With the New Years Resolution season quickly approaching I wanted to dissect ways that you and I can focus on health this next year. Anytime I hear someone making a decision for their health or because "it's healthy" it makes me consider what we call healthy and why. Here are some specific ways that we can focus on our health in 2015:
We Can Focus on Macronutrients -- Macronutrients, or Fats, Carbohydrates and Protein, are the three nutrients that determine the calories in any given item. By focusing on having the right amounts of each daily we can see benefits aside from maintaining the weight that we'd like.
- A proper amount of carbohydrates daily helps fuel our day to day needs as well as a solid workout in the gym. They are needed for the central nervous system, the kidneys, the brain, the muscles (including the heart) to function properly, as well as intestinal health and waste elimination.
- A proper amount of protein daily aids the body with growth (especially important for children, teens, and pregnant women), tissue repair, immune function, making essential hormones and enzymes, and with preserving lean muscle mass.
- A proper amount of fats benefits the body with normal growth and development, energy, absorbing certain vitamins ( like vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids) and hormonal balance.
A micronutrient focused goal for 2015 could be to learn to troubleshoot what your body's personal needs are, and what ratio of the three macronutrients makes you feel your best. A great place to start is to track your normal diet on MyFitnessPal or a similar app for a few weeks. From there, once you're more comfortable with the process, you can begin to tweak and shoot for specific goals: like eating 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight for a month.
We Can Focus On Micronutrients -- Micronutrients are the nutrients required in smaller amounts, compared to macronutrients, to keep the body in prime condition. Micronutrients do not contain calories/energy, and I feel it's important to point out that eating micronutrient dense food does not necessarily equate to weighing your ideal weight. Tracking your macronutrients/calories determine your weight and body composition.
A focus on micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, comes from an understanding that our body has many needs. Project Healthy Children, for example, aims to educate parents and communities that proper micronutrient intake can mean the difference between a healthy productive life and one full of illness. Five that they focus on a global level are folic acid, iodine, iron, Vitamin A, and Zinc. You can find out more here. A micronutrient focused goal for 2015 would be to aim to hit 100% of your essential vitamins and minerals without relying on a multivitamin. Or it could be as simple as taking a multivitamin.
We Can Focus On Hydration -- Are you drinking enough water? If not this is another goal that you could add to your list in 2015 to focus on your health. Benefits of drinking an adequate amount of water for your body's needs include an improvement in endocrine gland function, fluid retention alleviation, improved liver function -- increasing the percentage of fat used for energy, nutrients being more easily distributed throughout the body, regulation of body-temperation, and an improvement of metabolic functions. (NASM textbook coming in handy!)
Something to remember is that "thirst alone is a poor indicator of how much water is needed." Natural thirst returns once we're back to consuming what we need. So til you reach that point a more accurate ways of tracking hydration would be keeping track throughout the day or by paying attention to the color of your urine.
We Can Focus On Body Fat Percentage -- Weighing yourself can often times be a great indicator of your overall health. But if you're sick of the scale, feeling jaded by the number you see there, or feel that the amount of muscle you have is giving a skewed picture of what you're working with learning your body fat percentage can be a great thing to focus on.
If I were to want to know my body fat percentage and I was confident that it would only help me on my fitness journey and not set me back emotionally, then I'd find where the cheapest Bod Pod was in an hour vicinity of my home. For example where we live in Utah there is a University 10 minutes away from me that will test for $20 and another 40 minutes away for $30. The Bod Pod tests based on air displacement and has the same range of error that a water tank has (2%). I just so happen to not be a fish in water so I'd rather test on dry land ;) You can find a Bod Pod in your area with this link. And here's a link from the nearest Bod Pod University location for me, if you wanted to geek out on 4 pages of info on this with me.
Goals for a body fat percentage focus on health could be upping your body fat above the essential fat range if you are considered underweight, lowering your body fat percentage if you are in the obese or overweight range or focusing on lowering your body fat percentage while increasing muscle mass to achieve a certain aesthetic result.
Fitness Abilities :
We Can Focus On Specific Fitness Abilities -- I borrowed from this Men's Health article to help think of 10 standards to test your fitness level:
- Bench 1.5 Times Your Body Weight
- Run 1.5 Miles in 10 Minutes
- Touch the Rim
- Leg-Press 2.25 Times Your Weight
- Swim 700 Yards in 12 Minutes (Do
- Do 40 Pushups
- Run 300 Yards Sub 1 Minute
- Touch Your Toes
- Toss a Basketball 75 Feet Kneeling
Though these standards might not all apply precisely to a woman, I believe the idea behind them is the same. There are various ways to become more fit, as the above standards show. Upper body strength, upper body power (throwing the basketball), upper body endurance (40 pushups), lower body power (jumping), lower body strength, peak aerobic capacity, and flexibility are all important.So if you find yourself in a rut or unmotivated in the fitness department, hopefully this reminder of the various ways that you can improve your fitness helps light the fire under you. Start with whatever makes you the most excited and go from there!
Now I wanted to jump into a few aspects of health that we might not typical first think of when considering health focused goals at the start of a new year.
We Can Focus On Our Mental Health -- "There are many kinds of mental illnesses that affect the way the brain functions. They can affect thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and the ability to understand information. Mental illnesses are different from everyday experiences of sadness, feeling upset, or daily problems. Mental illness makes normal living difficult." "Realize that a mental illness cannot be overcome by willpower alone. It does not indicate that a person lacks faith, character, or worthiness." More here.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. MentalHealth.gov categorizes mental health into a few different categories:
- anxiety disorders: OCD, phobias, PTSD, panic disorder
- behavioral disorders: inattention, hyperactivity, defiant behavior, drug use
- eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, binge eating, bulimia
- mental health disorders in combination with substance abuse
- mood disorders: depression, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, self harm
- personality disorders: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder
- psychotic disorders: schizophrenia, hallucinations,
- and suicidal behavior.
While this is a heavy topic, and one that I have no background in, I am a huge proponent of health. And I want to believe that we live in a world where mental health is just as important, if not more, than any other focus of health. Perhaps if you have concerns that you need help with from one or more of the above mentioned topics then this is the year to take the first step and begin to get help. We're all in this together.
Emotional Well Being / Spiritual Health
We Can Focus On Our Emotional and Spiritual Health --
The path to great emotional well-being is one that is more personal and less of an across the board formula than say, weight loss. But I'm willing to bet that we can each come up with 3 ways to could work on emotional health and well-being in the next year. Could the role of forgiveness be applied in your life in a way you've been neglecting? Could a focus on stress or anger management help lighten your daily load? Even a focus on smiling or laughing more freely could do wonders for the soul.
Along the same lines, are there specific ways we can focus on our spiritual health this next year? With that journey being one of the most personal I'll hold back from a list of suggestions, but wanted to make sure to not leave it out. The body, soul and mind are so intimately connected, that to focus on one and to neglect the other seems like such a waste.
I am so excited for a new year full of goals and focusing on bettering our lives and circumstances. I hope that this post gives you pause to stop and think before setting a vague resolution or goal "to become healthier" this next year. What aspect of health do you want to focus on, and why? I believe there is power in knowing the why behind our goals.
I hope that this post doesn't come off as preachy. I love goals, and will be posting my long list of goals to focus on this next year here soon. Because I was too excited to wait to draft those up.