Are you tired of the annual cycle of setting ambitious New Year resolutions only to give up on them within a few weeks? It's time to take a different approach. 

A new year, a new us. Right? It’s the time of year again when we’re often pressured to clean up our diet, choose ‘better’ alternatives, lose those few pounds of chocolate weight we’ve accumulated and cut out the booze—a month of focus and fasting. No wonder January seems so bleak. But we’re going to spin this kicker of a month on its head. Using it as an opportunity to take stock of what we’re putting into our bodies and how it can affect our physical and mental health. The knowledge of Dr Punam Krishan, NHS GP, Media Doctor and wellbeing expert, supports these tips. 

Why all or nothing isn’t where it’s at 

“We’re so caught up, especially in the era of social media, in the goals and outcomes of others”, Dr Krishan notes. And it’s in these public arenas where concepts like month-long challenges or gung-ho diets seem like a good idea. And for some, they are -  the start of a new year can catalyse a significant lifestyle change. However, it’s not the same for everyone; Dr Krishan highlights how only 8% of people persevere with their New Year's resolutions — and we know we fit into the 92%. 

Think about it like this: you’re setting yourself up to run a marathon. But straight off the starting line, you sprint for the first 5k. How would you feel? Feeling burned out. Muscles are starting to cramp up. And probably ready to put those calves of yours on ice. 

So, why do we expect this same principle to work when making massive changes to what we eat or drink, such as going vegan, sober or losing weight? 

For the vast majority of us, January diets serve as an annual detox, fuelled by shame and followed by overindulgence.

 

Solutions for sustainable change

So what’s the alternative? As stereotypical as it may seem, it’s all about finding what works for you. Take this as an opportunity to record and assess how your input affects your output. Dr Krishan advises to start with journaling for 14 days — jot down all of your meals, snacks and drinks (if you went to make changes to the amount of alcohol or caffeine you consume) as well as how they make you feel. It’s all too easy to forget, so try to get these noted down as soon as possible.

Note down the answers to the following:

  • Whether they make you feel energetic or sluggish 
  • Your mental state after eating/drinking (or the day afterwards) 
  • How productive you feel afterwards 
  • Whether you have any physical symptoms such as bloating 
  • Your mental clarity 
  • Your ability to portion control or whether you tend to go a little overboard with a particular type of food or drink 
  • Performance when exercising: do you see any dips or increases in efforts with certain food types or meals? 
Make your habits easy to achieve

The key to making habits stick is making them achievable and specific, says Dr Krishan. There’s nothing more demotivating or overwhelming than failing to reach a big goal. The result? Completely falling off the wagon or harking back to previous patterns of consumption. 

To prevent this demotivating wobble, optimise gradually with small habits, assessing them weekly and adding to them as you see them become part of your lifestyle. Throughout the process, continue to intermittently journal or use another way to track the changes you're seeing and feeling. With consistency, you’ll see small but cumulative changes to how you feel, perform and your overall health. 

In summary
  • ‍Only 8% of people keep their New Year's resolutions — most goals have fallen by the wayside by mid-January. 
  • If you’re looking to change your relationship with food or drink, start with journaling for 14 days. 
  • Optimise with achievable habits that fit your lifestyle and can stick with consistently. 

If you take anything away from this, we hope to lean in and learn more about your consumption habits this January. Understand how your diet affects your mental and physical performance and start making changes based on your data, not the dreams of others or the pressures of a new beginning. Feeling ready to smash your goals but want more expert info? Check out the rest of our journal posts here.

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