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New Year, New You: Health

Texas Tech health experts weigh in on resolutions for 2014.

Written by Callie Jones

For many, the new year is the perfect time to make changes regarding health and wellness. We asked several Texas Tech experts to weigh in on what advice they can give to those looking to improve their nutrition, fitness and mental health habits.

Jamie Cooper,
assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences

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Cooper

  • Follow a healthy diet:
    Most fad diets or diets that restrict many foods or entire food groups are generally not very healthy and do not have long-term success. The best way to be healthy and prevent weight gain (or even lose weight) is to follow a balanced diet that is centered around whole grains, lean sources of protein, low-fat and fat-free dairy products, plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (high in mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats and low in saturated and trans-fats), and plenty of water.
  • Be careful when dining out:
    People generally do not eat as healthy when they are dining out. Food from restaurants tends to be higher in calories, fat, and sodium. Be careful of portion size (you usually are served much more than one serving) and look for healthier items on the menu.
  • Weekend versus weekday eating:
    People tend to change their eating and exercise habits on the weekend. In fact, studies have shown that people actually gain weight on the weekend compared to week days. Therefore, try to stick to similar eating patterns on the weekend that you normally do during the week. This may help prevent overconsumption on the weekends. Make sure you also get in exercise each weekend day as well as exercise during the week.

Brennan Thompson,
assistant professor in the Department of Exercise & Sport Sciences

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Thompson

  • Bring up the intensity:
    Increasing the intensity of your workouts will create a more rapid increase in results. Perform cardio training on the treadmill, cycle or elliptical (or whatever the device may be) involving two-to-three minute intervals of high-intensity exercise, followed by a two-to-three minute interval of moderate-intensity exercise. This will maximize the energy cost of the exercise, which will help put fat burning into high gear, and simultaneously provide rapid increases in cardiovascular fitness levels while minimizing the total time commitment necessary for these improvements.
  • Hit the weights:
    Weight training is important for fitness. Lifting with weights will help to increase the metabolism, and prevent those unwanted pounds from accumulating; in addition to providing important benefits for increasing the strength of your bones and muscles which in turn is necessary for optimal function and performance in all of our daily activities. Perform your cardio either before your weight training workouts, or on alternate training days.
  • Don’t forget the protein:
    Consume 20-30 grams of quality protein three to four times throughout the day, and especially right after your workout. Evidence shows that consuming moderate amounts of protein at multiple intervals over a 24-hour time period rather than in a single large dose, will increase the gains from your workouts, and a nice side effect with this is it will also help keep your metabolism elevated, blood glucose levels stabilized and waistline in check.

Lee Cohen,
professor and chair, Department of Psychology

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Cohen

  • Be specific:
    It is not uncommon to hear someone say that his or her goal is to be happier. This is a great goal, but how will you know when this has happened? It is important to operationalize what being happier would mean for you and tie success of the goal to those tangible/behavioral things. For instance, does being happier mean you will volunteer five hours a month to a food bank; does it mean you will spend 30 minutes a day speaking to your friends or family that live far away; or that you will take your dog for a walk every day? Being specific will allow you to determine the progress you are making to an otherwise ambiguous (though seemingly clear) goal.
  • Ask others you trust for help:
    Often when people want to make a change they are afraid to tell others. The reason for this is that if they fail, someone else will know that they have failed. More times than not, trusted friends will not only help you reach your goal, but may even decide to try to make a change with you – and we all know that having someone experience something tough with us makes it easier (i.e., misery loves company).
  • You have time and do not have to be perfect:
    Far too often, when people decide that they are going to make a change in behavior, they jump in too fast. It is important to start slow and appreciate the small successes along the way. For instance, if you would like to engage in a higher frequency of healthy behaviors and decide to work out for an hour a day after being sedentary you will be so tired and sore that you are not likely to follow up with your goal day after day. Make small, obtainable goals and modify them as you achieve them. Also, if you have a bad day, and slip holding to your resolution, don’t look at it as a failure, start on the change again with increased resolve, rather than giving yourself an excuse to discontinue it totally.
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