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SALT LAKE CITY — What makes a food resolution worth undertaking?
From my experience as a dietitian working with people who are trying to make lifestyle changes, I offer two qualifications for resolutions worth making:
1. Positive long-term consequences (not just short term).
2. They need to be sustainable.
At the first of the year, possibly millions will begin diets. Diets are started again and again because diets are not sustainable. We start them, suffer through them, and stop them and start them again when we feel like we need rigidity to get control. Diets often cause eating problems and have more cons than pros.
If not to begin dieting then, what resolutions are smart to make? Here are a few ideas:
1. Eat more mindfully
Consider practicing mindfulness this year. Ask yourself questions such as: “Am I hungry? Do I want to eat this? Why am I eating?” “Will this be satisfying physically and psychologically?”
Take stock of your hunger and fullness periodically before, during and after eating. Taste your food, smell your food, look at your food. Plate your food instead of eating out of packages. Eat without distraction.
We could each benefit from some aspect of being more mindful. Focusing on all of these things at once is not advisable and can make you feel too preoccupied with food, which is certainly not the goal.
2. Eat a bigger variety of whole, real foods
Think through your “regulars.” In my experience, people generally eat the same some 20 foods in various combinations. What colors of vegetables do you eat most often? What colors do you not eat with regularity? Could you add more variety to the types of whole grains, nuts, seeds or legumes you eat?
You might resolve to pick up a new vegetable at the supermarket each month, or try a new recipe a couple times monthly.
3. Cook more meals at home
People tend to eat more nutritiously when they cook their own meals in their home. This may be a loaded resolution for some that would need to be broken down and problem-solved through.
For instance, maybe a better resolution would be to learn a new cooking skill, try cooking simple recipes, or take cooking classes offered in the community, privately, from a family member or friend, or online.
For others, it may require identifying days and times when food planning and preparation could happen. It may involve getting input from others who live at home to see what they’d like to eat, and what they could contribute to make meals a success.
4. Drink enough water
A lack of hydration can lead to reduced mental clarity and a decrease in "energy" or stamina and ability to get things done physically. The amount you need will depend on your physical activity, age and climate, among other things.
Some find that having a filled water bottle on hand, or a glass of ice water, or even a straw to drink from helps them to drink enough water throughout the day. One woman I worked with filled up a pitcher each day with the water she’d like to drink so she had a visual total reminder. If you find yourself forgetting, maybe a reminder on your phone a couple times a day (did you think to drink?) could be helpful.
If you have a hard time drinking straight water, try making spa water by adding sliced fruit, mint leaves or cucumber to the water. Some people enjoy freezing juice or lemonade in ice cubes and letting them slowly melt into their drink to flavor it. Soda (carbonated water) may also give enough of a spark to help.
5. Focus on creating positive food and exercise experiences
Do you feel guilt, shame or fear when you eat? Do you exercise to punish yourself for food choices? These feelings are worth working through, with professionals if needed, to get to a more positive mindset that is empowering instead of condemning.
Perhaps a resolution could be made to focus on strength, positives, small victories and people you love.
It is very realistic to assume that your life will change in ways you cannot predict this year. A resolution doesn't need to be kept for 365 days to be a success.
Resolve to do something good for yourself today, be forgiving of yourself, and move forward.