Whether it’s Dry January (woo hoo – sobriety rocks!), a new shiny membership of Slimming World or the Gym, Veganuary (yay – go Vegans!), Sugar-free challenge or whatever else tickles your fancy, I personally fully recommend the January health kick. I have been doing a January health kick, in various forms, for probably 20+ years and I love it. Here’s why.
Firstly, unless you are quite a rarity, our bodies are literally crying out for it after the excesses of Christmas. This year I was still fully vegan & sober and yet still I can feel the effects of Christmas in the form of over-eating / too much processed food / too many crisps & Twiglets / far too much sugar etc. Not only do we include more less-than-healthy-options (crap for short), the crap in turn crowds out some of our more normal healthy food. So while I’ve been snacking on Twiglets – who doesn’t love a Twiglet? – I will have been filling myself up and so less likely to have a large pile of beans / whoegrains / veg / fruit for dinner. And I can notice the difference – running is harder, I feel sluggish, I’ve probably gained a couple of pounds. My body needs a reset and I’ve not even abused it that much compared to my boozy non-vegan days. (Or you may have been ill over Christmas, in which case your body needs nourishing foods to help it recover and heal).
A diet reset also can reset your tastebuds. Foods such as sugar / salt / cheese / chocolate etc are known for their incredibly addictive nature but when you go cold turkey (see what I did there? I am nothing if not topical!), you can retrain your taste buds and reduce any cravings. It’s not an immediate effect so the first week or two can be tough but then it all gets easier. This is also why I favour the full detox / cut it all out rather than the ‘I’ll just eat less of it’. By opting for eating less you don’t get the benefit of retraining your tastebuds & cravings as you are constantly firing up those same neural networks, perhaps less often, but firing them up nonetheless. Hence you have to keep using more willpower to keep on track which is exhausting. But the thought of cutting it all out forever is too much for most people so having a defined goal such as 3 weeks or January can really help. You know it’s not forever and so it becomes doable.
Another benefit of the January health kick is that, by committing to it, you are likely to learn new improved habits. We all get into routines and patterns and sometimes these aren’t that healthy for us. By having a defined period of time you can break some of the less helpful patterns and learn new meals or exercises that you enjoy doing. New routines naturally emerge – a Green Smoothie every morning, a new exercise class that you commit to, the Couch to 5k challenge etc. Often something from the health kick will stick for the rest of the year. The first time the Husband and I had brown rice, on a detox many years ago, we thought it tasted like chewy cardboard. Now it is our normal, we love it, and we think white rice is tasteless and watery! And we all know what happened when I gave up alcohol for 3 months on New Year’s Day this year.
As a general rule coaching recommends having clear and measurable goals. This definitely favours the ‘cutting it out’ rather than ‘cutting down’ as it’s really obvious what you are doing. However if you can’t face ‘cutting it out’ – whether that’s food groups / social media / shouting etc – then you can still aim for a clear and measurable goal. For example, you might only have 2 small bags or crisps a week. Or only drink at a party. Or 2 cubes of dark chocolate a day. The more measurable and clear you can make the goal the easier it is to stick to.
You can even ask for sponsorship or have a reward lined up at the end of it to help keep you on track. Perhaps your loved ones would love you to give up smoking / lose weight / reduce drinking etc – this could be the ideal time to ask for their support.
Sometimes people feel that January isn’t the right time. Maybe they have a birthday coming up or several parties to go to. This leads to a choice. You could for it anyway and rather than view it as ‘I’m missing out’ step more into the perspective of ‘I’m nourishing my body and enjoying myself anyway’ (or whatever works for you). Or you can opt for ‘Healthy in January except for X date’. You get to make the rules up so make them work for you and make them doable.
Or people feel that January is miserable so why make it worse. I don’t subscribe to that viewpoint personally as I take the view of ‘January is miserable so might as well achieve something’. (Bloody life coaches and their positive spins!!).
I’ve focused here on physical health but your personal detox could be a mental one. You might commit to a daily mediation or mindfulness practice, a 30 day yoga course, a social media detox, journalling every day, meeting friends once a week etc etc. The possibilities are endless. Just think what would most benefit you and your life.
Whatever you decide to do, set yourself up for success. Get organised now with shopping / meal plans or sorting out your diary so that you are ready for action. Think about any support you might need to help you. (If doing it with a friend I suggest picking one who is good at committing and seeing things through, otherwise he/she could derail you). Be prepared to either finish up the crap that’s in the house, give it away or chuck it out or hide it in a hard to reach top cupboard. Have a plan for if you do miss a day so that you’re less likely to throw in the towel. Make sure you regularly give yourself a pat on the back for what you are achieving. Be prepared for any side effects. For example it is very normal to feel tired / headachy / sluggish etc when cutting out sugar or changing your diet. This usually subsides after a few days but it’s not always ideal to start a hardcore fitness regime at the same time. Do some research to see what might happen so that you can be ready for it.
And finally just to say good luck if you decide to give it a go. View it as an experiment, see how it feels, what might need tweaking. Enjoy the challenge. And please feel free to write any commitments in the comments below – announcing publicly can also keep you on track. Please like/share to help your friends too. Thank you, Sue XX