Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and nutrition expert who has worked with stars from Halle Berry and Lady Gaga to Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author, with titles including The Body Reset Diet and The 5-Factor Diet. His new book 5 Pounds is out now. Tweet him @harleypasternak.
Every year, 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The number-one resolution? You got it: to lose weight.
The depressing news, though, is that only eight percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them. But this year is your year, right? You want it enough to make it work!
The New Year brings with it a promise of a shiny new version of our lives — the lives we all know we could lead if we just tried hard enough. And maybe those first few weeks go well. You sign up for a gym membership (that you can’t afford); you go to that weekend boot camp with your friends (that takes half your Saturday and leaves you limping); you go on that juice cleanse (that leaves you feeling tired, cranky and in the possession of a juicer that makes more noise than it does sense). Maybe you do lose a few pounds. I mean, for all that sacrifice, you certainly earned it!
Yet somehow, come February, you’re back to square one. You’re eating takeout for dinner and your fancy workout clothes you got for the holidays are somewhere at the bottom of your hamper. You did all that work, and for what? The truth is that all the intent in the world won’t get you to your weight-loss goal, because you’re playing a losing game.
I know, from my own experience and that of decades worth of clients, that there is a way to make your resolution stick. I’ve seen my way work year after year. In fact, I wrote a whole book on this concept (5 Pounds: The Breakthrough 5-Day Plan to Jump-Start Rapid Weight Loss (and Never Gain It Back!)).
I’ve found that the key to success with weight loss, not just for resolutions but for health and fitness in general, is to focus on the process, not the goal. If you want to lose 10 lbs., focus on what you can do today — what you can do right now — that will help you lose the weight. It’s also vital that these actions must not make a huge demand for your time, budget or patience, or you’ll never be able to make them stick.
These five habits are at the core of how I help my clients keep their New Year’s resolutions. I chose them for all the reasons I mentioned above: they’re easily adoptable, they don’t make any excessive demands on your life or wallet, and most of all — they actually work.
1. Eat protein and fiber five times a day
Your day should consist of three meals and two snacks, all of which have protein and fiber. The combination of protein and fiber helps you feel full quickly and stay full until you eat next. Check out my books for some amazing recipes.
Never be caught without a healthy snack, so you don’t end up eating a bad-for-you snack when you’re too hungry to do anything else. A little baggie of almonds is a great option to keep in your briefcase, car or backpack.
Pro Tip: Never let yourself get thirsty, as it can be mistaken for hunger. I keep a bottle of smartwater practically glued to my hands.
2. Walk at least 10,000 steps per day
Trade in that gym membership for a Fitbit, and ensure that you’re getting at least 10,000 steps per day. You can get in steps while on the phone, walking the dog or taking a stroll with a friend or partner, or while shopping. It’s better to get steps in all day long than to sit all day and only move for an hour.
Pro Tip: Get a competition going with your friends and coworkers to see who can get the most steps that week. A little healthy competition can really make the difference!
3. Get at least seven hours of sleep every night
Any new parent can tell you that when you don’t get enough sleep, nothing goes right. This goes doubly for weight loss: when you’re lacking in sleep, not only do you not have the energy to move around and burn calories, but you’re more likely to make poor diet decisions. Experiment with what helps you get better zzzs: try blackout curtains or an eye mask, or a white noise machine.
Pro Tip: Blue light, or the light emitted from electronic devices, is the enemy of sleep. It disrupts the hormones that establish our sleep/wake cycle. Ban electronic devices (including phones, tablets, computers, etc.) from the bedroom while you’re sleeping.
4. Do at least five minutes of resistance exercise each day
Trade in your exhaustive, hour-plus three-times-a-week workouts for one daily resistance exercise (like a bicep curl, squat, lunge or shoulder press). Spending as little as five minutes doing one resistance exercise a day is all it takes to build and maintain muscle, reduce fat and protect your bones.
Pro Tip: A pair of dumbbells is all you need to work your whole body.
5. Unplug for an hour daily
Break the cycle of technology dependence once a day, and use that time to do an unplugged activity like walking or meditating, or playing with your kids. ‘Checking in’ with yourself without being bombarded by email and social media and news and games is good for your body and your brain, and can lower your stress level significantly, which in turn helps keep weight off.
Pro Tip: Meditation may bring yogis on a mountaintop to mind, but you can really meditate anywhere and anytime. Try five minutes of focusing on your breath and feel your mind calming.
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