Another year over… and another begins! While the New Year is a great motivator to set goals and make changes for the better, less than 10% of us actually follow through for more than a few weeks (?!). Improving health is one of the most popular New Year resolutions, and sheer enthusiasm can lead us into disappointing traps of spur-of-the-moment goals that are often unrealistic and too optimistic. Instead, we need to think long-term – do you want to get stronger or perhaps get more hours sleep? Research has found that goal-setting AND planning are both important for achieving health and fitness goals in the long term.
A rule of thumb (you may remember this one from school days), make goals ‘SMART’ – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-specific. Maybe it’s time to rethink that promise you made to take up ten gym classes a week and drink green smoothies every morning…
Whatever your health goals may be, start your new year on track with these 6 steps:
1. Ditch the diets
While crash diets might help shrug off a few quick kilos after the festive feasts, they deprive your body of essential nutrients and leave you frustrated and struggling in the long term. Instead, focus on ways that you can improve your diet on a daily basis – aim to set up a regular eating routine and make whole grains, fresh fruits and veg and lean protein your staples to avoid craving traps and hunger-pangs.
2. Gather your troops
Support is key to long-term achievement – whether it’s moral support or a buddy for workouts or recipe sharing, having a positive environment will make the journey more enjoyable and achieving goals easier. Incorporating social activities into your routine also improves mood and allows you to learn from others by sharing ideas, recipes and tips to keep everyone motivated (and spread the healthy message!).
3. Plan … to plan!
Forward-planning your weekly meals and shopping lists can save you precious time and stress down the track when things get hectic. Even a rough plan of the week’s meals can help guide your shopping trips and keep you on track. Stash up on frozen veg, canned beans and microwavable rice for quick weekday meals without having to think twice.
4. Don your apron
Cooking your own food is the best way to know exactly what’s going in your meal and how much you’re plating up. Fit in another weeknight of home-cooking or bulk-cook on weekends for the week ahead, and try a mini kitchen makeover to make cooking that extra bit more enjoyable (a new non-stick frying pan?).
5. Go back to basics
The foundations never change! Think fresh, colourful fruit and veg – aim to add another veg serve to meals, meet a new fruit or veg and add it to your routine. As Michael Pollen said: don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food!
6. Make healthy a habit out of it
While old habits may die hard, putting new healthier habits in their place can help to nudge them away. This can be as simple as setting a bedtime curfew, having brekkie every morning or carrying a water bottle with you to work.
Lastly, know that perfection is improbable (but, not impossible) and be prepared for hiccups – the important thing is to acknowledge them and get back on track.
You can do it!
Check out some delicious summer salad recipes here!
This article was written by Michelle Hsu, who is an intern at The Biting Truth and is currently studying her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics at The University of Sydney.