Happy New Year!
At the biggest time of year for people to make dietary resolutions or “nutrition resolutions,” if you will I wanted to emphasize this one heartfelt note of encouragement: don’t do it!
It is the 2nd day of January and many are already realizing they messed up on their diet, weren’t able to do the full hour a day at the gym they had planned, and they might have even already bumped their start date to Jan 9th (the next Monday, of course).
Although I am in the business of encouraging and assisting people in making lifestyle changes year-round, the New Year’s Resolution is a cousin of the all-or-nothing mentality. This mentality sabotages your efforts as it leads to yo-yo behavior that leaves you eternally flip flopping between dieting and overdoing it in lieu of the life of moderation that will truly bring you what you’re looking for. Moderation that can be practiced during the busy work week, the weekend, vacations, holidays, whenever.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle is serious business. Our lifestyles and the food we eat affect our health more than we may have ever imagined. In medical journal after journal, it seems to always come back to the same thing with regard to reducing chronic disease risk: eat less and better types of fat, consume less salt and more potassium, decrease refined carbohydrates, eat more colorful fruits and vegetables, eat more whole grains, don’t smoke, and on and on and on… Plus, there are many factors affecting our health that we cannot control: environmental pollutants, pollutants in our food (can be controlled to a certain extent with organics), so why not control what we can and add years to our lives as well as making our living years enjoyable and free of illness? (Now, when I mentioned the factors we cannot control, if your mind jumped to “yeah, we’re all going to die of something so what’s the point?” I’ll have you reread the paragraph about the all-or-nothing mindset.)
To avoid this mentality, start implementing your resolutions as soon as you see a need for them. Motivation can be perishable so keep your motivators in mind as you proceed. It’s easy to think “eh, it’s not that important” or “I’ll start later” especially when others around you may not place much importance on health. But there’s a reason you decided to make a change, a reason it’s nagging you. Your intuition is trying to urge you to be a healthier person and have a better life. I have found that if I eat a meal that’s too heavy it affects everything. I’m very careful what I eat during the work week for example, because if I eat the wrong thing, I have trouble concentrating, being efficient, and staying motivated. It reminds me of when my brother once joked “I need to go sit this off” after a big meal…it does often feel like that’s all you can do! Of course, I might not know this if I had never experienced the contrast of eating very well and how much energy, motivation, and inspiration I have access to when I do. How might your eating habits be affecting you in your life?
Personally, I hope you start your nutrition resolutions on the 9th, 16th, or 23rd day of the month on a Tuesday, Friday, or Sunday at 10:15am, 3:08pm, or 8:53pm, any month of the year. Make your resolution SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Don’t just set out to eat better…that’s too ambiguous. Make 1 goal and make it specific: for example, “I will have a green salad with my lunch every day this week starting today.” (noticed I didn’t say tomorrow…tomorrow is tricky in that it doesn’t exist and life is actually made up of many many todays!) Once eating a salad with lunch becomes a habit, continue that habit but add another goal, such as “I will go for a 15 minute walk at 6:30 before work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays starting today.” Once that habit is established, you can easily add minutes or additional days to your regimen. Changing habits in this manner is the most effective way to change your lifestyle. It takes time, but time will pass anyway, so you can spend your time bouncing around like a yo-yo between following a strict diet and chaos, or you can actually change how you live.
Please take a moment to comment below if you have a SMART goal you plan to make soon…your discussion and ideas help others who are struggling with the same thing you are!