12 healthy New Year’s Resolutions that do not involve dieting

It’s that time of year again! As we review the past 365 days, we contemplate how we can turn a new page and start fresh. Such reflection often results in ambitious, and unsustainable goal setting, which can set you up to fail. Common new year’s resolutions are aggressive dieting programs, weight loss goals, or going from zero to one hundred with an exercise routine.

Already, I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard the phrase “I’m just going to start over in January”, or “I’m going to focus on this more in the new year”. Usually this “starting over” or “focusing more” involves food or habit a person feels they need to eliminate. Instead of concentrating on what we want to take away, let’s focus on what we can add to your routine for better health.

This column provides 12 ideas of new year’s resolutions — one for each month of 2022 — that can enhance your overall health and longevity, daily routine and mental headspace. It usually takes more than one month to create and sustain a new habit, but if you adopt any or all of these resolutions as part of your lifestyle, it will be all the better for your mind, body and soul.

1. Reevaluate your why: What is the motivation behind your goal? Is it to improve your internal health, or to have six-pack abs? Your “why” should always circle back to physical and mental health, not physical appearance. Goals motivated by appearance hardly ever last and can often do more harm than good by soiling your relationship with food, exercise, and your self-esteem.

2. Practice body positive self-talk: The way you talk to and about yourself matters. Stop with the shame and reframe your thoughts about your body and the way you speak about it. Instead of, “I’m going to go on a run to burn off what I ate for dinner last night”, try “I’m going to go on a run because it’s great for my heart”. Even if you don’t love the way your body looks, it is essential to respect it and recognize all that it allows you to accomplish, whether that is through movement, allowing you to contribute at work or keeping your immune system strong.

3. Grocery shop weekly: Grocery shopping is one of the best ways to ensure you have everything in place to improve your eating habits. I recommend selecting one day each week as your designated shopping day. When you’re at the store, try to shop the perimeter for most of your items, which will inevitably help you pilemore whole foods and produce in your cart. If you don’t have time to make it to the store every week, check out one of the many grocery delivery services that have boomed during the pandemic.

4. Cook more meals at home: Cooking helps you move away from fast food or take out by giving you more control of your dietary choices to guarantee better nutrition. Experimenting in the kitchen can help you discover ways to add healthier ingredients to your recipes, tweak your favorite dishes and learn new skills. If you rarely cook, start by designating one or two nights per week to make dinner and enjoy a home-cooked meal at the table.

5. Drink an extra 16 ounces of water daily: We all know the importance of hydration, but meeting your daily fluid needs tends to be a major nutrition challenge. Many people underestimate the importance of drinking enough water and the impact dehydration can have on your bodily systems. Your daily fluid needs can be determined by dividing your body weight in pounds by half. That’s the number of ounces of water you should drink daily. If you’re not meeting that number consistently, start by adding in 16 oz, or one standard water bottle. If you normally opt for juices, sodas or other sugar-sweetened beverages, swap one (or all!) of these for water.

6. Find exercises you enjoy: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Heart Association recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise weekly. Finding exercises you enjoy and look forward to is one of the best ways to develop a consistent and fulfilling routine. Think about an activity that makes you excited and enhances your day, not want to drag your feet.

7. Visit your doctor and dentist: Sometimes, these check-ups can get put on the back burner with busy schedules. For preventative care, it’s important to see your Primary Care Physician at least once a year and your dentist every six months. If they’ve fallen off your schedule, make sure to get these appointments back on your to-do list in 2022!

8. Implement self-care strategies daily: Self-care is not selfish and plays a vital role in our stress levels, mental health and overall wellbeing. Make sure to take time daily to not only think about, but also actively engage in, an activity or strategy that helps you de-stress. This is never time wasted, and could be anything from meditating, listening to music, going on a walk or sitting outside. An exciting way to practice self-care is by finding a new hobby – either something you have always wanted to try, or a hobby you used to enjoy and want to pick up again. Such activities can help you unplug and reallocate mental resources that have been exhausted by work or caretaking to doing something that makes you feel good.

9. Schedule a vacation: We all need time to unplug and unwind. If you haven’t taken time off in a while, this is your sign. Even if you opt for a staycation, that time off can work wonders for your headspace and productivity. You will come back feeling recharged, rejuvenated and reenergized about your work.

10. Assess your sleep hygiene: Sleep is often the first self-care strategy to be sacrificed when there are not enough hours in the day. We want to aim for seven to nine hours of high-quality, restful sleep each night. If you’re not meeting this goal, start by going to bed at least 30 minutes earlier than usual. The Sleep/Wake Up alarm on the Clock iPhone app can really help wind down and get to bed on time. You can customize your sleep goal, bedtime and wake up time. The app will also encourage you to cut screen time as you get ready for bed, which can keep you on track. Blue light from the television or phone screens can make it harder to fall asleep, so you want to minimize this before bed.

11. Read more: Believe it or not, reading can indirectly induce health benefits by helping you relax and escape, which can reduce stress levels and even blood pressure. Reading before bed can also help you fall asleep while contributing to improvements in cognition, vocabulary and mood. Start by picking a page goal, even if it’s just 10 pages a day, and see where it takes you.

12. Phone a family member or friend weekly: Over the past two years, we’ve missed out on a lot of human connection. Each week, coordinate a time to call a family member or friend who you missed, want to catch up with, or haven’t seen in some time. Humans crave connectedness. I guarantee you this practice will improve not just your day/week, but someone else’s too.

Emma Willingham is a registered dietitian who practices in an outpatient hospital clinic and through her private practice, Fuel with Emma. You can find her on social media at @fuelwithemma.


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