A key reason resolutions and rigid goal setting fail is because they typically involve some form of austerity or discipline:
“I need to exercise harder”
“I need to quit alcohol or tobacco”
“I need to cut out sugar”
“I need to start fasting”
“I need to start meditating”
Might work between the months of January to March…if you're lucky, but then old habits creep back in. If you’ve been down this path repeatedly in the past without sustainable success, I would like you to reframe your goals so they feel like you are adding something nourishing and fulfilling to your life, rather than taking something away, which will lead to the inevitable cycle of failure, disappointment and self-loathing. So let's break this down into a few basic categories:
Instead of thinking about cutting calories, carbs or doing more rigorous fasting, I would ask you to think of adding different foods to your diet. Common nutrition gaps I see in my patients are as follows:
1. Protein deficiency: Most individuals can benefit from adding more high quality protein to their diet. Read this post on details. Eating more protein promotes satiety and reduces downstream eating. If you are consistently ravenous in the afternoons, I would strongly recommend adding sufficient protein to your diet before 1p. Although I’ve touted the benefits of breakfast skipping (i.e.-intermittent fasting), if it’s leading to eating more after 12p and especially late night snacking behavior, then you need to rethink your strategy and add more protein earlier in the day.
2. Plant deficiency: Each of us can benefit from eating a greater amount and variety of plants in our diet. Some of us get very attached to the same few fruits and vegetables, but maybe this year you can expand your color palette. You might be getting enough greens given they are readily available pre-washed in plastic bags and containers, but what about blues and purples (berries, eggplant, purple carrots, etc.), reds, orange and yellow to name a few. Try to eat as much of the rainbow every day.
3. Marine deficiency: If your diet allows it, try to incorporate at least 2 servings of fish each week. Think of adding marine vegetables also like kelp, kombu and nori (seaweed). Read this post by my good friend and publisher, Mark Sisson for ideas. Remember, fish get their omega-3s from munching on sea vegetables. I stock canned sardines, mussels and salmon in my office as well which I often add to my salad or eat straight from the can drizzled with either extra virgin olive oil or tamari sauce which I keep in my fridge.
4. Spice deficiency: It's hard to believe how a few sprinkles of a powdered substance can pack in so much nutrition and anti-inflammatory activity, but there is overwhelming science to support the magical medicinal benefits of spices. Aside from using them in cooking, you'll see in my video below how I use it in other ways. This post talks about how I use herbs and spices personally and in my patients to help control blood sugar issues like diabetes.
5. Water deficiency: My patients generally are not drinking nearly enough water. I admit that even I get a little bored just drinking plain water each day. I stock my office with different types of herbal teas and also keep lemons, Himalayan salt and even some manuka honey and stevia if I’m craving a little sweetness. My morning water concoction includes 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, a few squirts of lemon, 2 pinches of pink Himalayan sea salt and 2 tbsp of magnesium citrate.
Want to know what else I stock in my office and my tricks for eating healthier at work (or at home). Watch my video below for some tips:
I personally am not good with will power. I grew up eating a lot of sugar and sweets from an early age and if I’m exposed to it in a hungry state, I will eat everything in sight. It has been wired into my brain, unlike my kids who actually don’t even enjoy the taste of sweet foods and have literally been forced by my wife and I to eat a few bites of birthday cake at parties just to be polite.
For you parents out there, I strongly encourage you to treat sugar like a drug and look for every opportunity to cut back on your child’s sugar addiction. Otherwise they will struggle with their diet and the challenge of overcoming intense cravings for the rest of their life.
For me to avoid getting into trouble with junk food, I need to make sure I’m getting enough healthy protein, healthy fats, diverse plants and hydration to keep my brain and belly satisfied.
In this state I have a much easier time avoiding or at least curtailing my intake of unhealthy foods.
Instead of adding on more vigorous exercise goals, I would ask you to focus more on rest and recovery. I spend proportionally far more time using foam rollers, lacrosse balls, yoga straps and massage devices than I do pounding heavier weights or more miles on pavement, and my body has thanked me dearly.
Overall I’m less sore, and when I do decide to work out harder, I perform and recover better. For example, watch my video tutorial below on one of my favorite muscle recovery tools that costs $10 and can be easily stashed into your work bag.
For cardio, I’m doing far more low intensity steady state (aka “LISS”) cardio which keeps my body burning fat longer without generating ravenous post-exercise hunger. Be sure to read or reread this post so you understand how to use your breathing and heart rate to exercise in this magical zone that burns fat, improves endurance and minimizes injury and fatigue.
Sleep and Mental Rest
If you consistently go to bed after 10 or 10:30p, it’s time to change that behavior. I have seen the impact on my patient’s blood sugar, body weight and overall stress levels when they consistently go to bed late.
I’ve discussed in the past that some of the most beneficial anti-aging hormones that promote cellular recovery, fat burning and muscle preservation are maximally released when we hit the sack by 10p.
There is also a system in the brain called the glymphatic system, that removes toxic byproducts in the brain including the proteins that accumulate in Alzheimer’s disease.
This brain cleansing system gets shortchanged when we consistently go to bed late and may manifest as “brain fog” and memory lapses during the day.
Finally, starting meditation is probably one of the most frequently broken resolutions. I suggest you eliminate the word “meditation” and substitute it with a word like rest, a time out or daydreaming.
Your only goal is to sit quietly or while listening to relaxing music or sounds, slow down your breathing, and watch your thoughts come and go like passing waves. If you get sleepy, then take a nap. Your body is calling for more rest and you need to listen.
Make this the year of “MORE” not “less.” MORE nutrient-dense foods, MORE sleep and rest, MORE social connection and MORE fun. Life has gotten way too serious for most of us.
So there you have it…a few things you can work on that don’t involve running half marathons, throwing medicine balls while jumping off a box, or eating less.
Be kinder and gentler to yourself and think of how you can add things that nourish you and rest your mind and body. From this state it will be far easier for you to reach some more rigorous health goals in a sustainable manner, lasting years rather than a few short months.
If you want to get the entire family healthier, take advantage of our brand new Family Wellness program which you can learn about here.