by Elana Lycos, sophomore, dietetics major
If your resolution for the New Year focuses on food, then you are part of the majority. Whether you’re hoping to lose weight, gain weight, have more energy, or even just “feel good” overall, the right resolution might be the key. However, New Year’s resolutions can be challenging to stick with. The main reason people fall short of their desired end goal is because they set unreasonably high expectations for themselves that require immediate lifestyle changes.
One thing you have to remember is that lifestyle changes take time. Due to this, you should start with a goal that is within reach, and continue to make progress throughout the year. For example, if you are hoping to shed a few pounds this year, don’t start by cutting out all dessert from your diet. Instead, set your first goal and make it obtainable. For example, cut yourself back to two desserts per week or something similar. That way, your body won’t be completely deprived of the sugary, fatty foods that it has grown accustomed to. If you eliminate all desserts, your body will start to have unbearable cravings, that will likely result in you binge eating a box full of donuts from the nearest Tim Hortons.
In the past, one of my resolutions was to lose weight, but I cannot say that I was satisfied with the results. I ended up falling back into old eating patterns, and then just disregarding my resolution entirely. The problem was that I went about achieving my weight-loss goal in all the wrong ways. For one, I tried “fad” diets, such as going gluten free, counting my carbs, sugar free, etc. All of these overnight lifestyle changes that I forced upon my body caused me to crave the foods that I no longer allowed myself to eat. In the end, I wound up back where I started, and not weighing any less.
This year, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat clean. What I mean by that is I want to incorporate more whole foods into my diet, and lessen my intake of unnatural foods that contain artificial ingredients. Obviously, this is a very vague resolution, as well as one that requires an entire lifestyle change. As a result, I have set several mini goals for myself that I intend to focus on throughout the year. To simplify things, I assigned one goal to each month of the year.
My 12-month Plan:
- January: Keep a journal of foods eaten throughout each day as a reference guide. Some benefits of keeping a food journal can be found online.
- February: Refer to the recordings from January, and cut out the main artificial food that was consumed throughout the month. Also, try to avoid Valentine’s Day candy.
- March: Refer to the recordings from January again and eliminate the second most consumed artificial food.
- April: Incorporate a big colorful salad into your diet at least three times each week (this should not be hard; I love salads!)
- May: At the start of summer break, make some new plant-based foods to replace old favorites. For example, zucchini muffins, kale chips, black bean burgers, etc. Also, visit a farmers market for inspiration and purchase fresh produce. Here are a few blogs that walk you through the process of making the foods listed above:
- June: Replace ice cream with homemade fruit popsicles. Here's a great recipe to follow:
- July: Focus on hydration. Drinks contribute largely to your well-being, so drink at least 72 ounces of water each day. Only ingest up to two drinks of non-water substances (i.e., juice, pop, etc.) per week.
- August: Make a plan regarding what groceries to buy while at school. Create a budget that will allow you to purchase healthy produce. Choose My Plate is a great resource for information on recipes and menus, eating on a budget and other details.
- September: Plan ahead by pre-packaging snacks (fruits, veggies, whole grain crackers, etc.) so that you can grab them on your way out for class/work.
- October: Find an alternative to Halloween sweets, like homemade trail mix with almonds/peanuts/cashews, raisins and dark chocolate; cooked and seasoned pumpkin seeds; or dried fruit.
- November: Only consume one dessert on Thanksgiving. If you happen to still be hungry, eat more of the yummy veggies.
- December: Christmas cookies galore! Limit yourself to one cookie per week over Christmas break to avoid becoming attached to artificial sugars again. While at home, load up on fruits and veggies that mom bought from the store. Read the nutrition labels on the foods at home and try to avoid unknown ingredients. Throughout the month, keep track of the food that you consume each day, and at the end of the month, compare your new diet to the one that you started with back in January to track your progress. Keep going!
As you can see, my goals are within reason, and can be attained pretty easily. At the same time, each goal directs me down a path that will ultimately result in a new lifestyle. Though the finished result may not be instantaneous, in the end, the outcome will be worth it because it will be a lasting outcome. That is the difference between lifestyle changes, and goals that are made in spur-of-the-moment decisions. If you truly want to change your body and have lasting results, then you need to formulate a plan to make a lifestyle change. Your plan can start this year, with a promising New Year’s resolution!