Behaviour Change, Lifestyle Medicine, Main blog page, Movement, Nutrition, Public health

Making ‘The Januaries’ Sustainable

So, it’s this time of year when everyone seems to be sharing their new year’s resolutions and have advice on how to become the ‘new you’. If you are using the new year (decade even!) to stimulate some action and motivate you to make healthy life choices great! I applaud you.

To make the greatest change and have a lasting impact it’s often the less dramatic compared to the ‘crash diet’ which will ‘get you bikini ready’ in 2 weeks that’s really going to work. Sorry, but the old saying of everything in moderation is really boring but true!

This is the month where you can sign up for a challenge and join a movement. I think these can be great motivators to start towards a healthier lifestyle, yet what happens on February 1st? A big night out to celebrate being dry for a month, or that big steak or non-vegan ice cream you’ve been craving? Today I’m going to talk about a different way you could approach 3 of the largest ‘Januaries’, that being less all out for 1 month but to instigate small, sustainable habits which can lead you on a path of lasting change.

DRY JANUARY

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Dry January is a public health campaign urging people to abstain from alcohol for the month of January. It is run by Alcohol change UK. They have a website and a corresponding app (which you can download from the homepage link above). The aim of the campaign is to help people to reset their relationships with alcohol.

I fully support the ethos of this campaign, and there has been evidence to demonstrate its effectiveness as a health campaign. One study investigated the effects of being alcohol free for 4 weeks and demonstrated improvements in metabolic risk factors.

Whilst our culture is changing, with a rise in branded non-alcoholic drink options and our younger generations being more likely to be sober than previous years, alcohol is still ingrained within our society. Declining an alcoholic drink can still be perceived as ‘boring’ – often with this being translated to ‘you’re boring because you’re not drinking’ and a cultural pressure to drink in events for either work or pressure, there seems to be some way to go.

So I suggest, if 1 month alcohol free seems too big a hurdle at the moment, don’t use this as a reason not to rethink your relationship with alcohol. Consider making a smaller change you think you could sustain for longer than a month and create a lasting habit of not reaching for that alcoholic drink after work. If you want to consider your alcohol consumption but not dive straight into Dry January I recommend the One You Drink Free Days app, I reviewed it on a previous blog you can check out.

If you feel you want the challenge to reassess things signing up to Dry January has been demonstrated to deliver that ‘buy-in’ of commitment and generate better results – you can sign up here. The 28 Day Alcohol-Free Challenge by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns is a book you might want to read for some motivation and seeing the positive affects others have experienced from cutting out alcohol.

 

VEGANUARY

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Veganuary is a non-profit organisation that encourages people worldwide to try vegan for January and beyond.

One thing I have to say I do like about Veganuary is they work not just in one month of the year but throughout it. Veganuary encourages and supports both individuals and the corporate world to move to a plant-based diet in their work across the year.

I want to make it clear that I have the upmost respect for anyone going fully vegan or plant-based for environmental, sustainable or ethical reasons. I personally am on a journey involving being increasingly plant-based yet still do eat some animal products.

One thing about human nature is that as soon as we know we can’t have something, we want it more! Again, if going all out and being completely vegan for a month puts you off making any change you want to – don’t let it! By incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet you will likely be benefiting both your health and the health of the planet. If you’re interested in just becoming more plant-based over time, check out a blog I did with some of my tips.

Another think is important to mention is that whilst becoming fully plant-based can be a healthy diet, it doesn’t automatically make it one. For example, you could dine out all day on vegan junk food which doesn’t offer much nutritionally.

If you have concerned or unsure about nutritional deficiencies when cutting out all animal products, I do recommend looking into this. You will need a little bit of knowledge and consideration when planning and preparing meals to ensure you aren’t lacking any essential vitamins. It is usually recommended that you supplement with at least B12 if following a purely plant-based diet (along with vitamin D if you are reading this in the UK over the winter months). If you want some guidance from a qualified registered nutritionist I recommend Rhiannon Lambert’s ebook: A Simple Way to Eat Plant-Based – it’s currently on offer too (at the time of writing)! This will help you to build a healthy, balanced plate whilst making this change. The Veganuary website has some recipes too.

 

RED JANUARY

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Red January  is in partnership with Mind Charity  for mental health. It is a challenge to yourself to be active every day. What I love about Red January is that it has in built sustainability as you can be active in a way you enjoy and this can be different every day depending on your mood, energy levels, how much time you have. You don’t need to approach Red January as having to hit the gym, do that spinning class or go to CrossFit every day, nor would this necessarily be the healthiest mindset or approach. It can be tailored to you and any bit of movement counts. It is also available regardless of initial fitness level. Anything you think of about being active helps!

Being physically active has been shown to support mental wellbeing and help those who are struggling with theirs.

If you want some inspiration, do check out the RED January or some of the previous posts I’ve done:

…more can be found under the ‘movement’ section of my blog.

Taking part in the Januaries is a great first step. To see the greatest benefits to your wellbeing, sustainable changes that become part of your long-term lifestyle are more likely to be the most beneficial. Therefore, I recommend not approaching this first month of the year with a ‘go-all-out’ attitude, but with a mindset to create lasting behaviour change, creating one small change at a time and letting it grow.

If you think behaviour change or creating a new habit is your biggest barrier – check out my podcast of the week coming on Wednesday!…if you can’t wait until then, do take a look at the ‘behaviour change’ section of my blog.

Emma x

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