What you should really be focusing on when it comes to food and nutrition in 2019

Around the Holidays and with the start of the New Year, we are totally inundated with messages on social media and tv promoting all sorts of diet plans and detoxes. I get it - Holiday eating is often far from normal and can leave us feeling a little run down. After what feels like 2 weeks of non-stop celebrating with family and friends, I definitely notice a difference in how I feel. Layer on a lack of sleep + little movement and here I am feeling a little bit sluggish, and I'd be lying if I didn't say my digestion has been far from normal (TMI?).

This to me is a sign that I should focus on incorporating more of the foods and behaviors back into my life that make me feel my best - energized, clear headed and well rested. Not a crazy cleanse or quick fix diet. Not because of the number on a scale. Not because I want to make up for the food I ate last month (because I will continue to drink wine and eat cheese this month and every month of 2019).

I understand the appeal that diets and cleanses may have on the surface, but you are doing yourself a disservice by engaging in behaviors that deprive your body of essential energy and nutrients. Buzzwords like cleanse and detox are thrown around irresponsibly (especially this time of year!), making it seem as though we need to follow a radical diet to improve our health. Let's talk about the truth when it comes to detoxes.

Our bodies have built in detoxification systems including kidneys, lungs, a liver, the colon and the lymphatic system (just to name a few) to remove unwanted substances from our bodies and to regulate bodily processes for optimal health. Our bodies are pretty dang good at what they do, but they cannot do their best work under conditions of deprivation and stress (aka cleanses and restrictive diets).

In order for the body’s detoxification systems to work optimally, a variety of nutrients are required to make this happen. For example: your liver needs adequate amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and selenium to function. Juice cleanses and other restrictive diets actually deprive your body of many of these essential nutrients.

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I am all for starting the New Year with a fresh set of goals and intentions, but I truly loathe the messages that make us feel as though we need change our bodies, starve ourselves, or go to extreme measures to make up for the "bad" foods eaten during the Holidays. Research shows that 95% of diets do not work in the long-term. And ironically, chronic dieting is one of the biggest predicators of weight gain. Overindulging from time to time is part of an overall healthy diet. We all do it. No one is perfect. Bottom line: there is never a time in life no matter what you have eaten or drank that your body does not need adequate fuel.

With the start of 2019, I encourage you to stop thinking about your diet as a rigid plan, and to focus less on which foods you are going to restrict or avoid in the new year. I challenge you to think about how foods and behaviors make you feel both physically and mentally (digestion, mood, energy, etc.) and to focus on incorporating more of what makes you feel your best. Below are some ideas for ways to reset without falling into the dieting/detox trap, which can ultimately lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and poor health outcomes.

  1. Meal planning/prepping. If you feel a little out of sorts from traveling, Holiday parties, etc, focus on returning to your usual eating habits. For me, this means planning a couple meals/snacks at the beginning of the week and having homemade food on hand to eat throughout the week. Focus on eating a variety of nutrient dense, whole foods.

  2. Increase fiber intake! Include more fiber rich vegetables and fruit at meals - this could be as simple a handful of spinach in smoothies or some peppers and onion in an egg scramble.

  3. Up your hydration game. Dehydration can contribute to low energy levels, brain fog, headaches and GI disturbances. Pick up a new water bottle and carry it around with you to promote adequate hydration.

  4. Get moving. You don't have to do an hour long spin class to reap the benefits of exercise. Get out for a walk with a friend or zone out to music while you do some cleaning to get those endorphins pumping.

  5. Focus on Satisfaction. If you're craving fresh crunchy veggies in a big salad, awesome! If you're not in the mood to eat a salad, that's cool too! Don't force yourself to eat something because you think it's what you "should" be eating. Choose foods that sound good and that also nourish your body.

**These are very broad and basic tips for a gentle reset. There is no one sized fits all plan and I wholeheartedly believe in an individualized approach to nutrition. Reach out below to learn more about my one-on-one nutrition counseling services.

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