With diet culture all around us, it’s no wonder that developing healthy habits is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions.
Body shapes are getting trendier and trendier (insert eye roll). What we are led to believe is “for our health” is really fueled by sensationalism and deeply rooted in weight bias and stigma.
When you think about your health goals for this year I encourage you to focus them towards your overall well-being and not on changing the size of your body. After all, statistically, the most common outcome of intentional weight loss is eventually regaining the weight and a decline in health.
While the following 4 concepts aren’t trendy, flashy, or sexy, they are some of the most impactful things we can do for our health.
Basic but Powerful Health Habits
1- Prioritize your mental health
This is one of the most important healthy habits you can establish. One of the best ways we can do this is to start looking out for our own needs. Begin by asking yourself regularly throughout the day, “What do I need right now?”
This will help give you some insight into what stops you from self-care. Take some time to self-reflect and see where you may need to set boundaries, reach out for support, or look for creative ways to find balance.
Mental health also means making sure you are regularly:
- Engaging in positive social interactions
- Having fun
- Doing things that make you feel good about yourself
- Giving and receiving love
2- Improve your shut-eye
When it comes to sleep it’s not just about quantity it’s also about quality. Sleep really sets the foundation for maximizing your health. It helps you reset your hormones, clear toxins in the brain, recharge, perform your best and so much more.
Start by working on your sleep hygiene by:
- Minimizing blue light exposure for 2 hours before bed
- Sleeping in pitch dark or with an eye mask
- Establishing a sleep schedule
- Getting in a relaxed state of mind before bed
- Consider meditation over the news before bed
- Avoiding caffeine after noon
3- Get moving
Many people associate body size with poor health but physical activity levels are a much greater predictor of health. Sumo wrestlers, for example, generally exhibit good health. Their high activity levels trigger their body to deposit fat under their skin instead of between their organs where it can be more damaging to their health.
I’m not saying you have to train for hours a day like a sumo wrestler. Any amount of physical activity throughout the day is generally beneficial to your health, assuming you don’t overdo it.
Aim for activities you enjoy and that energize you. Dancing, walking while chatting with a friend, gardening, or a friendly game of tennis could be a good starting point.
4- Dietary changes
I purposely saved this healthy habit for last. Despite being a dietitian, I wholeheartedly believe that your mental health, sleep quality, and activity levels all play a bigger factor in your health than what you eat.
When making dietary changes I generally recommend starting with small steady changes. So rather than try to 180 your typical intake, pick 1-2 things you’d like to change. Once you have those down and they feel habitual, move on to a couple more goals.
See, nothing fancy here. Slow and steady wins the race. Anything that is drastic, unsustainable, or seems too good to be true should most likely be avoided.
What, if any, health goals do you have this year?
Updated January 2024