New Year, New You? New Year, Do You!

Kickstart a refresh, no matter what month it is! Get your health off to a great start. Can you do it in just 21 days?

Any New Years Resolutions? What’s your “word” for this year? Setting goals? Dry January? Vision Board? Turning over the new year always comes with lots of questions. This year, they seemed daunting to me. Month-long challenges with multiple sub-bullets per day, remembering list of exercises and recipes, spending money on shakes or salads, giving up something completely – none of this sounded interesting or sustainable. Yet I know I’ve been struggling with my energy and mental health so I knew something had to give. I really did want a REFRESH. So here is how I tackled January 2023 with some shortcut goal-setting PLUS some hard work to come out ready to tackle the next 11 months on the other side. Don’t wait until next January to kick off your own refresh!

I did Dry January last year – no alcohol for 31 days – so I know I can do something “new” for at least four weeks. This year I committed to doing a 21 day workout and “diet” routine – I figured it’s just 3 weeks. I will give it a go for 3 weeks and see what happens. Honestly, I don’t think I had full confidence I would see much impact and figured at the end of the 21 days I’d just go back to my previous routine. Somewhere at the beginning of that 3rd week, things shifted for me…

Why 21 Days?

I was introduced to this concept at a former church who started a 21 Days of Prayer program in January one year. The idea is that is takes 21 days to form a new habit, they said. Since then, I hear it all over the place. With a quick Google search, I discovered that it apparently originated in the 1950’s-60’s with a plastic surgeon and author, Maxwell Maltz, who claimed that it took his patients a minimum of 21 days to accept their new face or adjust to their new body after an amputation and replace the mental image. The “rule” dropped the minimum, morphed and spread like wildfire through the motivational speaker scene as 21 days establishes a new habit.

While the concept has since been discredited as a blanket statement, there are ways to create new behaviors. Phillipa Lally in European Journal of Social Psychology noted that by helping tasks feel more automatic and setting up cues, these practices can feel routine in anywhere from two to eight months with an average of 66 days. Why do you think so many lay out their workout clothes the night before? Or put that floss visible next to the toothbrush?

So ultimately, the 3 weeks isn’t going to cut it apparently but stick with me. That’s why I call it a REFRESH, because my first 21 days of January so far have given a reset to my habits that I can continue forward.

What I Learned

Now that you know where my head was at on the 21 days to a new habit idea, for my January wellness REFRESH, I chose to do the 21 Day Fix workout program through Beachbody on Demand. It’s at-home, it’s accessible on my phone or Roku TV so I can push play whenever my schedule allows – and no I’m not a coach here to sell you on the program. Let’s start with my number one takeaway on my wellness journey this month:

Take what you want and leave the rest. Do you!

I share here what worked for me, not in hopes that you’ll copy it, but that you’ll see just how it can work out when you pick and choose what works best for YOU from all the bazillion health and wellness strategies out there. Just because someone shares a challenge or a plan doesn’t mean you have to take it 100% or leave it. You Do You!

Would I have loved to join a Pilates studio? I really would! But I know that with my current schedule I need flexibility and availability because some days I get workouts in at 8:30a.m. consistently and some days its 9:00pm. So a virtual program it was. I read all the materials that come with the 21 Day Fix BODi program – the food plan, the order you do each video in, etc. Did I do it as prescribed? Nope. Did I still get results? Yep! What I’ve learned about myself over the years is that if I don’t love a fitness regime, I won’t do it – at least for long. So make it into one you love, that works for you!

Give me a diet plan where I have to plan and prep ahead – not going to happen. I have to pack my kids lunches everyday and that’s enough of a chore. How about one with lots of recipes? Nope, I hate cooking in general plus I never have the right ingredients when I need them or I spend a bunch of money and then forget and don’t use it again and it goes to waste. One with lots of salads or only shakes? Yuck, would never last with this as my only food option. Have you ever tried to fast while you are handling food and making you little kids meals and snacks 5-8 times a day? It’s HARD! I would rather eat a smaller portion of what I really want or workout more/harder the next day to make up for it than deprive myself. That’s just what I’ve learned about myself based on my lifestyle.

So I didn’t do the food plan or recipes that come with the 21 Day Fix program. I did however use the calorie calculator and used that as my daily target and tracked my own food in my FitBit. (MyFtinessPal is a great option too!) I also made a point to increase the amount of protein and veggies compared to my previous food choices. But if I wanted a donut, I had the lowest calorie one on the menu and logged it. If I wanted a glass of wine, I had one and skipped dessert. Giving visibility to my food choices, also really helped me identify where I wasn’t getting the “bang for my buck” – have a 1/4 cup of trail mix (which is 1 serving) and be hungry still or have a plate full of veggies and be satisfied? Just stay smart, if weight loss is your goal the only guaranteed method is Calories In<Calories Out.

Give yourself grace if you miss a day. Make it up at the end – or don’t! I skipped a few weekend days when I just didn’t have anything left. I traded a video workout for a 3.5 mile family hike one weekend. I also didn’t do the sessions in the order provided. I chose the yoga or Pilates or even just the 10-minute abs when I was too spent. At the end when I was pushing for results and energized, I chose only the higher-calorie burning cardio workouts. How did I know they were higher-calorie burning? I logged them on my FitBit and reviewed which workouts I did during those days. That brings me to lesson 2:

Don’t just stick to what you know.

It’s key to educate yourself so you can make better choices. Here’s how that played out with my food choices. I was out and about with my daughter on a “date” who wanted a milk shake mid-afternoon. Not finding any fro-yo shops around, I started thinking where can I get a milk shake at a drive-thru. Historically, my go-to is Sonic. I also know the calorie count is through the roof because I’ve started Googling the nutrition facts for fast food restaurants before I arrive. Still I knew I would be so tempted to get my own if I took her! We compromised and I opted for Smoothie King and got my craving satisfied, saved myself 680 calories and still had a happy daughter! (I also saved big on that fat and sugar content – WOWZA!)

I also love to follow various Instagram influencers that are in my demographic. Now that I am 40, I can’t do the same exercises and diets I did when I younger and expect the same results. Metabolism and hormones change, I’ve birthed two babies, and the list can go on. I love learning new things about how to maximize my results when I’m looking to get in better shape. Here are two quick nuggets that are making all the difference in my REFRESH:

Build Muscle with Strength Training

Historically I’ve believed the blanket statement that more cardio equals more weight loss. I learned that’s not always true when I was training for my half marathon and didn’t lose any weight. Of course, you do have to ensure your calorie burn is greater than calorie intake but did you know that muscle tissue burns more calories — even when you’re at rest — than body fat? Research shows 10 pounds of muscle burns 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat would burn only 20 calories. You can raise your resting metabolic rate by upping those muscles! Start by making your exercises do more for you. I’m talking single exercises that fire off multiple muscle groups simultaneously, like the squat press targeting those core and large lower body muscles especially. Here is a great summary of some of others to pick from. I don’t know about you, but if I can keep my workout short (i.e. 30 minutes) and work my whole body that sounds like a great deal!

Women doing squat with overhead press

Get More Protein

Many people correctly associate protein with muscle mass, as they should since protein and the amino acids that make it up are the building blocks of the muscle tissue in your body. I was great at prioritizing this when I was pregnant but have slacked off since and go straight for the energizing carbs.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 0.36 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, or 54 grams for a 150-pound person. (You can get about 50 grams 3 ounces of chicken breast.) As you age, your body requires significantly more protein than a younger adult to better preserve muscle mass and strength to maintain a certain quality of life. Having sufficient protein also helps to increase the body’s immune functions and reduce recovery time from illness. That means people over age 65 should strive for 0.45 to 0.55 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, or about 68 to 83 grams for a 150-pound person. While I’m years from 65, being proactive here seems to make sense. Let’s preserve that muscle mass now!

How Much Protein Do You Need?
Age 18-64: Body weight (lbs.) x 0.36g = Protein Intake (g)/day
Age 65: Body weight (lbs.) x 0.45-0.55g = Protein Intake (g)/day

And last but not least, lesson 3 is

You have to do the work. Have a strong “why.”

Summarizing the last 3 weeks and seeing how pleased I am with my before and after photos (stay tuned, see below) and stats may make it seem quick and easy. It’s not. Its hard to keep turning on that workout video when you are exhausted or sore, when you want to run errands instead, when you need to work, when your kids are behind you asking why you aren’t doing it like the trainer. HA! It is hard work and it may be uncomfortable, but it is possible if you put in the work.

Set your expectations now that there will be moments you want to quit. Choose an accountability partner or coach to keep you pushing through those mental walls that will come up. Having some mantras to help you push through can help to. I used some often when I was training for my half-marathon. Pick a program or class led by someone who motivates you whether its sweet encouragement or tough love. Here are a few quotes from the 21 Day Fix trainer, Autumn Calabrese, that kept me going in some of those moments.

  • “You are the life you accept for yourself.”
  • “Yes, it’s hard, but it’s not impossible.”
  • “The people who achieve their goals are simply the ones who refuse to give up and put in the work.”
  • “You are the best project you’re ever going to work on.”
  • “Get comfortable being uncomfortable!”
  • “You can have your dreams or you can have your excuses. You can’t have both.”
“You can have your dreams or you can have your excuses. You can’t have both.”-Autumn Calabrese

And in the words of author and speaker, Simon Sinek, find your why. Why do you want this? Why do you want to be healthier/more fit/stronger/weigh less or whatever it is you are working for? If you don’t have a reason in your mind and not just a number on a scale to visualize, it will be that much harder to see it through.

Wrapping Up My Refresh

I made it! 21 days of workouts (almost) daily and sticking to a reduced calorie diet. I’m so happy with my results: down 6 pounds and 10 inches and feeling stronger and more energized. I haven’t struggled with negative thoughts as much, so those endorphins must’ve been kicking in! In fact, I love the way I FEEL so much that I’m going to do a new program: “21 Day Fix Extreme” starting next week. I am excited to push myself even more to see what is possible in just a few weeks and maybe I’ll even hit Lally’s 66-day mark to lock in that routine.

The non-scale victories are coming in strong too. I’m now conscious of when I’m craving food to soothe emotional stressors and can make the choice to pick a better option (food or otherwise!). I’m feeling inspired again to be creative and less overwhelmed when the to-do list piles up. Don’t sell yourself short. You’ll never know what you can accomplish in just 21 days if you don’t take that first step. Do you need a REFRESH in just 3 short weeks?



Digital Shortcut to Goal Setting: Play and Pie Charts

Looking for a quick way to get those “new year’s resolutions” logged? How about a way to ensure you actually find the time to accomplish them? Here’s my fresh take..

My New Favorite Hack for Goal Setting

In the past, I was all about vision boards and goal journals and benefitted greatly from them. However, the last two years felt different as I went back to work full time (and now part time). I went short and sweet on setting goals about two weeks into the month and new year. What that looked like for me this year: Opening my (free) Microsoft To Do: Lists & Tasks app for Android > Copying my 2022 bulleted goals list > Checking off the one thing I completed and tweaking a few of the other items to carry forward and adding one. Did I get discouraged that I only got to check off one? Nope, and here’s why:

I have 9 items on the list – mostly because they all fit on one screen. They don’t have specific numbers (I don’t care if I read exactly 12 books per year anymore as long as I make time for reading.) They are brief (one or two words each) and have loose timelines like daily, quarterly, or by the end of the year. And they fall into four buckets:

  1. Growth: Daily practices I want to add to my life more regularly like meditation, journaling and reading fiction books
  2. Fun: Big things I want to accomplish that just bring me joy like getting a new car, booking a family trip to Disneyworld, and signing up for a class to learn Spanish
  3. Social: Ways to grow in community and surround myself with more like-minded people like planning my first girls’ trip and joining a group at our new church
  4. Service: Things to do to give back like participate (or lead!) in volunteer projects

Did you notice that only part of my list is around growth? For years my list started with revenue goals at work, weight loss goals on the scale, or things I thought I “should” do like organize my house. Who says goals have to be all work and no play? My recommendation is to add some fun goals to your list too! Remember, the health triangle? Don’t forget to feed all sides of your wellness: social, mental, and physical.

Oddly none of my nine goals mentioned physical health like workout more or lose a certain number of pounds. I think by putting that down in writing and then often coming up short it can be more of a deterrent for me. But it was something on my mind, so I needed to ensure I made wellness a priority and changed something over what I’d done the year before. (Note: scheduling your annual physical in December can be a great motivator to kick off January in a new direction!)

168 Hours in a Week

That’s where the last item I have on my digital goals comes in to play. The last item on my list isn’t an actual task or goal but a list on its own. I heard about this “strategy” last year and it really stuck with me. It’s the idea that we all have the same 168 hours in a week… so how are you spending it and how do you want to be spending it? Being as I excel with a spreadsheet (pun intended), I loved the concept of getting analytical and calculating how I spend my time current-state. You can get a specific as logging an entire day in minute blocks and then going back and bucketing it or you can stay high level and quickly jot down in your phone where your time is spent totaling 168 (56 hours sleeping, 40 hours working, etc.)

Actually breaking down my week was eye opening and really made me appreciate what I do well and be much more conscious about what and where I want to change things. Some of it, I really had to contemplate as to where the rest of my time was actually going (don’t forget to add your social media scrolling!).

As someone who is always saying, “I don’t have time” to commit to another project or find time for self care, or trades sleep to get things done, this was a game changer. So in my app I added a task bullet called “168 hours” and in the notes section I wrote out how I’m currently breaking down my week and notes next to each of where I want to change.

Blank Pie Chart

If you don’t get tactical and figure out where you are going to cut something in order to grow something else, you likely won’t succeed in forming any new habits or routines. As they say “hope is not a strategy.” This is where I made sure I added more time for social outings and exercise over the previous year.

When I look at 30 minutes 3x per week of exercise or only 1.5 hours out of 168 in a week, it seems much less daunting to find time to workout. When I see how much of my time is still going to my children when I add up after-school and weekends, it ensures I don’t let any mom-guilt take over when I try to make excuses to give up my moms’ night out or workout class.

So give it a try this year if you haven’t already locked in those goals for 2023 and go digital. Find out what is draining you and where you can shift and prioritize to make room for a little fun!