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PROVO — As we move into the second week of the new year, it's not too late to take a look at your health goals. Rather than focusing on the scale, one Utah woman is taking a different, more mindful approach.
Caryn Allen is a childbirth educator, doula, and mother to four kids. Health has always been a priority for her. "It's just about working with your body to do what's best for your body," she explained.
Rather than choosing to diet this year, Allen was extra mindful in setting her health goals for the new year.
"I don't do well with the mindset of, 'I'm going to do this thing so I can lose weight.' It just doesn't work," she said. "What works best for me is … focusing on a lifestyle of health rather than 'I'm just doing this because I want to lose weight and it's miserable.'"
Allen is choosing smaller portions and making simple substitutions. "Instead of (choosing) white pasta, having chickpea pasta," she explained. She's also hoping to try zucchini noodles this year in her lasagna and pasta dishes.
She says this approach makes all the difference for her. "So you're not miserable and suffering because you're depriving yourself of things that you like, you're actually enjoying life and living rather than stressing about numbers on a scale," Allen said.
Megan Calder, an exercise physiologist at Intermountain Healthcare, says focusing on numbers too much in health goals can often become a negative reminder, especially when centered on a weight goal or a shift in the waistline.
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"Instead of focusing on the exercise for the calorie burn, focus on how you feel when you're done," she suggested. Try thinking: "When I exercise, I feel so much better, I'm a better mom because I have more patience … I feel strong, I have more energy," Calder said.
Calder notices that when her clients start exercising, they naturally want to eat healthier too. "I think our bodies naturally crave healthier food when we're doing good things to it," she said.
She says living a healthy lifestyle takes patience. "Be compassionate to yourself. Allow yourself a little bit of wiggle room because we are human," she said. "It's not going to be perfect, but that as long as you're trying and you're making small steps, I think that's huge."
Calder encourages people to have a vision and start with short-term goals.
She also tells people to give themselves the freedom to reassess their goals if something isn't working. "I think really evaluating your process and then saying, 'This is what I'm going to do differently this week,' it's just a great way to set yourself up for success," Calder explained.
Allen uses her Fitbit to gauge her physical activity. "It kind of gives me a frame of reference from where to start. So I can say, 'You know what, I need to get up, (and) get moving,' and I'll walk around the block a couple of times," she said.
Calder encourages people to try to move as much as possible. She says tracking steps is a healthy way to gauge activity. "You'll find that it's actually easier than you realize, like even parking a little bit further away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator — all that stuff adds up," she said.
Allen says 2020 taught her about the importance of self-love, which she's making a priority this year. "That's kind of my motivation for this year is, 'I deserve to be healthy and I deserve to have the happiness that comes with that,'" she said with a smile on her face.
For more ideas on how to stay active this year, check out Intermountain Healthcare's virtual classes and free on-demand workouts at livewellcenter.org/healthyathome.