A new year brings with it an opportunity to reflect and consider all that we hope to achieve over the 365 days to come. For many of us, supporting our health and improving our nutrition emerge as key priorities. Try our tips below to set yourself up for success, and build healthy habits for 2024 and beyond!
Know your ‘why’. This is what will keep you going on those days where things feel harder than usual. Don’t lose sight of why your goal is important to you, going beyond the more surface-level, superficial reasons to something enduring. For example, you might be motivated to move your body daily, not exclusively to lose weight (although this might be a secondary benefit) but more fundamentally to give you the energy and strength you need to keep up with your small children or grandchildren. Take some time to consider what this could be for you.
Start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Don’t underestimate the impact that seemingly small actions, done consistently, can have in creating sustainable change. It could be as simple as reducing the teaspoon of sugar in your twice-daily coffee by half, or setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier than normal to fit in a morning meditation.
Similarly, build up to a bigger goal gradually and incrementally, instead of going from zero to 100! For example, if you’d like to increase the number of plants in your diet (aiming for the all-important 30+ unique types per week), this might look like introducing some new herbs and spices one week, followed by different wholegrains the next, and then a greater variety of vegetables, and so on.
Add, rather than subtract. It can be difficult to stay the course – or even start! – when we focus on what we’re missing out on. Instead, it can feel much more energising to consider what we can add in, effectively ‘crowding out’ less-healthy behaviours in the process. You might try preparing different salads and veggie sides with your evening meals to increase your daily serves of vegetables, or bake a batch of delicious, wholesome muffins to help you power through the afternoon, instead of reaching for that chocolate bar.
Stack your habits. Habit stacking involves bundling a new habit with one that’s already established, like brushing your teeth or drinking your morning coffee. It helps to prevent a new habit feeling like a major event in itself, and avoids major disruptions to our routines. Try ‘stacking’ a 10-minute meditation with brushing your teeth to support your mental health, or walking – at least part of the way – to your local coffee shop each morning, to increase your step count.
Track your progress. Keeping a record of your efforts will show you how far you’ve come, and can be especially motivating on the days where things feel hard. Keep it somewhere prominent to hold yourself accountable, and keep on going!
Anticipate barriers. Change is hard, not necessarily due to a lack of motivation but more commonly due to unforeseen barriers. When you decide to make a change, think about how to ensure you’ll practically achieve it. For example, if you know you’ll struggle to go for a walk after work, save new podcast episodes or audio book chapters exclusively for walking, to help get you out of the house! Alternatively, you could also enlist your partner or a friend to walk with you, so you avoid letting them down.
Seek support. Spend time with those who genuinely want to see you succeed. We can all benefit from a cheerleader in our corner, even if they’re not actively making the same change(s) alongside us! Depending on your goals, it might also help to enlist the support and guidance of a professional, such as a dietitian, exercise physiologist or psychologist.
For expert, individualised support to meet your goals for 2024, book your first appointment with one of our wonderful Accredited Practising Dietitians today.
Written by Caitlin Branch, Student Nutritionist, and Amanda Smith, Accredited Practising Dietitian.