Incorporating Healthy Patterns into the New Year
You’re not alone if you didn’t reach your health and wellness goals in 2020 – trust me. The new year can add a lot of pressure to our lives, specifically in the health and wellness department – and this year is no different. Juice cleanses, new workout routines, and promising diets surge in popularity around the beginning of the year but slowly decline as the months progress. This is totally not surprising and usually happens because forced habits like these aren’t realistic, successful, or truly healthy at all.
As a registered dietitian, my piece of advice to anyone in the new year would be to NOT go on a diet. Yes, you heard that right! While eating in a caloric deficit can be an efficient weight-loss tactic, not all of us need to lose weight in the first place. In fact, many people confuse the idea of healthy eating with the desire to lose weight or go on a diet. While I do recommend ditching processed ingredients and eating more nutrient-dense whole foods, I don’t endorse fad diets that implement food rules and/or chronically under-eating, both of which may lead to disordered eating habits or in worse cases, full-blown eating disorders.
So how can we become healthier in 2021? The first step is ditching diets and vigorous exercise regimes. Once you finally let go of the restraints these so-called “resolutions” put on you, you won’t feel the added stress that comes with the inevitable “failure.” Believe it or not, stress can have even stronger negative effects on the body such as slowing digestion, interfering with regular sleep patterns, and impacting overall mood.
Healthy patterns can be easier to maintain once we acknowledge realistic ways to incorporate them into everyday life. Plus, healthy patterns incorporate more than just food and exercise. Sleep and self-care are both so important in supporting mental health, maximizing productivity, and lending to overall happiness! A combination of healthy eating without restricting and your preferred form of movement – whether that’s walking, running, dancing, weightlifting, or yoga – will yield the best results (which may or may not include weight loss!) The benefits of a healthier lifestyle are ten-fold and include increasing cognitive function, boosting energy levels, and improving digestion.
Navigating wellness can be intimidating which is why we need to remove the stigma associated with it. There is no such thing as the perfect diet or exercise routine. Instead, we have to allow ourselves to find the forms of self-care, dietary preferences, and exercise habits that bring us balance and true joy. Lastly, remember that this journey looks different for everyone: stop comparing yourself to others and listen to your body to find what works best for you.