29 December 2023

New year resolutions that aren’t focussed on weight loss

29 December 2023

As soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 31, many start uttering the words ‘the diet starts now’ or ‘this is the year I’m going to get to my goal weight’ – and our screens are inundated with ‘hacks’ on how to slim down fast.

But, what if we gave ourselves permission to stay as we are, and practised more self-love instead? Or at least make New Year resolutions to add some healthier elements into our lives, without any of the cliched pressure?

We talked to experts on why some more positive mindset changes could be beneficial for 2024, and what alternative New Year resolutions they would recommend…

Focus on adding things to your diet, not taking things away

Nick Mitchell, Global CEO and founder of Ultimate Performance, believes succumbing to the pressure of January diets is unhealthy.

“The concept, or culture, of the new year diet is one that makes steam come out of my ears in frustration,” he says.

“See if this sounds familiar – you’ve massively over-indulged over Christmas, which you justify to yourself because come January, you’re going to embark on a diet so strict it would make a supermodel blush.

“So, the idea of a January diet to me is one that perpetuates a vicious cycle of disordered eating and impossibly unrealistic expectations that are doomed to failure.”

Instead of restricting what we eat this January, Mitchell suggests focusing on adding “as many nutrients as possible” instead.

Bridget Benelam, nutrition communications manager at the British Nutrition Foundation, echoes this view: “It may help to concentrate on what to eat, more of than what to cut back. Adding more fruits, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains will not only provide valuable nutrients and fibre with fewer calories, but is also likely to displace other less healthy options, re-balancing your diet.”

Practise self love

 Instead of focusing on how you can change your body in the new year, Gillian McMichael, a transformational wellness coach, recommends establishing a daily routine which involves practising self-love.

McMichael says: “This is often difficult to do as we are normally at the bottom of our to-do list, but it is important to take time for you – start by acknowledging your worth and embracing self-compassion.

“Practise self-care regularly, setting aside time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation,” she adds.  “Challenge negative thoughts, replace them with positive affirmations, and surround yourself with supportive people, and set boundaries to prioritise your wellbeing and focus on personal growth.”

Counsellor Georgina Sturmer similarly encourages people to get into the habit of using self-affirmations.

She explains: “Many of us spend a huge amount of time and energy seeking out the acceptance and approval of those around us, but it’s actually the way in which we can love, accept and approve of ourselves which is the most important thing.

“Affirmations involve choosing a phrase or statement that feels empowering, and then saying it out loud – it might be something that you are already able to believe about yourself, or it could be something that feels unattainable for the moment, but like a possibility for the future.”

Compliment others without focussing on their looks

Sturmer adds that complimenting others can also help us have a more positive perception of ourselves: “When we compliment people on themselves as a person, we are affirming the importance of the qualities that we value.

“The qualities that come from inside, rather than the external window-dressing – this has the power to boost the other person’s self-esteem,” she says. “There’s also a knock-on effect as it reminds us of what is important for ourselves too.”

Practise mindfulness

Life and career coach Natalie Trice also  thinks mindfulness can be “most beneficial” in harnessing more self compassion.

She explains: “Mindfulness activities like meditation, journaling and yoga can improve mental health and ease anxiety. If you want to create a healthier relationship with yourself and others, search inside for inner peace in 2024.”

Prioritise sleep

 Carlie Gasia, a sleep science coach, believes sleep can be very helpful for our mental and physical health, and is important to prioritise in 2024. This feeds into our sense of confidence and self-esteem too.

“Prioritising sleep is essential due to the widespread detrimental effects of sleep deprivation. Even a short-term lack of rest disrupts communication between brain cells, impairing perception and cognitive function,” says Gasia. “A single sleepless night can have lasting negative impacts on the circadian rhythm, affecting glucose metabolism and fat storage for months or even years.”

To get a better night’s sleep, Gasia recommends establishing a “consistent sleep schedule”, turning off devices, using your bed for “sleep and intimacy only”, and creating a calm environment by keeping your bedroom “cool, dark and quiet”.

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