You can eat healthy food without focusing on weight

For many people, ushering in a new year means entering a new diet. One study found that 20% of participants decided to shed pounds starting on January 1, making weight loss the second most popular category of solution after physical health. But study after study has found that diets don’t work in the long term — the vast majority of people eventually regain the weight they lose, if not more — and that lower body weight is not a reliable indicator of better health anyway.

Attempting to change your diet in the name of losing weight is, in general, misleading at best, and can really do damage to your mind and body. But that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from eating differently.

If, coming into the New Year, you don’t feel better physically or your relationship with food has subsided, it’s not a good idea to change the way you eat, says Blair Burnett, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at the University of Minnesota. You may be uncomfortably bloated or feel low on energy. Perhaps you notice that you eat more often than you want to, or that you eat whenever you feel bored and sad. It is possible to improve your physical and mental health by paying more attention to what you eat. Doing so may lead to changes in your body composition. The key is to get rid of the misconception that losing weight should be your main goal.

Here are five diet resolutions to consider if you’re hoping to start the new year with a healthy relationship with food — no metrics required.

Collect, do not subtract

People are more likely to keep decisions that involve a file addition to their routine, rather than goals that require avoiding something tempting, according to a 2020 study published in PLUS ONE. Instead of solving the problem of limiting treats, set a goal of eating a larger variety of nutrient-dense foods. Try adding a vegetable to every meal, sign up for a Community Supported Farming Fund, or grab a piece of fruit for your afternoon snack each day.

Tracking each day you complete your habit with an app or a simple laptop can make the goal measurable. Start small, says Vivian Hazzard, also a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at the University of Minnesota. “Instead of saying, I’m going to do this thing every day, say, I’ll probably do it two or three times a week.”

The idea of ​​adding rather than subtracting can guide you to make any meal more nutrient-dense without restricting the things you love. Rather than throwing chips and crackers out of the house, aim to pair them with other foods that help you feel full — for example, a side of guacamole or a spoonful of nut butter. Mix green leafy greens with macaroni and cheese or meatloaf. Put a handful of frozen spinach in your morning eggs.

drink more water

Water is a simple addition that can make a huge difference in your health. Mild dehydration (loss of water of less than three percent of body weight) is associated with fatigue, decreased motivation, and digestive problems such as constipation, according to a 2010 review article published in the journal. Nutrition Reviews. Chronic mild dehydration may contribute to an increased risk of urinary tract infections, high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes. Aim for between 2.5 and 3.5 liters (84.5 and 101.4 ounces) of water per day, more if you exercise. To remind yourself to drink a glass of fluid, associate it with another part of your routine – leave a water bottle by your bed and take a few sips as soon as you wake up, make a cup of herbal tea when you sit at your desk and drink a cup whenever you brush your teeth. There are dozens of apps that help you keep track of how much water you drink and send you helpful reminders. If drinking plain water seems like a chore, try adding something more interesting like cucumber, lemon juice, or flavoring toppings.

[Related: Don’t punish yourself for eating ‘unhealthy’ foods]

Eat more fiber

Fiber is the substance in plant foods that the body cannot digest. For a long time, scientists thought it was undesirable, says Beth Olson, professor of nutrition at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Today, we know it’s essential. Olson says fiber feeds the bacteria in our gut, which can have a knock-on effect on everything from our mood to our immune systems. In plants, fiber acts like a capsule for nutrients the body uses, such as sugar and fats, making it difficult for the body to absorb them. So when we eat fiber-rich brown rice or beans, our bodies don’t actually absorb all the carbohydrates they contain. We also absorb these nutrients more slowly and feel fuller for longer. In addition, foods high in fiber are often rich in other nutrients. “Fiber keeps good company,” Olson says. The Mayo Clinic recommends that women aim for between 21 and 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim for between 30 and 38 grams. (For reference, an apple contains about five grams of fiber; a cup of black beans contains 15 grams.)

Cook a new recipe every week

I’m biased here, because I made that decision in 2018 and I’ve only missed a week since then. It’s easy, fun, and as an added bonus, it may even have health benefits. People who cook at home tend to have better overall health, closer personal relationships, and a stronger sense of cultural identity, according to a review published in 2017 in the journal. appetite.

To maximize the positive effects, take the time to sit back and enjoy the meal you have cooked. This could mean tasting food with friends or family, but it could also be as simple as turning off Netflix, lighting a candle, and enjoying a feed you prepared for yourself. “It’s a way to take care of your mental health, and it can connect you to the meaning and joy in life,” Burnett says. In addition, you will save money that you would have spent on takeaway.

Start recording your hunger

Instead of counting calories, start tracking how you feel from your food. Write down what you eat at each meal — not the macronutrients and micro servings, as you would on a strict diet, but simple summaries of what was on your plate — how hungry you felt beforehand, and how you felt afterwards.

Paying attention to hunger is an important component of intuitive eating, a diet model that encourages eating based on internal rather than external cues. Adults who practice intuitive eating are less likely to be stressed out about eating and are generally happier with their bodies.

“Pay attention when you’re hungry when you’re full. And eat accordingly,” Hazzard says, “and that might sound simple, but I think because of diet culture, a lot of people have strayed from the norm with these cues.” However, it’s important not to Pay attention to calories or measure portion sizes — and don’t stress if you notice that you’re eating when you’re not hungry, or eating past the satiety point, says Burnett. “It’s not a hunger and fullness diet.”

Enjoy your food

Ultimately, any changes you make to your diet should be adjustments that are easy for you to maintain, and ones that make you feel good, Olson says. Otherwise, it will not be sustainable. Don’t force yourself to start eating vegetables you don’t like; Don’t expect yourself to cook elaborate meals on weeknights if you come home exhausted; Don’t drink water too hard every time you crave soda. If the way you eat makes you irritable, tired or jittery, it’s not good for your health, is it? Olson stresses that focusing solely on the nutritional value of food, rather than the enjoyable aspects, does not benefit our health in the long run. “Food is an important part of our culture, it’s festive, it’s food,” Olson says.

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