In 2021, Add Sleep to your Nutrition and Exercise Routine
Approach this Year’s Resolutions Thoughtfully
Every January is a proverbial new beginning with well-intended resolutions to be better, usually healthier, versions of ourselves. Since last January, our experience with and definition of health has been altered amid a worldwide pandemic, which if it did not affect us physically, almost certainly affected us mentally.
When we make resolutions for 2021, it’s still a good idea to set goals for better health, but they might look a little different this year as our needs and perspectives have shifted. After a year of drastic ups and downs, we should be kind to ourselves and focus on what really makes us feel healthy.
Three areas we recommend focusing on in 2021 are mindful eating, exercise or movement, and improving sleep. Using your own intuition, answering a few questions, and with a little guidance along the way, we think you will be equipped to accomplish these healthy resolutions.
Practice Mindful Eating
As the year comes to a close and we reflect on what we want for the New Year, it is nearly impossible to avoid all the diet talk that occurs during the holidays. It may feel extremely tempting to start that new diet yet again, lose “X” amount of pounds, or do that 30-day workout challenge to get “back on track.”
Before you move forward with plans to change your body in the New Year, it’s important to reflect on years past and whether any of these diet plans or exercise regimes lasted past January. If you lost the weight last year, did you gain it all back? Was counting calories or restricting carbohydrates sustainable for the entire year? Did you come to dread your workouts and eventually avoid doing them?
If you were being honest with yourself, is another diet or boot camp the answer? If you’re tired of being on the hamster wheel, it may be time to dig a bit deeper. What are you hoping to get out of these body-focused goals? It may be confidence, happiness, connection, purpose – but usually it’s a bit deeper than the nutrition and fitness goals we set.
Research shows that 95% of diets fail, and more than 66% of people gain more weight than when they started. There is not one randomized control trial that shows sustained weight loss after two years. Not keto, not Atkins, not WW, not calorie restriction. The diet industry is a money making machine and they have a great marketing system for getting repeat customers – and not without causing harm. Dieting is the #1 predictor of weight gain and is strongly associated with the development of eating disorders.
On the flipside, those who practice intuitive eating have greater mental and physical health outcomes, including lower risk for weight gain and eating disorders.
Intuitive eating is an eating approach that emphasizes internal body cues rather than external diet rules to tell us when and how much to eat. When we begin to reject the diet mentality and lean into our body’s inner wisdom, then we can truly listen to what our body needs and wants from food without judgement or guilt. This is not an easy process, and often requires the support of a specialized therapist and/or dietitian. You can also start by reading the book “Intuitive Eating”, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch to become more familiar with the approach. Unlike dieting, which is easy in the beginning and becomes much harder than you go, intuitive eating is often hard in the beginning and becomes easier for the rest of your life.
Our nutritionist, Adena Neglia MS, RDN, CDN, recommends the following exercise to explore the first principle of intuitive eating, “Reject the Diet Mentality”. This first principle is key because if you always believe there’s a new and better diet around the corner (there’s not), it’ll prevent you from fully embracing intuitive eating. :
- Write a list of every diet you’ve ever been on. Even if you made it up yourself. Then for each diet, write the negative effects you personally experienced. How did you feel on the diet? How did it affect your lifestyle and your social life? Maybe these diets left you feeling irritable and fatigued or less social because you didn’t want to “screw up”. Or maybe your exercise routine suffered or your sleep was disrupted.
- Review the list of negatives. Is this how you would like to live your life? Is this a sustainable way of eating for the next 20, 30, 40+ years?
- Now, write a list of all of the positive effects of dieting. The catch: It cannot be the amount of weight you’ve lost. What foods did you enjoy? What changes to your lifestyle felt good?
- Looking at the positives, how can you apply some of these into your current eating habits or lifestyle? This will help give you a better sense of what is most sustainable for you.
Find the hunger + fullness scale as well as more tips on mindful eating on our Nutrition Wellness Challenge blog.
Exercise or Simple Movement
Those of us that do not like to exercise must understand that at the very least we must be physically conditioned for the lives we lead. That would be the most effective way of preventing co-morbidities like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.
Though, incorporating exercise into your day is not easy for all; it needs to fit your lifestyle in order to maintain a regime. When you are ready to start exercising but don’t know where to begin, evaluate these steps from our Director of Physical Therapy, Shraddha Bhatia PT, DPT, OCS, to find your rhythm:
- Identify a sport or activity you love. (Dancing counts!)
- Identify your training loopholes
- Set a realistic goal to overcome these loopholes
- Gradually increase training volume and frequency
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Sleep
Sleep deprivation can impact healthy immune systems by decreasing disease-fighting antibodies, which affect how quickly you recover if you get sick. Daily routines and stress greatly impact our sleep patterns and the amount of sleep we are getting. It can vary by individuals, but the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends at least seven hours of sleep per night. This year, prioritize your sleep to improve your performance. Studies have shown sufficient sleep improves your short- and long-term memory, improves emotional regulation, and helps weight regulation.
Follow these steps from our primary care provider and sleep expert, Lara Trevino, AGNP-C, MSN:
- Recognize and replicate your body’s ideal time to go to sleep and wake up
- Assess your sensitivity to caffeine and alcohol
- Identify stress triggers and extinguishers
- Find an exercise you enjoy and look forward to
- Decrease your blue light exposure (screen use) before bed
- Keep your room cool, comfortable, and quiet
- Use your bed only for sleep and sex
Learn more about your body’s ideal sleep and wake times on our previous Wellness Sleep Challenge blog, and find out how to assess sensitivities keeping you awake with our Five Ways to Improve your Sleep blog.
No matter where you are on your own health scale, you can’t go wrong by starting your year with a renewed focus on your health. In addition to these eating, exercise, and sleep tips, we encourage you to schedule an annual wellness checkup to ensure you are up-to-date on your screenings. During your visit, we can discuss changes in family history, health goals, and how to fit them within your lifestyle, routine screenings, and the option of genetic testing. If you want to know more about membership, our Personal Health Navigators are here to assist you in all your medical needs and queries.
Not a member yet? Learn more about membership to The Health Center at Hudson Yards.
Happy New Year and Be Well.
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