Need to know
- Only 8% of people keep their new year's resolutions - most dropping them by mid-January.
- If you’re looking to change your relationship to food or drink starting with journaling for 14 days.
- Optimise with achievable habits that fit into your lifestyle and that you can stick with consistently.
A new year, a new us. Right? It’s the time of year again where we’re 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 both our physical and mental health. Backed by the knowledge of NHS GP and Media Doctor, Dr Punam Krishan.
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 gun-ho diets seem like a good idea. And for some they are - the start of a new year can be a catalyst for a big 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 what 92% we fit into.
Think about it like this - you’re setting yourself up to run a marathon. But straight off of the starting line you sprint for the first 5k. How would you feel? Burnt out. Cramping up. And probably ready to put those calves of yours on ice. Now, why is it that we expect this same principle to work when it comes to making massive changes to what we eat or drink such as, going vegan, sober or losing weight? For the vast majority of us, they serve as an annual detox, fuelled by shame and followed by overindulgence.
So what’s the alternative?
As patronising 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.
- Whether they make you feel energetic or sluggish
- Your mental state after eating/drinking (or the day afterward)
- 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 performance with certain food types or meals?
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 into previous patterns of consumption.
To prevent this untimely 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 the way you feel, perform and your overall health.
If you take anything away from this, we hope it is 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 dogma 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.