Dr. Akua Woolbright, Nutrition Program Director for Whole Cities Foundation.
As we head into a new year, the tradition of setting healthy resolutions draws near. It is a time of self-reflection, introducing ourselves to new goals and leaving old habits behind. Many people will adopt a new diet, join a gym, or begin meal prepping, only to find these actions fade away in the first few months. The key to maintaining long-term changes to your lifestyle lies in your intention.
Shift Your Focus
We give so much to others, and it is time we extended that same grace to ourselves. For some, this may be even more true during the holiday season when we are entertaining, shopping and cooking for others. I want to remind you that it is okay to be selfish and prioritize our own health and wellness by making the firm decision to nourish our minds, bodies and spirits. By establishing healthy boundaries and loving yourself first, you will have more to offer others. Creating a plan and deciding which healthy habits you are going to maintain will help you to be more consistent.
Steps in the Right Direction
The initial step is to start—or continue—to be mindful. When we can be truthful with ourselves and identify potential challenges and temptations, we can devise a plan to address them.
Those of you who are managing your diabetes may be concerned about weight gain but it is important to remember that it does not just come from our holiday meals. Contributing factors include increased snacking and drinking, as well as less physical activity. This is especially problematic in colder climates where outdoor activities may be limited. Identifying the reasons behind our weight gain and the desire to stress eat will make it easier to create and sustain a plan that will get us through the holidays and the entire year.
I suggest that you take time to make a list of the challenges and obstacles you expect to face when it comes to maintaining your wellness practices, and then write down concrete ways you will address each one. For example, if you plan to have long shopping days, you might decide to pack healthy snacks and water or schedule a break at a restaurant that serves healthy dishes. For fitness, you might park farther from the entrance or walk briskly around the mall. Think about ways you can maintain your healthy lifestyle practices and set your intention now. Also, it is important to set goals. Decide how many steps you plan to take each day, how often you will go to the gym, which healthy dishes you will add to the holiday meal, how many servings of fruits and vegetables you will consume each day, how often you will eat sweets, as well as other fitness and healthy eating goals. Then, ask a trusted loved one to help you create, and stick with, your plan.
If you don’t already have a daily wellness practice in place, this is a great time to start one.
Once again, we are entering the stressful holiday season while simultaneously facing the cold and flu season and a resurgence of COVID-19. This stress, compounded with unhealthy eating habits, is a trap that can compromise our immune systems and lower our body’s ability to fight off illnesses.
Below are some tips to kickstart our healthy eating plan to keep us strong both physically and mentally:
- Adopt a plant-based diet. This does not mean you have to become a vegetarian. A plant-based diet means you are consuming mostly foods derived from plants. When grocery shopping, buy fresh, whole foods from the Earth. Stock up on green and colorful vegetables and fruits, legumes, whole grains, and unroasted and unsalted nuts and seeds. These foods will help strengthen your immune system and fight off disease.
- Move your body. We should be walking a minimum of 7,500 to 10,000 steps per day1. I enjoy practicing walking meditations. It gets my body moving, but I’m also carving out time to relax and re-center myself. Walking briskly for 30 minutes on most days helps with weight maintenance and offers tremendous health benefits, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Walking for just 10 minutes after each meal may help to lower blood pressure, control blood sugar, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Cut back on sugar. Sweet treats are all around us during the holidays. Slowing down your consumption of sugary foods and beverages is an important part of your wellness plan. If you need to feed your sweet tooth, try replacing your go-to snack or beverage with an ounce of unroasted and unsalted nuts or seeds, fresh or dried fruit, a small piece of dark chocolate, coconut water, a green smoothie or herbal tea. Eating a small salad, cup of vegetable soup or light portion of nutrient-dense leftovers can also help to curb your cravings.
- Get plenty of rest. Adults are recommended to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night2. Sleep plays a vital role in our physical health. Lack of proper sleep can increase our risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
If you are new to following a plan, be sure to start small and add more layers to your plan as you adjust. If we want to sustain these habits well beyond the holiday season, we have to train and listen to our bodies.
This article originally appeared on wholecitiesfoundation.org. Written by Dr. Akua Woolbright, Ph.D., is an authoritative expert on nutrition with a passion for helping individuals and communities achieve healthier lives. She leads Whole Cities Foundation’s Let’s Talk Food nutrition program.
Foresters Financial and its employees, agents and life insurance representatives do not provide, on Foresters behalf, legal, estate, health, medical or tax advice. Consult your physician or licensed healthcare professional for any questions or information about your medical care.
The author of this article and Whole Foods Market Foundations are solely responsible for the content therein. Foresters Financial makes no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this work.
421481 CAN/US (01/23)