How to Make Long-Lasting New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again! The time of New Year's resolutions and creating health goals for yourself to have your best year yet. While many of these resolutions are well-intended, you may find yourself in the cycle of: create goals --> stay on track for a few weeks  --> get sidetracked/frustrated/disappointed --> lose motivation and fall off the wagon. 

I learned a long time ago from my own experiences and those I learned in school and work that resolutions won't work if you don't have the necessary tools and expectations to make yourself successful. While we may think that it's all about willpower and determination, it is SO much more. Similarly to what I discuss in nutrition sessions, behavior change is complex and requires exploring your lifestyle, environment, stressors, knowledge, support systems, mindset, thought process and much much more. Behavior change takes time and our culture often forgets to mention these things. For New Year's resolutions that will last, here are a few of my go-to tips:

Washington - DC - Ashburn - Nutritionist

1. Be patient and forget the quick-results mentality. Our health culture is all about quick changes and overnight success, which almost always leads to failure. The diet industry has a 5% success rate and there is a reason for that! Making changes that will last takes time -- sometimes months to years. It's important to take this time to explore and learn about yourself and be compassionate with the time it will take to make this habit change. If you have been doing something for a few decades of your life, it will take more than a few days or months to reverse it. Give yourself time and enjoy the journey. Also, diets or cutting out food groups don't work. Remember that :) 

2. Be realistic. It is great to have goals to reach for, but what is actually doable for you? Where are you right now in your life and what types of changes are achievable? If you set unrealistic goals for yourself you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Start small and build up gradually, one day, week or month at a time. For example, if you are looking to make healthier choices, rather than cut out sugar completely, try to focus on increasing your fruit and vegetable intake to 3 servings per day, building up to 4 and then 5. You will be much more successful this way. 

Washington - DC - Ashburn - Nutritionist

3. Have a support system. Behavior change can be hard, so having a support system in place to help you reach your health goals can make a huge difference. This could be in the form of supportive family members and friends, a professional, group activities or meetings, online forums, etc. If you don't feel comfortable talking to anyone about your progress and goals, having support through a journal can even be helpful. Staying accountable and finding like-minded individuals can make a huge difference.

4. Stay positive. It is especially easy to get down on ourselves in today's culture when we see so much 'success' and 'perfection' in social media and around us. Remember that these are only snapshots and that everyone has struggles. Stay true to yourself and if something doesn't go as planned, learn from the experience rather than judging it. Nobody is perfect -- it would be a boring world if there were no flaws. Love yourself and see where that mindset takes you instead.

5. Manage your stress. Often times, bad habits result as a response to stress. Over drinking, overeating, under-eating, overexercising - these are often a symptom of underlying stress. It is important to find other ways to manage any emotions or stressors in your life whether it's finding a hobby, getting out in nature, exercise, practicing self-care or talking it out. 

There is a lot that goes into behavior change and it is important to go into it with a new approach this year. Start small, be realistic, surround yourself with positive people and vibes and set out on a new path! If you need support or accountability, I am here for you as are many other professionals in your area. Have a great and healthy New Year!

 

Fat is Back | Washington DC Dietitian

Fat, like other food groups, has gotten a bad name. But just like carbohydrates and protein are essential to your diet, fats are too!

When nutrition first started getting popular, people were convinced that the cure to good health was cutting the fat out. Sure, fat should be eaten in moderation, but cutting it out completely is not the answer.

What resulted from this "no-fat craze" was turning all of our regular food into low fat or non-fat chemical bombs. Foods that used to have fat were stripped of it and instead replaced with sugar and chemicals to make the item more flavorful. When things don't have flavor or fat to keep us feeling full, we are left unsatisfied and craving more, which leads to more eating. Have you ever tried a 100 calorie pack and ended up eating 5 because you were still hungry and craving more? I know you've been there...

It can be hard to switch what years of "training" has taught us. Growing up we have learned that fat is bad and to reduce it as much as possible. The truth is that fat is good for you as long as you choose the right types and eat it in moderation.

  • Eat more good fats. Mono & polyunsaturated fats come mostly from plant products and are beneficial to our health. Sources include avocado, olive oil, canola oil, seeds, nuts, nut butters and more.

  • Eat Omega 3's. Omega-3's are another source of healthy fat that aids in reducing inflammation and improving brain function. You will find this healthy fat in fish, flax seed & walnuts.

  • Limit intake of bad fats. Try to avoid trans and saturated fats, which can affect your heart. You will find these fats in fried foods, baked goods, and high fat meat and dairy products.

Be aware of portion sizes: the recommended amount of fat per serving is about 2 tbsp, which is around the size of a golf ball.

When looking at the plate method we see room for carbohydrates, protein, fruits, vegetables & dairy. This doesn't mean that fat should be excluded. Fat is necessary at each meal as part of a balanced diet. Here's a few ways to add it in.

  • Top salads and sandwiches with avocado

  • Use olive or canola oil when cooking

  • Add olives to salad

  • Have nuts paired with fruit for a snack

  • Add a small amount of peanut butter to your oatmeal

  • Add chia or flax seeds to yogurt, oatmeal and smoothies

  • Try to eat fish 2-3x per week or take Omega 3 supplements

Fat is important for our body to function normally and also helps us feel full and satisfied. Without it we are more likely to overeat and be less satisfied with our meals. Research is coming out touting the health benefits of full fat dairy so stay tuned for the final verdict!

 

All You Need is Yoga | Washington DC Dietitian

This post is for the hard core yogis, the sporadic attendees and the yoga-curious.

When yoga first became popular I wondered about the benefits. Research showed that it was great for flexibility, improved mood, strength and overall well-being, but many questioned whether this one practice was enough for your overall health. Did yoga provide the same benefits as an exercise routine that included aerobic activity and strength training? For a while, professionals said no. That the best way to incorporate yoga was part of a routine that included aerobics and strength training. But recent research is starting to prove otherwise.

Yoga Teacher John Schumacher did his own digging on this subject. Based in Washington, DC he owns Unity Woods Yoga and has been practicing solely yoga for over 30 years. To find out whether yoga was enough, he checked in with his doctors and at age 52 he is completely healthy and in top health compared to people in his age range. Since then many Universities have done research to find out whether yoga provides a good enough workout for overall health. Similar beneficial results have been found.  Yoga has been found to build strength, provide cardiovascular benefits, improve lung function, improve flexibility and improve your overall body composition.

                                                                                                             

Research about Yoga is still small but is starting to build. From a researcher's perspective the studies might not include enough people or be done over a long enough span of time. But we are seeing benefits in the participants nonetheless. If yoga is your go-to form of exercise or you are looking to increase it, it may be all you need. Practicing intense yoga for 1 hour several times per week can help improve your overall health. If you are only doing about 15-20 minutes of light yoga 3-4x per week, you will want to incorporate other exercise into your routine as well. This is especially true for beginners when you aren't as involved in the practice but are working up to it.

If yoga is all you do, then it might be all you need. If you dabble in yoga then combine it with a mix of cardio and strength training for optimal results. Namaste!