For many of us the holiday season is a time of indulgence and enjoyment. You consume more food and alcohol than usual and exercise less.
But the festive season is over now and as you dive back into routine it might be time to get back on track with your healthy lifestyle.
Getting “back on track” doesn’t have to mean drastic lifestyle changes, sacrifices and restrictions. You don’t have to cut carbs, go low calorie, or even ban the booze. Instead, here are five simple and effective ways to get back into a healthy way of living.
1. Aim to cook more
While the holidays might mean eating out, socialising regularly, and ordering takeaway to “treat yourself”, it’s time to get back into cooking. Cooking your own meals allows you to know exactly what’s going into your food, so you’re not consuming excess sugars, salts, oils and other processed ingredients without realising it.
Focus more on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats. Try to make sure these minimally processed, nutrient rich ingredients form the bulk of every meal.
If you’re up for it, expand your horizons and get creative with ingredients that you usually wouldn’t buy. Try adding a new legume to your shopping list and if you need some inspiration for how to use them, check out our Flexitarian Cookbook. Other favourite cookbooks of ours include Ottolengi’s Flavour cookbook, or any of Jamie Olivers cookbooks.
2. Ditch dieting
In the first few weeks of a diet — which can include calorie counting, elimination of a food or food group, following a strict meal plan, fasting etc.— most people will lose weight. But research shows that dieting generally doesn’t lead to long-term weight loss. This is likely due to a range of factors. Firstly, diets are hard to stick to. Restricting foods usually makes you want them more, which is why most people fall off the wagon in the first month or two of a diet. Even if you can stick to your diet, your body will resist weight loss. Our bodies view dieting as a form of starvation. As a survival mechanism, our metabolism slows, and hormones that regulate appetite and satisfaction change.
Save yourself the hassle, ditch dieting and instead adopt a range of simple, everyday healthy habits.
3. Drink lots of water
Water is such an underrated aspect of a healthy lifestyle. It won’t come as a surprise that water keeps you hydrated, but it also regulates your body temperature, lubricates joints, carries oxygen and nutrients to cells and can help prevent constipation.
You may have grown up learning that we need ‘8 glasses of water a day’. While this provides a rough target, how much water you need can vary significantly from person to person. It depends on a number of factors such as your age, gender, height, weight, exercise routine, temperature, diet (including how many diuretics you consume like coffee and alcohol).
As a general guide, men should aim for 2.6L of water per day and women 2.1L of water per day, but that will increase if you work out or are sick.
4. Prioritise sleep
While for some the holidays means so much time to rest, relax and recover (and LONG sleep ins), for others it means sleep suffers, replaced with social commitments and fun activities.
However, neither option is ideal in the long term. Sleeping excessively can leave you feeling lethargic, and not getting enough rest can compromise your immunity, productivity, gut health and mood. It’s important to ensure you’re getting just the right amount of sleep, to keep you healthy and happy. Good-quality sleep can improve your mood, exercise performance, gut health, metabolism and immune system.
Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night (everyone’s needs will be slightly different) to keep you feeling healthy and ready for the day ahead.
5. Give up the guilt
So many people feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame following the holiday period. It can be all too easy to dwell on the excessive amounts of food and drink you’ve consumed over the last few months, but here’s the thing: it’s in the past!
Feeling guilty isn’t helpful at all. In fact, it can encourage you to continue making unhealthy choices, because you’re so busy berating and punishing yourself and your body.
While it can be tempting to simply give up on your healthy habits once you’ve fallen off the bandwagon for a little while, choose to forgive yourself and move on!
Don’t go overboard and decide to cut out all carbs, sugar, dairy, alcohol for the next few months. Healthy living isn’t about depriving yourself of the things you love. If you try to cut all the things you love out of your life, you’ll only want them more!
But by accepting your previous decisions and deciding to move on, you can make more nutritious choices in the future, without needing to deprive yourself along the way.
6. Think of every meal as an opportunity to choose well
Look at each meal as an opportunity to make healthy choices that help you feel your best. If you slip up once, that’s okay! It doesn’t mean you have to give up on the rest of the day, considering it a “write off”.
Take a deep breath every time you sit down to eat, and then make the choices that will leave you feeling your best.
Eating mindfully can help here, as you learn to tune into your body’s signals of fullness and hunger, and discover which foods leave you feeling fantastic, and which don’t quite sit so well. Chew your food slowly, remove all distractions, and enjoy your food with all your focus and attention, and you’ll find yourself making the best choices for you, without needing to overthink it.
- This article was co-authored by dietitians from The Biting Truth and student dietitian Emily Smith who is currently completing an internship with The Biting Truth.
- Check out some healthy recipe ideas here.
- Check out our Flexitarian Cookbook.