what you need: Call a friend, read a book, etc.
Reduce belly fat
Belly fat, or "visceral fat," that creates an apple-shaped body is more than aesthetically unappealing — it puts you at a higher risk for heart disease and metabolic illnesses such as diabetes. "All fat is problematic, but visceral fat wraps around internal organs like the heart," says Christopher Hobbs, Ph.D. candidate, acupuncturist, herbalist, author and teacher. "Even otherwise thin people can have a significant amount."
Exercise. "You can't diet away visceral fat," says Hobbs. "You must exercise to get rid of it." The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends a minimum of 30 minutes on most days of the week, which you can do in 10-minute increments throughout the day.
Check the balance of good fats in your diet
Losing weight goes hand-in-hand with watching your fat intake. But not all fat is bad. In fact, some fats play a secondary role in weight loss. "Omega-3s, for example, reduce inflammation and also help regulate insulin pathways," says Hobbs. Control over insulin and blood sugar may aid weight loss through better appetite control.
Increase your intake of omega-3s from a variety of sources. Along with fish oil supplements, include high-omega-3 foods such as salmon, soybeans and flax seed oil. Eat fish two times per week or take one gram of EPA and DHA daily.
Focus on health rather than the perfect number
Revisit your goals. One way to get started: Instead of using the scale as a measure of progress, give yourself kudos for days you exercise, for example. "And track your feeling on days you exercise versus days you don't," suggests Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer with the American Council on Exercise.
Make one active change and one lifestyle change a week. For example, add a piece of fruit to your diet each day and park 10 minutes away from your destination and walk. When you're comfortable, add another small change each week.
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