Many people use January as an opportunity to overhaul their diet and lifestyle. After the holiday indulgences, you may feel motivated to make radical changes in many areas of your life and these can sometimes be unsustainable in the long term. Sound familiar? I call it the January 1st syndrome; you know the drill: you decide to cut out all sugar, quit the booze, live off salads, sign up to the gym and are going 6 days a week. And then, three weeks later, you have a crap day at work and out comes the wine and the chocolate! How about this year we do things a bit differently and work on creating some sustainable habits that make us feel great?
I heard Andy Ramage say in a podcast: ‘It’s not about perfection, it’s about showing up.’ Which is something I wholeheartedly agree with, and is why I have outlined some simple changes to incorporate in January which can hopefully become daily habits and lead to a healthier version of yourself.
- Eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day instead of jumping on another fad diet. You may think that the best way to re-set after a month of indulgences is to cut calories or skip meals, but your body will thank you if you nourish it regularly and keep your blood sugar balanced by combining a protein and carbohydrate with every meal. If you’re struggling with hormonal issues or are looking to improve your fertility, this is even more important. Blood sugar balance and hormonal balance go hand in hand! Here is a blog post where I discuss why I no longer recommend intermittent fasting.
- Include healthy carb sources such as stewed fruits, root vegetables and squashes. Our body needs carbs, please let’s stop restricting them and focus on good quality carb sources instead. If you are not eating enough carbohydrates, your body will either make you crave them (hello evening Haagen Das binges!) or it will start breaking down protein (i.e. your muscles and tissues) to make glucose. You may also feel like kicking off the New Year with raw juice cleanses, big salads and fruit smoothies, but raw foods are often harder to digest and may cause digestive symptoms such as bloating and cramping. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is best to eat cooked and stewed foods in the colder months. Not only are these easier on digestion, but cooked foods are believed to generate body heat and improve circulation. Stewed fruits such as apples, pears and berries make a delicious winter dessert, especially if cooked with cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup.
- Be consistent with moving your body. Gym memberships always increase in January, but according to the Fitness Industry Association, most people have quit or stop going after 24 weeks. The new year’s enthusiasm may see people attending the gym every single day, only to get burnt out a few weeks or months later. Another reason may also be that people fail to find an exercise regime that suits them and lose interest quickly. Finding an exercise regime that suits you and allows you to move consistently will create a habit rather than a short spurt of intense exercise. This consistency will give much better health results than sweating it out at the gym every day for 30 days and then quitting. It doesn’t have to be extreme: moving your body can look like going for a walk in nature, doing some yoga stretches or aiming to strength train 3 times a week. If you build muscle, you will burn fat even at rest, which is more effective (and less exhausting) than flogging yourself with cardio or high intensity exercise every day.
- Practise good sleep hygiene. The long Christmas break may have had an impact on sleep schedules, with later nights and slower mornings. Getting back into a regular sleep routine by practising good sleep hygiene will have a positive impact on your health. Did you know that lack of sleep can negatively impact weight loss goals? Get into the habit of going to sleep around 10pm and prepare for sleep by avoiding screens or blue lights a couple of hours before bedtime. Sleep in a cool and dark room for improved restfulness. If you are struggling to sleep or find yourself waking up in the night, then have a look at your daytime habits too. Is your blood sugar dysregulated? Are you pushing yourself too hard and not nourishing yourself appropriately? Are you setting your circadian rythm by getting daylight on your eyeballs every morning? Here are some of my favourite tips for healthy sleep.
- Start a mindfulness and gratitude practise. After the party-heavy month of December, and with the return to work, a daily meditation practise is a great habit to kick off the new year. Spending a few minutes every day in stillness has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, increases mental clarity and focus and may even reduce age-related memory loss. Writing down three things you are grateful for every day has also been shown to improve physical and psychological health, sleep and self esteem. My favourite meditation tools are guided meditation apps such as Calm or Buddhify. I also love the Five Minute Journal to create a practise of gratitude.
These are simple yet powerful habits which will have a great impact on your overall health without the need for gruelling detoxes and cleanses. Happy New Year!
If you would like some help implementing healthy habits into your life, why not book a free discovery call to see some bespoke diet and lifestyle changes can help you flourish!