New year, new start as the famous saying goes! With 2020 having been such a difficult year, most people will be welcoming a new year with open arms. And with that comes new resolutions around health and fitness goals.
If you’ve got into some bad habits during 2020 (and let’s face it, who hasn’t!), then make this year the one where you get back on track both mentally and physically.
Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tells us why good nutrition is the cornerstone to health, and how you can feel better than ever this year.
Set realistic goals
Being realistic about what you can achieve is so important. If you’ve developed a bad sugar habit during 2020, then don’t tell yourself you’ll never eat cake again, for example. This leads to feelings of despair and it’s not sustainable. However, why not allow yourself one treat day a week when you can eat cake, or indulge in your favourite guilty pleasure? A life of constant denial is not going to make anyone happy and is unnecessary.
It’s also worth thinking about adopting the 80/20 rule: eat a healthy and well-balanced diet 80% of the time.
Prioritise mental wellbeing
Issues with mental health are going to be very front focussed during 2021 for all the reasons we know. Achieving mental well-being should be top of your priority list for and that also means getting your nutrition right.
The brain needs to be nourished with nutrients to provide the right fuel to keep hormones in good balance but also to produce brain neurotransmitters that affect mood and motivation. Brain-loving nutrients include the full family of B-vitamins, zinc and magnesium so make sure you’re eating plenty of green leafy vegetables, whole grains, fish and legumes (all rich sources).
The brain also needs essential omega-3 fats to work correctly, with the best source being oily fish, but flax or chia seeds are also good if you’re vegetarian or vegan. They are called ‘essential’ as the body can’t make them, so ensure they feature in your diet a few times each week or more.
Stimulants such as highly caffeinated drinks, alcohol and sugar (in all its forms) are not great friends of the brain, so be honest about your consumption and take steps to reduce if this refers to you (remember the 80/20 rule).
Love your gut
Everything that goes on in the gut affects the brain, mainly down to the connective tissue flowing back and forth. Gut health is critical to overall wellness so start being kind to it. It’s important to feed the beneficial gut bacteria to enable them to flourish, since their role is key to good gut heath. Foods such as asparagus, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, legumes, bananas, flaxseeds, turmeric, green tea and dandelion coffee are all great.
It’s also important to drink plenty of pure water to help keep the bowels regular otherwise toxins can build and this affects mental wellbeing.
Fermented foods are also great for the gut so include some natural yoghurt, tofu, kimchi and kombucha regularly.
Be honest about your weight
Winter weather is not conducive to peeling off the layers, hence many of us have piled on the kilos, plus the festive season is always challenging for the waistline. When we know we’re overweight, this can often affect mental health, but we all need to be realistic about what is achievable and, most importantly, sustainable.
Rapid weight loss generally leads to rapid weight gain when normal eating is resumed. Better to set yourself a realistic target (around 1-2 lbs per week weight loss is good) and a sensible time frame. Many people find that once they have taken control of their eating and they start to see some weight loss this is a great incentive and they’re more able to achieve targets.
Maintain a good work/life balance
The lines between work and social time have become very blurred during 2020 and this is not set to change that much for a while. Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge that we all need sufficient downtime, rest and recuperation, so make this a priority during 2021.
Make a clear plan for work time each day (whatever that needs to be for you) and how to fill your free time. Maybe 2021 is the time to learn a new skill or find things that fulfil and stimulate the brain. This way mind and body will both be in better balance.
May 2021 bring you health, happiness and fulfilment.
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