As each new year comes to fruition, we face the decisions made in the previous year and begin to think about what we want to change or, in other words — resolve. Among the many popular New Year’s resolutions is a need to address exercise and healthy eating habits, but how we get there is a conversation worth diving into.
With this in mind, we spoke with Karma Stanley, Registered Practical Nurse at Inkblot Therapy, about what it means to plan for a healthy start ahead of a brand new year.
Create specific and attainable goals for health and nutrition
Before you can begin the journey to better health, you’ll need to determine some steps aligned with your specific goals and values. Stanley helps us break down how goal setting works with the guidelines below.
“It’s important to set small, sustainable goals. We can use water intake as an example. Many of us are not drinking the recommended amount of water, so increasing our water intake can feel like an achievable goal to start. This is especially true after the holidays when many of us have been eating a diet rich in fats, sugar and less fibre than normal.”
You can determine specific and attainable goals by asking yourself questions like:
- “How is this going to impact my body image and my body positivity?”
- “How am I going to feel?”
- “How is this going to impact my social life?”
Understand the impacts of diet culture
As the new year begins and those around you begin sharing how they are working towards bettering themselves, it can be easy to get caught up in diet culture. Understanding what diet culture is and how it impacts the body and mind is essential.
“Diet culture is defined as a set of beliefs that glorifies thinness, appearance, and shape above health and well-being. It’s really important that we focus our awareness on weight inclusivity and body positivity, not focus as much on the pressure we put on ourselves or shaming ourselves to fit in a mould.” Stanley explains.
The way we speak to ourselves and others about body image can make a difference. Body positivity means speaking with intention and ensuring we are thoughtful in our approach.
“We want to avoid getting caught up in ideas or fears that we tell ourselves about becoming or looking fat. So, saying things like, ‘I’m not eating that — I don’t want to get fat’ or ‘Do I look fat in this?’ or saying to others, ‘You look great! Have you lost weight?’ Those are really harmful statements that do not allow for body positivity and weight inclusivity. We also want to be mindful of our exercise habits and not compare our bodies to others. It’s important to remember that food is about balance — not perfection.” says Stanley.
The benefits of maintaining a food journal
Food journals are a helpful tool to determine how your body responds to what you’re eating. Stanley helps us understand the benefits of food journaling and why it’s an important tool to consider within your goal setting.
“Food journaling can be a very helpful practice for individuals who are wondering about food sensitivities and noticing gastro effects after eating. Tracking food intake and any associated symptoms and sharing them with a physician or dietitian may help to isolate and eliminate foods that trigger unwanted or unpleasant effects.”
Stanley also heads a warning of how food journals can be misused:
“Food journals shouldn’t be used to hold folks accountable for the foods that they eat. Food is about balance — not perfection. A food journal is not a way to keep a score of how many calories you’ve eaten or how much you’ve eaten in a day. A food journal is an important tool for those who feel they may have dietary sensitivity.”
5 additional practices to consider as a part of health and nutrition goal setting
There are endless ways to approach a healthy start to the new year where food and nutrition are concerned. We asked Stanley about a series of additional practices one may consider when setting goals for the new year, and this is what she had to say:
1. Mindful eating
“Mindful eating means being mindful of what we are eating in the moment, without judgment. Take time to focus on your feelings or emotions surrounding the food, in addition to taking your time to enjoy the food by appreciating the flavour and texture. Listen to your body! Eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel satisfied.”
2. Meal prepping
“Planning meals is important because it reduces making choices you would otherwise be disappointed by. When you have time to plan for meals, you can ensure your nutritional needs are being met. Planning ahead allows you to make choices when you are not uncomfortably hungry and perhaps make choices you wouldn’t otherwise make. It also frees up time during a busy week, so you aren’t left feeling stressed and ultimately making poor meal-time decisions.”
3. Fitness and physical activity
“Incorporating physical activity is essential throughout the year because it releases serotonin, also known as the happiness hormone. Physical activity is especially important during the colder months when reduced sunshine creates a lack of vitamin D and thus impacts our mood. Small changes are helpful, too! Things like setting timers on your computer to remind you to walk around your home or take a walk outside. Set small, attainable goals that are reasonable and sustainable for you.”
4. Yoga and meditation
“Meditation or yoga practice can positively impact diet and wellness. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and it can help reduce stress, aid in digestion, and help to facilitate weight loss if that’s your goal. Something as simple as mediation practices can have a positive domino effect on your overall health.”
5. Make time for better sleep
“Poor sleep can deeply impact our mood and cause increased emotional reactivity, which is our inability to regulate our emotions and emotional empathy. Implement small changes to your bedtime routine, such as checking the temperature in your bedroom, having an evening snack or even tracking your changes with a sleep diary to understand what the impact is and monitor the outcome.”