This means we help our clients focus on health-promoting behaviors rather than try to change the number on the scale. Weight is not a behavior; it doesn’t always change when you adopt more health-promoting habits!
Picture this: you have been adding fruits and vegetables to meals and starting a walking routine. You are noticing improved energy, mood, and digestion. Then you step on the scale – the number is higher than two weeks before you started these habits. What happens next? If you’ve been here before, you know the answer: you feel discouraged. You may skip your walk the next day or stop cooking as much. See what is happening here? Focusing on the ever-elusive lower weight makes it hard to stick with these long-term goals.
What if this year could be different? If you’re interested in setting non-weight focused health-aligned resolutions, here are six recommendations from a dietitian:
Many of my clients have goals to cook at home more often – not just for health, but for budgeting, too – eating at home more often can help you save significantly on food costs. From a nutrition perspective, cooking at home allows you to add more nutrition, whether tossing an extra handful of spinach into the soup, adding a side of roasted vegetables or a salad to meals, or snacking on more crunchy vegetables and fruits.
All other health goals can suffer without proper sleep. Good sleep provides the energy to care for ourselves, get in touch with hunger/fullness cues, and deal better with life’s stressors. The National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping 7-9 hours a night. Consider discussing a nightly wind-down routine with your dietitian or therapist, investing in a good sleep mask and noise machine, and ensuring your bedroom is cool (around 65-68 degrees). Avoid screens at least 30 minutes before lying down.
Taking care of your physical and mental health are equally important. Having routine yearly checkups with your doctor allows you to monitor your health status and practice disease prevention. Keeping up with your therapist and/or psychiatrist regularly is essential for your mental health and managing stress levels.
Your dietitian can help you set and achieve health-promoting habits to make you feel better in the short term, reduce your disease risk in the long term, and heal your relationship with food. Important note: if you’ve had problems with weight-biased medical care in the past, ask a trusted provider for a referral to a HAES-aligned physician or provider.
I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this suggestion – easier said than done, right? Being on our phones too much (especially on social media) can lead to enhanced body dissatisfaction and exacerbate stress or low mood. Like any other habit you’d want to reduce, try replacing some screen time with another habit, preferably one that provides joy or relaxation!
You could replace 30 minutes of screen time each night with 30 minutes of reading, talking on the phone with a loved one, cuddling your pet, or stretching. Reducing screen time can allow you to be more present, less stressed, and sleep better over time.
We know staying hydrated is important for health, but how much fluid do you really need in a day? According to the National Academy of Medicine, 9-13 cups, or 72-104 ounces, is the daily recommendation for the average adult, with variation among individuals. For instance, those who are regularly active, living in hot climates, pregnant or breastfeeding, etc., will need more.
In the short term, even small amounts of dehydration can cause fatigue, mood changes, and difficulty concentrating. Long-term, it may contribute to constipation, UTIs, and kidney stones.
Fun fact: it is a myth that caffeine dehydrates you, at least in moderate amounts. Research shows that up to 180mg (or ~2 small cups) of coffee/day won’t cause you to urinate much more than usual.
Therefore, tea and coffee (in modest amounts) can contribute to hydration! Alcohol is dehydrating, though, so make sure to consume water alongside it and/or reduce or avoid alcohol intake if you are able.
In our consumer culture, keeping up with the latest fashion trends, home décor items, and more can be tempting. However, clutter in the home can cause stress (along with a dwindling bank account).
Consider investing in experiences more often than material items – for instance, planning a trip or weekend getaway, seeing your favorite artist in concert, or learning a new skill (such as a pottery or cooking class). If you need budget-friendly experiences, consider reading or a picnic in a park on a nice day, walking through a nature preserve, watching a movie marathon with a friend, or enjoying live music at a bar or restaurant.
These experiences may be more likely to contribute to your overall well-being and happiness in the long run versus material items that will lose their value (and your interest in them) over time.
The Sleep Foundation. Effects of Sleep Deprivation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-deprivation/effects-of-sleep-deprivation#:~:text=Long%2Dterm%20sleep%20deprivation%20can,get%20the%20rest%20they%20need. Access 12/4/2023.
The National Academy of Sciences. Dietary References Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. https://www.nap.edu/read/10925/chapter/6#102. Accessed 12/1/2023.