I will lose 5kg, quit sugar, eat vegetables, stop drinking. Sound familiar?
The list of restrictions we set for ourselves each year is long. Before we know it, we’re back at day one of 365, setting a new list of resolutions to conveniently forget. How about a new approach in 2017, one that kick starts your health?
Your new health markers
Warning: This might take a bit of a mind shift. Hear me out here. Rather than focusing on body weight as your main success measure, let’s look at other health markers:
- Energy levels – how do you feel?
- Bowel habits – do you experience constipation, bloating, pain?
- Stress markers – where are your anxiety and cortisol levels?
- Inflammation – do you have painful joints and what are your C-reactive protein levels?
- Sleep – are you getting enough and the quality?
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar levels
- Cholesterol and triglyceride levels
While the New Year can be a good line in the sand to take stock, the key to achieving your goals is to develop strategies. In other words, just because you have made a list, doesn’t mean anything on it will automatically happen.
Turn resolutions into reality
Here is how to change that and turn your 2017 resolutions into reality.
- Change your thinking. That means no ‘dieting’. Throw the idea out the window and maybe the scales, too. Newflash: Diets don’t work –otherwise we wouldn’t be inventing new ones. Changes to your eating habits may be in order, but not from overly restrictive, unsustainable, fad dieting.
- Visit the GP. Or integrative practitioner and get some of your health indicators measured. This will give you a New Year starting point to compare against. Book a return appointment six months later to check how you’re going.
- Buy fruit and veggies every week. And eat them. Increase your vegetable intake at lunch and during your evening meal. That means no more ham and cheese toastie. It’s a ham or turkey, cheese, tomato, capsicum, greens and mushroom toastie instead. Aim for 5 servings a day. As for your fruit, cut it up ready for snacking, not left to rot in the bowl. See you later afternoon visit to the vending machine.
- Treat yourself. Buy small serving sizes of foods you find hard to portion control. For example, a one serve size of chocolate, not the block. You know this already, but opt for dark over milk – it’s less sweet, reducing your desire for more, plus it’s full of antioxidants. It pays to eat treats at a relaxing time, so you can savour the taste, not when you are starving and likely to eat too much. Serve with cut up fruit, fresh berries or a slice of cheese.
- Feed your brain. Omega-3 fats are in high concentration in your brain and are important for its development. Make an effort to eat seafood more regularly. This year, find yourself a good fish shop for the fresh stuff, then top up with canned sardines, mussels, oysters, salmon or tuna. Top tip: Read the labels to check omega-3 levels as they vary greatly. You could also try kangaroo – it’s full of omega-3s.
- Fill up on fibre. Sure, fibre is important for managing cholesterol and blood sugar levels, but have you thought about it’s role in healthy bowels and weight management? Fibre feeds your gut bacteria, helps move waste product out faster and fills you up for longer. This is all beneficial to your immune system, too. Swap the afternoon biscuit for a handful of nuts per day (30g) and clean out your cupboards – you want a breakfast cereal with more than 7g/100g of dietary fibre and pantry staples like brown rice, freekah and legumes.
Realistic? Achievable? Yes. Pick what works for you, keep a positive mindset and have a focus on improving health, rather than weight for the New Year.
Simone Austin is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Accredited Sports Dietitian. She’s also a dietitian at Swisse Wellness.