It’s that time of year where we resolve to start exercising, eating right, drinking more water and using more recycled bags to the store. I’m sure many of you have set resolutions or even goals. But it’s also the time of year where we start to realize making changes is easier than finding a way to make those changes stick. As a nutritionist and coach, I’ve seen such a range of experiences in my clients, and here are a few things I’d encourage you to consider.
1. Why is this super-wonderful new habit really important to you now?
Knowing your motivation is a powerful thing, and can help you build in structure to stay focused on what you value most. When I see clients, one my first questions is what they’re hoping to accomplish. When the answer is “Because Dr. So and so says so” it’s a big red flag and we have to dig deeper and develop personally meaningful goals.
2. What is your baseline?
Often we don’t have a good sense of our current habits. Many people report eating veggies every day or only occasionally going on a Starbucks run, but when they record their food for a few weeks, it becomes clear that the reality is quite a bit different. I definitely recommend keeping track of food, exercise or other habits, either on pen and paper, on a website like www.sparkpeople.com or www.nutritiondata.com or on an app like My Fitness Pal or Lose it. In fact, tracking your food is one of the top recommendations from the National Weight Control registry.
3. How much are you eating?
We live in a super-sized culture, and almost all of us fall prey to the ginormous sizes we see all around us. Studies show that everything from portion sizes to plates to colors or even names of food dramatically change our intake, and often small tweaks can significantly change our behaviors. If you haven’t read Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating, it’s a fantastic read with a nice mix of research and easy tools to incorporate in your daily routine
4. Are you paying attention when you eat?
I know it may sound silly, but most of us live pretty distracted lives. If we’re not paying attention to our life, we’re missing out on the fun! It’s easy to eat while checking email, watching TV, or even driving, and that cuts down on our awareness of portion and on our enjoyment of food. When we’re eating mindfully, we’re much more aware of hunger and fullness, and it’s much easier to stop eating because we’re full than because we’re only allowed a certain amount. Additionally, mindfulness has a huge range of health benefits, from improving depression, to blood pressure, to immunity to diabetes and much more. I’ve got a lot of the research on the benefits of mindful eating here.
5. How’s your stress level?
It’s rare I find that people start craving cauliflower under stress. Yes, some people lose weight when they’re stressed, both most people gain. More importantly most of us have a harder time keeping healthy habits together when stressed. Maybe that’s not getting enough sleep, eating too much sugar, too much alcohol, working too hard…the list goes on. Make sure to plan in enough movement, adequate sleep, hydration, stress management, connection, sunshine (even if that’s just through a light box) , sources of fun and joy into your life. Fortunately, I have a furry friend who reminds me when I’m working too hard.
6. Do you have support? Generally, healthy habits take a village. It’s easier to get up on those cold, dark mornings when you’re meeting a friend or you’ve got a four-legged friend who wants to go for a run. It’s critical to build support for yourself, either in person or online for a sense of accountability.
Wishing you a happy and healthy new year,
Harris Whole Health offers individual sessions, family sessions and group classes to help people eat healthier and feel better! Cheryl works with people to feel and look their best with a range of specialties, including Celiac Disease, food allergies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, vegetarian and vegan diets, preventing diseases and “whole foods” eating. Let’s get you on your way to achieving your goals. For an appointment with Cheryl Harris, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, please click here, email or call 571-271-8742.