Feeling weighed down, sluggish, and bloated after the holidays? Maybe you went a little overboard on champagne for New Year’s or had one too sugary desserts over the holidays. We can all relate — it’s hard to resist holiday temptations!
Thankfully, the new year is the perfect time to refresh and reinvigorate your wellness plan. Our brains are wired to see any fresh beginning as an opportunity for growth and self-improvement. Psychologists call it “The Fresh Start Effect,” a phenomenon where people are more likely to chase after their goals and stay motivated.
So, if you’re feeling stuck or lacking motivation, take advantage of the new year and start your journey toward a healthier, happier life now. These eight strategies can help:
1. Begin With One Simple Change: Your Food
Achieving a healthier lifestyle can begin with a simple change — eating more whole foods. Instead of sticking to restrictive diets, a more balanced approach is to consume natural, minimally processed foods. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats that are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and fibers that are essential for one’s wellbeing. The advantages from consuming whole foods are plentiful, including:
- Boost in energy
- Increased mental acuity
- Enhanced immune system operation
- Regulation of appetite and hunger
Also, try to cook most of your meals at home. One study shows that people who do this are more likely to eat more nutrient-dense foods and have lower body fat than those who eat out often.1 Start by preparing one meal a day and gradually increasing the number until you are making the majority of your meals at home.
Savor seasonal superfoods like root vegetables — e.g., carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and celery root. Other great winter food choices include cranberries, broccoli, squash, Brussels sprouts, and pumpkin. Eating seasonally not only helps keep you healthy, but it also allows you to connect with your local environment and nature.
Don’t forget to hydrate! Dehydration is still a risk during the winter. Plus, staying well hydrated is important for controlling your cravings and supporting a healthy weight. Be sure to drink at least 64 oz of filtered or spring water each day (some of this can be from herbal teas).
2. Winterize Your Workout
We all know the importance of exercise, but when it’s freezing cold outside, it can be challenging to stick with your regular routine. This is too bad because winter may be when you need movement the most to support immunity, cardiovascular health, metabolism, and mood. Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent workouts that can be done indoors, and they both offer numerous important benefits for physical, mental and emotional health. Pilates and other mat-based workouts are also great for maintaining and building muscle, essential for keeping your metabolism in top form during the winter.
3. Keep Your Vitamin D Levels Up
Numerous studies link low levels of vitamin D with depression, weakened immune function, osteoporosis, and many other health issues. For example, researchers found that people deficient in vitamin D have a “significantly higher risk of depression” than those with normal levels of the nutrient. Another meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal found that supplementing with vitamin D was related to a 16% decreased risk of cancer mortality.2
Our ancestors spent considerably more time outside in sunny environments than we do — and even when we are outside today, we often use sunscreen. As a result, the body synthesizes less vitamin D, contributing to high levels of vitamin D deficiency in this country.
You can boost your vitamin D levels by spending 15–20 minutes in the sun daily. Make sure to expose an area of your skin that has no sunscreen (e.g., your arms). Unfortunately, sitting by a sunny window will not count as sun exposure — most glass cuts off exposure to UVB rays, which produce vitamin D.
Getting vitamin D from food alone can be tough, as the top sources — fish liver and organ meats — are not popular foods in this country. You can get smaller amounts of vitamin D from oysters, eggs, salmon, sardines, dairy products, and soy milk. But this generally isn’t enough to correct a deficiency.
Mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D, particularly shiitake mushrooms. Reishi, ganoderma, and lentinus, are also good sources, particularly when they’re exposed to sunlight. Taking vitamin D3 supplements or medicinal mushrooms every day can be an effective way to ease mood imbalances, while also supporting immune and overall health.3
Also, it may be worthwhile to see if you have one or both vitamin D mutations through a DNA test — mutations in the CYP2R1 and CYP27B1 genes reduce your body’s ability to convert vitamin D to its active form. In these cases, you may need higher doses of vitamin D to achieve optimal levels.
4. Support Your Metabolism with Key Herbs & Nutrients
Several targeted supplements can support long-term metabolic health and counterbalance holiday overindulgences. I recommend a formula that combines energizing herbs with key metabolic-balancing nutrients, including American ginseng, holy basil, gymnema leaf, cinnamon, chromium polynicotinate, alpha lipoic acid, and medicinal mushrooms. This particular blend can help balance blood glucose, reduce sugar cravings, improve sugar and fat metabolism, and help support a healthy weight.
5. Practice Healthy Stress Relief for Weight Management
Chronic stress and exhaustion both cause cortisol and other stress hormones to flood the body, fueling inflammation and triggering a cascade of reactions that spell bad news for your metabolism. Stress and lack of sleep increase the risks of obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and many other chronic illnesses.
Studies show that healthy mind-body relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi help ease stress, lower cortisol, combat inflammation, and encourage healthy weight management.4 Likewise, adequate sleep, ideally 8– 9 hours per night, can reduce risks related to metabolic health problems and chronic illnesses.
A quick word about meditation — make time to meditate. Studies show that even 13 minutes of meditation daily can help lift your mood and alleviate stress.5
98% Pure Honokiol, a researched extract from magnolia bark, can help calm stress, promote mental clarity, reduce depression, support deep sleep, and enhance neurological function. In one study, honokiol was shown to have neuro-inflammatory properties.6 This powerful ingredient has also been shown to increase well-being while actively supporting other key areas of health on a cellular level, including antioxidant activity.
6. Tackle Your Goals Early in the Morning
Research shows that our willpower is like fuel in a car — it only lasts so long during the day before it eventually runs out. To avoid running out of ‘gas’ and losing motivation, try to focus on your New Year’s Resolutions early in the morning when willpower is at its strongest. If your goal is to eat healthy, for example, don’t wait until dinner to start — as you’ll likely lose your self-control to the dessert platter. When you work on your goals earlier in the day, your willpower will help you complete your task and give you the boost of confidence and motivation to continue.
7. Quell Excess Inflammation, the Silent Enemy in Your Body
For all the health problems it causes, inflammation is a good thing at the most basic level — it’s an essential part of the body’s natural protective and repair response to threats such as germs, toxins, and injury. This type of short-term inflammation for acute situations is not just healthy but necessary for survival.
Unfortunately, our inflammatory mechanisms can easily be thrown off balance by a variety of triggers, such as poor diet choices, stress, and exposure to environmental pollutants. And once this happens, the body starts pumping out inflammation continuously, rather than just during temporary serious conditions. The health-damaging, age-accelerating effects of chronic inflammation include complex, degenerative diseases like autoimmune issues, cancer, and heart disease.
Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP) is a natural supplement derived from citrus peels that rejuvenates every part of your body by revitalizing your cells, defending against pro-aging proteins in the body, and supporting healthy inflammation and immune responses.7 MCP has also been shown to help bind and remove heavy metals and other toxic substances. This is particularly helpful if you’ve eaten too many refined sugars and carbohydrates over the holidays. These processed foods can fuel inflammation and spur free radical production, which causes oxidative stress. MCP helps address these problems naturally and without causing side effects.
8. Don’t Forget Your Digestion
By supplementing with botanicals and nutrients that help improve nutrient absorption and improve digestive efficiency, you will notice greater energy, improved metabolic function, and less bloating and indigestion. I recommend digestive-supporting ingredients such as cinnamon, cardamom, pomegranate and ginger; enzymes to help break down carbohydrates and fats, and minerals such as zinc and chromium to optimize overall digestive function. Probiotics offer excellent digestive and metabolic (weight loss) support as well. 8
Winter is a magical time of year — and a wonderful time to cherish your own health, find peace in the stillness of the season, and contemplate your personal goals for the upcoming year. With a healthy foundation of nourishing habits and practices, you can cultivate better energy and vitality, so you feel better and enjoy life to the fullest.
- Wolfson JA, Bleich SN. Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention? Public Health Nutr. 2015 Jun;18(8):1397-406.
- Zhang Y, Fang F, Tang J, et al. Association between vitamin D supplementation and mortality: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2019 Aug 12;366:l4673.
- Cardwell G, Bornman JF, James AP, Black LJ. A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D. Nutrients. 2018 Oct 13;10(10):1498.
- Sojcher R, Gould Fogerite S, Perlman A. Evidence and potential mechanisms for mindfulness practices and energy psychology for obesity and binge-eating disorder. Explore (NY). 2012 Sep-Oct;8(5):271-6.
- Basso JC, McHale A, Ende V, Oberlin DJ, Suzuki WA. Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators. Behav Brain Res. 2019 Jan 1;356:208-220.
- Rickert U, Cossais F, Heimke M, Arnold P, Preuße-Prange A, Wilms H, Lucius R. Anti-inflammatory properties of Honokiol in activated primary microglia and astrocytes. J Neuroimmunol. 2018 Oct 15;323:78-86.
- Ibarrola, J., Matilla, L., Martínez-Martínez, E. et al. Myocardial Injury After Ischemia/Reperfusion Is Attenuated By Pharmacological Galectin-3 Inhibition. Sci Rep 9, 9607 (2019).
- Sharifi-Rad J, Rodrigues CF, Stojanović-Radić Z, et al. Probiotics: Versatile Bioactive Components in Promoting Human Health. Medicina (Kaunas). 2020 Aug 27;56(9):433.