Daily Press Intern

It is still January and gyms are crammed with 2019 healthy-hopefuls and their lofty New Year’s resolutions. Before these resolutions fade away, now is the time to create fitness habits and goals that will actually survive the year according to experts.

Don’t adopt too many changes too quickly, cautions Nicole DiBona, a dietician, at UCLA Health. Instead, DiBona urges clients to set reasonable goals and follow through on them.

“Gyms or fitness studios will be much more packed in the beginning of the year because of everybody’s resolutions. And then, over time, that dwindles down. I think people go too big, too hard, too soon,” DiBona said. “Small changes over time can create a big impact.”

To that end, DiBona recommends gradual diet changes to improve health. DiBona advises eating foods with “deep” colors like blueberries and sweet potatoes and “dark, leafy greens” like kale, spinach and cabbage, all of which are filled with antioxidants and nutrients.

DiBona says that people should do their best to avoid sodas, pro-inflammatory oils (like canola, sunflower and safflower oil) and foods that include processed sugar. For daily soda drinkers, for example, DiBona recommends slowly removing sugar-sweetened drinks, first by skipping soda one day per week and continuing until soda becomes “an occasional treat.”

Jackson Day, General Manager at Crossfit Santa Monica on Main Street, says that people sometimes walk into his gym with misconceptions about the relationship between food, exercise and health. Too often, Day hears from clients who believe they need to cut down on food consumption in order to lose weight.

“When you start working out, it’s important to maintain what you’re eating,” Day said. “It’s just about changing what type of fuel they’re putting in their body.”

Day recommends working out six days per week, even if that means only 15-20 minutes of high-activity exercise each day. DiBona advocates a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength building. For anyone looking to add a new component to their exercise routine, she suggests trying yoga for its added emphasis on mental health and mindfulness.

Deborah Watkins, Santa Monica personal trainer and owner of Lifelong Pilates on Wilshire Blvd., encourages clients to start small with workouts they enjoy.

“Pick one thing. It may be something as mediocre as ‘I’m going to drink more water,’ or it may be harder like ‘I’m going to give up sugar,’” Watkins said. “Do not choose something that you don’t like because if you don’t like it, you’re not going to do it.”

Watkins named her company “Lifelong Pilates” with the belief that exercising and staying fit is a long-term, continual effort.

Likewise, DiBona emphasized that being healthy is a way of life.

“Something that we forget about health and wellness is that it is more of a lifestyle than it is a short-term thing,” DiBona said. “Being healthy takes commitment and consistency.”

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