With the festive eating and drinking of the holidays behind us another tradition follows: A New Year’s Resolution to improve health, energy, fitness, and rewire your appetite. What you eat and drink can have a huge influence on the outcome of this kind of resolution.
In the United States alone, some 45 million launch into a diet each year. The results are largely abysmal, as nearly half of Americans struggle with obesity.
Expert Robb Wolf, author of the New York Times bestseller Wired to Eat: Turn Off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite For Weight Loss and Determine the Foods That Work For You, highlighted this problem in his book with colorful imagery:
“The only process that fails folks more often than diets is starting a campfire by vigorously rubbing snow cones against wet toilet paper.”
However, if you’ve ever failed in improving how you eat, the former research biochemist makes two must-know points:
It’s not your fault. Human evolution has not designed you and I for self-control, Wolf explains. It’s common to underestimate how overpowering the brain chemistry driving hunger can be.
If you have tried and failed to stop eating donuts and chips, it’s not a willpower problem, Wolf argues. Willpower is outmatched by our sense of hunger. Consider star athletes we often equate with self-discipline and work ethics.
“We see lots of world champions that become diabetic right on the heels of being a world champion,” Wolf says.
Rather, Wolf explains, human beings are genetically wired to eat simple foods and cover (on foot) five to 10 miles of ground a day.
But unlike our hunter-gatherer ancestors that lived 10,000 years ago, you and I live in a world with an overabundance of cheap, processed “grab-’n’-go” foods that, thanks to drive-throughs, we can get our hands on without even getting out of the car.
And because of the ultra-convenience of modern society, where many can count daily steps by the dozen rather than the thousand, getting a fix of junk food is as easy as pecking the keys on your smartphone and ordering a delivery.
You absolutely can do it. Wolf says that despite forces working against you, getting your eating dialed in toward health and fitness is within reach.
“The change is doable but you need to commit to the process.”
Here are five key actions Wolf recommends that can help you get on track with your New Year’s health and fitness goals.
5 Action Steps to Get Your Eating on Track
1. Get fired up.
You are going up against a formidable enemy when it comes to changing poor eating habits into empowering ones. Wolf says that most people make significant changes when it’s emotional; facts and figures just go so far.
Connect your 2021 health and fitness to something that gets you excited and fired up. An athletic challenge, or becoming part of a new, healthier community, and changing your body, mind, and lifestyle with it. Commit to the challenge or event and bring along a friend, keeping each other accountable. With this kind of emotional intensity attached to your goals, eating fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins and nutrient-packed nuts and seeds becomes part of the flow.
2. Take on a 30-day challenge.
One reason why changing your eating habits to healthy ones is that a plan can be overwhelming to think about. If you go in with the belief that success demands a lifetime of adherence to a set of hard-line rules, by day two it can feel like an impossible journey.
Instead, Wolf suggests committing to 30 days. In 30 days you can accomplish an energizing amount of new health and vitality. The emotional power of these feelings can create the momentum necessary to make eating better merely a part of the way you live your life.
3. Refresh your kitchen.
Wolf advises you start a 30-day “reset” by making it easier to reach for a carrot and harder to grab a chocolate bar. Start your reset off right by completing the 1st 5K in January.
Clean out your cupboard of the processed foods that are reeking havoc on your metabolism. From pasta and white rice to crisps and cakes, get rid of it or give it away.
Then it’s time to go shopping. One approach is the perimeter-of-the-supermarket method.
Stick to the perimeter where you’ll find fresh produce, and load up on the real foods that don’t require a food label.
To lower the barrier to eating healthy, you want your fridge and freezer packed with lean proteins and the nutrient-dense, high-fibre foods. These will help you satiate your hunger and put you on the fast track to better health. Your brain chemistry becomes your friend rather than a foe.
4. Go Big Picture.
Once you’ve emptied the cupboard and stocked your kitchen with real food, you can further set yourself up for success by attending to the other pillars of health.
Start to exercise, sleep, fresh air, sunshine, and being a part of a positive community all have their parts to play in helping you be as fit and healthy as possible. They also reduce the stress that can trigger cravings for junk food.
5. Keep it simple.
Wolf says that knowing how to cook can be a big help to a nutrition reset, but you don’t have to be a gourmet chef. An effective meal plan can be put together with the suggested staple of real foods and a selection of simple, antioxidant-rich spices. Start off with the basics like salt, pepper, basil, garlic powder, and chili powder and you will have opened the door to dozens of simple recipe combinations that don’t require exorbitant amounts of time and skill.
To be successful – to be healthy and feel great over the long haul – Wolf says purpose is your power source and well of emotional energy.
“You need a strong ‘why’. You need a reason to make these changes and just keep doing them, even when your motivation is in the toilet. This may sound daunting, but it’s not. We are talking about one meal at a time, one day at a time.”
Boil it down to focusing on getting your next meal right, Wolf says. Do this long enough in connection with your why, it will eventually become automatic.
“It will be as effortless as taking your next breath.”
Don’t limit what you can achieve this year. Set yourself a 2021 Tough Mudder event as a goal. You got this.