Have you heard that it takes at least three weeks to create a new habit? Experience tells me it takes a bit longer to automate those actions, but if you've stuck with your 2017 resolutions through this point (3 weeks into January!), you're certainly on the right track! More often, the end of January hits, resolutions aren't realized, and it's a return to status quo. Sweeping declarations seem particularly challenging to uphold - "I'm giving up sugar, gluten, fats, alcohol, caffeine, [insert vice here]," or "I'm going to start working out 7 days a week." [Side note: I haven't heard of anyone vowing to give up vegetables, but I imagine that sweeping declaration would pose fewer problems. Also, please never vow to give up vegetables!] If the final week of January looks less promising for your health than you'd hoped, it's time to reassess those resolutions and make simple adjustments to better align your daily decisions with your long term goals.
1. For those of you struggling with one of the aforementioned "sweeping declarations," there is good news! Major health overhauls, while potentially beneficial, are not entirely necessary. Even small changes to eating, exercise, or lifestyle can result in real benefits. A new study shows that engaging in physical activity just once or twice per week can reduce risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease. It's still recommended to workout more frequently, but if you're an exercise novice or crunched for time, you'll reap rewards from getting moving at least one or two days each week. A similar mentality (and outcome) holds true for nutrition. Yes, you'll see results eating healthy 100% of the time, but that's a lofty goal - one that I'm even hesitant to commit to...as a dietitian! Instead, focus on small changes you can make that fit into your lifestyle so that they become part of your lifestyle (rather than another attempt at a diet). The takeaway here: making small adjustments can be helpful, so try not to think of change in terms of all or nothing. Progress can occur with as little as adding in an extra serving of veggies each day!
2. In reassessing your resolutions, be wary of hot nutrition trends, especially those promising a miracle cure. Nutrition trends can be based in science and they can encourage positive eating behaviors (looking at you #guthealth), but they deserve a deeper look to determine efficacy and scientific evidence behind the claims. Occasionally the trends revolve around entire diets (gluten-free, paleo) and other times around specific foods or drinks (coconut oil, kale, bulletproof coffee). "Golden milk," a coffee replacement that began trending in 2016, falls into the latter category. Recipes vary, but generally it's a combination of coconut milk, turmeric, ginger, honey plus a few other spices that is served warm and tastes delicious (seriously, give it a try!). Turmeric provides the golden color and contains an active ingredient called curcumin that is responsible for many of the health claims surrounding the drink. In therapeutic amounts (usually 1.5+ grams per day, divided into smaller doses throughout the day), turmeric extract is possibly effective for treating high cholesterol and osteoarthritis. But there is insufficient reliable evidence for medicinal treatment with turmeric in many other areas. Additionally, a recent review questions many of the health claims surrounding therapeutic treatment with curcumin. So, what should you do? If you like turmeric, turmeric milk, or other recipes with turmeric, eat them, drink them, and enjoy them! Flavoring foods with spices instead of salt is a heart-healthy idea, and there's no evidence that consuming dietary turmeric is harmful (use caution with medicinal amounts, especially when pregnant). The lesson here is to keep perspective when evaluating and attempting food trends, and remember that a tried and true base to a healthy diet consists of an abundance of vegetables, even the ones that aren’t #trending.
3. Finally, let’s talk accountability. Accountability, whether through a friend, family member, or professional, can positively impact behavior change (read: you're more likely to stick to those resolutions if someone holds you to them). With food, however, a lot of the accountability is through self-report. Basically, you don't have someone following you 24/7 to see what you put in your mouth. For the other party to know what you eat, they rely on you telling them, which can get fuzzy without proper training. Research shows that people tend to under-report unhealthy foods (and calories in general) and over-report healthier foods like fruits and vegetables. And it's not necessarily in a deceitful manner. So what if you could assess the health of your diet through your urine? Would you be up for the extra level of accountability to aid in your nutrition goals? Scientists have developed a method to do just that, which could be transformational for nutrition research and counseling (following the necessary research and development).
If you're looking to take your health to the next level this year, trained professionals at Palate Theory offer superior accountability (urine samples not yet required!) through our nutrition concierge services. We focus on science-based evidence and personalized nutrition adjustments to fit your unique lifestyle, and we utilize an easy-to-use, client-centric platform for efficient + frequent communication. Reach out to email@example.com or sign up on our website to get started with your healthier lifestyle today!