For many, health goals and resolutions are somehow tied to a desire for weight loss. But real health is more than a number on the scale. If you’re looking for change, whether it’s fat loss or not, there are four universal areas that I suggest prioritizing in order to see real, lasting progress – “the four ms. of health ”. These groupings are inspired by the “4 M” framework of Jade Teta, ND, CSCS, but I added my own twist to it based on what I saw to be most effective for clients. (The “M” alliteration also makes it a bit more fun and easier to remember!) Check them out and think about what you are doing with your habits in each area.
1. State of mind
In my experience, this element is the most important of the four, as it serves as the foundation for all of your other health goals. I like to break it down even more into three influential areas:
- Social: Who do you surround yourself with? What do you capture via social media or television? Think about how you can adjust your habits and routines to better support your mental health. For example, you can stop following people who make you feel embarrassed or judging, or start a new podcast that you enjoy rather than watching a silly show on Netflix.
- Stress: Are You Intentionally Managing Your Stress? Can you identify the signs of stress as they arise? Just getting outside can be a great stress relief technique, as can breathing and meditation. Life Time offers meditations to try out in our on-demand classes, while there are also apps like Calm and Headspace that can guide you.
- Sleep: How long do you sleep on average per night? How do you feel after a good or a bad night’s sleep? Take seven to eight hours of rest each night and start preparing your body for sleep about two hours before bed. This includes limiting screen time, dimming brightness, and relaxing.
Human beings are made to move! Aim for 8,000-10,000 steps per day so you don’t get too sedentary. Whether you use an Apple Watch or a pedometer, there are plenty of options for trackers to help you monitor this goal. The more you can do your moves outside, the better. Nature offers all kinds of benefits for physical and mental health. If walking isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other creative ways to get moving. I have a friend who jumps on a mini trampoline in the morning, or as ridiculous as it sounds, you could do a TikTok dance challenge. Even if you don’t pass the dance, you are still moving your body!
Nutrition can be a real challenge for many people: many feel like they need to follow a certain diet or jump into the latest food fad. And while I’m all for the things that work for your body, you want to ask yourself if your approach is sustainable. After the diet is finished, what’s the next part of your plan? I encourage my clients to keep it simple. Look at your plate: does it mainly contain vegetables? Do you have enough protein? Once those staples are there, fill the rest with healthy fats and quality carbohydrates. It might not be sexy, but it works. You also want to make sure you stay well hydrated, moderate your alcohol and caffeine intake, and limit processed foods and added sugars.
Often times, weight loss goals stem from a desire to look “lean” or “toned” – attributes that result from building and maintaining lean muscle mass. While increasing muscle mass can change your physique and boost your self-confidence, it’s also important for many other aspects of health, including supporting longevity as we age. If you’re not currently in bodybuilding, a good place to start is to aim for two to three sessions per week. You can start by using your own body weight as resistance; from there, add equipment like resistance bands, dumbbells, and kettlebells. There are many strength training options: connect with a trainer, take a group fitness class, or use a virtual program. My advice is to try anything and everything until you find a workout style that you enjoy doing consistently – that’s what’s going to generate results. Thinking about the rest of the year, think about each of these four areas. Start by focusing on one goal in one of the areas – preferably the one that will make the biggest difference in your life – for about three months. Once there, continue to progress! By the end of 2021, you will have accomplished a lot more than just shedding pounds.