By Avery Newmark, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Troy Warren for CNT #Health
“New year, new me” — for many people, the new year is a time to make big lifestyle changes.
Although some people are concerned with simply looking better, a 2021 Food and Health Survey found that the majority of folks are more interested in long-term health, which includes increased energy and the reduction of risk for future chronic conditions.
The new year can be an opportunity to assess areas you want to improve, but experts suggest approaching goals in a less-pressured way, especially as COVID-19 lingers and continues to make things tough on mental health.
Here are three strategies for using food to develop healthier habits, according to experts:
Find your “why”
Take a moment to consider why you’re doing this in the first place. If it’s only for vanity’s sake, your resolutions are unlikely to stick once you’ve achieved your goal.
“I tell my patients that they need to list out three whys — why they want to lose weight or change their diet — and only of one them can be related to looks. Do you want to get on the ground and play with your grandkids? Do you want to live longer than your parents did?” dietician Kristin Kirkpatrick wrote for TODAY.
Once you define your “why”, share it with someone you love and write it down.
“The act of writing it down and seeing it on paper raises our awareness and tends to motivate us,” Amy Morin, psychotherapist and editor-in-chief at VeryWell Mind told USA Today.
Determine what works for you
Long-term success in developing healthier eating habits comes down to your food preferences and your environment, according to Kirkpatrick.
For example, if you have a sugar addiction and your house is full of processed, sugary foods, your chances of success are slim. You’ll also most likely struggle if you spend all day on social media looking at cookie and cake recipes.
To determine a perfect diet that will work for you, take a look at your surroundings and determine what is possible, define your food preferences and access to certain foods and consider what dietary pattern you have successfully maintained in the past, Kirkpatrick stated.
It’s also a good idea to set specific goals rather than broad ones.
“Instead of saying, ‘I want to be happier,’ or ‘I want to be healthier,’ maybe your strategy is, ‘I’m going to do one fun thing every week,’ or ‘I’m going to go to the gym four days a week for 25 minutes at a time,’” suggests Morin.
Give yourself grace if you fall off the wagon (which you will)
Falling off the “healthy habit wagon” is inevitable, but don’t let the shame keep you down.
“It’s important to realize you will most likely have times when you eat too many of the wrong foods — so enjoy it, move on from it, and keep going. You’re not weak, you’re human,” said Kirkpatrick.
Ready to get started on crushing your goals? Kirkpatrick notes that you don’t have to wait until Jan. 1. It “is just a number on a calendar.”
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