Tips to Create Healthy Habits in 2022
Research shows that firsts, like the first day of the week, month or year can make people feel hopeful or provide a reason to take action - perhaps this is why January is typically a popular month for resolutions: a firm decision to do or not to do something. January is usually the month where people are more motivated to make habit or behaviour changes to improve their health, ie. quit smoking, start exercising, order less take-out and make more home cooked meals using healthy ingredients.
January 2022 has been anything but typical with kids back to virtual learning, and restaurants, gyms, travel, etc. shut down AGAIN. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, do you find yourself less motivated to make healthy changes? If you answered yes, here are some tips to help make habit changes more doable this year:
Add vs. Take Away
Instead of focusing on what you have to cut out (ie. sugar), pick something each week to add that will benefit your health, for example, this week I’m going to add raw fresh greens to at least one of my meals everyday. Perhaps you try a green smoothie recipe for breakfast each morning, add a green salad to your lunch or add chopped fresh kale into your chilli for dinner.
The following week, try adding a healthy fat every day, like avocado, walnuts or pumpkin seeds! Next week, add 2 glasses of water to your daily water intake. After that, consider Meatless Monday, and experiment with healthy sources of plant-based protein using lentils, soy (non-GMO), nuts and seeds. Check out my recipe below for my Mexican Taco Bowl with Lentil-Walnut “Meat!”
If one of your goals this year is to start running, don’t sign up for a marathon right out of the gates. Start small, and build from there. Author of Atomic Habits, James Clear recommends the 2-Minute Rule, which states: “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do” (1). For example, “run for 30 minutes” becomes “put on my running shoes” or “start practicing yoga” becomes “take out my yoga mat.”
The point of the 2-minute rule is to “master the habit of showing up” (1). Make the new habit as easy as possible (at first) or create a “gateway habit that naturally leads you down a more productive path…once you’ve started doing the right thing, it is much easier to continue doing it.” In his book, Clear tells the story of a man who wanted to lose 100 pounds so he drove to the gym everyday, but only allowed himself to exercise for 5 minutes. After a few weeks, he decided to stay for longer. After a few years, the weight was gone.
I like to apply the 2-minute rule when helping my clients establish a meal planning habit. Instead of asking them to plan all their meals for 7 days (overwhelming!), I ask them to take 2 minutes each evening before they turn on the TV to “Run-Through” their schedule for the following day, and think about what they will have for their 3 meals and snacks.
For example, tomorrow I have an early doctor’s appointment, so I’ll take a healthy muffin out of the freezer now and simply grab and go tomorrow! I have a meeting at 1pm so I need something quick to eat after my appointment. I’ll boil an egg tonight and tomorrow add it to a quick salad with packaged spring mix, shredded cabbage and avocado. Tomorrow night, my son has hockey from 6-7pm, so I’ll grab a pre-roasted chicken on my way home from my doctor’s appointment and have it with a quick salad.
If you take 2 minutes each night to do the Run-Through for a few weeks, eventually you can take it a step further and run-through a few days at a time.
Focus on the wins
“Research has shown that of all forms of human motivation the most effective one is progress" (1).
When I start working with a client, the first thing I ask them to do is keep a food journal. They track what they eat and drink, when they have their first and last bites of food, how they feel after eating - physically and emotionally, but I also ask them to track their wins or victories on the day.
Perhaps they drank 2L of water, had fruits and vegetables with each meal or started their day with lemon water. It’s so important to track the progress you’re making towards your mental and physical well-being, vs. focusing on a miss - like I had wine last night (when maybe your goal is to avoid alcohol during the week). Tracking your wins means you can see the progress you’re making and creates that motivation to keep the momentum going!
Not only does a food journal keep you motivated, but it could help you lose more weight (if that’s a goal for 2022): “One study of more than 1600 people found that those who kept a daily food log lost twice as much weight as those who did not” (1). Most of us typically think our behaviour is better than it is, but tracking your food and drinks keeps you honest and accountable to yourself (and me!).
If you want to develop long term, sustainable healthy habits and feel and look your best this year, check out my Healthy Habits Nutrition Counselling program to see how we can work together to achieve your goals!
Mexican Taco Bowl with Lentil-Walnut “Meat”
For the meat:*
1 cup uncooked green lentils (you will use 1 ¾ cups cooked)
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted (raw pecans or cashews work too)
1 tbsp. taco seasoning**
1 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp water
Bowl Ingredient Ideas:
1 bell pepper, diced
Roasted Sweet Potato
Coleslaw or Julienned Cabbage
Avocado, diced, or Easiest Guac Ever***
Sliced green of black olives
Simply build your bowls using the “meat” and any toppings that you like - enjoy!
*If you’re not going veggie for this dish, ground turkey or chicken works perfect too!
**Make your own taco seasoning by combining the following spices:
1 tablespoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika (I prefer smoked paprika)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
***Simply mash avocado with lime and salt (I also add a spoon of Greek yogurt to make it creamy)!