I don’t know about you, but my news feed is already flooding with New Year’s Resolution fodder. Products, services, and supplements that will finally help me achieve the body I want. Lots of things will by vying for your attention (and money), so I decided to put together a little guide to help you be a good steward of your health-related resources.
As a launching-off point, how much should you spend on your fitness, health, and wellness? I always recommend people invest 5%-10% of their gross monthly income into improving their health or preventing disease. This includes a gym, food plan, massage, preventative chiropractic care, meditation, etc. The 5%-10% figure is based upon the individual expenditures spent on managing chronic diseases prevented by diet, exercise, and other measures. A 5% investment would yield a roughly 40% return over the course of the average American’s lifespan.
Without further ado, let’s move on to 2018’s Resolution Shoppers Guide
By and large, most supplement companies source from the same one or two manufacturers and simply re-brand their products under different labels. The vast majority of people would be better served limiting calories instead of supplementing them. Whole, real foods are still the best bioavailable macro- and micro- nutrients. Supplements won’t get you jacked, lean, shredded, or any other un-regulated malarky they put on their labels.
Caveat 1: If you’ve had a full blood work-up done and know exactly what you need to supplement, then go for it. Otherwise, just eat some real food.
Caveat 2: If you will otherwise not eat a meal, by all means grab a protein shake. Don’t make a habit out of it, though.
Let’s get real – if you haven’t consistently done meal preparation on a weekly basis, you probably won’t stick to it come January 1st. If it fits in your 5%-10%, I recommend you outsource meal prep – at least for lunch. There are plenty of great companies that do healthy food delivery.
Caveat: Make sure you go with a company that publishes caloric content on their packaging. There are plenty of “health” foods that are PACKED with calories. If you’re trying to cut a few pounds, avoid these calorie bombs.
Having a nutritionist or dietician look at a couple weeks of food and beverage intake is eye-opening. They’re very good at making individualized plans that are sustainable and evidence-based. You have professionals manage your taxes. Why not elicit help with your long-term health?
For many people, food is a struggle. A struggle that goes beyond “good” food and “bad” food. An estimated 15% of Americans have some type of eating disorder – and it’s not just waify models depriving themselves. If you repeatedly find yourself in unhealthy cycles with food – rewarding yourself, punishing yourself, or bargaining with yourself – it may be time to seek out professional help. Many therapists and counselors specialize in these issues and have a clear path to help.
At home fitness products or expensive wearables.
I know I may be the most unpopular person in fitness for saying this, but we all know that new treadmill will be a clothes hanger in 6 weeks. An expensive bio-tracker won’t change your daily habits. Truthfully, fitness and health are achieved through daily habit and ritual. Without external motivators and support, people are unable to attain a new habit on their own. At-home products and wearable tech do nothing to change your habits. You may be into your heart rate or step count for a few weeks, but without external support you’ll be back to where you started.
Caveat: If you are training for a very specific sport (triathlons, for example) and have been for some time, buy a wearable. If it’s your first triathlon, get through that first race then buy yourself a fancy watch. If you have been consistently working out for 5-7 years without interruption, you’re probably a good candidate for some at-home equipment. Otherwise, save your money.
You have a Smartphone. Buy some apps that support your habits. Find a timer that beeps every 20 minutes reminding you to stand up. Buy an app that helps you track everything you eat. Buy a good alarm app or a white noise sleep app. Buy the Pro version of a meditation app. All in, you’ll probably spend less than $20 and be well on your way to developing good habits.
There may be a conflict of interest here, but hear me out. This industry is historically predatory around this time of year. We all know that airlines oversell by 3-4 tickets. This time of year, commercial gyms oversell their facility by 10-20x. Meaning, they sign thousands of people up with contracts knowing full well that you won’t be around to actually use the facility.
It’s important to recognize there are 2 types of gyms: gyms where the vast majority of the membership goes to that gym and gyms where the vast majority of the membership never steps foot in the door. Of course the former will be significantly more expensive than the latter. Imagine if a car dealership sold cars with the expectation that only 5% of customers drove off the lot with their purchase. What would be the ticket price on a Lexus? $200?
Here’s the deal: if you’re starting a workout routine on your own this New Year you’ll probably only be at it for 6 weeks. Commercial gyms will lure you in with a low, low monthly fee… as long as you pay a sign-up fee, sign a 2-year contract, and agree to a massive cancellation fee. Then, if you’re not getting the results you want, you’ll have access to personal trainers (at $80/hour).
So, you need to ask yourself: What is the minimum amount I could spend in this gym?
Let’s say monthly dues are $50 with a 2-year contract, $100 “Building” fee, and a $600 cancellation if you don’t want to go the two years.
- 1 month in this facility would cost $750
- If you met the full term of the contract, it’d be $1,300
Caveat: If you’ve been working out consistently for an uninterrupted 5-7 years and are still seeing progress, you’re a great candidate for this gym!
Noticing a theme? There are plenty of group, private, and online coaches. You could easily find a well-respected pro that will fall within your 5%-10%. A good professional should be able to build programs for you to use with or without gym equipment. An hour with a great coach should motivate you, you should learn something, and you should have a plan going forward.
Caveat: Know yourself. Some people are great in a group environment and others do better with some 1-on-1 assistance and motivation. Just because there’s a professional in front of you does not necessarily mean that you’re ready to hear their advice.
Hopefully this helps you as you begin to navigate your New Year’s Resolutions. Or, at the very least, navigate all the distractions of the New Year.