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10 New Year's Resolutions From a Registered Dietitian

Updated: Jan 15

Written by: Natalie Pirolli MS, RDN, LDN, RYT | January 10, 2024


It's the time of year for recuperating after the holidays, reflecting on the past year, taking some time for yourself, and unfollowing or muting the Instagram accounts that are sharing the details of their current detoxes or cleanses.

 

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to complete a January detox or cleanse. This actually won't make you healthier or happier (at all) in the new year.  Like most diet-culture-related things, I find a lot of New Year's resolutions around diet and exercise to be restrictive, rigid, and unsustainable long term. This may be in part why it's estimated that 80% of people let go of their resoultions by February (and why it's estimated that diets fail 95% of the time). Weight-focused goals tend to not only be unsustainable but result in low self-esteem, disordered eating, and yo-yo dieting.


This is why I am proposing a new approach to resolution making this year. Instead of going into the new year with weight-focused goals we plan to achieve with strict rules about how we will exercise and what we will eat and not eat, what if we started focusing more on improving our physical and mental well-being rather than a number on the scale? What if we focused on goals that would help us optimize our health while developing a more positive relationship with food and our bodies?


Here are some goals that can help us do just that:

 

1. Look at your diet from the perspective of "What can I add?" or "What is missing?"

Instead of approaching health with the mindset diet culture has created—that we only need to restrict and remove items from our diet in order to be healthy—I've found it's more effective to start from the place of thinking: what can I add? More often than not, our diets are missing something: enough protein, healthy fats or carbs; adequate amounts of nutrients like magnesium, antioxidants, or fiber, or other important things like enjoyment and satisfaction.


When we add what we're missing, it not only helps to displace the foods and beverages that are not be contributing as much to our health or happiness, but promotes an abundance mindset vs. a scarcity mindset around food (more on this later). It also helps us fill in any nutrient gaps to lay the groundwork for a solid nutritional foundation—a key component of our physical and mental well-being.


Not sure where to start? Here a few ideas:

  • Aim for meals to include all 3 macronutrients (carb, protein, fat) and snacks to include at least 2 (carb + protein, carb + fat) to help with satisfaction, satiety, meeting your needs, and balancing blood sugar levels.

  • Add ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, or hemp hearts to your oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, and/or baked goods for a boost of fiber and essential omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Opt for soy or cows milk (if you do not have an allergy) in your lattes, smoothies, hot cocoa, etc. for a boost of protein to help you meet your daily needs and provide satiety.

  • Roast a couple of broccoli crowns to add veggie to your weekly meals like egg omelets/scrambles, pasta dishes, mac and cheese, grain bowls, etc. for a boost of fiber, vitamin c, glutathione (an antioxidant that helps the body naturally detox among other things) and other nutrients.

  • Add arugula or another leafy green to your sandwiches or wraps, on top of a pizza, or as a base for your dinner (think: instead of just meat + potatoes try it on a bed of dressed arugula) for an easy veggie source that's loaded with vitamin A, K, potassium and more.

  • Include a side of fruit whether it's berries, clementines, an apple, pear, etc. to a meal and/or snack for extra vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. For example, if you typically have just a protein bar for a snack, or just a sandwich at lunch, try having some fruit with it.

 

2. Eat breakfast. Even if you're not hungry!

As the name implies, we're supposed to break the overnight fast and provide our bodies with nutritious fuel in the morning. Regularly eating breakfast helps to reduce stress, balance blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy metabolic rate, and provide necessary energy to concentrate and seize the day. Aim for a breakfast that includes a good source of protein (ex. eggs, Greek yogurt, smoked salmon, breakfast patty, smoothie with protein powder, etc.) and eat within 30-60 minutes or waking if possible.


PS: a cup of coffee is NOT breakfast! Speaking of which...

 

3. Drink water before your morning cup of caffeine

Instead of your first morning sips coming from a mug of coffee or tea, aim to start your day with water. This small, though at times challenging, tweak helps us to rehydrate and may even set the tone to reach for more water throughout the day. Plus when we start the day with caffeine on an empty stomach (or whenever we have caffeine on an empty stomach) we feel more of those post-caffeinated anxious jitters and stress.


Pro tip: add electrolytes to your water to really boost hydration. This can actually make you feel more refreshed and alert and provide you with longer-lasting energy than your cup of Joe can on its own. (It's true! I've had multiple clients try this and have experienced myself how optimizing hydration and mineral status improves energy levels and can result in less cups of coffee throughout the day).


Another tip: When you're about to reach for that second or third cup of coffee, check in on your hydration status and try having a full glass/bottle of water or electrolyte water first. You might be surprised how energizing hydration and minerals can be!


4. Incorporate more forms of movement that you enjoy

There are a lot of New Year's deals for gyms, group classes, yoga studios, at-home fitness equipment and programs—you name it. Before spending the money, I encourage you to consider what forms of movement you enjoy the most. Do you hop on the Ellipitcal because you think you need to make up for eating or to control your weight, or because it is enjoyable, reduces stress, clears your head, is good for your heart, {insert another non-weight-focused motivator}?


When we choose activities we enjoy rather than ones we feel will make our bodies look a certain way or burn the most calories, we not only reap more of the mental health aspects of exercise but are more inclined to keep up with exercise habits and keep moving long-term.

 

5. Let go of food and exercise rules

Quite literally the opposite of how diet culture is recommending we enter the new year, and for good reason. Having rigid rules around what we can and cannot eat, when we eat, how we need to exercise, etc. gets us out of tune with our body's needs. We no longer listen to hunger and fullness cues, cravings (which can actually be a sign of nutrients we need), food preferences, or forms of movement that feel good in our bodies.


The rules we think keeps us "in control" of our health and weight typically backfire, causing a preoccupation with food—making us thinking about food all of the time (especially the foods we "can’t" have), which is exactly what leads us to overeat, give in to our cravings, and feel guilt and shame. Rules can also lead to disordered eating and eating disorders. (And it's also worth mentioning, we aren't 100% in control of our weight and shape in the first place!)


When we look at food from an abundance mindset (I can eat and enjoy all foods) rather than a scarcity mindset (I can only eat or I can't eat X, Y, Z) it decreases the likelihood of overeating our "off limits" foods and prevents that binge-shame-restrict cycle. Letting go of rules allows us to make peace with food and no longer view them as good or bad, allowed or off limits. This helps us get back in tune with our bodies needs and preferences and actually enjoy eating without guilt and avoid feeling shameful if we break a food or exercise rule.


6. Aim to eat regularly throughout the day

Eating about every 3-5 hours throughout the day helps to balance our blood sugar levels and avoid the blood sugar lows that can lead to fatigue, irritability, fogginess, and an increase in epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol levels. Low blood sugar can also lead to cravings, especially for carbs and sweets. (Have you ever walked in the door famished after working/being out all day looking for the carbiest carbs in sight? Low blood sugar might have been why!)


Regularly eating throughout the day also helps to:

  • provide a steady supply of nutrients and energy that our body needs

  • strengthen our hunger and fullness cues

  • stimulate our digestive system to help with regularity

  • support metabolic efficiency

  • improve focus and concentration


7. Practice Gratitude

Regularly practicing gratitude has been linked to better sleep, self-esteem, stress management, mental health, resilience, optimism and more. Some simple ways we show our bodies gratitude include:

  • Cooking/eating nourishing foods that we enjoy

  • Moving in ways that bring us comfort, energy, joy, stress relief, etc.

  • Incorporating regular self-care practices (whether it's keeping ourselves hydrated, treating ourselves to a spa day or anything in between)

  • Writing a letter to our body to thank it for all it does (like idk, keeping us alive?!)

  • Doing a body scan where we focus on a body part, think about what it's done for us today, and say "thank you" before moving on to the next body part (ex. Feet: kept us grounded, helped us chase our toddler... Arms: held or hugged a loved one, brought in our heavy groceries so we could eat...)

It may feel silly to tell our body parts "thank you" at first but over time this can actually change the way we view not only our bodies but ourselves. When we practice gratitude towards a particular area (like our bodies), it results in us being more optimistic about that area.


8. Point out at least one positive every time you look in the mirror

We have a natural tendency to focus on the negative. And in a world of Instagram filters and photoshop, we are constantly being reminded of the unrealistic expectation to be "flawless." If you pick apart your features when you look in the mirror or at a photo of yourself, try following up with something positive, or even better, first looking for the positives. (My eyes look bright, my hair came out good today, I'm really liking this outfit...)

We can expand this mindset by also noticing: the good in others, what is going right, and the positive parts of our day. Overtime, we can actually create a habit where the good—in ourselves, in others, in the world—stands out to us more than the bad.


9. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend or loved one

Would you be angry with a friend for gaining weight? Would you criticize a child for eating something they enjoyed? Before judging, getting angry, or punishing yourself because of your eating and exercise habits, remember you deserve to give yourself the same love and kindness you show others.


Showing ourselves compassion doesn't always come as easily or naturally as it does with our loved ones. The good news is, being compassionate with others—practicing non-judgement, not sizing them up or making assumptions about them, knowing there is more to them and their story—can help us to become more compassionate with ourselves. To quote author Brianna Wiest "many people say that you have to love yourself first before you can love others, but really, if you learn to others, you will learn to love yourself."


10. Aim for progress, not perfection

I personally like the mindset of being a work in progress versus feeling like there is a place of perfection I'm trying to achieve. First, because "perfection" doesn't really exist. And second, because it makes me feel like I can continuously be bettering myself rather than trying to reach a certain endpoint or place or perfection. It's especially important to avoid trying to be "perfect" when setting new goals. Creating this high standard makes it more likely we'll throw in the towel when we miss one little part of our routine, or perhaps not even try in the first place due to fear of failing. Progress is what keeps us moving forward day after day.


These are goals that are meant to be worked and strengthened on over time. Remember that quick fixes and short-term plans typically don't result in long-term success. When making goals around our health and well-being, try to avoid the crash diets and detoxes—if it is instructed to be followed for 3 days, 1 week, 1 month, etc. it's not going to provide long-term results. Instead, we need to think about sustainability: what habits and behaviors would I want to keep up long term? 


And remember to give yourself grace as you begin developing new habits and aim for progress not perfection.



Interested in learning how you can improve your nutritional foundation and relationship with food and your body? Reach out with any questions or book a free 15-minute consultation call. And stay tuned for more by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.

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