All articles Health Tech Business

A dietician's guide for living your healthiest life in 2022

Each year, millions of people look forward to the New Year as it provides an opportunity to reflect on the past and determine what goals you want to achieve in the coming year. For many, these goals are centred around health and wellness. In fact in 2021, the top 3 New Year resolutions were:

1. Exercise more and improve fitness

2. Lose weight

3. Improve diet

While the idea of losing weight and exercise sounds easy and exciting, in reality 80-percent of resolutions will fail by the second week of February according to the U.S. News & World Report.

If you find yourself giving up on your health goals year after year, it may not be the resolution that’s the issue, but the way you are approaching your health goals. This year instead of setting unrealistic health goals, let's take a new approach, one that shifts your mindset to focus on ways to make you feel your best in 2022.

1. Avoid fad diets.

Have you ever seen an advertisement for a diet that sounds a little too good to be true? Or, one that requires you to eliminate entire food groups from your diet? If so, congratulations, you are familiar with fad diets. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or green smoothie diet that will magically melt 10 pounds off you in a week or two. If you're not quite sure if a diet is a fad or not simply ask yourself this question.

Is this a way of eating that you can easily maintain throughout your entire life?

If you answered “no”, then the diet in question is likely unsustainable in the long term. While fad diets will help you shed pounds in the short-term, once the diet is stopped, the lost weight is usually regained quickly and causes feelings of failure and even depression. The word diet literally means “the food and drink that you eat and drink regularly.” Therefore, a diet should be a lifestyle, not a short-term cycle.

This year try something new and give yourself permission to not be on a diet. Instead, focus on basic nutrition by minimizing your intake of ultra processed foods and by eating a variety of unprocessed or minimally processed foods with moderate portions to provide your body the fuel it needs to keep you energized throughout your day.

2. Ditch the all or nothing diet mentality

An all-or-nothing diet mentality refers to thinking of food in black or white terms. You see food as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. ‘Healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. This all or nothing mindset is very common among chronic dieters and can even cause you to feel that you have had a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ day based on the food choices you made. In fact, an all or nothing mindset can often disguise itself as a restrictive diet

“I can't have a piece of cake, I didn’t exercise today.”.

“I better eat this last slice of pizza tonight, so there’s none left for me to blow my diet on tomorrow”

These are all classic examples of the all or nothing diet mentality. The problem is, when we tell ourselves we can’t have a piece of cake, we want it even more. We can’t stop thinking about it and oftentimes we trick our brains into thinking it's even better than it really is. We can hold off and exert superhero willpower for a short time, but undoubtedly, most people cave and have the cake. More often than not it is followed by the statement “I’m not allowed to have cake, I better eat as much as I can, I’ll get back on track on Monday.”

As you can imagine these types of thoughts and behaviours typically result in frequent overeating and an unhealthy obsession with food. However, by using a little common sense and by lifting food restrictions, you can find your middle ground which allows you the freedom to eat what you want without judgment, and allows being ‘good enough’ to truly be ‘good enough.’

An easy way to find your middle ground is to add things to your foods to ensure you truly enjoy them. If you like salad but can't stand fat-free or low-fat salad dressing, use a normal portion size of regular salad dressing. Add some real butter to your vegetables if it improves your satisfaction. When you don’t feel restricted and love what you're eating, you won't feel the need to overindulge.

By finding the middle ground or “the sweet spot”, it allows for a more flexible and satisfying approach to eating. An approach that you can consistently maintain seven days per week—and when it comes to creating healthy habits, consistency is a key ingredient.

3. Set realistic health goals

I'm sure you have heard the saying “Never bite off more than you can chew.” Well, that definitely holds true when it comes to setting health goals. The best way to set achievable goals is to chop your long-term goal down into bite size pieces. For example, if you decided “I want to improve my diet” is your main goal this coming year, you have to figure out what actions you're willing to take to make it happen. These actions are your short-term goals and should act as stepping stones to help you achieve your main goal.

Let's say hypothetically you drink 3-12oz cans of regular soda every day. You know, soda contains a lot of added sugar, which has been linked to cardiovascular disease and weight gain, so you decide it's time to break the soda habit. While quitting cold turkey is an option, and may work for some people, it is usually unrealistic. So, to make it more doable, instead of “I will completely stop drinking regular soda to improve my diet” try “I will reduce my intake of soda by cutting back to 1-12oz cans of regular soda every day for 3 weeks.”

Once you feel you have successfully met your short-term goal it is time to reevaluate it. While reducing your soda intake was challenging, you found that cutting back was doable, and you decided to challenge yourself a little more and cut back to 1-12oz soda every other day to keep you moving towards your big goal of improving your diet. Keep in mind that goals are not meant to be fixed, in order to keep progressing, you have to reevaluate your goals to see if they are still relevant. Then, once you get to a place where you are happy with the goals you have achieved, it’s time to start the process over with a new short term goal.

This process is called habit stacking. By stacking habits, one after the other, you create small wins for yourself, that will eventually become a lot of healthy habits. This can make all the difference in the world when it comes to staying motivated and achieving your long-term health goals.

Remember the childhood story about the tortoise and the hare? And the saying “slow and steady wins the race.” This expression means although progress may be slow, that consistency pays off in the end. This story holds true when it comes to achieving your health goals. It may not happen overnight but with effort and consistency, you can achieve your goals and be the best version of yourself!

Get actionable insights about your health

Babylon’s free Healthcheck tool helps you understand your current health state and how it might change in the future. Complete the interactive questionnaire and Healthcheck will provide a health report, so you can take steps toward becoming a healthier you.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.