ARE YOU ONE OF THOSE people who tried really hard to get into tip-top shape for the summer, only to spend Memorial Day through Labor Day eating and drinking too much? If so, you probably feel ready to hit the reset button once September hits, just like some people do come January. If that resonates, I propose making September the new January. Here are six suggestions to help you get back on track:
1. Rediscover (or discover) your kitchen.
Let’s be honest: You’ve probably spent way too much time dining out over the summer months. And who blames you? Many of us prefer not to turn up the heat in our kitchens when the temperature is soaring outside. So the fall really is the perfect time to rediscover your kitchen. The more home cooking you do, the more you know exactly what is going into the dish you are preparing and the more likely you are to adhere to portion control. Even if you don’t have kids, adopt the concept of nightly “family” dinners to get in the routine.
2. Go food shopping.
This tip goes hand in hand with the first one, but goes a step further. Don’t only think about shopping for dinner foods, but also for breakfast, lunch and snacks. The more you are prepared with healthy items in your home, the more ammunition you have against making unhealthy choices throughout the day. For example, starting your day with a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast may help you to avoid grabbing that doughnut on the way to your office. Brown bagging your lunch feels nostalgic and may prevent you from choosing Chinese food when your coworkers ask you to join them for lunch. Perhaps having that healthy snack on hand at work may also decrease your chances of hitting the vending machine.
3. Be socially selective.
Endless barbecues, picnics in parks, rooftop happy hours and sunset cruises can definitely derail even our best intentions of eating healthy. Therefore, let the fall be a time when you ask yourself: “Do I really want to do that?” Instead of saying yes to everything, be a little more selective. Better yet, be selective in the activities you are social in. Start thinking more about planning a hike with friends, taking a yoga class, going for a joint manicure and pedicure or doing anything else that doesn’t center around food and drinks.
4. Make time to work out.
Instead of finding time, this fall you need to make the time for a workout. Stop with excuses and really commit to your body. Even if you’ve been active all summer, it’s important to get back into a regular groove starting in September when the days are shorter and cooler. Whether it’s yoga, cycling, walking, lifting weights or a cardio class, find something you enjoy and add it in your calendar. Pretend you are back on a high school sports team and simply have no choice but to show up and put in the work.
5. Limit alcohol.
As a martini lover, this is one of the hardest tips for me to suggest. But truthfully, many of you have had more than your share of beer, rose wine, margaritas or mojitos over the last couple of months, and now is the time to start pulling in the reins. Many of my patients find a weekend-only drinking plan is helpful to dial things back. The plan doesn’t mean you can load up on the weekends, though; stick to a two drink max on Fridays and Saturdays. Also, these drinks should be a lower-calorie option. In other words: no fancy sugary drinks that come super-sized.
6. Get consistent sleep.
Last but not least, getting consistent sleep – ideally seven to eight hours per night – is a necessary component of any conversation about health. Consistent sleep means getting the same number of hours of sleep during the week and on the weekends, rather than “catching up” on sleep on Saturdays and Sundays. Set an alarm for bedtime if you must. After all, sleep is a time for our bodies (and minds) to recharge. Without a proper night’s sleep, everything else you try to do for yourself will just become that much harder. Try developing an evening ritual that makes going to sleep easier. For example, wash your face and brush your teeth, change into comfy clothes, disconnect from your phone and make sure your bedroom is dark. If there is a lot of outside noise and distraction, try a sound machine to help make your surroundings a little bit calmer.