I hate New Year’s Resolutions. Okay, I don’t hate them. But I certainly don’t love them either. While I can see the appeal of a month of excess (December) followed by a brand new routine to supposedly last until next December, I think the whole set-up often dooms us to fail.
Many resolutions are the health and fitness-y type, and often we plan to go from doing virtually nothing to doing a whole lot of something. Don’t get me wrong, that works for some folks, but for many of us, gradual change is far more sustainable and realistic.
I like to think of the grand ideas that I get in January more as “goals” than resolutions. That gives me time to accomplish them, instead of throwing me in the deep end. It allows for time to form habits, and those slowly-built actions tend to be the habits that stick.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg suggests why it might be harder for us to go whole hog with a whole bunch changes all at once: it’s tiring. He says, “Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.” By giving yourself fewer overall habits to change, your need to exercise great willpower is reduced.
He talks about how messaging is an important part of making change. Telling yourself “I’m the kind of person who preps their meals”, “I’m the kind of person who brings a cooler on derby trips” makes it easier for your mind to believe. At first, it will totally feel like faking it, but gradually you’ll turn into the type of person you describe yourself as.
“Eat better. Move More.”
So often, people want to “eat better and move more” come January. But what does that even mean? And how do you get started? This post focusses on the “eat better” side of the equation.
Start with the Kitchen
Your kitchen is a really good place to start making changes. If it’s in your kitchen, eventually you’ll eat it. So, let’s set your kitchen up for success, and remove the items that you’ve decided you want to avoid. If you have a family or roommates, you may not be able to rid your space of everything, but you can make some key changes that make habit-building easier.
What to toss:
- Soft drinks and juices – Focus on calorie-free beverages like water, green tea and coffee.
- High fat and sugar-laden dips, sauces and dressings – Find alternatives like flavoured oils, hummus and tahini.
- High fat processed meat – Prep your lean proteins in advance: turkey and chicken breasts, lean beef, tuna and fish and so on.
- Frozen desserts, ice cream, cake, snack foods and cookies – Treats are great, but they’re even better when you have to go out to get them. That limits consumption and makes them more special.
- Most processed foods – Maybe your January goal could be “learn to cook” instead of “eat better”. Learning to cook will massively change your food intake and will help you move towards whole, healthy foods.
What to add:
- Spices – If you’re starting to make more healthy food at home, make sure you have all sorts of different spicing options: oregano, basil, curry, turmeric, mustard seeds, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, rosemary, parsley, paprika, thyme, clove, coarse salt and pepper and so on.
- Fresh produce – Veggies and fruits, fresh eggs, lean meats if you want.
- Frozen produce – Stock up your freezer with ground beef, ground turkey, chicken breasts, and salmon. Also, invest in frozen veggies and fruits – they’re a life-saver when you’re short on time.
- Canned tuna is your friend.
- Healthy grains – Fill your pantry with rolled oats, oat bran, flax seeds (ground and whole), quinoa and wheat bran.
- Nuts and Seeds – Walnuts, almonds, pecans and cashews are some of the healthiest nuts and can be used in a variety of dishes.
- Legumes – Lentils, chickpeas, split peas and beans are a great addition to many dishes, and a good vegetarian protein switch. You can buy canned beans to save time.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), Coconut Oil and Butter – When you’re cooking, you want to move away from canola or vegetable oils. The three fats above will give you lots of cooking options.
Another huge kitchen tip:
If you want to start eating it, make sure it’s in a prominent place in your home. If you don’t want to eat it, put it away. That bag of chips on your coffee table? You’ll eat it since you see it all the time. Same thing goes with a bowl of apples or oranges, or a platter of veggies. At our core, we don’t want to work more than we have to. If you keep your healthy snacks out in the world, you’ll be far more likely to chow down on them.
Conquer the Grocery Store
Once you’ve made your kitchen changes, what changes should you be making at the grocery store? First of all – BRING A LIST. Plan your meals in advance and know what you’re looking for.
To save time and money:
- Buy in bulk. When you can, load up on staples that are on sale (tuna, peanut butter, eggs, veggies, apples, Greek yogurt, etc.). Check the per-unit price to make sure you’re actually getting a deal. If you have one, a chest freezer can be an invaluable kitchen addition, allowing you to have all of your proteins on hand at any given time.
- Buy pre-frozen meat or fish that’s been packaged by the store you’re in. Instead of getting exact amounts from the butcher, pre-packaged proteins are often discounted.
- Substitute stuff that’s on sale – if a recipe calls for ground beef, but ground turkey is on sale, don’t be afraid to mix it up. Refer to your swap guide to switch out ingredients.
- Look for CSAs (community supported agriculture), farmer’s markets, and local farmers. Often buying straight from the farm can save you money. If you can take a drive out in the country, you’ll often find eggs or apples for half the price of the store.
- Also, if you have a chest freezer, look into purchasing large amounts of protein (ie. a quarter cow) direct from local farms. It’s a big outlay all at once (we just spent $1400 on a side of beef, no joke), but it offers a big savings in the long run.
And to put it all together…
Shop with your grocery list in hand. Only buy what you need for the meals you’ve planned. And when you get home, make meal prep a part of your routine.
Instead of taking all of those fresh veggies and putting them right in the crisper, cut up half of them for snacking throughout the week. Instead of freezing all your meat, cook some in advance for future snacks and dishes. Meal prep doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking – just have a plan and do a little bit. As time goes on, you’ll realize how planning and prepping actually makes your week easier in the long run.
Want even more help with planning and prep?
Derby Fuel can help!
If you want more specific guidance on how to achieve your healthy-eating goals, check out Derby Fuel. We give you a step by step, non-judgemental guide, and we focus on one new healthy habit per week (to reduce that willpower overload I talked about above). You also get about a million recipes, tools, prep plans and grocery lists, and we’re always reachable to help you on your healthy eating journey!
The Power of Habit says, “This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.” The easier you can make it for yourself to adopt a habit, the more likely that habit is to stick.
Do you have any January goals or resolutions that you want to share? Let us know in the comments!