As we look forward to 2023 and say goodbye to 2022, we tend to start thinking of things we would like to achieve or habits we would like to change to make the upcoming year better. We all have heard the age old advice of setting realistic goals, finding a workout buddy, keeping yourself accountable, and more. Instead of repeating the same advice that has been doled out in years past, let’s instead look at some themes to keep in mind for your 2023 resolutions to make sure you have the healthiest year yet!
No matter what your goals are: to eat healthier, get more exercise, provide space for rest, improve mental health, or refine relationships; three words can apply to all of these goals:
In over a decade of being a Registered Dietitian, I have seen many people set resolutions every New Year and forget to keep these three words in mind. Often when I work with patients, I focus on these three themes no matter what their goals are.
Without these three words people tend to set themselves up for failure, quickly get burnt out, or find themselves in a routine that is exhausting, lacking joy, and not maintainable. When looking ahead to 2023, keep moderation, variety, and balance in mind for all aspects of life. These words help holistically provide health. A balance of the yin and yang of mental, physical, emotional, social, and intellectual well-being.
Let’s take a deep dive into each of these themes to understand their importance for long-term healthy habits and an overall whole life.
We’ve all heard it, too much of a good thing can be bad. For many years, I have worked with individuals struggling with disordered eating and even orthorexia. My patients who struggled with binging on unhealthy foods and my patients obsessed with only eating very healthy foods both lacked moderation. On both ends of these extremes were health issues such as nutrient deficiencies, anxiety, depression, and physical issues such as poor sleep or lack of energy.
A healthy lifestyle needs moderation. Whether it be sleep, exercise, work, or diet; to be beneficial and long-lasting it is important to avoid extremes. Too much or too little sleep impacts health, weight, energy levels, and more. An intense workout schedule without adequate rest can lead to injury and burnout; while a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a host of other issues.
Research backs up the need for moderation in our goals. For example, the research-backed American Cancer Society’s Guidelines for Diet and Physical Activity mentions the word 'moderate' 12 times. Healthy eating guidelines recommend choosing more nutrient-dense foods and limiting portion sizes. These guidelines are written to help demonstrate that quality is just as important as quantity, but also that it is not black and white. It is well established that very strict diets are very hard to maintain over time and allowing room for moderation adds enjoyment, helps individuals feel more in control, and helps to prevent overeating.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans also demonstrate this need for moderation. The guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening per week. Of course, individual needs vary and may be more or less, but this main guideline is a great starting place for most people.
One last point about moderation, it is important to remember that moderation means different things to different people. What is moderate for an elite athlete will be very different from a 90-year-old woman with health issues. We all have different physical needs, to determine your personal needs the USDA’s MyPlate Plan is a good place to start to determine the number of servings you need for your size, activity level, and age.
Have you ever committed to an exercise plan that is the same workout day after day or a diet plan where you have to eat the same food over and over? Did you find it exciting and enjoyable for a long period? Were you able to stick to it? Did you find yourself craving something new?
Variety helps keep us engaged and keeps our lives interesting. Burnout is high when people limit foods and/or activities that hold meaning or provide joy. At Seattle Sutton’s we understand this and include a blend of different flavors, ethnic dishes, and even some portion-sized treats with healthier ingredients. We understand that providing a meal plan with a rotation of the same foods would lead to boredom and set our customers up for failure.
Besides providing joy and setting you up for long-term success, variety is important for our health. Individuals lacking variety may get inadequate amounts of certain nutrients. Without a variety of fruits and vegetables, our bodies lack certain vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. All of the different colors provide different nutrition to support our immunity, disease risk, and more. According to the American Heart Association, “The best way to get all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need is to eat a variety of colorful fruits and veggies. Add color to your plate each day with the five main color groups.” The five color groups include red & pink, blue & purple, yellow & orange, white, and green.
In terms of exercise, studies have shown that getting variety with your movement choices helps improve your health and physical ability. By focusing on just one form of exercise, you may be missing out on some important health benefits. According to the National Institute on Aging, the four types of exercises that are important to incorporate are endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Each type of exercise has important benefits and doing a mixture of these types of activity helps to prevent injury, avoid burnout, and doing one kind can help improve upon another type.
Everything in life has to have balance. Too much work, too much sitting, too much sugar, too much stress, too much insert word…too much anything can leave life out of balance. Work-life balance, a balanced budget, and a balance of health can improve many things in life. When things are out of balance it can lead to depression, fatigue, conflict, relationship struggles, anxiety, stress, and even a lack of self-confidence.
Balance also means that you confidently feel like you are spending your time and energy on things that fulfill a meaningful purpose and in areas that are important to you. Are you living a life that fits within your priorities? Are you investing your time and energy in areas that help you feel whole and happy? Living a balanced life means fitting in all of the things you love in a way that feels manageable. If you spend too much time devoted to work, exercise, planning your diet, or something else you may be stealing time from another activity that is important to you.
Balance also means that you are providing your body with exactly what it needs in the right amounts. A lack of balance, especially when it comes to your health, can lead you down a path that takes away many of the things that are important to you. Seattle used to say, “Without health you have nothing.” This is very true! In sickness, you may miss time with loved ones, have to cancel much anticipated travel and be unable to contribute to a career that provides meaning. Diet, exercise, sleep and stress all need to be handled with care for the proper, maintainable balance.
Eating a diet out of balance with one’s calorie needs can lead to over- or under-nutrition and an unhealthy weight. An unbalanced vegan diet can lead to inadequate vitamin B12, iron, and calcium. A diet with too much unhealthy saturated fats could lead to heart issues and inflammation. Without a limit on sugar intake, tooth decay and high blood sugar can result. In addition, an unbalanced focus on weight loss could lead to disordered eating, avoidance of social situations, and more.
Unfortunately, many popular fad diets focus on unbalanced eating. Either excessive intake of a certain nutrient/food or significant restriction. These diet plans can be extremely detrimental to your health. The same is true with excessive intake of supplements. Supplements are widely unregulated and it is best to focus on getting your nutrition from food to avoid any problems with unbalanced levels of vitamins or minerals.
No matter your goal for 2023, keep balance in mind. If your goal is to prioritize sleep, remember that sleep is crucial for optimal functioning and a balance of around 7-8 hours consistently each night is ideal. Regular exercise is important for improving health and avoiding disease but it needs to fit into your other obligations and be balanced with your interests. Keeping up with your self-care needs helps to lower stress and improve your confidence. Your body and mind need proper nutrition balanced throughout the day to fuel your activities. Spending time with family and friends re-energizes us and provides important support. Work, volunteering, and other commitment also need to fit into this balance. Remember to look at your goals holistically; we must balance all of our lives, not just one area. If you are focused on one specific goal, make sure to think through how it will fit into all of these other important areas.
The New Year is a new start and a new opportunity to improve our lives and ourselves. Remember to keep these three important themes in mind when focusing on how to make the next year full of happiness, health, and memories. And don’t forget, Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating is here to support you in your New Year’s goals whether it is healthier eating, lower stress, or add more free time to fit in those things that you love. We focus on moderation, variety, and balance with all of our healthy meal plans. Here’s to a Happiest 2023 to you and your loved ones! Cheers!