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Elkhart General dietitian shares tips for staying healthy beyond New Year’s resolutions

by Kate Glick, RD, LD

Elkhart General Hospital Outpatient Clinical Dietitian 

It’s inevitable: A new year hits and you feel an unexplainable push to “be better.” New Year’s resolutions are everywhere you turn in January. But what about after January? How can we make our new year resolutions last us all year and turn them into lifestyle changes that last us throughout the year and into future years?

Balance your meals – Any “diet” that promotes cutting out entire food groups is not the diet for you. Healthy eating is a balance of all foods. Don’t completely ban a food from your eating habits, but ensure that all foods are represented. Include fruit, veggies, a variety of protein sources, and CARBS. Think about your plate at mealtime: half your plate should be fruits and veggies, a quarter of your plate should be grains and a quarter of your plate should be protein. Don’t forget dairy as well – low-fat milk or yogurt are great sources of calcium and protein

Focus on hunger cues – All too often when we start a “diet” we rely too heavily on eating what the meal plan tells us, and ignoring what our own body is telling us. Take a moment before eating and ask yourself: “Am I hungry?” “Was I hungry an hour ago and I ignored it?” “Did I eat too much at lunch and I’m not yet hungry for this snack?” While a consistent eating schedule is important, our bodies can tell us what and when we need it. When we start restrictive diets, we tend to ignore those true hunger cues. And when we inevitably break those rules, we end up going overboard because we had been so restricted for so long. Take a moment before, during, and after a meal and reflect on your body’s true hunger/fullness cue and trust it.

Eat foods that keep you satisfied – You want foods that will satisfy you, but also that will keep you satisfied. You may find that your snack of crackers or bag of pretzels in the afternoon satisfy that hunger, but you seem to feel a pang less than an hour later. Foods that are high in protein and foods that are high in fiber keep you satisfied longer. Fiber can be found in a lot of different food groups: fruits and veggies, whole grains (like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, fiber cereal like oatmeal or Cheerios), beans, nuts and legumes. Protein does not have to be just from meat sources. Cheese, greek yogurt, beans, eggs and soy products are all great sources of protein. So instead of pretzels, try some whole wheat crackers and cheese. Or hummus and fresh veggies. Or an apple with peanut butter.

Hydrate – Your body needs fluid to function. Being properly hydrated helps your body regulate temperature, cushion sensitive tissues like your spinal cord and joints, and eliminate wastes. But how much is enough for proper hydration? Everyone needs a different amount of fluid for their body depending on age, sex, weight, activity level and pregnancy/breastfeeding status. The obvious answer is to drink when you’re thirsty. But if we’re ignoring hunger cues, we could be ignoring thirst cues as well! A good start is 8 cups (64 oz).

Move – The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week, and 2 days a week of strength training. Sound like a lot? It doesn’t have to be! Split those 150 minutes up throughout the week. Any movement that gets your heart beating faster than normal counts. Don’t want to go to the gym to lift weights? Don’t have free weights at home? Pick up a couple of canned foods and use those instead of weights. Use your body weight and do wall sits, pushups, and sit-ups. Even some forms of yoga count and you can do that in the comfort of your living room.

Keep going – Health is not all-or-nothing. Maybe you over-ate a dinner, or it’s your birthday and you had a piece of cake. That’s okay, get rid of the all-or-nothing mindset. Don’t beat yourself up over a poor decision and decide the whole day, week or year is ruined. Acknowledge that you are a human and mistakes are made, and then move on. Try again next meal, or next snack. When we let speed bumps completely derail our journey towards health, we end up in a cycle of resolutions that never get past January.

About Benjamin Dashley