Getting back on track and eating healthy — whatever that means to you — can be tricky after time off. But whether you took a break from certain habits over the holiday season or you’re simply looking to refresh your nutrition habits moving into a new year, getting your head in the game is key. After all, getting “back on the wagon” can feel like a big mental challenge. Luckily, there are ways to adjust your mindset that can make it easier to wrap your head around making some positive changes. Here, dietitians share their top tips.
Think About Adding, Not Subtracting
Consider all the things you want to eat rather than what you’re aiming to remove from your diet. That way, working your way toward healthier habits is likely to feel less daunting. Instead of saying, ‘no sweets, chips or pizza,’ try adding a serving of fruit or vegetables with your meals. Pizza with salad is more balanced and may help you eat less in the long run because the salad will help fill you up rather than reaching for another piece of pizza.
Keep it in Perspective
I once heard, ‘It’s not what you eat between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day that makes a difference; it’s what happens between New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving. I love this! The holiday season is a busy time of year. Enjoy the foods that are worth splurging on and move on. You aren’t serving yourself if you dwell on the past. Look ahead, set realistic goals, and get moving!
Stay in your Lane
The start of a new year tends to be a time for unsolicited nutrition and diet advice. The best thing to do is what’s best for you. If that means saying no to mimosas at brunch this weekend to stay on track, don’t ever feel pressured into eating — or drinking — something that could potentially sabotage your personal goals. And likewise, just because you know someone on a super restrictive diet doesn’t mean you have to do that, either.
Remember Setbacks are Part of the Process
Getting back on track can feel intimidating if you’re afraid to mess up your diet. So it can help to acknowledge that you’re definitely going to “slip up” or splurge at some point, and that’s OK. Plan for setbacks by identifying which areas you struggle with most. Is it exercise, consistency, eating out with coworkers, drinks on the weekends? Do your best to plan for these occasions. Aim to have setbacks happen further and fewer between. Recognize that progress, not perfection, is the goal.
Remeber Nothing Lasts Forever
Another obstacle to changing how you eat is worrying you’ll never be able to eat your favorite foods again. Try to keep in mind that you’re making changes now, and that may take some sacrifice. But once in a while you can (and should!) treat yourself to foods you love. Plus, as you get closer to your goals, there may be even more room for those foods you love. Knowing that you will eventually be able to enjoy foods you love more often makes it easier to stay on track.
Focus on Quality
It may seem counterintuitive, but I suggest never starting a ‘diet’ with calorie cutting. If you’re not eating the right balance of nutrients to actually satisfy your body, trying to restrict to a smaller amount of unsatisfying food is a recipe for failure. Instead, she recommends focusing on food quality (i.e. choosing more nutrient-dense and less processed foods) and learning your hunger and satiety cues, which sets you up for major success when you do start watching portions.
Know Nothing is Completely Forbidden
There are no forbidden foods — everything fits into a healthy diet. The only thing you have to do is to choose what and how much you eat. Do you love ice cream? Go ahead and eat it. It’s just a matter of controlling your portion size. Remember the foods you love are easily available and not going anywhere.
Be Kind to Yourself
The fewer restrictions and rules you can place around food and exercise, the better your relationship with food and exercise will be. As long as you keep focused on balancing your diet with protein, carbs, fruits and vegetables, you’ll be making progress.