We’ve all been there. We start out with the best intentions with our New Year’s Resolutions. We set lofty goals like “lose 20 pounds” or “run a marathon” or to “quit eating sugar” only to find ourselves having abandoned these goals by mid-March. Some of us are wired to easily shake off the sense of failure when we don’t meet our goals. For others of us the shame of failure can be tough to live with and for some of us that shame can be an unfortunate and unnecessary barrier to setting future goals. Perhaps that’s why a full 32% of us choose to not make any New Year’s resolutions at all; what’s the point? What if I told you that there is a trick to setting achievable New Year’s Resolutions and the problem isn’t that you are weak and have no will power? The real problem is that most of us go about setting these personal goals in totally the wrong way. Setting realistic and achievable New Year’s resolutions is not only possible, it’s a great ritual for spending some time alone with your dreams and desires in order to begin the journey of intentionally manifesting them.
According to the American Psychological Association the biggest mistake we make is treating a new year as an opportunity for making “sweeping character changes”. Its important to put the opportunity a new year presents into its proper context. A new year is an opportunity to reflect upon our life over the past year and to create room for some loving and honest self-assessment that leads to positive change. It is not an opportunity to engage in harsh self-criticism or self-loathing!
The first thing to do is to avoid setting huge and overwhelming goals. According to Lynn Bufka, PhD., “Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for. Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time”.
It is also so important to avoid framing our goals from a negative place rather than from a positive one. As humans we are hard-wired to fear loss and to resist change. How we frame our goals-why we want to achieve the goals in the first place- is critical to our success. To illustrate this point, rather than setting a goal of “losing 20 pounds” a much better goal is “to increase my activity level this year so I feel better.” A happy consequence of moving more will likely be weight loss, which provides a positive feedback loop that encourages you to build upon your activity level. Starting where you are is also so important! If you have spent most of the last year on the couch the best place to start on a goal of increasing your activity level is by adding a 30-minute walk to your daily - or every other day- routine, not by vowing to run 5 miles every day. Once you are comfortable with walking you can try running a bit during that 30 minutes. If that works out for you, you’ll find yourself wanting to run a little more each time you head out for your 30-minute walk. By adding a positive behavior to your daily routine, you avoid the whole “fear of losing something-negativity” trap (no more sitting on the couch!) and every day you take that 30-minute walk is a day in which you met your New Year’s resolution.
According to the online site Statistics Portal, a full 37% of those surveyed reported that “eating healthier” was their New Year’s Resolution for 2018. Eating healthier is an admirable goal and so much more positive than “quitting sugar”, yet it is also big and overwhelming too. Does that mean no more pizza or fast food? Does it mean no more cookies or cake? Notice how quickly we start inventorying the things we will lose by committing to “eating healthier”? The goal is too big, broad and ill-defined for us to be successful. Imagine if your boss set an annual work goal for you that was delivered in just two words: “work smarter!”. How will you know if you are successful? The problem with “work smarter” or “eat healthier” is that both goals are huge and the interim steps that lead to success haven’t been defined.
Eating healthier can be broken down into many smaller and easily obtainable goals. In the chance that you are interested in eating healthier this year, the following small and easily obtainable objectives will get you there.
1. Become a Label Reader. An easily obtainable and positive behavior you can add to your grocery shopping routine is to commit to reading the ingredients list and nutritional facts label before purchasing a food item. A great rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient in a product you probably shouldn’t be eating the product. Look for products that have only real food ingredients and a short ingredient list too. By improving the quality of the food you eat every day you have succeeded in manifesting your goal to eat healthier.
2. Add one vegetable or one fruit to your diet every day. Rather than focusing on “not eating that cookie or candy bar” today, instead focus on what kind of vegetable or fruit you will eat today. By framing what you want to eat in an additive and positive way you are much more likely to be successful in meeting your goal to eat healthier. And here’s the best part: the simple act of eating that fruit or vegetable means you have succeeded in your goal to eat healthier today.
3. Become aware of the calorie content in your favorite foods. A good rule of thumb is that most of us need about 2000 calories a day. Did you know that when we consume an excess of 3500 calories over what we need to burn to get through our day, week or month, we will gain a pound of fat? Many of us are unaware of how many calories we are consuming in a day. Committing to learning about the calorie content in our favorite foods gives us the education we need to make smarter choices about what we will eat in any given day. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have your favorite foods; it just helps you decide when you want to have them.
4. Drink Water. This is a goal that I keep revisiting throughout every year in my own quest to eat healthier. I’ve developed a couple habits that help me be successful like keeping a glass at my desk all day long. Whenever the glass is empty, I take a break and go fill it with water again. I am sipping on that water as I write this blog and have refilled my glass twice already! The advantage to drinking water throughout the day is that it keeps you hydrated and, through the power of substitution, tends to eliminate the consumption of other liquids that may not be as good for you. Think soda, beer, diet soda, etc…. By drinking more water you’ll drink less of those things that don’t add any nutritional value to your body or day.
5. Eat More “Functional Foods”. In a 1999 position paper, the American Dietetic Association defined functional foods as foods that are “whole, fortified, enriched, or enhanced,” but more importantly, states that such foods must be consumed as “… part of a varied diet on a regular basis, at effective levels” for consumers to reap their potential health benefits. My own take on Functional Foods leans heavily towards “whole foods” rather than ones that have been fortified, enriched, or enhanced, because fresh whole foods are always superior to processed ones for nutritional content. Whole Functional Foods are those that deliver nutrients you need for achieving certain health goals and warding off illness. Examples of functional whole foods include brightly colored fruits and vegetables which are naturally high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help rid the body of “free radicals”. Certain foods, like citrus, are naturally high in vitamin C which everybody needs to help ward off illness. Some foods are even naturally anti-viral, like elderberry! Choosing bread made with whole grains rather than white flour adds fiber and nutrients to your diet. By learning more about the nutritional content of whole foods and what your body needs to stay healthy, you will naturally want to add more functional foods to your diet and will be successful in your goal to eat healthier.
If eating healthier is a goal you’d like to take on for 2021, start with one of these objectives and put the rest in your back pocket for now. As you gain mastery in one of the objectives it will be easier to take on the next objective; you’ll know when you are ready. Remember, the key to success is to frame your New Year’s Resolution as a positive thing that you are adding to your life and to take the time to break that resolution down into small achievable goals. Above else, be kind to yourself! Change is hard (its one of the things we human fear most), so focus on the positive, take it slow, and, if possible, find a friend who will join you on this journey towards eating healthier. Studies show that almost all changes in the way we live our lives are easier to make if a friend joins us in the journey.
If you want to start by adding more functional foods to your diet, head on over to our shop and add some elderberry to your diet. If you are a jam lover, try substituting one of our elderberry jams for the jam or jelly you usually consume. Our elderberry jams contain one of the most nutritional fruits on the planet and are made with real, simple ingredients. Or add one of our Elderberry Supplements to your daily diet; a simple splash of our Elderberry Extract in your morning tea or drizzled over yogurt, oatmeal or even ice cream is a very rewarding and positive way to meet your daily goal of eating healthier.
Happy New Year!