As January ends, this does not mean that your health goals for 2019 have to fade away too! The New Year typically brings about as sense of renewal, and committing to a new lifestyle. Sadly, these resolutions that are made at midnight often are dropped faster than the ball in New York City in the weeks to follow. I am here however, to tell you this does not have to be the case for you.
I do not know about you, but I find that trying to lead a healthy lifestyle while maintaining a job to be a huge challenge. As a member of my work’s wellness committee I am constantly thinking up ways to make not only my personal life, but also my professional life as healthy as possible. We all know that health tends to be made up of individual choices however; making healthy choices can be difficult if you are surrounded by unhealthy options. For example, we know that we should eat healthy and nutritious meals, but when a slice of chocolate cake is offered to you, I will be the first to admit that it is hard to resist.
This is why it is important to set goals, and make plans that help you maintain these goals. I personally find it best to prepare a healthy breakfast and lunch each morning to ensure that I do not get so hungry by lunch time that I crumble under the growls of my stomach, and go eat fast food, or that piece of cake that was generously offered. Even still, there are those days when nothing seems to be going to plan, and I am running behind with no extra time to prepare my meals. On days like these, it is great to be working at the Meigs County Health Department. In 2018, the health department opened a micro-market that sells fresh healthy food choices, such as apples, trail mix, yogurt, and water. Thus, even on days I am not able to bring healthy meals to work, I have healthy choices surrounding me, and therefore I am less likely to partake in consuming unhealthy snacks that I will later regret.
Although the micro-market has been a great addition to the health department, I understand that not every place of employment is going to offer this resource. In that case, planning ahead and making meals or bringing healthy snack options such as, fruits and vegetables may be your best choice of action. If this is the case, most places of employment have a breakroom containing a fridge where you can store these healthy options.
A healthy lifestyle is not entirely about the food you consume, but also the physical activity you engage in. If you have a career that allows you to be active and move throughout the day that is great, for anything that brings your heart rate above what is your personal resting heart rate registers as exercise for your body. In fact, the latest version of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition suggest that adult Americans get anywhere from 150 minutes (2.5 hours) to 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity exercise a week. Yet, if you are like me, and have a career that is predominately stationary it can be easy to miss out on this recommended goal.
In this case, I find it helpful to wear an activity tracker that sends reminders to me through a text-like feature informing me to get up and move throughout the day. Although I have an office job, simply standing to read my emails, or walking from one end of my office to another is not only a good source of exercise, but also allows me to change up the routine of my day. Another healthy and fun option to spice up a traditional meeting is to make the meeting a walking meeting. Typically meetings are held indoors, and have participants sitting in chairs, but opting for a walking meeting allows meeting goers to take in nature, and burn a few calories all the while completing their work tasks.
Speaking of co-worker involvement, often sticking to goals can be easier if you have a supportive partner or team to encourage you along the way. Since a great deal of your time can be spent at work, having a person or group of individuals with the same goals can make being healthy a lot easier. Again, there are going to be days when you do not feel like preparing a healthy meal, let alone eating it. Yet, if you have someone motivating you to stay on track, you are less likely to give up on your goals. Creating and/or joining a work group that is geared towards healthy lifestyle choices can help you accomplish your goals by helping you to engage in several healthy choices. For example, you can take half of your lunch break to walk outside your place of employment together, meal prep with your co-workers, and share healthy recipes, just to name a few.
Sticking to your healthy lifestyle goals can be a challenge. Each day can bring about a new obstacle, but if you make plans that help you accomplish these goals, becoming and staying healthy will be that much easier. Also keep in mind that a lifestyle change does not happen overnight, and you are entitled to bad day. There are going to be days where you eat every delicious dessert in sight, and maybe not move an inch off the couch. On days like this, just remember than tomorrow is a new day, and with a new day you can start back with the goals you created for yourself. One or an unlimited amount of off days does not mean that your goals have to be thrown away; it just means that you can start over fresh the following day. A quote that embodies this sentiment is by the author, Sean Patrick Flanery, “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”
If you found these tips helpful, and would be interested in learning more, such as implementing a healthy micro-market at your place of employment, please contact me, Ciara Martin at [email protected] to continue the conversation. Good luck in setting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that works for you!
Ciara Martin is the Meigs County Health Department’s Creating Healthy Communities Program Director/Health Educator.