On Nutrition

If you’re starting 2022 not feeling good in your body, it can be tempting to go on a diet. But even diets that start well often end with feelings of failure and disconnection from food and your body. By taking a broader view of health that focuses on improving physical and mental well-being instead of reaching a number on a scale, you can feel better in the skin you’re in now while supporting your future health.

Pair physical activity with self-compassion

If you’ve been more sedentary during the pandemic — maybe even to the point that you’re feeling deconditioned — you’re not alone. If your strength, endurance or flexibility aren’t where you need them to be, show yourself some self-compassion rather than beating yourself up. Then make a realistic (not punishing) plan to increase your fitness level, choosing types of movement that you enjoy and will help you bridge the gap from where you are today and where you need to be. If you have unmotivating thoughts like, “What’s wrong with me? I used to be able to lift more weight/stretch further/walk further,” give yourself another dose of self-compassion. All you — or anyone — can do is move forward, one step at a time.

Play with your vegetables

If you feel like your eating could be “better,” eating more vegetables in your meals is a good place to start. If you’re in a vegetable rut, experiment with a few new recipes for preparing veggies as a side dish or incorporating them into a one pot/pan meal. Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and health-promoting phytochemicals and can add a colorful and satisfying counterpoint to the denser or richer foods on your plate. Plus, you will likely find that you — and your digestive system — feels better when you regularly include vegetables in your main meals.

Be mindful, on and off the plate

Eating with minimal distractions and actually noticing your food as you’re eating it increases food satisfaction while helping to prevent accidental overeating. Mindful eating (and mindfulness) takes practice, but it makes it easier to nourish your body in a balanced way while also bringing more enjoyment to the act of eating. Have you ever eaten something delicious while you were distracted, only to realize that you barely tasted it? Mindful eating helps you squeeze maximum pleasure out of each bite.

Let go of food guilt

Food is our fuel, but eating is also a source of pleasure. While basing your meals and snacks on nutritious foods will help you feel your best physically, you have room for “play foods” that have nothing in particular to do with nutrition. When you do decide to eat something for sheer pleasure, eat it mindfully, allow yourself to enjoy it, then carry on. Don’t taint the experience by feeling guilty.

Explore your need for pleasure

We’ve all coped with the pandemic in different ways. Regardless of how resilient you are, two years of being limited in what types of activities you participate in has probably made your world feel smaller — and reduced your sources of pleasure. You may take pleasure in an organized, warm and welcoming home environment. You may find pleasure in creative pursuits. You may crave traveling and exploring new places. If you aren’t getting enough pleasure from nonfood things, you’re more likely to turn to food for all your pleasure needs.