We’ve just about made it through the holidays. I hope you’ve taken the time to get some rest and enjoy yourself. But now the societal pressure is on.
Time to make your New Year’s resolutions…
I propose that this year, we all take a pass.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for improving your life and incorporating habits and practices that make you feel better. But there are many reasons I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions.
Why I recommend skipping New Year’s resolutions
? They set you up for failure.
We’ve just come out of the holidays — a time filled with emotion. And this has been a tough year. The last thing we need is to force ourselves to hit the ground running on January 1st. When you push yourself to make a bunch of changes you aren’t ready for, you aren’t likely to sustain them. And then in a few weeks (or even days) you find yourself back at square 1, discouraged.
? Resolutions are often motivated by guilt or shame.
You’ve probably done all sorts of things over the holidays that aren’t “healthy”. Maybe you’ve eaten more than normal. Maybe you drank more alcohol than you’d planned. Maybe you’ve skipped the gym a bit more than usual. And your pants are tight.
Any resolutions you make around food and exercise right now are likely motivated by guilt or shame over the choices you made during the holidays.
I’ve worked with many clients who decide to make drastic changes to try and make up for their holiday choices. And they’re rarely able to stick with them. When we make changes based on guilt or shame, our motivation is low. And making big changes with low motivation is not a winning combination.
? People try to do everything at once.
If you sit down and make a list of resolutions, it’s probably going to be more than just one or two things. Spoiler alert — if you decide to give up dairy, stop eating after 7:00, go to bed early, drink more water, and hit the gym every morning at 5:00, you’re probably not going to be able to do it all.
At the end of 2020, we were relieved to get a new start and move onto a smoother, easier year. But then 2021 happened. We’re all tired and a little fried. So for 2022, let’s ditch the New Year’s resolutions and try a new, more gentle approach.
My 2 favorite tips for making gentle improvements
Tip #1: Cut yourself some slack.
Whatever you did (or didn’t do) over the holidays — it’s time to just let it go. Whether you ate too much, or ate the wrong things, or stopped working out, it’s okay.
We’re all so hard on ourselves. It’s genuinely difficult to maintain health goals and routines during the holidays. And if you got off track during this time, you don’t need to beat yourself up over it.
You don’t have to make up for your choices. Eating only salad for a month won’t atone for the cookies, fudge, and spiked eggnog. It’s okay to just let it go and start fresh.
Tip #2: Make small changes
One of the reasons people struggle to make lasting changes is because they try to do too much at once. In my practice, I recommend making small, sustainable changes. Then as these changes become habits, you can add more. Over time you’ll be successful at improving your health and reaching your goals.
Small changes over time actually make the biggest difference.
Below is a list of small changes I recommend for my patients. But don’t try to do them all at once. I suggest picking one or two to focus on. Then once you’ve got those down, you can add another one.
Water is a critical component in every cell in our bodies. But most people don’t drink enough.
This is a simple habit to get started with. And with most healthy habits, planning is key.
- Decide how much water you want to drink each day. A good guide is to divide your body weight in half and drink that many ounces of water. So if you weigh 160, drink 80 ounces of water per day.
- Make it a no-brainer. Use a container that makes it easy to keep track of how much you’re drinking. Find one that holds all the water you need in a day and pour it a little at a time into the glass or bottle you keep with you. Or you can figure out how many times you need to fill your glass or bottle and keep track.
- Sip as you go. Chugging all your water at once makes it harder for your body to properly absorb and use it. Your best bet is to sip your water throughout the day. That’s why I recommend keeping your water bottle with you at all times.
? Plan a veggie with each meal
Veggies can be scarce during the holidays. And yes, it’s best to eat at least 5 servings per day. But going from 0 – 5 is a big leap. So start by adding one serving of vegetables to each meal.
And just like with the water, planning is key. Before you head to the grocery store, decide in advance which veggies you’d like. Buying bagged leafy greens and cutting up some peppers and cucumbers in advance makes it easy to add salads to your meals. Or you can make a big batch of roasted root vegetables and heat them up as you go.
? Ease back into cutting out problem foods
Trying to cut out all your problem foods at once can be overwhelming.
I recommend you start with your top 1 – 3 most troublesome foods. But don’t just cut them out. Trade and upgrade. Figure out what you can use as replacements and you won’t feel as deprived.
If you need some help with this, check with your practitioner. An RDN (like me) will have lots of suggestions for ways to eliminate problem foods without feeling like you’re missing out.
? Get more sleep
This is another one that seems easy, but ends up getting overlooked.
And yes, again, planning is key. If you need to go to bed earlier, look at your whole evening and decide where the extra sleep time will come from. Do you need to eat dinner earlier so you have more time after dinner to unwind? Or try setting a bedtime routine in motion so you’re fully ready to rest when bedtime comes.
? Get back to moving your body
There are lots of ways to exercise. If you like the gym, then great! But not everybody does. Moving your body can take many forms.
✔ Try a new class or sport
✔ If the weather is cooperative and your schedule permits it, add a short walk during your lunch break.
✔ Take the stairs
✔ Try a workout video game
✔ Play at the park
✔ Go dancing
✔ Take a hike
✔ Use an app or workout video
You don’t need to spend 90 minutes at the gym to get the benefits of exercise. It’s fine to add in little spurts of activity. And it’s okay to forego traditional exercise and do something fun. Movement is movement.
Need help sticking with movement? Find a work-out buddy and try some new things together. This can add accountability and fun!
Get some help
If the holidays totally derailed your health journey, you can start fresh. But braving it alone may be more than you want to take on. This is where an RDN or holistic health practitioner can be a big help.
When I work with a new patient, I focus on understanding their symptoms and getting to the underlying problems that cause them. Doing things like drinking more water and getting more sleep are great for everyone. But when you work with a practitioner like me, you get a customized, individual approach to solving your unique health concerns.
In my practice, I never judge or shame my clients for the choices they’ve made. I’m here to help and support. If you need some guidance to get yourself moving in the direction of making healthy choices and feeling your best, I’m happy to talk with you.