I don’t know about you, but the New Year has brought home its annual seasonal home truths. I’ve eaten too much and not moved enough. The post-Christmas slump is as much a tradition as the mince pies that caused it.
Most people set upon the new year with good intentions. They finish the last of the Christmas chocolate and start googling "healthy diet", or the January go-to "detox".
If that sounds familiar, step away from Google. There’s a better way.
As the Knackered Mums Nutritionist, my clinic is full of mums wanting to feel better and January can bring that desire into sharp focus. But may I suggest a different approach? One that leads you on a path to great energy and no food guilt ever? Come to any dietary and lifestyle change from a place of self-compassion. You’re a busy mum. You don’t need restriction or counting calories. You don’t need to weigh your food or count points or sins. You need nourishment. And you need a little self-love to kick-off the New Year, not the sad step (AKA the scales).
So, if you feel like some positive change is in order, tweak how you eat and how much you move not because you want to look different but because you want to feel different. Happier. More energised. Less knackered. Confident about what, how and when to eat to make yourself feel the best you can.
Start the year with this resolution: hold your own wellbeing sacred. How about, as mums, we love our body so much that we choose to NOURISH it, not punish it with some miserable diet of which you'll resent every hungry second. New Year’s diets invariably involve restriction and denial – and that’s hard to sustain. Most people give up after a few weeks and return to familiar habits.
Small changes, made consistently, are much more likely to endure.
So, what does that look like? Balance. Not earth-shattering, but true. The ‘secret’ to New Year health is just reigning back the excess of the previous month and crowding out the rich and sweet temptations with more nourishing foods. Longer term, it means understanding what drives your eating habits and your relationship with food. Change that and you'll never look back.
New Year, New You? Sounds exhausting. Let’s take a more balanced approach. These are my five tips for a healthier year ahead. And remember, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach.
1. Eat more protein.
Each meal or snack should have a portion of protein. This can be animal or plant protein. Chicken, turkey, fish, nuts, seeds, pulses and tofu are all sources of protein. Protein fills you up and makes you less likely to look for unhealthy snacks.
2. Eat more (healthy) fat.
Incorporating healthy fats in your diet are a good habit to get into. Eggs, avocadoes, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and oily fish are all good sources. Healthy fats slow down the metabolism of protein, keeping you full for even longer.
3. DON’T try and quit sugar.
This is a big one. T’was the season to eat all the chocolate, so going from that to zero is miserable. A little sugar in the context of a healthy diet is just fine. Tell yourself you won’t touch the white stuff at all for a month, and I guarantee you’ll be lying in bed at 2 am wondering if there might be some leftover Celebrations down the back of the sofa. Aim to get your sweetness from a teaspoon of honey on full-fat Greek yoghurt or opt for a few squares of dark chocolate (look for at least 70% cocoa) to hit that sweet craving. A turmeric latte is another nourishing, sweet solution for any time of day.
4. Take a break (from eating).
One thing that is common to most of us in December is the graze phenomenon. We eat constantly. Between meals. After meals. Just before meals… Over time, this can lead to problems with our blood sugar levels, so aiming to get three good meals a day and seeing if you can avoid snacking is worth a go.
5. Replicate Christmas dinner - without the pud.
The traditional Christmas Day meal is actually a pretty healthy one. Good quality protein and LOADS of vegetables. Upping your vegetables is a great way to improve your overall health. Just try and add one or two new vegetables to your meals a day. Build this number up slowly.
Finally, getting outside may not be hugely appealing in the January mizzle, but if the sun is shining, wrap up and get moving. The connection between mood and exercise is well documented. Health is about more than our waistline.
New Year, new you? How about new year, new approach? Mama, I promise you, it's the way forward.
About the author
Thalia Pellegrini is a registered nutritional therapist (DipION mBANT CNHC) and mum of two. After a decade as a broadcast journalist for the BBC, Thalia followed her passion for nutritional science and retrained. She qualified in 2009 following a three-year course at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition in London.
Her specialist interest is women’s health. Known as the Knackered Mums Nutritionist she runs group programs and works 1:1 with women to address health issues ranging from PCOS, PMS, perimenopause and menopause, weight loss and low energy.
You can join Thalia's facebook group, the Nourished Mums Meet Up, here.