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Cheers to a Mindful Year-Beyond New Year’s Resolutions

By Avance Care’s Registered Dietitian: Shannon Corlett, MS, RDN, LDN

Around the New Year I hear a lot about new beginnings, fresh starts, and rejuvenated motivation, but the enthusiasm never seems to last very long. According to the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2015 Food and Health Survey, about 29% of people make a New Year’s resolution. Of those resolutions, 84% are related to diet or exercise! Unfortunately, by March only 28% of people still strictly follow their resolution.

If you’re going to make a resolution, there’s a trick to succeeding at your goal… make it SMART. That stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. For example, “I’m going to lose weight” doesn’t give you any action steps to help you reach the goal. Instead, try something like this, “I will jog for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings every week in January” or “I will pack my lunch in the morning and take it with me to work Monday through Thursday of every week.” With these types of goals, it is very clear whether you met your own expectation; for instance, “This week I jogged every day, but on Thursday I woke up late and forgot my lunch, so I went out to eat instead.” In this example, the physical activity goal was met all three times and the nutrition goal was met three out of four times. Consider using a written or electronic calendar to track your pattern. This increases your accountability, but also allows you to celebrate your success when you mark down that you completed the goal for that day. If you’re feeling unsure about your own SMART goals, consider meeting with a Registered Dietitian to help identify goals, provide motivation, problem-solve unforeseen challenges, and increase accountability. attitude-is-everything

So, what happens when you don’t reach your goal? It’s likely that not every day/week/month will be perfect while you’re working to change your habits and build healthy patterns, but the people who are successful long-term don’t give up. It’s important to be patient with yourself and start each day with the attitude that you will meet your goal. Regardless of what happened yesterday, tell yourself that today will be successful, and over time your mindset will start to change. This attitude will become natural and soon your New Year’s resolution will start to become part of your habits and patterns. You may even find yourself unconsciously choosing the healthier behavior.

Thinking Beyond New Year’s Resolutions

Beyond SMART goals, consider applying the principals of Mindful Eating to your new year. Instead of focusing entirely on what you eat, spend some time thinking about how and why you’re eating it. Someone who eats mindfully responds to their physical hunger and satiety cues, but also acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat. Try some of these strategies to eat mindfully:

  • Focus on the nurturing quality of food. Planning, preparing, and eating flavorful meals should be a rewarding and positive experience. Feel proud when you dedicate the time to nourishing yourself and your family, especially when there is little or no time to spare. Experiment with new foods, cooking methods, or flavors to bring excitement to your kitchen, but never judge yourself or others for responding to a food (everyone has likes and dislikes).
  • Think about where you are when you eat. Sit at a table, in a relaxed environment, and enjoy your meal. If your atmosphere does not match this description (e.g. eating in the car or a crowded office) notice how this affects your mood and your food intake.
  • Consider how you eat your food. Is it off a plate or from a bowl, even for snacks? It’s much easier to eat in moderation and prepare balanced meals when you can see exactly what you’re eating. You can significantly decrease the amount of food you consume just by eating off a smaller plate. Also, consider the size of your utensils and serving spoons. We often place food on our plate out of habit instead of focusing on our appetite. Filling a smaller plate provides a full meal and allows the opportunity to assess your hunger before going back for more food. You may even find that you can cook smaller portions and still feel full at the end of the meal.
  • Chew your food thoroughly, as many as 20-25 times per bite. Take small bites and put your fork down while you chew.
  • Pursue knowledge about nutrition. Learn how to make choices that support your health, then celebrate your successes and accept that there is no such thing as a perfect diet.bon-appetit
  • ENJOY YOUR FOOD. This may be the most important component of mindful eating. Take the time to plan and prepare delicious meals, and then savor them while you eat. Use all five of your senses to notice and appreciate your food. Consider closing your eyes for the first couple bites to focus on the taste and texture of what you’re eating. Eat slowly, so that you can notice your appetite sensation as you go, and when you’re no longer hungry stop eating. Often, we feel obligated to eat everything on our plates but you may find, especially for really sweet, salty, or fatty foods, that after just a few bites you are satisfied.

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