by Vincci Tsui, Registered Dietitian
The same thing happens every year.
Something about that collective hangover from the festivities of the holiday season combined with the desire for a fresh start to go with a new calendar year seems to push us to extremes.
We resolve to trade our coffees for green smoothies every morning, spend hours every day sweating and grunting at the gym, and say good bye to sugar, gluten and dairy (or whatever the latest food baddie is) for the last time, only to find that it doesn’t take much for the pendulum to swoop back the other way. By February, we’re back to our old habits of watching Netflix with a bucket of cookie dough ice cream, while silently beating ourselves up for failing yet again (February’s being generous – I really mean January 8th).
Stop being a new year’s resolution statistic. This might sound too good to be true, but you can move on from all that eggnog and fruitcake without suffering through yet another detox or cleanse.
FIND YOUR WHY
One of the reasons why it can be so hard to build healthier habits, like changing the way we eat, or adding more movement into our day, is that our idea of what constitutes “health” is always a moving target. What does it mean to be healthy, anyway? Does it mean living into your hundreds? Being free of illness? Being a certain weight? Being able to keep enjoying the things that you enjoy now?
I invite you to step back for a moment and imagine what your life might be like if you were at your healthiest and happiest. How is this “ideal” life different from where you are now, if at all? If it is different, what’s the first step you can take towards this “ideal” life?
I also encourage you to keep checking in on this “ideal” life from time to time, and accept that as your current life changes, your concept of an ideal will probably change, too. You may be closer to it than you think.
ACCEPT WHAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL AND EMBRACE WHAT YOU CAN
Another reason why adopting a healthier lifestyle can be difficult is because so much that’s related to health is out of our control – age, genetics and metabolism, just to name a few. I’m sure we all know someone who’s doing everything right, but still receives a devastating diagnosis.
When it comes to health-related factors within our control, you might be surprised to learn we have less control over our weight than we think. We’ve all heard the old adage that we should “eat less, move more” and that we should do the math when it comes to “calories in, calories out,” but if it were as easy as just eating X calories in order to lose Y weight over Z time, then the diet industry probably wouldn’t be worth the billions that it is today.
That’s not to say that it’s not worthwhile to make healthier choices, but it may be more helpful and motivating to focus on how your choices make you feel right now. If you’re only eating salad because you think it’s going to help you lose weight, you’re probably not going to keep it up. But if you love the crunch of fresh, seasonal veg- etables, or you just feel better with a light meal as opposed to when you’re stuffed after a holiday dinner, then you’re more likely to choose salad again.
Of course, cleanses and detoxes make you feel good – why else would anyone do them? Now, how can you get that same feeling without drinking only lemon juice with cayenne pepper for a week?
ALLOW YOURSELF TO EXPERIMENT
The final reason it’s hard to change our health habits is that we know it’s more effective when we keep these habits in the long term, and that’s pretty daunting. You’re probably thinking, “I barely survived my last trip to the gym, and you’re telling me I have to get 150 minutes of moderate activity every week? For the rest of my life?” It’s a wonder anyone does anything “healthy” with all this pressure.
Instead of jumping in with both feet – what if it doesn’t work? – give yourself space to experiment a little bit. What happens if you eat breakfast instead of sleeping in? What happens if you have salad instead of fries on the side? Challenge yourself to observe, without judgment, as you run your protocol and start gathering your data.
Once you have a few data points, then you can analyze and decide – is this a habit I can incorporate into my lifestyle, or is this simply something that doesn’t fit?
If it’s the latter, that’s okay! You’re not a bad person just because something that works amazingly for some- one else simply doesn’t work for you. You might choose to pick it up at a later time, or focus on something else entirely. Remember – you know your life best.
Read entire article in the digital issue of City Palate.