By: Julie Mancuso, B.A., R.H.N., JM Nutrition
The making of New Year’s resolutions is a deeply ingrained custom all over the world. One of the most popular of these well-meaning, but only occasionally carried out, intentions is people’s vow to live a healthier life as soon as they ring in the new year. And arguably, healthy eating resolutions tend to be the most popular of these.
As a nutritionist who has worked extensively with clients in and around the festive period, I feel that a better-laid plan is to make those New Year’s health resolutions well before the new year, so you can tackle the various holiday food challenges with aplomb.
Slow, gradual weight gain
One of the signs that you should make that vow to eat more healthy well before the turn of the year is when you experience slow but gradual weight gain throughout the year, even when not indulging in the extra calories of holiday foods. This is a clear sign that your daily eating habits call for an adjustment.
Whether you decide to make the changes yourself or seek the help of a nutritionist, make the changes here and now. The holiday season indulgences are only going to make the situation worse by the likely tacking on of extra pounds, which will be that much harder to shave off after the new year.
A few pounds gained year after year, have a cumulative effect and can lead to an unhealthy weight and health conditions associated with it.
With help, you can learn what foods you should eat and in what quantities to maintain a healthy weight, while discovering that certain foods, portions and proportions are in fact detrimental to your health goals. Having a firm plan going into the holidays plays a vital role in holiday season survival without unwanted weight gain.
Making New Year’s health resolutions weeks before the actual New Year should occur when you routinely turn to your favourite, but often unhealthy, treats as a way of coping with stress—something many people do.
The high-sugar or high-fat snack releases dopamine, much like alcohol, which makes people feel better, at least temporarily. But in reality, the stress-fighting snack is nothing but an unsturdy crutch. The temporary relief of stress via the dopamine rush is negated by a series of side effects that accompany a high-sugar, high-fat diet, frequently leading to weight gain, low energy, bad mood, general dissatisfaction and, in some cases, guilt.
I feel that unless this vicious circle is ended, the holiday season temptations can only make matters worse.
Fast food life
I would also recommend not waiting on making your health resolutions if you’re in the habit of regularly visiting fast food restaurants.
Whether you’re busy, too tired or just don’t have the desire to cook, it is a good idea to make a drastic reduction in fast-food consumption as soon as possible.
If you’re not sure how to make the more healthy choices while on-the-go on your own, or if the nature of your lifestyle calls for numerous dinners out at restaurants, seek the help of a qualified nutritionist who can show you what specific food choices you should be making and how to take on challenging situations.
He or she can also help with the low energy you’re experiencing which, in all likelihood, is a symptom of not enough sleep or the consumption of energy-sapping foods.
Don’t wait until January to learn small, meaningful ways in which you can make improvements to your eating habits, and in turn, your health. Now is as good a time as any.
Another important reason to make those New Year’s resolutions early, before the New Year, is so that you may potentially discover you have an allergy or intolerance to a food often consumed during the holiday dinners.
I can’t begin to tell you how many people I come across who simply aren’t aware of the fact that the foods they consume routinely contribute in one way or another to some nagging ailment, ranging from skin conditions to gas and bloating to constipation.
Therefore, it would be wise to have a qualified professional help you determine whether one or more of your favourite holiday foods is an unsuspected culprit. Alternately, you can keep a detailed food log yourself, gauge how you feel after eating certain foods and then look for a pattern.
Navigate through the holiday season
Making that resolution to change your eating habits now and not later allows you to learn how to eat less during holiday dinners, how to decline food and how to resist the many food temptations that seem to pop out of nowhere during the festive season.
Knowing how to do so can make or break your overall health goals, preventing you from gaining extra weight and contributing to not feeling your best during the holidays, especially after your system has been taxed by high-carb, high-fat and high-sugar foods.
I delve into this area in some detail in a previous post, where I offer specific tips how to do this:
Are you afflicted by intermittent sugar cravings? If so, don’t wait for the New Year to make your New Year’s health resolutions.
With the seemingly endless tables of cakes, pastries and sweets that the holiday dinners bring, it can be difficult to say nay to these temptations, let alone beat the sugar cravings long-term.
With the help of a health practitioner, who can point out reasons for the existence of cravings and provide ways to avert them, you can slowly wean yourself off the sweat treats before the holiday dessert smorgasbord appears in front of you, effectively helping your energy, mood, and of course, overall health.
Yet another reason to make the necessary changes to your eating habits now, instead of waiting for the New Year, rests with cholesterol regulation.
Much has been written on the topic online, so lowering cholesterol on one’s own can be done, albeit with a little research. Just make sure you’re getting your information from reputable sources.
For those who like to bounce ideas off a professional or need some form of accountability, you can find your local nutritionist with a few keystrokes on your laptop.
Digestion in question
Making immediate changes to the diet is needed if you’re plagued by irregular bowel movements, gas, bloating or regular cramping.
To delay dealing with digestive problems can only worsen the situation, perhaps increasing the intensity of the symptoms down the road. Nipping these conditions in the bud is important for long-term gut health. Besides, alleviating some of the aforementioned symptoms can put the wind back into your sails, allowing you to feel like our old self again.
What’s more, the food indulgences, the overeating and the endless carb-rich meals that accompany the holiday season and its many parties can make the festive time uncomfortable when hampered by digestive problems. I’ve been there myself and wouldn’t want to return.
For this reason, it is wise to be proactive. That is, get to the root of the problem before the temptations start calling your name, discover the triggers and choose your meals accordingly.
A word to the mother
Expectant mothers or mothers with newborns should also prioritize healthy eating and make those New Year’s health resolutions now, rather than waiting for late December or early January. Eating in a way conducive to good health for you and your baby is always important, even during the holiday season. I’m sure you agree.
Working towards any resolution that aims to improve your eating habits and help you lead a more healthy lifestyle will always be commended by this nutritionist. But if you’re going to make changes in the New Year, why not make them now? As I see it, the earlier you make those health resolutions, the better.
Julie Mancuso is a registered holistic Toronto nutritionist who has been counseling clients for over 15 years. Julie’s personalized approach has helped thousands reach their health, wellness and nutrition goals.
Julie’s blog has been named one of the Top 100 Nutrition Blogs, Websites and Newsletters to Follow in 2018 by Feedspot. So don’t miss out and subscribe to both her newsletter and blog.