As the holidays pass, relatives vacate guest rooms, baked sweet treats get stale and thoughts turn to the self-improvement opportunities invited by a new decade, health experts recommended practical approaches.

Improved posture, filling each meal plate half with vegetables and finding a workout partner on the quest for a healthier lifestyle are among the tips offered by local health professionals.

Trainer Shane Boley, of the B. Fit Clinic in San Mateo, said a focus on sustainable habits combined with establishment of a reasonable set of goals is often a first step he takes with clients.

“They are not going to be Mr. and Mrs. Olympia. You are not going to attain that. It’s almost impossible,” he said, of the honest approach he brings to most, especially those whose professional and personal obligations prevent them from dedicating their lives to pursuit of a chiseled physique.

Start small

Instead, he encourages those hoping to look and feel better in 2020 to start practically, build endurance and then set additional goals.

“You have to learn the fundamentals first. Everyone should be able to do the fundamentals and the ones that really excel from that can go onto the next,” he said.

Fundamentals include practicing better posture, finding a resting metabolic rate, building a workout regiment that can be easily replicated and potentially considering hiring a trainer, said Boley.

“Take it easy and start off slow and let your body grab ahold and keep building from there,” said Boley.

Find a ‘study buddy’

John Fernandez, personal trainer and owner of Fit SF in San Mateo, noted though some people need additional motivation and incentive to achieve their goals.

“Find a support system — a study buddy, if you will,” he said. “Someone who will motivate and encourage you.”

That can be a trained professional, a friend, or a class of like-minded folks who are also interested in getting healthy, he said. But regardless of which support system is preferred, Fernandez said accountability can be the difference between besting the cold weather and short days to go to exercise or giving into the impulse to stay home and indulge.

Additional motivation can be an essential component for someone looking to get into shape as it can build a routine, which is the foundation of the discipline required to return to working out regularly, he said.

“Once you start seeing results, that’s the part where healthy habits kick in,” he said. “It’s getting past that first obstacle — that is the hardest.”

But even for those who have built the self-control to return to the gym, class or training session, Fernandez said exercise is only a part of the battle.

“You are never going to out-exercise a bad diet. It is hand-in-hand,” he said. “You can’t work out and reward yourself with ice cream.”

Healthy diet

Local nutritionist Jennifer Stimson also noted the essential nature of establishing a sound diet.

“Try and enjoy food. A lot of people have an unhealthy relationship with food,” said Stimson, who runs a private practice as a nutritionist while also teaching at San Francisco State University, among other endeavors.

While noting mileage may vary for different people, and dietary restrictions could limit certain approaches, she said a good baseline for healthy eating is smart portioning.

To that end, she recommends each meal plate is comprised half of colorful vegetables, with one quarter left for lean meat or protein and the last segment dedicated to a bread, grain or similar ingredient. She added more attention should also be paid toward assuring a daily diet includes between 20 and 30 grams of fiber, which can help fend off health hazards such as colon cancer and other threats.

Recognizing the recommendation aligns with the age-old call to “eat the rainbow,” Stimson said it may sound cliché, but that is because the diet has been proven effective.

“These are around because they are evidence-based and have worked for people,” she said. “Not just weight loss, but prevention of chronic diseases.”

In pursuit of a more healthy diet, Stimson also supported making food at home rather than ordering out in hopes of maintaining more authority over the components that make up each meal.

“The more you eat in, the more control you have over what you are eating,” she said.

As part of that effort, Stimson said she has seen a rise among her students in meal prepping, or taking time to package meals at home for the road, which can be a useful method for assuring healthy food is available throughout the week.

Recognizing not everyone has equal access to quality meals though, Stimson said just a thoughtful, conscientious approach to eating could offer a healthy start to a new decade.

“Be aware of what you are eating and try to eat more vegetables,” she said.

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