By Claire Admire
Chances are, half of us woke up in the New Year with some lofty goals for the next 12 months. And chances are, most of us have already missed the mark on those New Year resolutions.
The majority of our New Year goals center around creating a healthier lifestyle, like losing weight, establishing an exercise routine, or, finally – FOR REAL THIS YEAR – cutting out bread. If your intention is to change your diet, we have a few helpful tips to keep you on the right path (or get you back on it).
- Identify your priorities. Our bodies and nutritional needs vary to a degree, so it’s up to the individual to decipher what “eating better” means. If you haven’t already, start by clearly identifying what that looks like for you. Do you want to reduce inflammation? Eat more seasonally? Cut out red meat? Increase your healthy fat intake? Get clear on your goal and educate yourself around the protocols and risk factors before starting any new diet. Sometimes half the battle can be won just by rephrasing “eat less processed food” to “cut out white sugar”.
- Focus on one goal at a time. Some people do just fine overhauling their diet overnight (no really, the rest of us are ecstatic about your most recent successful juice cleanse). Alas, not all of us can forsake refined carbohydrates for a life of carrot sticks and crustless pizza overnight (turns out the concept of willpower is overrated anyway). If you’ve tried elimination diets before (like going Paleo, Whole 30, etc.) with repeated failure, then it may be time to reframe your goal. Go back to your priority list and identify what you would most like to cut out/add in/replace. It can be something so small that it seems ridiculous. For example, if you’ve decided to nix refined carbohydrates, start with looking at just one aspect of that. Keep ordering your hamburger (yes, even with the fries) but ask for the kitchen to hold the bun and replace it with a lettuce wrap. A “small win” (when I order a hamburger, I don’t eat a bun) is much easier to repeat successfully (and feel good about) than demanding your will power handle a statement like “I will never eat bread again”.
- Don’t overcomplicate meal planning. You can follow all the food bloggers and Pinterest boards your heart desires, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that eating healthy requires a never-ending rotation of interesting recipes and foods you haven’t heard of before. Or that you have to have the same thing five days in a row for lunch, for that matter. This is the time to find a meal plan (or no plan at all) that works for you, not in spite of you. Cook everyone in your family the same dinner, look into online shopping options like the Little Rock Food Club, and identify healthy meal options at the restaurants you’re already accustomed to eating at. Look for the small wins that are right within reach first, and let the success of those add up. You might be surprised how those seemingly insignificant habits blossom into something much bigger overall!
- Boost your body with intermittent fasting. The science is clear: those who restrict their calorie intake to an 8-12 hour timeframe lose more weight than their grazing counterparts. Even if losing weight isn’t ultimately your goal, fasting has been shown to have some extraordinary benefits for our brain function, immune system, and ability to fight off cancer and other diseases. Intermittent fasting, or the practice of cutting off your food intake for 12-16 hours (overnight), is also a sort of shortcut to getting rid of your unhealthy cravings and constant need to snack during the day. You will be satiated more easily and less likely to binge on unhealthy food during the day. Suddenly that spaghetti squash may not be such a battle to eat and enjoy!