The holiday food coma is over and many of us are well into a routine of healthier habits. The New Year serves as a catalyst for lifestyle changes including two very popular resolutions: shedding weight and eating sensibly. But with any change comes challenge.
The momentum can slow down after a while and many people abandon their resolutions after a few weeks or months. If losing weight or eating healthier sound like your goals for the new year, Rina Jordan, Ogden Clinic Registered Dietitian has some tips for sticking to it when the going gets tough.
Beware of Quick Fixes
Words like “detox” and “toxins” start buzzing this time of year. After our December indulgences, a cleansing of our dietary sins sounds like the perfect fix. Depending on who you ask (and what they’re selling) a detox diet may promise increased energy, weight loss, and a flush of toxins from the body. What they lack, however, is evidence.
Detoxifying the body is a myth; our bodies have organs and systems to do the cleansing for us. The liver, kidneys, skin, and large intestine work minute-by-minute to remove wastes, excess water and minerals, and other toxic substances from our bodies. The old adage fits: if a diet plan sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Stop Dieting and Start Living
Most people can follow a strict or unusual diet for a few days, maybe even a few weeks, but how long is anyone willing to be miserable? Dieting is not a sustainable way to live. Instead of drastic diets or unrealistic goals, think of gradual, specific choices that can help you achieve your weight loss or management goals. If you can measure it, you can change it. Some measurable short term goals might include:
- Getting the right amount of protein, fiber-rich carbs, and healthy fats each day
- Increasing physical activity
- Finding alternatives to sugary beverages
- Planning your grocery list and sticking to it
- Cooking at home and incorporating the family
- Preparing meals that can be reheated throughout the week for a quick lunch or dinner
- Drinking enough water every day
It takes planning to achieve any type of goal. Our lives are busy, but setting a plan and a lifestyle pattern can help.
Take Advantage of Resources for Day-to-Day Eating
Lost on how many calories you should be consuming? What’s a healthy amount of protein? Can you eat too much fiber? If you have dietary questions, you’re not alone! Fortunately, there are many tools today to help people understand how to eat for their goals.
A good place to start is the USDA Choose My Plate website. This site serves as a primer on healthy eating. You can also subscribe to this US government site for regular emails with nutrition hints, ideas and updates. Find Choose My Plate at:
Another great resource is The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics, an organization of nutrition professionals who provide hundreds of articles for adults and children. There’s even information for special diets like vegan or gluten-free. Here, you can find not only articles about nutrition, but useful information on exercise, recovery, and optimizing your health.
Find The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics at:
An increasingly popular tool for weight loss is tracking your calories and activity with apps like My Fitness Pal. By taking the guesswork out of calories and integrating over five million foods (including packaged foods and fast food items), My Fitness Pal was rated the best free program in overall satisfaction by a Consumer Reports diet ranking. You can even invite your friends to keep each other accountable or sync your FitBit® to the app to log calories burnt!
Finally, a visit to a registered dietitian has the benefit of a personalized nutrition plan. Dietitians help people of all ages make sustainable lifestyle changes that promote balance. Their goal is not to put people on a ‘fruit-and-veggie-only’ diet, but to help them create realistic food plans that are accepted and attainable. There’s still room for indulgences on a balanced diet because flexibility is the name of the game!
Sleep Matters (more than you might think!)
One of the easiest ways to sabotage your progress is something we may not associate much with weight loss: healthy sleep. Occasional lack of sleep may not be harmful, but if you’re consistently fueled by five hours of shut-eye and a large coffee, your body knows it.
Skimping on sleep affects the brain’s frontal lobe activity, responsible for impulse control and decision making. Some have compared a “sleepy brain” to being drunk because you begin to lose the mental clarity for good decisions. Those who get 7-9 hours of sleep are able to squash unhealthy cravings much easier than a sleep deprived person, who may reach for junk foods and comfort foods because they lack the impulse to say no.
Lack of sleep also throws off two important hormones: gherlin which signals the brain when it’s time to eat, and leptin which cues the brain to stop eating. Leptin increases during sleep, telling your body you have plenty of energy for your needs. With too little leptin, your body sends a series of messages to the thyroid gland and brain, telling them you’re hungry when you are not. A decrease of leptin and gherlin can ultimately slow your metabolism as well.
Resolutions can be complicated; they require us to take a hard look at our thoughts and behaviors. But they’re possible for everyone, and all positive results start with a plan.