January is drawing to a cold close and with the first month of the new year nearly in the rear view mirror, many are wondering how those fitness and nutrition resolutions made on New Year’s Eve are faring?
Once cold winter weather sets in, it may be hard to get moving and even more difficult to want to eat anything healthy to eat like a cold salad. But craving warm, comfort food doesn’t have to derail good nutrition goals in 2022.
Get in the right mindset
Luisa Nayhouse who is a Behavioral Health Consultant with Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) Bariatric & Metabolic Institute made some helpful suggestions for getting 2022 off to a healthy start.
“If you want to accomplish a particular goal, then the important thing would be to understand that the choices you are making in the present moment lead you one step closer or one step further away from your goal,” Nayhouse said. “The choices we make in the present affect the outcomes we will have.”
Nayhouse said getting in the mindset of making healthier choices can be as simple as taking a few minutes to pack some vegetable snacks or low-sugar fruits to bring to work in place of cookies or doing food prep on the weekends instead of waiting until the last minute before meals for work.
“The more you fill your environment with better choices, the easier it will be to make a healthy start,” she added.
Nayhouse also pointed to a study showing of the 45% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful. The takeaway is to not be so hard on yourself if you slip up and to just keep making those healthy choices each day the best you can until they become habits, Nayhouse said.
“The important thing is to understand that we can begin changing our behaviors from this moment forward,” she said. “There is no need to lament over the past. Practicing mindfulness (staying in the moment) can help us to win in the moment over our weaknesses.”
Nayhouse said it is important to have a set of good coping skills when feeling stressed so the urge is not to turn to food for comfort.
“We need to be clear to ourselves about what we are trying to accomplish,” she said. “It helps to understand the value that eating healthy brings us: good hydration and nutrition help us in many areas of life. There is nothing more important that good health. Once we decide that is our goal, then we can focus on the steps we need to get there in a more specific manner.”
It’s not too late to get started with moving right now.
“We can get moving by taking a walk, going to the gym or cleaning our house,” Nayhouse said. “The key is to decide that there is benefit in exercise and movement and then make a plan of action.”
Start by setting a goal of taking a walk or going to the gym one or two times per week. Make small, achievable goals by using a planner or a scheduler on a phone. Make it more fun by listening to music while exercising and getting support from family and friends by asking them to join along. Try a group exercise class or sign up for a consultation with a trainer. Preparation and planning is the key to success.
The onset of cold weather makes it tough to get outside for exercise, but anyone can embrace the winter weather at times with ice skating, skiing, sledding or even playing in the snow with the kids. For those more comfortable indoors and at home, online fitness is exploding right now and many many free or subscription-based workouts through cable providers and the internet are available.
As for nutrition, the best advice for the new year is to get balanced.
Dieticians Julia Maher and Abbey Bartkowski of AHN’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute stress while fad diets like paleo and keto may work short-term, they are nearly impossible to maintain long-term.
“To have long-term success with healthy eating, no foods should be off-limits,” Maher said. “I believe having balanced meals that include non-starchy veggies like broccoli/cauliflower/carrots as well as lean proteins and carbs allow for optimal vitamin and mineral intake as well as feeling satisfied from your meal.”
Maher said portion control is key when it comes to healthy eating.
“Having foods like potatoes/rice/pasta/bread/cookies and other sweets/chips or pretzels is not ‘bad’ but keeping portions in mind is important,” she said.
When balancing a meal, Maher recommended making the plate half non-starchy veggies, 1/4 protein and 1/4 starch so carbohydrates are present but not taking up the entire plate. Also, reading labels is crucial when it comes to sweets or chips to help understand how big one serving is, what calories, carbs and fat it contains and to help control portions.
“Even though the time frame in which you are eating meals is different, it is still important to get the proper amount of calories and nutrients from your meals,” Bartkowski said. “Just because you are now only eating from 12 p.m. – 8 p.m., for example, does not mean you can eat macaroni and cheese all day and expect weight loss.”
Bartkowski said she has found intermittent fasting is usually helpful for individuals who have a hard time overeating especially at night.
“Having a time when they need to stop eating is helpful,” she said. “Within the eight hour time frame from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., it is still very possible to have three meals that consist of fruits, veggies, lean proteins and carbs, meet your appropriate calorie goal and prevent overeating at night.”
Finally, don’t expect overnight success.
“If you’re used to eating take-out every day, switching to home cooked meals seven days a week is going to be a major adjustment,” Bartkowski said. “Give yourself grace and be aware that not every meal is going to go perfectly and building new habits takes time.”