Here we are at the start of week two of 2022 and already it seems as if those New Year's resolutions are in tatters. Blame stress, or the weather, but despite our best efforts to get and stay on track, the last ten days have made a mockery of our intentions.  Time to hit reset. This week, the second of the new year is the perfect time to restart your goals for 2022.

Think of this week as a do-over. The winter months leading up to mid-January are the hardest for weight loss, especially, according to a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Obesity, contributing to over 50 percent of annual body weight gain in the US. An increase in food intake is one of the key culprits, but when it's freezing out it's also harder to get outside and get moving.

The good news is you don’t have to be hard on yourself for “falling off” the wagon and chowing down or having wine during the month you just resolved to eat less and quit drinking. Instead, jump back on that wagon by following these eating and exercise tips.

1. Don’t weigh yourself

First things first – keep the scale in the closet. The guilt of knowing that you've put on a few pounds may already be setting in, and you don’t need a high number on the scale to make you feel even worse. In fact, a 2015 review found that self-weighing can lead to:

  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Disordered eating

Instead, give yourself some time to get back into your routine before stepping on the scale. After some time, if you do step on the scale, remember that weight can fluctuate for many reasons beyond actual weight (or fat mass) gain. Changes can actually be from muscle gain or fluid retention.

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2. Put the holidays in the rearview mirror. Get back to your routine

The next step is to stop ruminating over what you ate or drank (that won't help anything) look forward to getting back into your typical routine. This means leaving behind the excess food and late nights because, long-term, they can have detrimental effects on our health.

Think of this positive finding: overeating short-term isn’t detrimental to our health according to a 2019 study. In the small study, researchers had 8 healthy men overeat for 5 days similar to how we might over the holidays. For those 5 days, their diet consisted of high carbohydrate items like chocolate, potato chips, and meal replacement drinks that totaled an additional 1,000 calories per day. While the participants’ visceral fat (AKA belly fat) increased slightly, they didn’t have a significant overall increase in weight and fat mass. Plus, there were no changes in fasting blood sugar levels or insulin levels.

It's only when that type of eating became chronic does your body fat increase and blood sugar levels begin to spike after eating. This is why it’s important to get back into your normal routine sooner rather than later, and that means not waiting until Monday!

Vegan Buddha bowl with baked vegetables, chickpeas, hummus and tofu.
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3. Don’t restrict what you eat

After a holiday of feasting and saying "Yes!" to dessert, a third helping or other indulgent foods, you may be feeling the need to restrict and get draconian with yourself. This could range from cutting drastically back on calories, or not eating past a certain time, or completely avoiding specific foods like sweets or high-fat foods. Doing this can actually wind up backfiring since after a time you will give in, and that can trigger overeating. It’s believed that when we completely deny ourselves certain foods, the awareness of them becomes heightened. (If you never have the donut then one day you will really want the donut and may eat half the box.) Therefore, allow yourself small amounts of the foods you can't live without.

A 2013 article published in Experimental Gerontology states that food can affect our brain's reward system. In the study, a sweet flavor was given to a group of individuals dealing with either anorexia or with obesity. When the individuals with anorexia received the unexpected sweet treat, the part of their brain associated with reward was activated significantly, whereas when the same was measured on obese individuals their brains reacted less.. The study's researchers concluded that “food may be especially reinforcing in food-restricted individuals.”

You want to avoid the mindset that you should be eliminating certain foods and focus on eating nutrient-dense meals instead.

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4. Sleep at least 7 to 8 hours at night

Sleep is the underpinning to your entire system. if you’re the type who wakes up early Christmas morning and stays up beyond midnight to ring in the new year, then you may have found yourself a little sleep-deprived in the past few weeks. According to the National Institute of Health, sleep plays a key role in your mental and physical health. Your brain requires sleep to help make decisions and prep for the following day and without it may lead to serious complications such as depression and risk-taking behavior.

In terms of physical health, sleep helps to keep our blood vessels healthy and balances hormones. The National Institute of Health states that our hungry hormone (ghrelin) and our full hormone (leptin) can become unbalanced when we aren’t sleeping properly. Not enough sleep can lead to a rise in ghrelin levels, making us feel hungrier compared to when we’re well-rested.

It’s recommended that adults over the age of 18 sleep around 7 to 8 hours per day. If you find yourself napping frequently or sleeping longer on days off, you may want to make some adjustments to your typical sleep routine.

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5. Hydrate!

You need to drink water more than you think. Getting in enough water is especially important if you had a few cocktails during your holiday break. Alcohol is considered a diuretic, which means it causes your kidneys to remove fluids at a quick rate (hence the reason you find yourself using the restroom often). Over time, this may cause you to become dehydrated. According to MedlinePlus, some common dehydration symptoms are:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dry mouth
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Dry skin
  • Feeling tired

Getting rehydrated is important for many reasons, including getting back to your max physical performance and having your energy levels return to normal. According to a 2015 study, athletes that train in a dehydrated state can cause cellular and whole-body stress leading to increased body temperature and decreased performance.

How much water you should be drinking can vary. According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an adequate amount of fluid intake is:

  • Around 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids per day for men
  • Around 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids per day for women

A good rule of thumb is to stay in tune with what your body is telling you. If you’re rarely feeling thirsty and your urine is light yellow or colorless, then you’re well hydrated.

Bottom Line: This is the week to restart your resolutions and get back on track

Don't be too hard on yourself. the first week of the new year might just be the worst one for making big sweeping health and diet changes. Instead, get back on track and move toward your goals. Sign up for The Beet's Plant-Based Diet, a two-week meal plan to help you lose weight the healthy way.

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