10 Keys to Make Your New Year’s Diet Resolution Stick

10 Keys to Make Your New Year’s Diet Resolution Stick

Byline: Janice Baker, Palomar Health Registered Dietitian 

It’s hard to avoid the post-holiday drum beats of changing habits, and eating and exercise patterns, diet/weight loss ads, and all the brilliant and effective marketing that gets us enthused and often temporarily motivated. Unfortunately, strict dieting and exercise commitments often fade and, in many cases, lead to more disappointment, guilt, shame and physical harm. This is especially true during the stressful and unexpected events of the past year. If you have been able to stay safe, fed, rested and healthy to the best of your ability, that is even more reason to be proud of those accomplishments. Surviving a pandemic is a huge effort and the last thing anyone needs are more reasons to feel shame or guilt.

Let’s look at some kinder, gentler and healthful ideas you might want to consider for next year. In fact, you don’t have to wait for next year, you can try these suggestions right now!

As a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and Diabetes Health and Education Specialist, I’ve seen the sadness, mental and physical harm coming from years of weight cycling and diet fads. I’d like to help you honor your body and health, and optimize your quality of life with these sustainable suggestions.

#1   Set boundaries

Setting boundaries keeps us safe. Routine protects us from chaos (for example, routine of packing a snack can protect us from overeating due to excess hunger later). Scheduling regular times of eating, activity, sleep and taking medications (if needed) are protective - our body works on a circadian pattern. Allow for flexibility such as travel, illness and significant life events. You may require extra rest/special foods, medications to heal and recover. We are human beings, not human doings.

#2 Enhance Activity

As we age, we lose muscle and the rate of loss accelerates as time goes on, especially with coexisting illness and disuse. Loss of muscle increases risks of or aggravates chronic illness such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and bone weakness. Increasing activity may help decrease the need for medications and enhance physical/mental health. Activity doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or stressful to work.

  • Break up inactive time: three minutes of movement for every 30 minutes of sitting.
  • Arm weights/stretchy bands can be used while watching TV to stimulate muscle tissue and increase glucose uptake, which can help with blood sugar control.
  • Purposeful and fun movement: hobbies, dancing, housework, volunteering, gardening/yardwork.

#3 Savor Your Food        

As opposed to restrictive, guilt-laden and number-centric diets, consider the gift and privilege of enjoying your food to the fullest. This isn’t the same as overeating or out of control/unhealthful eating. It’s releasing the burden of over restriction that often snaps back via overeating like an overstretched rubber band. Savor flavors and notice your satisfaction, hunger and fullness signals. Chew food well - an underrated but important part of digestion and satiety signals.

#4 Review / Update Medical Health Goals

Medical and healthcare goals change with time. These may include need for screenings (such as a colonoscopy, bone (DEXA) scans mammograms), medication adjustments, eye, dental and foot care.  Immunizations may need to be reviewed, especially if you have chronic disease. Ask about flu, pneumonia, shingles and other important and protective vaccines. These vaccines save lives and prevent devastating complications, especially with potential exposure to COVID19.

#5 Restore Your WIFI (Eating Signals)

It’s not just what you eat, it’s how you eat that can make a difference in weight, blood sugar and other health issues! A commonly overlooked reason for overeating/weight struggles is eating in front of screens. Eating while watching TV, phones and tablets is like texting while driving. It’s hard for our body to recognize fullness when we are distracted. The screen may also become a subliminal signal to trigger us to eat (habit).

#6 Be Sweet to Your Feet

Invest in good quality, comfortable shoes that help you feel good while walking. The right shoes (and orthotics if necessary) can also assist with balance, reduce risk of injury and relieve pressure on sensitive areas of your feet that may be more prone to wounds. Ask your doctor to check your feet at every medical visit, review foot care, and ask about a referral to a podiatrist if necessary.

#7 Rekindle a Fun Flame

Have screen time and commitments gotten in the way of creative fun and enjoyment? This is good for health and well-being, too. Think about what you used to do for fun such as art, music, dancing, woodworking, knitting or other activities. You don’t need to do these perfectly to benefit.

#8 Nourish Yourself, Simply

As opposed to overstressing about what to eat, consider a more relaxed, sustainable and respectful approach to eating. Consider time, budget, culture, preferences, skills and food accessibility. Regular meals and snacks (if needed) keep your body and brain fueled. Keep well-hydrated (water preferred). Include fruit and/or vegetables each meal/snack if possible (fresh, frozen, canned are all good). Remember undereating often leads to overeating - it’s biology.

#9 Restore Self-Compassion

Our bodies are meant to change as time goes on. Remember, despite the profitable media driven and cultural influences, health needs and self-care also mean adjusting our expectations and references. “To compare is to despair” couldn’t be truer in today’s world.  Some weight gain is expected with age, as this is nature’s way of building in resilience in case of illness. We wear different shoes and eyeglasses as time goes on to keep us safe, too.

#10 Know Your Influencers

Yourself! Your self-talk, self-respect, self-compassion drives self-care. Be kind to yourself by honoring your needs for food, rest, enjoyment and human connection. Seeking mental health care is just as important as medical care. Research and question credibility of those who give advice. Internet sources, marketing and advertising can be misleading and even harmful.

Set Goals into Motion. Write down three things that you may consider starting. Some ideas:
  • Lift weights/use stretchy bands in front of TV
  • Pack a lunch and snack (such as a sandwich and fruit) for work or an outing
  • Set bedtimes to allow for 7- 9 hours of sleep per night (this is associated with better health/weight management). Let your doctor know if you snore or have sleep problems
  • Stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables to add to meals
  • Set up medical/dental appointments for annual physicals, follow ups and screenings
  • Dine/snack with background music or outside on a patio if possible, instead of in front of screens
  • Invest in good quality shoes
  • Rekindle a lost hobby - music, art, dancing, knitting, woodworking, or start a new one!
  • Reach out in ways you can such as volunteer work, letter writing, calling friends (social isolation is known to be harmful to health)

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!