For those making a resolution to be healthier in the new year, it’s important to have a plan.
That’s according to IU Health LaPorte Hospital registered dietitian nutritionist Joy Gallagher. She says anyone considering diet or exercise as part of their New Year’s resolution should start by setting some attainable goals, “We know ourselves and so, when we sit down and set a goal, it should be reasonable and then something you can break down into smaller, doable steps. So, definitely planning it out and breaking it down so that you can take a step at a time.” What those steps might be depends on each individual. For example, those simply wishing to eat healthier may look at ways to add more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into their diets. On the other hand, people trying to lose weight may want to think about their eating style and cutting back on some unnecessary food intake.
Gallagher says writing down what, when, and how much you eat is a good way to get a conscious understanding of your eating habits. “A lot of times, we limit ourselves to experiencing our food through our taste buds and stomach, and that’s not the whole picture,” she says. “So it will give a different perspective and would be insightful to actually keep a journal. And that way, too, you can see if you’re meeting your step-by-step plan.”
Another thing to consider is why you eat. Gallagher says often, the reason isn’t simply hunger, “Sometimes – of course, I think we’ve experienced this at the Holidays – food is given as an expression of love and taken as an expression of love. And actually, food isn’t love, and if we can see situations in which we eat food, say, as a substitute for love or as an expression of love, we can maybe find other means – maybe giving fresh flowers to someone this winter, maybe doing something like volunteering, getting involved in expressing love in a different way.” The same thing also applies to other reasons for eating food, like stress relief, comfort, or fun. Gallagher recommends addressing these needs in non-food ways, maybe even ones that involve physical activity.
She says adding exercise to healthy-eating plans can go a long way in improving your health. “Folks, say for example, who are trying to maintain a healthy weight – they are very much more successful at coupling the good healthy food intake and physical activity,” Gallagher says. “That helps us to do it in a healthy way. It’s healthier for our body to retain more lean body mass and lose more body fat when we’re coupling eating well and being physically active.”