You just welcomed your new healthy lifestyle. You have decided to be a different person now, lose weight, exercise three times a week, quit the booze, and indulge in veggies. Congratulations!
Chances are that you will succeed. For the next couple of weeks.
But then everyday life catches up and the veggies don’t find their way to your plate as easily. It gets complicated, it takes time, you realize that you weren’t that good at creating amazing, tasty salads after all. Dubious snacks start to sneak in, and you notice that your mindset has shifted to “I might as well just…” Welcome to the downfall of your New Year’s resolution.
What often happens when we set up our New Year’s resolutions is that we set unrealistic and too restrictive goals that we have no chance of living up to and at the same time demanding of ourselves to make the switch overnight. And when we find ourselves having a hard time achieving those goals, we quickly fall into the opposite category of binge eating and indulging in comfort foods. We feel guilty and shameful about it and quit the project entirely. Goodbye healthy January!
But what if instead of talking about veggies, exercise, calories, and diets, we started to talk about how to establish meaningful mealtimes with quality food and good people around us? If we devoted ourselves to creating balanced and connecting rituals around the dinner table? Studies show that not only are we healthier when we eat together, we are also happier. And so are our kids. So, what if we quit the restricted quick-fix mentality and instead engage in a long-term balanced and meaningful
In America, we tend to be very consumed with what is referred to as “nutritionism” (the idea that the nutritional value of food is all that counts). We don’t, on the other hand, attend very much to how we eat and the pleasure of eating. A chocolate cake equals guilt and endless hours of exercising. We obsess about proteins, fibers, cholesterol, saturated fat, amino acids, etc., often leaving us more confused about what to eat.
My point here is that we ought to prioritize real food. Food that doesn’t come with health claims and a long list of ingredients, but real, wholesome foods. And when eating, we ought to devote our energy to creating meaningful mealtimes with our loved ones. While having connecting conversations where we insist on knowing each other. Food should not just be fuel, it should be a social and ritual anchor. Because when we take our meal times seriously and start cooking, we eat healthier — and that’s a fact.
So, instead of a restricted January diet, maybe we should aim for this:
• Eat together (we eat less when eating with others)
• Eat homemade food (it contains less fat, sugar, and salt)
• Enjoy your food (and eliminate guilt and shame)
• Move your body in ways you like (even if it’s just long walks in the beginning).
Maybe 2021 is the perfect time to start building a healthy, guilt-free relationship with food and mealtimes?
Daniel Island resident Gitte Holm-Moller, a Danish psychologist specializing in anxiety and families, with her husband is co-founder of the Nordic Family Table, which addresses concerns handling pickiness and mealtime struggles. For more information and programs, go to nordicfamilytable.com.