Ara Wiseman

Leap Into Your Best New Year

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. In the past, I would jump head-first into the typical good intentions – eat a better diet, hit the gym 3 times a week, stop spending so much money and relax more. By the time January 8th rolled around, I’d be back eating leftover shortbread cookies and going out for pizza or Chinese food, my gym pass would be “lost”, my bank account would still be waiting for its first deposit and I’d be working until 2:00 AM six days a week.
I decided that the only way to break out of the holidays’ overindulgent cycle was two-fold: moderate my splurges during the festivities (having a few of my mom’s special shortbreads and a piece of her challah which I love, instead of a slab of pumpkin pie and a wedge of nutty, dried-fruit laden panettone, which I only ate out of ceremony). On January 2nd, I will reset my lifestyle and eating patterns to clear my brain and body of the holiday stress.

Many people report that they have more energy, better concentration and less bloating after resetting their body’s metabolism and eating patterns. Resetting the body clears natural elimination pathways, so that they can better function, builds up the beneficial bacteria and nutrient stores in the body, improves the strength of the internal organs and removes you from bad habits (i.e. excessive coffee, alcohol, fat and/or sugar) to foster your “body’s memory” of your previous healthy actions. It’s not a “detox” plan in the sense of the traditional “starve yourself and live on water and lemon wedges” mentality. Rather, I wanted to de-clutter my mind, get moving again in whatever way I could, and re-stock my kitchen with lots of delicious, nutritious food that I could afford and easily prepare.

I started to journal my major and minor goals for the year, and the steps I was going to take to achieve them. Once I had my list, I typed it up and stuck it on my mirror, and read it daily. The constant reminder kept me true to myself and I felt energized ,when I started crossing off, what I had achieved! I also typed up a list of all the positive aspects of my life and body, in large, bold font, and put a copy of it on my bedroom wall and tucked one in my purse. Reading it every day gave me a sense of power and worth – why wouldn’t I want to keep improving myself and adding to that list?

For exercise, I knew that I would never be a self-starting gym rat like my mother and I needed structure. So I signed up for a Pilates and a circuit training class, and once I started going I needed no encouragement to continue. The vast difference between that type of workout, meant that I was training all parts of my body, toning and stretching it, in a variety of ways, and burning calories while feeling part of a group. For some friends of mine, going solo to the gym is the only way they’re comfortable working out, so they pop on their iPod and hit the treadmill and weight machines, then do some active stretching at home. The key is to incorporate a stretch, a strength, and a cardio into every week.

In the kitchen, whole foods were in, processed foods, salt, caffeine and refined carbs were out. The first thing I did was pay attention to the portions I was eating, and when it came to foods, like grains or nuts I cut back my servings by about 10%. The result of taking away inflammatory or bloat-inducing foods like carbonated drinks, high-fat items, meat, dairy and eggs, processed soy products (milk, yogurt, protein powder and meat analogues), wheat and corn for only three weeks was startling – it cut out a lot of the “dead weight” I had been feeling since Thanksgiving. Instead, I loaded up on legumes, unsalted raw nuts and seeds, whole grains, quinoa, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower), sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, beets, lemons and fresh fruit, delicious foods I still enjoy as the bulk of my diet. Instead of salt for seasoning, I picked nutrient rich, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like turmeric, black, white and cayenne pepper, cinnamon, parsley, celery seed, cilantro, coriander, fennel, thyme, mustard seed, nutmeg, dill, fenugreek, cardamom, horseradish, cumin, rosemary, and mint. To further flush out the sodium from the typical everyday diet (not to mention the holiday eats) I stressed high-potassium foods like greens, zucchini and squash, tomatoes, cucumber, mushrooms, cantaloupe, green beans, potatoes (white and sweet), bananas, oranges, and berries. I also got back to drinking water – following the “holistic” calculation of a minimum 75% total (pounds) body weight in fluid ounces (i.e. for me [110 lb] I needed a minimum of 82.5 fl. oz (10 1/3 cups): 110 X 75% = 82.5).

Living and eating this way brought back the realization of how fun, varied and delicious healthy living could be. It was the best, first three weeks of the rest of my life – I no longer need to bemoan failed resolutions and wishful thinking. In February I can slowly re-introduce animal products and other eliminated foods (except refined carbs and sugar). Most people I talk to, who do the same sort of “reset” tell me that they now use animal products as accessory items or condiments, not the major component of their diet. Many of them (including me) cook and eat healthier recipes as a matter of course due to the variety and “true taste” of the meals that is no longer masked by sugar, fat and salt.

Sarah has been published in the Taste of Home Healthy Cooking Magazine (2012), the Dietitians of Canada Cook! (2011), the Foodista 100 Best of Blogs Cookbook (2010) and the Greenbelt Fresh Association website (2009). Sarah is an active participant in online recipe and social media events such as the Sunday Supper Movement, which aims to “Bring Back Sunday Supper Around the Family Table in Every Home”, and The Recipe ReDux, which is the first and only recipe challenge founded by registered dietitians.

Sarah lives in Oshawa with her pet cat and a thriving heirloom vegetable garden. She can be found on Twitter @jo_jo_ba or @newtrition_SR, on her website or her food blog

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