As we begin the New Year, change is in the air. Whether it is Brexit, the new Spring term or the third season of The Crown, change can feel uncomfortable and slightly overwhelming. This is never more true than when it comes to our diet because we often make changes while being oblivious to any potential downside. It is hardly surprising that after an indulgent holiday of eating and drinking far too much, many people have started the year full of good intentions and ambitious resolutions that were made over a glassful of bubbly. Whether it was the mince pie ‘bites’, mini stollens or the bottomless tubs of chocolates, most had their downfall and were ripe for change. But now we are in the first few weeks of January, once the festive treats and sweets have safely disappeared, the reality of what you signed up for will be starting to sink in…
Which is why New Year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to stick to. Everybody will know someone who has already fallen off the wagon and quit Veganuary, dry January or been lured back into the doughy embrace of Greggs. So you are not alone in wondering how you are going to get through the next few weeks of 2020 with whatever healthy changes you declared you would make to your diet. But there is no getting away from it; we are all creatures of habit. Which means that it takes more than wishful thinking to keep to the promises we made out loud whilst tipsy. It is not absolutely impossible for the most determined to pull off a major diet overhaul based on eleventh hour aspirations. And if this is you, congratulations and you can go back to your highly functioning life. This is for the rest of us mere mortals. In general, the more drastic a dietary change is for an individual, the more likely they will fail.
However, on the bright side, the reverse is also true; if you can make small healthy changes to your diet that are realistic, then you will be more likely to triumph. The key is how you start. Focus on what you are already eating with 20/20 vision to see where you can make lasting changes. In other words, resolve to use your 20/20 to start a healthy 2020.
Here are 4 steps to start you on your way:
- Take stock of your diet. Hindsight is always said to be 20/20 but when it comes to our diet, we seem to have a real blind spot. Not many people can accurately recall what they have eaten in a day, let alone in a week. Nonetheless, you probably know where you have been going wrong. Use this step as a wake-up call; it’s time to face up to the healthy reality of what you should be eating and in what proportion. Compare your daily diet to the Eatwell Guide https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/ and be honest about where there are differences. Focus on what needs to be improved in your diet to make it healthier rather than following someone else’s diet trend.
- One small step. Don’t try to do everything at once because you are more prone to failure. Choose one area of your diet where you can realistically and easily make a healthy change. It can be anything to start with as long as it is achievable. For example, you could aim to eat an extra portion of fruit or veg a day; switch from plain to wholegrain breads, pasta and rice; swap full-fat for non-fat milk and plain yoghurts; swap sweetened drinks for water.
- Mind the gaps. Be more mindful of your food at mealtimes but don’t forget about what you are eating outside of your home, at work or when out. Notice where you have managed to stick to a healthy change but recognise where there have been small lapses because they can add up to larger dietary gaps. No one is perfect but the more often that you can see that you are getting it right, the more likely a healthy change will stick.
- Keep going. Once you’ve got the hang of it, a small healthy change will become a habit and your new ‘normal’ over time. But can you add another? Start again with 20/20 vision to see where you can make another small change.
Lastly, in a new year full of uncertainty and change ahead it can be easy to be distracted or give up from working on a healthy task at hand. When resolutions get really difficult then I suggest looking no further for support than from the Crown. Not to Olivia Colman CBE (and winner of a Golden Globe award) but to the wise words of Her Majesty The Queen. In her recent Christmas address The Queen said that,
“it’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change”.
After the past ‘quite bumpy’ year she may, of course, have been referring to friendship, reconciliation and things much more political than diet. Nonetheless, the truth remains that small steps can soon add up to making a healthy difference.
But now for another change in terms of recipes. Many supermarkets are now promoting Veganuary alongside their ‘Free-From’ ranges and it is difficult to overlook the bags of brightly coloured red lentil penne and green pea fusilli sitting on the shelves. It was a good excuse to play around with some recipes so here is a new one for Fusilli with pea pesto.