By Linda Vezzoli / Nutritional Therapist
Many people use January as an opportunity to overhaul their diet and lifestyle. After the holiday indulgences, you may feel motivated to make radical changes in many areas of your life and these can sometimes be unsustainable in the long term.
I have outlined some simple changes to incorporate in January which can hopefully become daily habits and lead to a healthier version of yourself.
- Increase your portions of cooked vegetables and stewed fruits: You may feel like kicking off the New Year with raw juice cleanses, big salads and fruit smoothies will benefit your health, but raw foods are often harder to digest and may cause digestive symptoms such as bloating and cramping. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is best to eat cooked and stewed foods in the colder months. Not only are these easier on digestion, but cooked foods are believed to generate body heat and improve circulation. Stewed fruits such as apples, pears and berries make a delicious winter dessert, especially if cooked with cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup.
- Increase your fluid intake: Do I sound like a broken record yet? Hydration is imperative for good health, and can affect mood, hunger, digestion and skin health. In the colder months, switch cold drinks for warming herbal teas, soups and broths.
- Be consistent with moving your body: Gym memberships always increase in January, but according to the Fitness Industry Association, most people have quit or stop going after 24 weeks. The new year's enthusiasm may see people attending the gym every single day, only to get burnt out a few weeks or months later. Another reason may also be that people fail to find an exercise regime that suits them and lose interest quickly. Finding an exercise regime that suits you and allows you to move consistently will create a habit rather than a short spurt of intense exercise. This consistency will give much better health results than sweating it out at the gym every day for 30 days and then quitting.
- Practise good sleep hygiene: The long Christmas break may have had an impact on sleep schedules, with later nights and slower mornings. Getting back into a regular sleep routine by practising good sleep hygiene will have a positive impact on your health. Did you know that lack of sleep can negatively impact weight loss goals? Get into the habit of going to sleep around 10pm and prepare for sleep by avoiding screens or blue lights a couple of hours before bedtime. Sleep in a cool and dark room for improved restfulness.
- Start a mindfulness and gratitude practise: After the party-heavy month of December, and with the return to work, a daily meditation practise is a great habit to kick off the new year. Spending a few minutes every day in stillness has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, increases mental clarity and focus and may even reduce age-related memory loss. Writing down 3 things you are grateful for every day has also been shown to improve physical and psychological health, sleep and self esteem. My favourite meditation tools are guided meditation apps such as Calm, Headspace or Buddhify. I also love the Five Minute Journal to create a practise of gratitude.
These are simple yet powerful habits which will have a great impact on your overall health without the need for gruelling detoxes and cleanses. Happy New Year!