Nutrition in the New Year

Many New Year’s resolutions are made each year all with the right intentions yet fall by the wayside come early February. Research suggests that while approximately half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% of them achieve them. What are so many of us getting wrong when we set our goals and what can we do to avoid repeating these mistakes?

When it comes to our health and fitness the main problem is that a lot of the time the benefits of the changes we make are far off in the future and uncertain. For example, a reduction in our alcohol intake will save us money, probably improve our sleep and hopefully give us more time to exercise, however in terms of weight loss, and improving skin health, liver function and other health markers, the benefits to reducing or giving up alcohol may not be seen for many months or years.

Unfortunately in this TikTok era, we now live in, people want results and expect changes to be immediate, so while we know those pints of beers after work aren’t doing anything for our health, the immediate gratification those beers tend to provide far outweighs the potential risks to our health in the future.

This in itself highlights part of the problem, even with our good intentions on changing, if we are unable to delay gratification and bring our future health and well-being to the front of our mind, we will always be choosing the pleasure of now… that extra slice of cake, that extra glass of wine or missing our training session because it is raining outside.

So when thinking of a new year goal we need to have a clear picture of why and what we are hoping to achieve. This means the goal of “finally getting in shape” is a bit vague and inevitably setting yourself up for failure. We always want to make SMART goals. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART). The first step to behaviour change is to clearly understand what “it” is. So if we are talking about health and fitness goals then potentially our goal would be to lose 5kg by June, while lowering our blood pressure (assuming your doctor has flagged this as being high). These goals can be enhanced by setting a goal of maybe being able to run a sub-30-minute 5k and getting our first 5 unassisted pull-ups.

You can see the difference between this and “finally get in shape”. The more specific we make it and we include methods of tracking progress we immediately enhance our chances of adherence and progression. It is also important to remember progress is not linear so be patient with the goals you’ve set and remember the key to making changes stick is practice, practice, practice. The longer we can stick to the changes we make the more likely we are to make those changes permanent and automated.

One final point I want to make is to start small. The key to change is by creating the pathway of least resistance. I could start simply by putting an alarm on my phone or a calendar reminder every day telling me to drink a large glass of water upon waking. Not a big ask and something I think almost everyone can find time to do. This simple habit can improve our daily fluid intake, improving cognitive function, skin health and digestion. We can then look at adding more habits to this to make further progress. But you see we started with something simple. I could give you all a list of 20-30 things to do to improve your nutrition but if you started trying to do all of them you would quickly start making excuses and forgetting them and before you know it you wouldn’t be doing any of them, while the client I told to start with just that glass of water every morning would have made that behaviour automatic and have moved onto the next step.

The all-or-nothing approach that people seem to always take to making changes, seems to only serve up the latter. Instead start small, just like we can train our muscles in the gym, we can train our ability to delay gratification. By promising something small and then delivering on it over and over again you will find yourself making progress while not having to remove everything you enjoy out of your life.

If you are looking to take control of your nutrition this year and optimise your health before you do anything else make sure you are:

  • Drinking 2.5 litres of water a day (for women) and 3.5 litres of water a day (for men).
  • Getting in at least 20-25g of fibre a day (both soluble e.g. barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and insoluble e.g. wheat, vegetables and whole grains)
  • Getting in at least 1.5-2g of protein per kg of body weight. If you are over the age of 50 aim for 2-2.2g.
  • Eating more than 2 different types of fruit and 2 different types of veg every day as a minimum (potatoes don’t count)
  • Preparing at least 5 meals a week yourself

Good luck and if you need support setting goals or any more personalised nutritional advice, if you are on the HumanOS platform speak to one of your coaches here.

Chris, HumanOS Nutritionist