Many people choose to start the new year with a new exercise routine, perhaps by participating in Veganuary or Dry January, or decide to embark on a different diet.
But for those looking to make change, what are the best ways to do so in a more permanent and long-term way?
NationalWorld speaks with nutritionists, psychologists, wellness experts and movement therapists to find out how to fundamentally change your lifestyle – including diet, exercise and mindset – on a substantial longer-term basis.
“Many people set unrealistic goals or expectations”
According to fitness, wellness guru and nutrition expert Penny Weston, the most important part of lifestyle choices in the New Year “is trying to make sure they’re realistic and sustainable” because it makes you much more likely to be able to stick with them.
Penny said, “A lot of people set unrealistic goals or expectations, like losing a lot of weight or going to the gym every day, and then feel disappointed when it doesn’t happen.”
For those looking to lose weight, Penny said, in an effort to lose weight fast, many people enroll in “faddy diets which, frankly, are generally unhealthy and unsustainable.”
While these diets can give you quick initial weight loss, much of it is often water retention or will be restored when you start eating normally again, Penny said.
“I believe that faddy and crash diets are always doomed to fail, no matter what time of year they are started,” she added.
Penny explained that people generally tend to only last a few months on a diet, or even less if it’s a very strict diet. Usually they give up because they are losing momentum, picking up old habits, or not getting the right balance of nutrients to feel full and energized.
“In order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, whatever it is, the most sustainable way to achieve it is through a combination of changes in fitness, lifestyle and nutrition, rather than dieting. the fashion.
“Regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet are key to sustainable weight loss. This means controlling portion sizes, cutting down on processed foods high in fat, salt and sugar, and eating more lean protein. , cereals, fruits and vegetables.
This is echoed by James Bickerstaff, a qualified nutrition coach at OriGym Center of Excellence, who stated that “restricting a food group won’t benefit you in the long run, it will just cause a deficit in your body.”
James said drastically changing your calorie intake can cause something called “adaptive thermogenesis,” where the body will burn even fewer calories to protect your energy stores, and in turn could lead to steady weight gain.
In order to avoid this, James advised monitoring and gradually changing your intake, and making small adjustments for your long-term goals.
Are Veganuary and Dry January beneficial?
For many, January is the time to try the vegan diet and lifestyle or to give up alcohol for the month.
However, Jo Cunningham, clinical director of The Gut Health Clinic, said that while there’s “no harm” in Veganuary or Dry January, taking a humble approach instead of a “big picture approach” may be more helpful for some people.
Indeed, a commitment to Veganuary or Dry January may seem extreme to some people, which can make them hard to follow and “trigger negative thinking behaviors.”
She suggested people try the ‘plant point challenge’ if they don’t want to commit to the full month, where the goal is to eat at least 30 different plant foods each week, which could making it more likely to continue into February and the rest of the year.
Ashley Lourens, Wellness Manager of Online Mental Wellness Services Feather, added for those wishing to sustain the changes over a longer period of time, “doing an extreme short-term plan” like Veganuary or Dry January will often lead to the change “wearing off over time.”
Instead, she suggested the best approach for month-long initiatives like Veganuary and Dry January is normally to ask yourself what your goal is, establish your expectations, and address what you want out of it. experience before embarking on the journey, in moderation instead. being the way to go for most people.
For those participating in Veganuary or Dry January, Ashley added that some people will enjoy doing it, but for others it will be “unrealistic” and “exacerbate feelings of failure”.
“Start with small steps”
Exercise and movement are often an important part of people’s plan for a healthier lifestyle.
But, movement therapist Jeannie Di Bon, who specializes in working with clients with chronic pain and fatigue, and founder of the moovlite app, said “the key is to start with small steps”.
She noted that at the start of the year, people “feel obligated” to be healthy, lose weight and exercise, but it can cause them to “go all out and finish.” by getting hurt”.
Instead, Jeannie advised preparing your body for exercise, as well as preparing your mind to look forward to exercise because you feel the benefits, not because you feel guilty.
Jeannie also explained how different factors, not just exercise, contribute to a healthier lifestyle.
“Everything really impacts each other,” said Jeannie, who added, “If you can sleep well, eat well – then the desire to exercise will come naturally. You’ll have more energy to take a walk, a gentle jog or a Pilates class.
While it’s important to start with small steps when it comes to exercise, Jeannie said you also need to “be consistent.”
You can do this by setting time in your calendar to go to the gym or run, or by booking regular exercise classes to attend.
Mindset “is an important part” of adopting a healthier, longer-term lifestyle, Jeannie also explained, as she said it helps to think about why you want to have a healthier lifestyle.
“You have to make this association in your mind between action and benefit. If you don’t commit to it, it will be very difficult to sustain,” added Jeannie.
“Trust the process”
Dr. Marianne Trent, clinical psychologist and founder of Good Thinking Psychological Services, also highlighted the importance of mindset when it comes to making longer-term lifestyle changes.
She said it can be helpful for people to think of “new daily habits” they’d like to adopt instead of new resolutions, and to try to adopt only small habits at a time.
Then, “when you’ve managed to make it part of your daily routine and not something you force yourself to do,” Marianne said a person is then ready to adopt another habit if they want to.
As a final note, Ashley added, “As human beings, we are all different, so even if you have the same end goal as someone else, your journey to achieve it will never be the same. “
She said it’s important to find what works for you, focus on the positives of the changes you’re making, and remember to take it one step at a time.
Ashley said our health “is a journey that will last a lifetime, and along the way we will face both challenges and triumphs,” and added, “Start small, be realistic, trust to the process and enjoy the journey”.