By Katie Cohen Olivenstein RD
The start of a new year seems to be the quintessential time to better yourself in one way another. The early days of January are flooded with promises to eat better, get into shape, spend more time with family, sleep more, or even floss more regularly. Though we all have the best of intentions, much of our New Years Resolutions dwindle before the end of the month.
Don’t blame yourself! It can be hard to keep up the enthusiasm and the drive months after the celebrations come to a close. Why? Because often times we try to change too much of ourselves all at once.
When it comes to your health and nutrition goals for 2016, small changes will go a long way. We’ve already counted down to midnight, but here’s my countdown of 5 tips to kick-start your health and wellness goals. Let’s break it down into bite-sized pieces:
Practice Mindful Eating – Stop eating when you’re satisfied, not full.
Mindful eating is deliberately paying attention, without judgment, to your eating experience. It helps us sharpen our hunger and satisfaction and is a powerful tool that can improve overall health. It involves tuning in, savoring and enjoying your food, and moving on when you’re almost (read: 80%) full. Try to determine whether its physical hunger or false hunger than has you going to the kitchen.
Physical Hunger: a hunger that builds gradually over time and has no food preference.
False Hunger: a hunger that appears all of a sudden and is very specific (think: salty, sweet, crunchy, soft).
Remember that it can take 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full, so put your cutlery down between bites and take your time.
2. Hello Hydration!
Reach for water throughout the day to stay hydrated, focused, and energized. How much, you might ask? The amount you need depends on your age, gender, and activity level, but the ultimate goal is to prevent dehydration. Feeling thirsty, tired, irritable, dizzy or have a headache? These are some of the more common signs that you’re not drinking enough.
Here are some practical tips to stay hydrated:
- Drink a cup of water when you wake up each morning (1 cup = 250 mL).
- Carry a water bottle around with you – at school, at work, and even around the house. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
- Don’t like the taste of plain old water? Add citrus fruits, berries, cucumber slices or fresh herbs such as mint to spruce up your water. Experiment with different concoctions until you find one that’s just right!
- Swap soda for carbonated water. You can throw some fruit in here too to jazz it up.
- Guzzle an additional 2 cups of water for every hour of exercise to replace sweat losses.
3. Load Up On Veggies
Enjoy vegetables at each of the 3 meals or at 2 meals and 1 snack. In fact, you can indulge in as many non-starchy veggies as you’d like. That’s because they’re packed lots of the good stuff -vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and flavonoids and are generally low in calories. Starchy vegetables shouldn’t get a bad wrap. Sweet potato, peas, butternut squash, and others are important pieces of the puzzle that compose our healthy diet. Including more vegetables will not only leave you feeling more satisfied, but allows you to displace other, less healthful choices. When it comes to choosing your veggies:
- Enjoy leafy green at least once daily
- Aim to include 2 colors on your plate
- Not only will you increase the array of nutrients in your diet, the variety will help keep things interesting.
- Need some vegginspiration? Check out 15 Ways to Eat More Vegetables.
4. Get Moving
It’s no secret that our bodies need regular exercise to stay healthy and fit, but so many of us struggle to squeeze physical activity into our busy schedules. The root of the problem lies right there – out with the squeezing and in with the planning. Unless you treat workouts like an appointment, they just won’t happen. Other things will come up and they will undoubtedly get in the way. The scheduling is the hardest part, so once it’s in your calendar all you have to do is show up!
- Quick tip: Set a Sunday reminder on your phone to schedule all your workouts for the week. Don’t forget to include rest days.
Need some help staying accountable to yourself and your workouts? Find a workout buddy. Someone whose fitness goals align with yours and who can motivate you to get to your planned workouts when you need a little bit of an extra push. Finding the right partner may not only dramatically increase your success, but provide another avenue to spend quality time with friends.
5. Focus On Small Gains
Rather than aiming for the stars (think: a complete up haul of your nutrition and lifestyle habits), make the tasks small enough so you have success early and often. Start by building on some of the healthy behaviours you already practice by setting goals that bring them to the next level, like increasing your water consumption by 2 cups or adding 15 minutes to your current workout routine. Allowing yourself to make small, but meaningful gains will act as an important motivating factor to conquer larger goals down the road.
So for this wonderful year of 2016, let’s agree to focus on you – to love your lifestyle, eat well, celebrate your body, and feel like yourself again. Here’s to your health!