Do you hear that sound? That is the sound of New Year health resolutions crashing and burning all around us. We are heading into February, the month of the I've-survived-so-far "reward" days and Valentine's Day chocolates. Considering this critical time, The Telegram has turned to local nutritionist and health consultant Tara Antle of St. John's-based Healthy Balance for some advice.
First up: take a deep breath and relax.
Antle said if you took on the general resolution of having a healthier lifestyle and are now feeling like there is too much to do, it's time to sharpen your focus.
A good step one is adopting healthier eating habits, she said. That does not mean "cutting" treats or lasagna nights.
"Cutting back is one of the worst things we can do," said Antle. "If we think we can't have something or we're restricted, we're going to want it more."
Instead, said Antle, stick with the old maxim of "everything in moderation."
If you are looking to lose weight, she said, remember healthy living means never being hungry.
Skipping meals can upset your sugar levels, which can negatively impact your mood and energy level and leads to diet "cheating" or overeating.
That means having your main meals, but also having snacks during the day.
"I think a sensible approach would be to really get that structure in there. Make sure you're eating every two to three hours during the daytime. And even choosing foods that are low on the glycemic index will make a huge difference, to regulate blood sugar levels," she said.
The glycemic index value (sometimes called the GI number) is an evaluation from 0 to 100 to how foods affect your blood sugar level. Foods with a higher GI number are broken down and absorbed quickly, creating a faster rise in blood sugar level. Foods with a lower value on the index produce a more gradual rise in blood sugar.
Of course worrying about the glycemic index value (or GI number) of everything you're eating may be a bit overwhelming, so Antle has an answer for that too.
"Generally with the glycemic index, if something's higher in fibre and higher in protein, it sits lower. So it would be a healthier choice than something that's high in refined sugar, or with not enough fibre in there," she said.
"The key to all of this is regulating blood sugar levels. If our blood sugar levels are under control, it actually controls our hunger, it increases our energy level and its a fantastic tool, a preventative measure towards diabetes," Antle said.
"The other thing about that is it's fuel efficient. We burn as we go. Whereas if we're eating a lot of foods that are high in sugar, or sugar gets into our bloodstream too quickly, what ends up happening is that our body just takes the extra sugar and converts it to fat for storage."
In other words, make sure to pick up a few higher fibre, higher protein items on your next shopping trip.
For snacks, Antle recommends simple items like kiwi, yogurt or carrot sticks.
"Going back to the basics and keeping it simple and keeping it clean. ... If we're choosing foods that are natural, like natural fruits and vegetables, there's automatically fibre in there. It's kind of nature's way of taking care of itself," said Antle.
Eating fresh foods for snacks, but also making your own meals from fresh ingredients, is also a way of watching your salt intake.
The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends Canadians eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium (about 1 teaspoon) of salt a day. For those with high blood pressure or who are otherwise "salt sensitive," the recommendation is no more than two-thirds of a teaspoon a day.
While some companies producing processed foods reduce their salt content (for example, Campbell's soups), that does not mean salt in their products is no longer a concern.
Just remember: everything in moderation.
Preparing fresh foods yourself whenever you can acts as a good salt safety net, letting you know exactly what is going into your body.
Antle recommends making large amounts of some of your favourite comfort foods - for example an extra-large lasagna or double batch of chili - then freezing the foods in individual-size portions. That way, on those days you just can't bring yourself to cook, there s something available to pop in the microwave.
As for sticking to your healthy living meal plans?
"We all think it's to do with willpower and it's not. It's a physiological response," Antle said. "If your body needs energy, it's going to make you crave it. That's why sometimes when your home getting supper ready your hand is in the cookie jar and the cereal box."
So get your fresh fruits and veg ready, prep a few frozen feasts and make it through the month.
Tips for making your way to a healthy lifestyle
Plan ahead: Plan your meals ahead of time. Make a list of foods to pick up at the grocery store. Being pre-prepared and having healthy foods on hand for meals and snacks makes it easier to choose healthier options throughout the day.
Go slow: If losing weight is a personal goal, to help maintain your muscle mass and make a permanent lifestyle change, aim for an average weight loss of between one or two pounds per week. Slower is better.
Eat Regularly: Eating healthy foods every two to three hours during the day will help to regulate your blood sugar levels, control your hunger and give you more energy.
Water, water, water: Water has many important roles in your body. In particular, water helps to control weight, elevate water retention, sustain proper muscle tone and rid the body of waste. In general, it is recommended to drink two litres per day.
Get moving: Exercise helps to increase your energy level, decrease stress levels and helps control your weight. Do something you enjoy - have fun with it.
Be realistic: Set goals for yourself, based on your lifestyle, body type, activity level, medical condition and age. Sometimes we look at others and think, "I want to be just like them." I often hear clients refer to friends who are thin and can eat whatever unhealthy foods they choose. Keep in mind that just because someone else might be thin, does not mean that they are healthy. Food and lifestyle choices impact more than just our waistline ... they impact our health, moods and energy levels.