It's that time again. That time when gyms are overcrowded, the produce section requires a traffic cop and children everywhere are pleading for the life of sugar they once knew. So if you find yourself making the same New Year’s resolution about your eating habits that you did last year (or maybe the last decade), I’d like to challenge you to try a different approach.
Moderation. I know it doesn’t sound as flashy and, admittedly, it goes a little slower than our fast-paced generation would like. But if you’re going for longevity versus a diet fling, then moderation’s your gal. However, before you stake all your claim in declaring "moderation" as your goal for 2017, even this needs some guidance to make sure your goals take you to long-lasting healthy lifestyle changes. Here are some suggestions for making health and nutrition goals that aren’t extreme but will take you far:
Make it unique to you. Take some time to reflect on your current diet or health habits and pick one that you think might be the easiest to change first. For example, just start looking at your beverage choices. It’s easy to miss how many liquid calories we take in daily because they don’t fill us up as much as food does. An extreme goal for something like this might be: “I’m only going to drink water, plain coffee or tea.” This type of restrictive goal would certainly improve your health, but probably only for the two to three weeks you were able to stick with it. A moderation goal might be something like limiting your favorite soda or latte to just once a week or having a water consumption goal for each day. Not sure what to choose? Sometimes keeping a journal of everything you eat or drink can offer some insight into an area where you could improve your health.
Give yourself some grace. Another pitfall of setting extreme goals is the associated feeling of failure when we don’t quite meet them. This is what makes every Valentine’s Day treat fair game by the time you reach February. Don’t go so far as to anticipate failure, but do anticipate times where you might experience a bump in your goal journey. After all, you are human and have taste buds, so things happen. Focusing on moderation keeps these times from stopping you in your tracks. Anticipate them by having a game plan in place to reset your focus. Maybe it’s an encouraging friend you can call or a picture of your kids to remind you why you’re focusing on life-long health. Whatever it is, cut yourself some slack and then get back on that horse.
Start where you are. I feel like this extreme goal pitfall happens most when trying to make physical activity goals. Like when your marathon-running neighbor tells you he/she has decided to add weight training four times per week and you decide that sounds like a great goal to take on for yourself. The only problem is that your current workout regimen consists of walking to the mailbox to talk to said neighbor. The outcome of that goal could end up just being a medical deductible met before March! So, even though we should all have physical activity 30-60 minutes daily, you might not be there yet. A moderation goal for something like this might look like adding one 30-minute workout each week. Once you’ve mastered that for a few weeks, add on another. This will help you achieve a more lasting active lifestyle and will be kinder to your body in the process.
As you set out to change your world with new resolutions for a healthy life, I wish you tons of success (in moderation, of course)!
Kim Bilger is a registered dietitian with a passion for helping people optimize their nutritional health. She lives in Edmond with her husband and three kids who appreciate her love of baking but not always her love of vegetables.