No fads, just building healthy lifestyles

Attendee Mayte Razo does weighted squats as she works out under pop-ups in the parking lot at Hard Core Fitness Boot Camp in Santa Clarita in July. Healthy changes in lifestyle often start with considering a new perspective, as well as a more honest look at your goals, according to the experts. PHOTO BY DAN WATSON / THE SIGNAL

Every year, millions make resolutions to better their overall health and fitness by trying the latest fad diet or workout — but those goals are sometimes exhausted and abandoned even by the end of February, if not sooner. 

Santa Clarita Valley fitness and wellness experts are very conscious of this burnout, which can ultimately lead those on the right path to drifting away from turning fitness fads into healthy lifestyles. 

But shaping your personal goals is not impossible. You don’t have to wait for a new year to kickstart the process. It just takes looking at things from a different perspective, according to Andy Leskin, a master trainer at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Fitness and Health.  

Defining what it means to be healthy 

Healthy living can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s all about fitness, while others associate it with having their mental health in balance or the absence of illness. 

The World Health Organization says health is “complete physical, mental and social well-being — and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The key, according to the experts, is to find a balance rather than focus too much on one or the other. 

Consider factoring in what social ties can mean for your health, too, especially amid a yearlong pandemic with lockdown waves and ongoing restrictions. Kaiser Permanente’s “Thrive Together” campaign, for example, focuses on the balance of helping one thrive “in mind, body, and spirit,” which encourages people to stay socially connected while practicing physical distance to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  

Tip onsider these tips from Kaiser Permanente on how to ease virtual communication: 

Create a safe space. Whether on video chat, phone, or text, try to create an environment where everyone feels like it’s OK to open up. Use reassuring language and make it clear that you’re ready and willing to listen.

Be vulnerable. Talk about how you’re feeling upfront. If you’re honest about your struggles, you can help encourage others to open up about theirs.

Check in often. Ups and downs are normal, so check in with family, friends, and co-workers frequently. Routine can be comforting, so set regular times to talk.

Stay present. Focus on connecting and being present. If you’re on video chat, make eye contact and avoid doing other tasks. You’ll then be able to listen and show you care.

Be ready to act. If you’re concerned, speak up. Asking someone if they’re considering hurting themselves doesn’t increase the likelihood that they’ll do it. It could save their life. If you think someone is in danger, call 911. 

Master trainer Andy Leskin, standing, watches Victor Quiroz’ heart monitor on his phone as Quiroz works out on the arm-bike machine at Henry Mayo Fitness and Health in Valencia.

Building habits

All too often, people talk about having a vision, but part of why it’s not accomplished is because the goal is too general, according to heart specialist Dr. Cynthia Thaik of the Holistic Healing Heart Center, which has locations in Valencia and Burbank. 

“People have too vague a notion of what they want to achieve. So, they put out something like, ‘I want to be healthier’ or ‘I want to lose weight,’” she said. “It’s sort of saying, ‘I want to go South,’ as opposed to setting your GPS to San Diego, for example, because if you just want to go ‘South,’ you might end up in Mexico.” 

“The reason people fail is that they set too lofty a goal, so then they become paralyzed because they know that they can’t achieve it,” she added. 

Be clear about your intention, Thaik added. Leskin advises Henry Mayo clients to think about building a healthy lifestyle by substituting habits. 

“You don’t just stop bad habits all of a sudden, you just substitute habits. It’s about substituting it with a healthier one or up-leveling what you’re currently doing and then fully reducing bad habits,” he said. 

Tip ant to be healthier on a nutrition level? Be specific. Start with breakfast. For example, Leskin suggests that if you’re a donut and coffee person, substitute the donut for a piece of fruit or bread with almond butter. 

“Let’s do that for a week. Don’t worry about lunch or dinner; just introduce healthier options during breakfast,” said Leskin. “It typically takes 21 days to develop a good habit. After three weeks, that change is ingrained and you won’t miss the old stuff. Now let’s look at lunch, and so on.” 

Make a confident statement

Confidence goes hand in hand when shaping your personal goals. Leskin suggests making a confident statement, which helps not only with motivation but also in identifying a more specific and realistic objective. 

Make a confident statement at the start of the week, he suggests. 

“You can start by saying, ‘I am 100% confident that I can substitute that coffee with almond milk three times a week. I am confident that I will have almond milk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,’” he said. “You have to be very specific about what that is and you want to make sure that it’s also doable.” 

Tip air your confidence in being able to create change with “one-degree shifts,” said Thaik. 

“One-degree shifts are small, definable goals that you know you can tackle. Let’s say you are going to introduce one vegetable that you’ve never tried before once a week,” she said. “That’s something minor but for someone who doesn’t eat vegetables that one-degree shift is huge. You want to do it habitually and not do anything again for the next two months.” 

Having shared intentions 

Jump-starting a healthy lifestyle is not always an easy feat. It’s easier when you have others supporting you and sharing the same goals, according to Thaik. 

The Holistic Healing Heart Center holds a 12-week collaborative where groups of clients get together — via Zoom during the pandemic — to “collectively set intentions.” 

Tip ith a group of friends, try to set a goal you can each help each other achieve. 

“Say, with three other friends, for a week, you’re going to try time-restricted eating and you’re going to eat within an eight-hour window. Then you can all text each other and say, ‘Hey, how’d you do?’ and you’ll say, ‘I caved in at 10 o’clock.’ And so, then you’ll try for 11 tomorrow. So, there’s power in group intention and support.” 

Blocking out distractions

When it’s time to focus on a workout, cooking, or any task that is geared toward your goal, Leskin advises getting rid of any distractions for that moment alone. 

“If a client is stressed out, I say to drop it off at the door and that for the next hour of working out, it’s ‘you time,’” he said. “Give yourself that permission to escape all of that stress. Focus on what you can control, especially during these days where we still have restrictions because of COVID.” 

Getting down to specifics 

Harvard Medical School suggests breaking down large goals into smaller, manageable tasks as such: 

Take a 10-minute walk

Find your comfortable walking shoes or buy a pair.

Choose days and times to walk, and then pencil this in on the calendar.

Think about a route.

Think about possible obstacles and solutions. If it’s raining hard, what’s Plan B? Perhaps 10 minutes of mixed marching, stair climbing, and jumping rope before dinner. If you’re planning to hop off the bus a few stops early and walk the rest of the way home, what could you do?

Drink more water, less soda

Find your water bottle or buy one.

Wash out the bottle, fill it up, and put it in the refrigerator at night so that it’s ready to go in the morning.

Put a sticky note on the front door, or anywhere to remind you to take the water bottle with you.

During work, take a break in the morning and one in the afternoon to freshen up the water bottle. This is a good time to notice how much or little, you’re drinking.

When you get home from work, scrub out the water bottle for the following day and repeat.

Track your budget for a month

Every night, put all receipts and paid bills in an envelope placed in a visible spot.

Choose one: a) buy budget-tracking computer software, such as Quicken or QuickBooks; b) buy a similar application for your smartphone; c) use a debit card for every purchase; d) tuck a notepad somewhere to record all purchases.

Follow instructions to load software on a computer, or application on a phone, if you’ve chosen to use it.

Schedule 30 minutes at the end of the two-week mark to go over expenses to identify low-hanging fruit to trim. Sort expenses into categories first (rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, entertainment, etc.). Consider what categories to trim. Set a goal to reduce or eliminate some of these expenses (For example, cut out 5% of spending across the board or in one category, ride a bike to work rather than paying commuter fees, or make your coffee rather than buying it).

At the end of the fourth week, review all spending categories and add up the money you’ve saved. Decide on an appropriate reward — maybe spending half the money, spending time in a pleasurable pursuit or just basking in praise for a job well done. 

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