A HEALTHY, HAPPY YOU YEAR!
How many times have we heard the phrase “new year, new me” before? Too many to count if you ask me. Somehow, it always sounds more like “new year, same unrealistic expectations”. I like the way Jordan Ring puts it: “A failure to take precise and deliberate action is the reason why so many New Year’s resolutions and other goals fail”. Like with anything else in life, consistency and dedication are the keys to achieving results and if we can apply these traits to other areas of our lives, how much more should we do so when it comes to our health? Diets which promise quick, drastic transformations are unsustainable and not to mention, dangerous. We’d much rather you took small, meaningful steps each day towards reaching your goals which is why we’re here to help. Why not make a promise to yourself as you start the new year? A healthier me in 2023!
WHERE DO I START?
I think there’s one area in particular that we can all agree to work on over the next few months. That’s right, our food choices. Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with social media influencers and celebrities sharing their weight loss secrets and food hacks. While it is perfectly acceptable to admire their efforts and phenomenal physiques, it is important to keep in mind that there may be many other contributing factors. It is always advisable that you consult a medical healthcare professional before making any major dietary changes.
Habit-formation advice, paired with a ‘small changes’ approach, has been tested as a behaviour change strategy¹. Habit-formation advice is ultimately simple — repeat an action consistently in the same context¹. This mechanism allows the individual to feel in control and promotes long-term behaviour change. A simple daily reminder to add 1 less teaspoon of sugar in your morning coffee or to drink one added glass of water a day could make all the difference in the world.
MAKE A NEW HEALTHY HABIT¹.
- Decide on a goal that you would like to achieve for your health.
- Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal which you can do on a daily basis.
- Plan when and where you will do your chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week.
- Every time you encounter that time and place, do the action.
- It will get easier with time and within 10 weeks you should find you are doing it automatically without even having to think about it!
- Congratulations, you’ve made a healthy habit!
Fad diets have been around for quite some time and while they might seem like the magic fix, the truth is there are no shortcuts when it comes to our health. Fad diets can be easily differentiated from a healthy and balanced diet based on its characteristic features: (i) promises rapid weight loss (ii) absence of physical activity guidelines (iii) promotes short term changes rather than achieving lifelong sustainable goals (iv) focuses on one type of food or eliminates any food group (v) cannot be maintained for life long period (vi) nutritional adequacy is questionable (vii) fails to provide health warnings for those with chronic diseases (viii) lacks scientific evidence to support the claims².
At FUTURELIFE®, our team of Dietitians believe that a well balanced diet is a much more healthier approach. And let’s forget that there is so much more to our health than just the food on our plate. In addition to the dietary components, a healthy lifestyle is one that incorporates regular exercise, socialization, adequate sleep and minimizes elements that have a negative effect on health such as tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, large amounts of screen time, and stress³. So although our eating habits might not be the only area we need to work on in 2023, they’re the perfect place to start!
1. MAKE HEALTHIER NUTRITION CHOICES
A healthy diet is one in which macronutrients are consumed in appropriate proportions to support energetic and physiologic needs without excess intake while also providing sufficient micronutrients and hydration to meet the physiologic needs of the body³. Often, people are consuming the right kinds of foods but in incorrect amounts. A simple decision to adjust your portion sizes could go a long way towards reaching your nutrition goals in 2023. We have a few tips of our own.
Try to include something from each of the food groups in the right portions at every meal:
- Carbohydrates (1/4 plate): brown rice, low GI bread, potatoes, maizemeal, couscous, pasta, etc.
- Protein (1/4 plate): lean beef/mince, boiled eggs, grilled chicken, tuna, hake, soya, beans, lentils, legumes, etc.
- Vegetables (1/2 plate): a green salad, spinach, cabbage, peas, green beans, mushrooms, etc.
A healthy diet should also include:
- Dairy: low fat yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.
- Fat: homemade salad dressing with a healthy oil such as olive or avocado oil, nuts, seeds, lite mayonnaise, hummus, etc.
- Fruit: apples, bananas, oranges, peaches, nectarines, pears, etc.
Start your day with a nutritious, high fibre breakfast:
Breakfast is often the easiest meal to prepare, and if done correctly, can contribute the bulk of your daily vitamin, mineral, fibre and protein requirements. Consuming protein during breakfast has shown to increase satiety throughout the entire day, therefore aiding in weight loss7. FUTURELIFE® offers a variety of high protein, high fibre, low GI breakfast options that are quick and easy to prepare. Try FUTURELIFE® Smart food™, FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Smart food™ or FUTURELIFE® Smart food™ Zero for a high protein breakfast. FUTURELIFE® Smart food™ WHEAT and FUTURELIFE® Bran Flakes with Barley and Probiotic Capsules are high fibre options that promotes optimal gut health.
And let’s not forget that we need a few healthy snack options too:
- Why not try a FUTURELIFE® Energize drinking meal?
- 30g roasted, unsalted nuts.
- 30-50g lean biltong.
- A handful of air popped popcorn.
- Whole-wheat crackers with cottage cheese, sugar free peanut butter & smashed avocado.
- Veggies dipped in hummus & cottage cheese.
- A bran or carrot muffin (Did you know that you can use FUTURELIFE® Smart food™ as a flour substitute when baking?).
2. THE NEXT STEP: GET ACTIVE
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 60% to 85% of people in the world live sedentary lifestyles without sufficient physical exercise, making lack of physical activity one of the most serious health problems across different ages⁴. I will be the first to admit that in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, it’s easy to neglect our exercise regime. It’s no wonder that most people sign up for a gym membership in January only for them to give up within a few weeks. And it’s simply something we cannot afford to do. Research reveals that low levels of physical activity are increasingly recognized as important contributors to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, hypertension, colorectal cancer, obesity, and osteoporosis⁴.
But there is good news! There are many ways in which you can increase your daily activity levels, you just have to find what works best for you. Here are a few options:
- Go for a run/jog in the morning (Worried about finding time to eat after your workout? No problem. Grab a FUTURELIFE® High Protein Shake on the way to work, it contains SmartProtein3D to facilitate muscle recovery).
- You could take your dog for a walk around the neighbourhood.
- Why not sign up for a yoga class at your local gym?
- Maybe dance lessons are more your thing?
- A friendly soccer match with your mates? (Need a refuel at half-time? Make sure to pack a FUTURELIFE® High Energy Bar).
- A simple decision to take the stairs instead of the lift wherever that’s an option.
- Park a little further away from the entrance to get in those extra steps.
Those options don’t sound too scary, right?
3. MIND OVER MATTER
Prevalence data on mental health in South Africa are limited and date back to the 2004 South African Stress and Health Survey (SASH), reporting a 16.5% 12-month prevalence and 30.3% lifetime prevalence of common mental disorders among adults⁵. It’s safe to assume that these figures have risen since the COVID-19 pandemic. While the determining factors of mental health are complex, increasing evidence indicates a strong association between a poor diet and the exacerbation of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression, as well as other neuropsychiatric conditions⁶. Making your mental health a priority doesn’t have to mean scheduling a psychiatrist appointment. Sometimes, the slightest change in your daily routine is all you need to help you feel a little better.
Here are a few healthy habit ideas:
- Start at least 1 new hobby this year.
- Reach out to a friend whenever you are feeling overwhelmed.
- Find something to compliment every person you meet.
- Give up social media for at least 1 hour a week.
- Why not start a gratitude journal and jot down 1 thing you’re grateful for every day.
The new, healthier you deserves a better outlook on life surrounded with as much hope and positivity as possible.
The fact that we are all genetically different should be reason enough to explain why our goals should look different too. Just because something worked for a colleague or family friend does not guarantee that will work for you too. We are all individually unique and our efforts to become the healthiest version of ourselves should be too. So, let’s not compare our journey with anyone else. In 2023, lets commit to making intentional decisions and smarter choices when it comes to our health and wellbeing. You owe it to yourself to live your best life possible. So go on, let’s take that first step together.
- Gardner B, Lally P, Wardle J. Making health habitual: the psychology of 'habit-formation' and general practice. British Journal of General Practice 2012; 62(605):664-6.
- Tahreem A, Rakha A, Rabail R, Nazir A, Socol CT, Maerescu CM, Aadil RM. Fad Diets: Facts and Fiction. Frontiers in Nutrition 2022; 5(9):1-14.
- Cena H, Calder PC. Defining a Healthy Diet: Evidence for the Role of Contemporary Dietary Patterns in Health and Disease. Nutrients 2020; 12(2):334.
- Zhang T, Ham J, Ren X. Why Exercise at Work: Development of the Office Exercise Behavior Determinants Scale. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2021; 18(5):2736.
- Meyer JC, Matlala M & Chigome A. Mental health care - a public health priority in South Africa. South African Family Practice 2019; 61(5):25-29.
- Adan RAH, Van der Beek EM, Buitelaar JK, Cryan JF, Hebebrand J, Higgs S, Schellekens H, Dickson SL. Nutritional psychiatry: Towards improving mental health by what you eat. European Neuropsychopharmacology 2019; 29(12): 1321-1332.
- Gwin JA and Leidy HJ. 2018. A Review of the Evidence Surrounding the Effects of Breakfast Consumption on Mechanisms of Weight Management. Advances in Nutrition 9(16):717-725. https://dx.doi.org/10.1093%2Fadvances%2Fnmy047
Author: Shannen Singh RD (SA)