Maintaining Healthy Habits Beyond January

Nutrition

Maintaining Healthy Habits Beyond January

After 2020, a year we’ll certainly all remember (yet may well want to forget) many of us surged headstrong into 2021 embracing change and looking to enrich our lives with the things that feel good.

While there was the presence of the usual ‘new year, new you’, January diet noise throughout the media, there was certainly also a very welcomed new approach on the block. Eating more of what matters, staying well and tapping into what your body needs for true nourishment; and movement not for weight loss but for improved focus, to keep stress levels in check, to help maintain some sort of routine as well improved strength & fitness to really thrive.

Head of Nutrition at Natural Fitness Food Rachel Butcher shares how to forge those positive habits, preparing us to be among the 40% of January goal-setters who are still on track come summer and beyond.

Motivation: know your why

While the action (do at least 3 workouts a week / no alcohol Monday – Thursday / prep more plant-based meals etc) may have been very similar, the why for many has been very different this year. Finding your true why can be the ultimate motivation boost, not just to get started but to keep going. Why do you want to move more? Why do you want to eat well? Why do you want to take care of yourself?

Take some time to reflect on what truly matters to you and identify that intrinsic motivation. Having an aesthetic goal is just as valid as any other if you are positively motivated in this way. They can be valuable as long as you can maintain a positive relationship with yourself, your body, your training routine and your health.

But ask yourself why you want to drop a dress size or lose 5kg? Likelihood is, if you tell yourself you’ll be happy when you reach that magical number, you’ll never be truly satisfied and instead you’ll tell yourself you’ll love yourself when you drop another dress size… and so the negative cycle goes on. Take some time to embrace who you are now, focus on acceptance and loving your body for what it can do. This will encourage you to keep going for what truly matters to you and will provide an abundance of motivation along the way.

Consistency is key

That is, being consistent more often than not. Nobody is perfect and when instilling a new habit, no one should expect perfection every single day. There will be little inconsistencies here and there but if you stick to your goal more often than not, you are still moving in the right direction and all is not lost from a slip-up – it will work in your favour overall. In fact, research demonstrates that there is a lot to be said for the importance of failure. Studies on goal-setting by John Norcross showed more than 70% of successful ‘resolvers’ felt that a slip-up made them try harder and rekindled a commitment to their action plan. So give yourself a break if things don’t go to plan 100% of the time.

Set goals you actually want to keep

Movement matters. No one could possibly argue otherwise. While for many setting fitness resolutions the mind immediately pictures gruelling HIIT sessions and running 5k a day. This could be a great thing for some, but for others it may well feel like daily punishment. For example if you are not emphatically a runner, you are unlikely to feel any joy out of dusting off the trainers and pounding the pavement.

Whatever your fitness goal, turning up and getting it done won’t alone make you stick with it, you need to enjoy it and that isn’t just from a self-love perspective. As sited by BJ Fogg in Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, if something feels good and triggers a feeling of accomplishment, the production of dopamine in the brain (affecting motivation and mood) propels you to perform the habit more often. So if you choose to move in a way that’s just plain painful it’s unlikely to stick. If getting more exercise is your goal, instead pick a form of exercise you truly enjoy, be it strength training, walking, running or dancing – once you find your thing, you’ll never look back.

Start small for big change

While dreaming big and ‘impossible is nothing’ are great mantras to live by, getting there is the challenging part. This is where creating habits or regular routines that are not only small and easy to do have the power to compound change and growth, or an ‘Atomic Habit’ as written in James Clear’s book of that same title. The ‘small changes’ approach has been extensively studied and is associated in particular with an increase in physical activity and improvement in nutrition.

So, to make that resolution stick take the habit you want to adopt and scale it back. If you want to start meditating daily, start by making it 5 deep breaths away from your screen. If you want to read more, make it 2 paragraphs a night. Then, pre-empt when you will do it by scheduling it into your calendar, then create a prompt – for example sticking to your 9am start at your laptop, scheduling a lunchbreak and switching it off at 6pm. Small incremental changes for a lasting change.

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