As a new year rolls around, it is inevitable that many people feel like they need to hit a “reset” button on their eating habits.
This is a great time to make positive changes as many people feel a burst of motivation when they anticipate the fresh start of a brand new year. Think of this intrinsic motivation like energy that people can use to catapult themselves toward their goals. The more hope and confidence a person has about achieving their goals, the more likely they will take committed actions, form new habits and create a healthier life.
I recommend a specific structure for successful goal-setting that taps into positive psychology and happiness science. Here’s how you can use food choices to spiral up your energy and health in 2017.
Make It Interesting
Variety is the spice of life and when it comes to food there is no need to diet or establish rigid and joyless food rules. In fact, flexibility is best for establishing long-term habits. Food choices should fit individual interests and available resources. For example, if the goal is to eat half a plate of fruits and vegetables, come up with recipes or on-the-go options that meet taste preferences and feel doable with the amount of time available. Get out of food ruts by following interests and offering something new to try. Mix a tried-and-true favorite, like carrots, with a new hummus or creamy dressing that sounds interesting.
Make It Challenging
I am usually a big fan of effortless solutions because they are huge confidence boosters. But challenges also work because they offer engagement along the way with the anticipation of a reward at the end. In my experience, challenges are particularly helpful for people who feel ambivalent about a change, such as “I want to eat more balanced meals, but I really don’t want to put all that effort into cooking — and the mess!”
A weekly challenge to follow one new recipe could be just the thing that motivates a person to discover a whole new set of delicious dishes to add to the rotation. Who wouldn’t be motivated by the idea of freedom from food boredom with new go-to meals? Just make sure your challenge has a clear end point, like eight weeks or 10 new recipes.
Make It Meaningful
When we experience positive emotions, like joy, we are more open and optimistic. How can you bring more enjoyment to eating patterns?
Encourage clients with kids to involve them in cooking — it’s time well spent as it offers bonding over food and education in math and life skills. Or what about hosting a themed potluck? One of my all-time favorite meals was when I asked friends to come over and bring their favorite childhood dish. One person brought buttered lasagna noodles, and I’ll never forget that! We all enjoyed telling stories about our dishes, sharing our recipes and laughing through the night.
Reflect on how you can make even the most mundane tasks more fun. A little music and some nice mood lighting with candles can go a long way to make a person feel more happiness in the moment.
Resolve to Be Realistic
Keep in mind that resolutions are tough to keep when they are too extreme. A common side effect of wanting to “reboot” is swinging too far in the other direction. No matter what food goals you have in mind, keep them rational. Set goals that will likely be habits in the years to come.