Happy New Year! We are back to regular programming and you’ll be seeing our newsletters hit your inbox weekly this year. I am so appreciative of having the chance to really unplug over the holidays, and am excited for a fresh year to share all things nutrition nerdiness, food, and approaching diet differently this year.
Goals, aspirations, resolutions. They can be incredibly helpful to guide our choices and help make real change in our bodies and lifestyle. We do this in session every day, drill down to what we really want to see, feel and do differently this week or month. Buuuuut…..resolutions and the New Year’s sometimes bring a frantic “do all the things” energy that can actually pull you off track by keeping you stuck in old habits. Which old habit is the most damaging for clients (and the most seductive)?
Restarting is a North American cultural thing – not just a you problem. We are ALL IN on some new cleanse or detox for 30 days, but then blow it for a few days because it’s our birthday and decide we’ll start again next month. We end up making a crappy choice at work because we’re stressed and didn’t bring enough food, so we scrap the healthy dinner we had planned and order pizza because “today is already a write off”. We know we have a couple big nights out with friends in a row where we’ll eat pub food and drink too much wine, so we write off the entire weekend (all 6 other meals) and vow to start a super strict cleanse on Monday. All those super strict regimens end up in short term feelings of “clean” and “on track” but inevitably cause a surge in hunger hormones, cravings and a brain that is frustrated with not eating foods it enjoys – hello rebound weight gain. We can see those changes in the body and our psychology in research, it’s not just in your head. And the larger issue? All those restarts, quick fixes, boosts and “detoxes” keep you from doing the hard work of actually addressing the real challenges. So by the end of the year, you’re not really any farther ahead than you were last year. They are distracting you from progress, not boosting your progress.
So if you shouldn’t hop on the quick start bandwagon, what should you do?
- Implement the next meal rule.
This is one of my only hard and fast rules. No matter what your diet pattern or style of eating is, make a promise to yourself to just friggin accept that, as a human, you’re going to make choices that don’t align with your bigger goals sometimes. Instead of writing it off (or writing yourself off as lazy, unmotivated, or incapable), make a plan for the next meal to be healthy-ish (whatever that means to you – lots of vegetables, balanced plate, plant based, low carb, whole food – whatever). This one is especially helpful for chronic perfectionists, high achievers, and restarters who want to redesign the wheel every time something goes awry. The combo of acceptance, and yet not giving yourself permission to just totally give up on really worthy goals of eating better, is surprisingly powerful. No guilt, no shame, no waiting.
- Get clear on your non-negotiables and track them
Focus on things you are including or doing on a regular basis that give you the most feel good bang for your buck. Make a list of all the things that you do or follow when you feel your best, and then pick the 3-4 MOST impactful ones. Ones that keep your hunger low and energy high, increase your mood, or make your week run more smoothly. They should also be infinitely doable – set the bar to something you have achieved already. More is a bonus.
- Protein at breakfast
- Veggies on every plate
- X L of water daily
- Meal prep weekly – if this is yours, make that time sacrosanct, it’s self care
- Taking 12 hours off eating, or not eating within 2 hours of bed so you can sleep well
- Staring with a smoothie, or eggs or whatever makes you feel energized for the day
- Taking your supplements every morning
- Staring with a big glass of water before your coffee
- So many more!
Make sure these are things you are doing or including – not just things you’re restricting, brains HATE that. I can’t have carbs, drink wine, or eat chocolate are not non-negotiables
Now, find a super simple way to track them. I love a worksheet, note in your phone or little journal where you tick off just these things daily. It is super clear by the end of the week if you’re on track to 80-90% (remember, progress not perfection). If you’re not, focus on what is holding you back (maybe you need to use a meal kit service during busy weeks to help get those meals on the table, or batch cook a few protein rich soups, or buy a new water bottle that keeps liquid hot for the winter). The gentle daily gut check is super helpful for keeping you aligned with your bigger goal of losing weight or healing your gut without the shame, hard labour or punishing nature of a really intense regimen. Trust that the other “healthy” parts of your diet will fall in to place the more you keep focused on the non-negotiables.
We had an awesome (not biased or anything) email go out in the fall all about identifying and clarifying your non-negotiables so they’ll be more powerful and easier to follow. If you’d like me to resend it, just reply here and let me know.
- Carefully choose your support.
Have big goals this year? High five! Me too. You ARE going to need help. Make sure your team (whether that’s a dietitian, trainer, friend, husband or wife, sister, online support group) is carefully chosen. If you have a long history of quick fixes, diets, cleanses and the like you need people who will hold you back from those.
Choose people or programs that are focused on not just the what (eat x and avoid y, or exercise 5 times a week) but the how and the why. Do they help you work through old habits, address underlying challenges like emotional eating or not prioritizing health and self care in your life? Are they supportive of the bigger picture?
So all this said, that doesn’t mean that all challenges or short term things are damaging. But you need to go in with the right mindset of how it will help your bigger goal. Does it build community, force you to reconnect with cooking at home and carving out time for yourself to move your body? Awesome! Does it sell you murky supplements and promises this is the “last diet, exercise program or fix you’ll ever need? Then probably a scam, however well meaning.
You all know that I run the Rock Your Jeans Challenge for women every year with my bud Sasha at True North Strength and Fitness. One of my biggest “musts” when we started, was that we design it in a way to support all these tenets. Community, self care, and a sustainable way of eating and training. Do no harm is at the top of my values as an RD, and I’m pretty darn proud of what we’ve developed. The challenge isn’t right for everyone, but if you’re curious you can find more info here and shoot me a line if you’d like to chat about whether it would be a good fit for you.
No matter who or what kind of support you choose, just make sure it is safe and sustainable. I believe in you! I have seen clients transform their lives, how they feel about and in their bodies, and how they approach food when they start from a place of patience and openness to really getting at the underlying habits and patterns. You’ve got this.
Happy Friggin New Year’s! I would love to hear what goals you’ve set, and what challenges you forsee so I can tailor our newsletters to what is the most helpful! Shoot me an email and let me know what the New Year holds for you.
Loved this post? It originally went out to our email newsletter, but got so much feedback I wanted to share it here. If you’d like to receive our free Meal Planning Getting Startted Guide AND get in on our weekly emails about all things nutrition so you can get clarity and confidence on what you’re eating, join us here!