With the aim to better ourselves, boost self-esteem and improve our lives, the annual New Year’s resolution is often short-lived. This can affect wellbeing and have the opposite effect as intended. Perhaps it is our approach to the illusive New Year’s resolution that is the problem. Here are tips to avoid falling in the resolution trap and following through with your health and nutrition goals this New Year.
Keep the big picture in mind
It is important to keep perspective over the holiday season and remember that your health is unlikely to relapse in a few days of celebration.
“A healthy lifestyle includes some indulgences, sometimes overeating, and days of no exercise, because a healthy lifestyle is about balance”.1
Chances are that many of the leftover festive treats can still be found around the workplace or home. Limit mindless munching by keeping as much food as you can out of sight and practice mindful eating: being non-judgemental, using all the senses and listening to your appetite and fullness.2
Set yourself up for success
It is well recognised that goals that are realistic and achievable are more likely to be followed. Therefore setting unrealistic goals can be setting you up for failure. If your focus is fitness and signing up for expensive gym memberships is your New Year’s weakness, consider seeing a personal trainer for a personalised do-able fitness regime that you can achieve at home. Or consider seeing a dietitian for tailored nutrition advice to discuss your food and nutrition goals to fit your life and commitments. Find your dietitian here.
Make a plan
If you prioritise exercise no matter how busy you are, or arrange to do the shopping on your way home from work for example, you may be more likely to achieve your goals. Planning needs to be specific: consider how you will go about achieving these goals, what your obstacles may be and how you are going to overcome them, and weed the realistic goals from the less so. Take the time to develop your strategies to success.
Avoid fad diets
Fad diets often combine food exclusions and restrictions with rigid rules, offering a quick fix based on little scientific evidence and testimonials.3
“Fad diets often encourage a short-term change in eating behaviour, rather than encouraging changes that can be sustained in the long-term. It is essential that any diet meets nutritional needs, is practical and suitable for individual lifestyles”.4
Although they may provide positive short term results, the weight lost is often water and muscle rather than fat, and they can also cause serious health problems.4,5 Researchers have failed to reach a consensus on the potential benefits of these diets for weight loss.5
Back to basics
The Australian Dietary Guidelines promote health and wellbeing to reduce the risk of chronic disease and provide many options for healthy goals to aim for this New Year.6 Focusing on one component of each Guideline at a time can be more realistic. After all, achieving health is about small, sustainable lifestyle changes. If you get carried away, create a list to tick off on your journey to a healthier 2015. Suggestions include:
- Focus on wholegrains. Trade in your white bread for wholemeal bread or high fibre bread. Consider trying brown rice, wholemeal pasta or quinoa as more nutritious grain options also.
- Find ways to add more fruit and vegetables to your day, aiming for 2 fruit and 5 vegetable serves daily. For more tips and recipes try the Go for 2&5 campaign resources.
- Swap non-reduced fat dairy options such as full cream milk, cheese and yoghurt for reduced fat options.
- Purchase leaner cuts of meat and trim visible fat before cooking.
- Add legumes such as chickpeas and red kidney beans to salads, burritos and bolognaise.
- Keep the cupboard well stocked with healthy staples such as tinned fish, wholegrain crackers, frozen vegetables and canned beans.
Search for more ideas from the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Bust a move
The Physical Activity Guidelines recommend accumulating a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each day.7 They also highlight that doing any physical activity is better than doing none. For exercise to be sustainable, it must fit with your routine. For example, making it a habit to walk to the bus or parking the car further away to get an extra 10 minutes here or there to boost your physical activity level. Recent research has suggested an association between sitting time and mortality, irrespective of physical activity and identifies prolonged sitting a risk factor for chronic disease.8 The Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend minimising the amount of time spent sitting, and interrupting long periods of sitting as often as possible.7 Taking the stairs or spending a ten minute date with the skipping rope a few times a day could also be strategies to adopt.
Go for H2O
Water is essential for life. The estimated daily water requirement for adult males and females is 2.6 L and 2.1 L (8–10 cups) respectively.9 Making water your first choice of beverage over sugar-sweetened drinks (cordial, soft drink, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy drinks, sports drinks) and alcohol will help to keep energy intake balanced with your energy expenditure. This can reduce the risk of obesity-related conditions. If you do choose these options, aim for smaller amounts less frequently.
- The Moderation Movement. [Internet]. [Place unknown]: The Moderation Movement. 2014 Dec 12 – [cited 2014 Dec 20]. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/moderationmovement?fref=ts
- The Center for Mindful Eating. The principles of mindful eating. [Internet]. [Place unknown]: The Center for Mindful Eating. 2013 – [cited 2014 Dec 20]. Available from: http://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org/principles
- Better Health Channel. Weight loss and fad diets. [Internet]. [Place unknown]: Better Health Channel. 2014 Aug 18 – [cited 2014 Dec 20]. Available from: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Weight_loss_and_fad_diets?open
- Dietitians Association of Australia. Fad diets. [Internet]. [Place unknown]: Dietitians Association of Australia. [Date unknown] – [cited 2014 Dec 20]. Available from: http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/fad-diets/
- Saltzman E, Thomason P, Roberts Fad Diets: A Review for the Primary Care Provider. Nutr Clin Care. [Internet]. 2001 [2014 Dec 20]:4(5):235-42. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1046/j.1523-5408.2001.00003.x/ doi: 10.1046/j.1523-5408.2001.00003.x
- National Health and Medical Research Council. Eat for health. Australian dietary guidelines. Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. [Internet]. Canberra ACT: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2013 [cited 2014 Dec 5]. Available from: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_fes_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n55_australian_dietary_guidelines_130530.pdf
- Department of Health and Ageing. Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. [Internet]. [Place unknown]: Department of Health and Ageing. 2014 Jul 10 – [cited 2014 Dec 20]. Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines#apaadult
- Katzmarzyk PT, Church TS, Craig CL, Bouchard C. Sitting Time and Mortality from All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer. Med Sci Sports Exerc. [Internet]. 2009 [2014 Dec 20]:41(5):998-1005.
- National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand including recommended dietary intakes [Internet]. Canberra ACT: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2006 [cited 2014 Dec 5]. Available from: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n35.pdf