5 RESOLUTIONS TO TAKE TO HEART
1. Drink a glass of water upon waking up in the morning — aim for at least eight ounces.
Imagine going 7-9 hours without any water during the day. Sounds pretty awful, right? Well, that’s similar to how your body feels when you wake and don’t choose to rehydrate right away. Fill a glass of water on your bedside table the night before for a reminder, and aim to get at least 64 oz of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and energized!
2. Practice mindful eating.
Eating slowly. Focusing on the meal. Chewing thoroughly. Thinking about where your food comes from, and the hard work that was needed. These are all strategies in paying greater attention to your meals and reducing mindless eating.
Another aspect of mindful eating is knowing when you have true hunger, rather than just eating out of boredom or emotion. Practicing awareness of your physical or emotional cues when suddenly feeling hungry can be a great life skill, and can actually help create appropriate stress management for lifelong health, not just for any diet-related goals.
Taking time to eat and paying more attention to hunger cues will help you recognize sneaky non-hunger triggers for eating when you’re not actually hungry. It can be helpful to learn other strategies to confront emotion- and stress-related needs in more effective ways rather than eating. Physical activity, talking with a friend, and doing something you enjoy are all great alternatives that allow increased enjoyment and nourishment of meals at times of true hunger. This broad application makes mindful eating a powerful tool for developing a healthier, happier relationship with food.
Tip: Feeling hungry? Drink some water to test for dehydration, as our brain recognizes hunger and thirst cues very similarly.
3. Fill your plate with vegetables FIRST, not last.
Confession. I’m a ‘volumetric’ eater. Meaning, I’m not satisfied with a meal (regardless of what it is), unless it’s a large meal. This is why filling my plate with vegetables first is my greatest ally in staying healthy. All the essential vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals that help ward off disease help me feel my best throughout the day. Choosing vegetables first, instead of last, gives me more volume of healthy food and feel satisfied without sacrificing my health.
4. Cut back on screen time.
You may think you can't live without emails, Instagram or the latest Netflix series, but limiting your time on your phone, computer or in front of the television is great for you and your health. More than two hours at a stretch can lead to digital eye strain, hunching over a device can cause poor posture (which can contribute to other health issues), and using devices at night can disrupt sleep patterns–causing tiredness, increased hunger, and just not feeling great the next day.
Make it a goal to not use your devices before bedtime (for at least 1 hour prior to bed). During the day, set an alarm on your phone or tablet to limit time spent on screens and use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a break from your screen and focus on something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to help reduce eye strain throughout the day.
5. Stay in touch
Feel like old friends (or family) have fallen by the wayside? It’s good for your health to reconnect with them. Research suggests people with strong social ties live longer than those who don’t.
In fact, a lack of social bonds can damage your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking, and even more than obesity and lack of exercise, a 2010 study in the journal PLoS Medicine suggests.
Admittedly, in a technology-fixated era, it’s never been easier to stay in touch—or rejuvenate your relationship—with friends and family, so fire up some social media BUT then follow up with in-person visits to reap the full benefits of staying in touch.
3 RESOLUTIONS TO IGNORE:
1. Setting an unrealistic number goal for weight loss (or setting a number at all)
I’m actually not a huge fan of setting number goals for weight loss, partially because it’s impossible to predict how much weight someone is going to lose in a period of time. I also prefer to take the focus off the scale and put it somewhere more meaningful, like on a person’s eating habits and lifestyle and how one feels throughout the day. People tend to want to set number goals for how much weight they’d like to lose, but more often than not these goals work against them and create undue stress, unnecessary guilt, and self-defeating thoughts.
Setting a number goal for weight loss can be motivating, but it can be equally demotivating if you’re aiming for a number that’s simply unattainable and unrealistic. If you must set a number goal, do it in small increments. Account for situations like holidays, plateaus, and anything else that can affect weight loss. Consider your lifestyle, your weight history (have you ever been that exact weight that you’re aiming to achieve, at least in your adult life?), your work hours, and your life situation now. It can be unwise to set a goal based on your weight in the distant past. Are you living the same life now as you were then? Are there kids, a job, or a different living situation in the picture now? Are you a lot older? These are all important considerations that can impact your success in achieving that specific weight goal, so if the answer is yes to any of those factors, you may need to readjust your expectations (and your goal number).
More importantly, focusing on your overall health and wellness, the quality of food you eat, and loving yourself can help you step away from the diet mentality and the constant focus on weight and numbers. If you find yourself constantly dieting, you may need to take a different, less number-focused view of your weight and leave the number goals behind.
One final caution: If you have a history of disordered eating, I strongly suggest that you stay away from the scale altogether. (And, it's worth adding, be sure to talk with your doctor before making any changes to your nutrition habits.)
2. Falling for diet scare tactics
It’s pretty appalling how often scare tactics are used to sell diets, but luckily, they’re easy to spot. Any program using words like “toxic” or “harmful” to describe food, or that tells you to cut out entire food groups with no credible research or good reason, fall into this category (Please Note: Just because a diet claims to have credible research, that doesn’t make it so.) Unless a food has been adulterated with an actual poison, it’s not “toxic”, and most healthy people—even those who are trying to lose weight—can include every food in their diets, at least in certain amounts. In fact, eliminating a whole food group is actually more likely to cause harm from the lack of essential nutrients that food group provides.
For example, you may have heard of diets that proclaim gluten or dairy or (insert another food) is harmful for everyone and should be cut out forever. There's may be absolutely no scientific backing to support that claim. For example, gluten is harmful only for people who have an allergy or have an autoimmune condition called Celiac’s Disease, so a blanket statement that suggests that we all react negatively to one ingredient or another is a red flag. If you feel better after you eliminate a certain ingredient or food from your diet, go right ahead—but if you’re fine with certain foods for example, there’s zero reason to cut it out. If suspect an allergy or intolerance, it may be beneficial to speak with your healthcare team or local dietitian for credible advice and testing.
3. Taking celebrity nutrition advice seriously
There are far too many celebrities and celebrity "health gurus" giving down right crappy nutrition advice, and the best thing to do is to ignore them.
Believing that you can look like a celebrity if you replicate their diet doesn’t work, simply because there’s a lot more to how people look and how they live than meets the eye—like personal trainers, chefs, and a job that depends on how they look (unfortunately).
More importantly, these people rarely have any legit nutrition training, and they usually have products to sell along with their program. Be very suspicious of anyone who doles out advice that stipulates or strongly suggests that you need to purchase a certain product in order to be successful on their program. Nope. Nope. Nope.
Rule of thumb: ALWAYS question anybody’s advice if they have a product to sell you. Of course they’re going to want you to think you need their product. It’s likely business, not sincerity. On that note, you should also be wary of nutrition advice that’s coming from someone who isn’t a registered nutritionist or other qualified nutrition expert (that is, a person with a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in nutrition). Personal trainers are experts at exercise, not nutrition. And remember: Just because someone has lost weight on a certain diet, doesn’t make them a diet expert. Everybody eats, but that doesn’t make everybody an authority on food.