Well, a week into January and I've already seen countless advertisements from "wellness" companies encouraging another restrictive diet for the new year. I've noticed this year that even grocery stores are jumping onto this trend, too, by putting diet foods, supplements, and products on sale front and centre in their flyers.
Now, there's nothing wrong with deciding to make different food choices, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to make positive changes towards your health. But when we look at the data (and believe me, there's tons), restrictive dieting isn't going to get you there. It is, however, likely to make you feel guilty when you slip up, will increase your chances of developing disordered eating habits, and will definitely decrease your enjoyment of life.
So, if improving your health in 2023 is a goal for you, I've come up with a few ideas that can each have a big impact on your health. And the best part? They have nothing to do with restricting foods.
Improve Your Hydration. On average, adults need about 3L of fluids each day (more for regular exercisers, for folks over 65, and for pregnant people). We can rely on our "wet" food intake (ie fruits, veggies, beans, oatmeal, etc) for about 1L, leaving 2L for us to consume via fluids. If you think your fluid intake is a little low, this might be a good goal to work towards. Start by adding one additional cup of fluid to your day and slowly increase every few days. Notice that I am saying "fluid", and not specifically water. Any fluid will work to provide hydration - water, milk, juice, even coffee. And (since I do get asked this question often), adding lemon to your water is a great way to give your water a lovely lemony flavour. It is not, however, going to help your body detox.
Eat More of Something. What that "something" is depends on your current eating habits and your current health status. Consider eating more protein, vegetables or fruit, or maybe you're wanting to eat more vegetarian meals, or more calcium rich foods... your options are endless! Considering how many of us don't get enough, a great one to consider is eating more fibre. (Check out the article I wrote about fibre here if you want some info on how much to eat, the health benefits, and a few of my recommendations for high fibre foods.) Be sure to set yourself up for success by taking into consideration how much of that food or nutrient you're currently eating (on average). If your goal is to eat more vegetables, it will feel a lot more manageable to try to eat a few extra carrots at a meal than to suddenly try to eat 8 more servings of vegetables in a single day.
Move More. This doesn't have to mean committing to hours at the gym (or even that you have to go to the gym at all!). Move your body in ways that feels good for you. If intentional movement is new for you, aim for 10 minutes of some sort of physical activity a few days a week and go from there. Choose activities that feel interesting and/or non-intimidating to you - and yes! walking absolutely counts. If you're currently active or already exercising regularly, moving more might look like adding an additional 5 minutes to few workouts each week or add an extra movement day to your schedule. Make things as enjoyable as you can: put on some music, choose an activity you like, or ask a friend to join you. And remember, the best time to exercise is the time that works for you. If you're not a morning person, don't schedule your workouts for 6am.
Spend More Time With People You Love. Making time to see and connect with loved ones (in ways that honour everyone's comfort levels) is one of my intentions for 2023. After 3 years of living through various levels of isolation, I think we've all realized how much meaningful connection with others contributes to our mental wellbeing, and mental health is an incredibly important component of our health overall.
Take Up a New Hobby (Or Restart an Old One!). Starting something new can be intimidating but exploring interests and developing hobbies can enrich our lives. They provide a positive outlet for stress, they challenge us, help us to express our creativity, and improve our self-confidence. They can even introduce us to new people we may not otherwise have the chance to meet. Plus, they might help us combat the January blahs so many of us experience.
If your goals include improving your health this year, don't let the wellness industry fool you into thinking you have to banish all sugar from your diet, exercise excessively, or buy only organic foods. Let 2023 be the year you set goals that encompass your overall health and prioritize your enjoyment of life.
Cheering You On,