A Healthier Sort of New Year’s Resolution

I follow a number of other functional medicine doctors on social media, and I have to admit that many of the messages they share have orthorexic undertones. They talk about “eating clean” and following borderline extreme diets, and avoiding this, that or the other food group. Don’t get me wrong, extreme dietary interventions have their time and place (read: under extreme health circumstances) and changes to a person’s eating habits yield very positive results when they are warranted. But I get frustrated when people make it seem like we all need to give up delicious food and start drinking MCT oil in our coffee or, as I saw on Instagram just this morning, make brownies out of blended spinach and hemp hearts. I almost gagged just thinking about it and, I kid you not, immediately went to the kitchen and baked regular brownies made out of cocoa and sugar and oil (and all the other ingredients necessary for brownies to taste good.)

I rant about this regularly, but not every person needs to eat more vegetables. For some people, eating more vegetables would actually be a harmful choice because they’re already eating too many vegetables, or at least not enough of other, non-vegetable things. Likewise, plenty of people eat a totally fine number of vegetables, and adding more in would be totally missing the point in terms of things they could be doing that would actually improve their health. 

Plenty of people eat a totally fine number of vegetables, and adding more in would be totally missing the point in terms of things they could be doing that would actually improve their health.

Lately, I could probably stand to eat a few more vegetables.

It’s not because I don’t like them or I’m not in the habit of eating them, but rather because parenthood with two people who work makes it difficult to keep the refrigerator stocked. Quite frankly, we had a hard time keeping the refrigerator stocked before we had kids, so we compensated by keeping the freezer stocked with frozen meat and vegetables so we were hardly ever in a pinch. As long as we had 10 minutes to throw a sheet pan in the oven at night or fill up a crockpot in the morning, we always ate well. But now, our freezer is full of breastmilk which has displaced the frozen broccoli and chicken thighs that used to reside there. The solution to my problem would not be lecturing me about the importance of vegetables or telling me to throw away my breastmilk (I’d probably cry if you said that…IYKYK) but rather to help me figure out a way to make space in my day for grocery shopping (I’m working on it…okay?). Or maybe to become my personal chef. 

But even if someone’s health would benefit from eating more vegetables (like mine probably would right now), maybe “eating more vegetables” ranks lower on the list than other health interventions like getting more sleep. Once again, that’s my life…going straight home and getting in bed after an evening shift at work has ranked higher on the list than trying to navigate the Costco parking lot. When I don’t sleep, I can’t function enough to take care of myself or my baby much less figure out how to grocery shop. Right now, our MO is to fill the fridge with as many vegetables as can fit. We eat like a veggie king and queen in the few days after the grocery run, and then to make it work in the days thereafter.

For other people, perhaps the #1 thing they can do for their health is to stop smoking. Or to get a different job. Or go to the dentist. Or to walk a little more throughout their day. Or to stop training for marathons and rest for goodness sake. It depends on the person. 

But I can assure you that trying to make brownies out of spinach is never the answer. (Eat a spinach salad if you must, but if you want a brownie, just eat one and move on with your life!)

If you’re into New Year’s Resolutions, here are a few ideas that involve neither dieting nor spinach brownies…

1. Lighten Your Load

With resolutions, we often get caught up in the drive to do more and be more, losing sight of the fact that what we already are is more than enough. Resist the temptation to do it all and live up to the expectations of others and instead focus on minimizing responsibilities so you have more time on your calendar to focus on the things that are most important to you.

It’s okay to turn down invitations, to leave your work at work, to choose not to enroll in the same programs or classes you’ve previously participated in so that you have more margin to rest, connect with your family, and invest in self-care.

2. Floss Your Teeth

When’s the last time you made a New Year’s Resolution about dental hygiene?

We only get one set of teeth (okay fine, two…but for most of us, the baby teeth are long gone) and most of us don’t take as good care of them as we should. I can count on one hand the number of times I flossed this week…and I regret that. Because I should need at least 1.5 hands to count to 7, which is how many times I should floss in a week!

3. Declutter

There’s no better time than today to get rid of that pair of pants you’ve been hanging onto in hopes that you’ll fit into it again. Or those sweaters that your grandma gave you that you never wear but feel bad getting rid of (she will never know.) Sort and donate what you don’t use.

Owning less stuff means less cleaning, and less cleaning means more time to do things that are more important.

4. Buy Less

See idea #3 for reasons why owning less stuff is helpful.

But really, we probably don’t need or use half the things we buy. Little trinkets that sit on shelves? Fast fashion? Impulse purchases at Costco because they’re on sale? Not to mention the packaging waste and the credit card bills that come with those items.

I try to wait a week before buying something that catches my eye (with the exception of food.) Saving money on stuff I don’t need frees up financial margin for experiences that I really enjoy. And for generosity. [Click here to learn more about an awesome organization if you’re looking for places to donate.]

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