It’s the start of a brand new year which inevitably brings about reflection of the year behind us, and what a year tht was! As humans we constantly strive to be better, happier, healthier and more active human beings in the year ahead. However, sometimes the only goal people make at this time of year, in relation to their health is weight loss. Vowing to be more active and lose that stone or two that will just make all the difference to their lives. (So we’re told!) This is the biggest mistake people make around their health goals – focusing solely on weight – without giving any thought to other aspects of their health that have a huge impact on our functionality and wellbeing . So, this year instead of vowing to lose weight, how about changing the focus from your waistline to your overall wellbeing. Below are somethings to consider;

  • Sleep – Sleep is fundamental to good health and poor sleep has been linked to obesity*, lowered immune function and difficulties with memory. So, how can we improve this in the year ahead? 
    • Keep a sleep journal. Record how you sleep each night; the quality, duration, getting to sleep, reasons for wakening (toilet, hunger etc.), your food/beverages before bed, your bedtime routine and anything else you deem relevant. By recording your sleeping habits, you’re in a better position to make changes and know why you need to make changes. So, for example if you are a poor sleeper and always find it hard getting to sleep, is there something you can change in your bedtime routine to facilitate a better quality night’s sleep?
      • Can you remove blue-light devices (phones, tablets, TV’s) at least 1 hour before bed?
      • Can you avoide eating stimulating foods like sugary snacks, caffeine etc. 4 hours before bed?
      • Can you engage in some relaxing techniques before bed like meditation, taking a bath, reading (an old-fashioned book), journaling etc.?
  • Mental Health – 2020 was a strange year for all of us and the beginnings of this year bring more of the same. So, now more than ever, we need to focus on supporting our mental health by looking at our environment, our dietary habits and our daily routine. Let’s take a look at each of these individually;
    • Environment – As Karen Marie Moning says “Who and what we surround ourselves with is who and what we become.”
      • So, do you surround yourself with like-minded people or are you surrounded by a sea of negativity and complaining? If there is a person who inspires you or motivates you, reach out and connect with them
      • Lockdown can be isolating so connect with people over zoom, facetime, phone or whatever mode of communication works for you but do talk and make time for connection.
    • Diet – Review your sugar intake.
      • Can you remove the unnecessary biscuits/chocolate with your tea/coffee at breaks?
      • Can you remove the sugary drinks and drink water instead?
      • Can you add in some magnesium-loaded green vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli, etc.) to your diet to facilitate calm and improve digestive function?
    • Daily routine – This might seem harder to change during lockdown but if you think about how you want to feel in your day instead of what you’ve to do, it’s often a lot easier to accomplish.
      • If you want to feel more energised consider a walk at lunch or in the evening with friends (at a distance of course!)
      • If you want to feel calmer, consider not reaching for your phone first thing. Start the day on your terms rather than reacting to someone’s email or text. Start with some meditation for 5-10 minutes or some light exercise or simply giving yourself the time and permission to sit down and enjoy a healthy breakfast.
      • If you want to feel productive schedule your day and include blocks for rest, creativity, play, exercise or whatever it is that helps you feel productive.
  • Digestion – A functioning digestive system is the cornerstone to a healthy body. Our gut is connected to our brains* so a poorly functioning gut leads to decreased cognition and overall wellbeing. To improve digestive function;
    • Remove processed sugar from your diet completely (cakes, sweets, biscuits, takeaways, fizzy drinks, and so forth)
    • Maintain or add in some light exercise like online yoga/Pilates classes, or walking in nature
    • Eat more fresh vegetables with each meal. Look at ways of adding in more vegetables to your breakfast for example. Can you add spinach / green leaves to your omelette?
    • Reduce your caffeine intake and opt for herbal teas / water

So, by shifting your focus from weight loss to improving aspects of your health like your sleep, mental and digestive health, you’ll not only reap the rewards of better energy and mood but you’ll be on a journey to better health for YOU, that no diet culture messages or the ‘latest fad diets’ can derail.

Your health is in your hands.

*https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632337/

*https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection