12 for 2020 - New Years Resolutions for the whole year!

The ‘lose weight’ resolution, well, that rarely leads into ‘get healthy,’ despite what you have been lead to believe. Losing weight and getting healthy do not necessarily go hand in hand. In fact, becoming focused on dieting and food restriction to lose weight can lead to a disordered relationship with food and body image, which in turn can mess with your overall health and well-being.

What with it being 2020, I suppose I could suggest 20 resolutions, but let’s keep it a bit more realistic and go for 12. I’ll cover a different resolution each month with reasons why it’s a good option for boosting health and well-being, and simple hacks to make it achievable. There is no point in making resolutions, or any goals for that matter, if they are too difficult to achieve. If it is unattainable you are more likely to give up or hurt yourself trying... and I did say that this was about boosting health, not reducing it.

I’m not sure what order I will be covering each resolution, so you'll just have to wait and see. Hopefully you will find 1 or 2 (or even all 12) that fit into your year.

Nicole's 12 resolution suggestions:

📚 Read more books

🍝 Make more home cooked meals

😤 Breath deeply or meditate

👫👬👭 Call or spend time with friends more often

💃 Practice joyful movement

📱 Set boundaries with social media

🛌 Take more naps

💧 Drink more water

🌾 Add more fibre to your diet

🌮 Eat more nachos

🎳 Join a club

👗👟 De-clutter your closet – donate clothes to charity


August - Breathing deeply

Breathing deeply

Breathing, we do it automatically, without thinking. In. And. Out. All day, every day. We need the oxygen breathing provides to live, but it turns out that breathing deep can have other health benefits.

Many of us tend to only take shallow breaths that don’t fully inflate the lungs. We only breathe into the top of our chest. This shallow breathing means less oxygenated air getting in, which can make you feel short of breath, creating tension and anxiety.

When you breathe deeply, your lungs fill and your lower belly should rise. Because this encourages an increase in oxygen exchange – the swapping of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide – when you start doing deep breathing you may feel light-headed, so it is a good idea to be sitting or lying down. This will pass as you do it more often and your body gets into the rhythm of it.

The slowing of breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth, to fully inflate and empty the lungs can help you to relax and reduce stress; slowing the heart rate and reducing blood pressure.

There can be times when it is difficult to breathe, such as with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For some people with these conditions, deep breathing exercises which strengthen the diaphragm and improve lung elasticity may help to ease breathing (check with your GP or specialist).

There are different techniques that you can try to help you learn to breathe deeply. Experiment with different exercises to see which one leaves you most calm. You can find guidance online or join a yoga or meditation class.


July - Make more home cooked meals

Make more home cooked meals

Back in April there was likely much of this going on, since grabbing your favourite takeaways was off limits.

Now that we are settling into our new normal, are you still making more home cooked meals? Or have you returned to takeaways?

Turns out there are some great reasons for home cooked meals:

* It’s proven to be healthier – restaurant and takeaway meals tend to have higher amounts of salt and saturated fats than home cooked meals. Also, you can find ways to sneak in more veg – e.g. grate an extra carrot into your bolognese sauce.

* Save money – you can bulk up recipes with basic ingredients to have leftovers for lunches or another dinner, so you get more out of a recipe made at home than if you order takeaway. Also, meals tend to have a lower price tag at home than at a restaurant.

* Cooking together can be a chance to wind-down at the end of the day and connect with your family. It can be fun to try new recipes. Also, home cooking and sharing knowledge preserves cultural heritage as we pass recipes from one generation to the next.

* It can save you time. You say “WHAT?!” We tend to not take into account the time we spend waiting for our takeaway to be ordered, prepared and the pick-up/delivery time. Depending on how that all adds up, it could take more time for that takeaway than for you to make a simple meal at home.

By home cooked meals, I don’t mean that you have to aim to be a gourmet chef (unless you want to release your inner masterchef). There is nothing wrong with simple meals that use basic ingredients. I mean, what is wrong with good old meat and 3 veg? (Or veg and 3 veg if you are that way inclined). If you are really pressed for time... baked beans on toast, with a handful of grated cheese – BOOM! If you want to add a side serve of carrot sticks you can. I prefer a poached egg instead of the cheese, but that’s just me.

Here are 4 tips to get you started:

1. Keep pantry basics on hand – things like pasta, tinned fish, baked beans, cooking oil, some spices, tinned tomatoes, rice; so you can always cook something without needing to shop.

2. Plan ahead – when you are planning your shopping list keep in mind how your week is likely to pan out so you can have the ingredients for a quick and easy meal on hand for those nights you know you’ll be late.

3. Cook extra – on the day/s that you have a little more time to spend a bit longer in the kitchen cook a larger batch of your meal to have on hand for later in the week or month (if frozen).

4. Takeaways – if, when it comes to crunch time, you really just can’t bear the thought of cooking then grab that takeaway.

What are your quick and easy home cooked dinner ideas?


June - Join a club

Join a club!

Did you know that we humans are wired for social connection? And that social connection is not only an access pass to fun but also has a positive effect on our health and well-being?

Here are just 4 benefits of joining a club:

* Making new friends – this is a great way to meet people that share your interests. A handy way to meet new people if you are new to town.

* Learning something new – if you want to learn a new skill or take a hobby to a new level, a club gives you the opportunity to learn from others that have been doing it for years. Yes, online courses can be great but sometimes you have an ‘a-ha’ moment, where something just clicks, when you’re in a room full of people throwing around their own ideas and experiences.

* Regular activity – it’s not just about getting you out of the house on a dull winter evening. You might get to explore hidden gems in your home-town if you say, join a walking group, which could also help improve your fitness level. For some people doing exercise on their own isn’t attractive, but they also don’t want to sweat it out in a gym, so joining a sports club or walking group is a great alternative.

* Emotional support – it turns out that the support you can get from social ties enhances mental health and reduces stress, and may also reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones... all of which is beneficial to overall health.


May - Add more fibre to your diet

Smoky Baked Beans

It turns out that most NZ adults are consuming less that the recommended daily intake of dietary fibre, about half the recommended amount. You might be wondering why that might be a problem. Well, the big thing is that there are all sorts of health benefits associated with dietary fibre, from its effect on heart health to type-2 diabetes to cancer. These associations have been shown that as fibre intake increases chronic disease risk decreases.

There are two main forms of fibre, and they both play important roles in our gut health:

1. Soluble fibre - which forms a gel, absorbing fluid and making the bowel contents softer. It helps to lower blood cholesterol and improve blood glucose control.

2. Insoluble fibre - which acts as a ‘bulking agent’ to help keep us regular.

Fibre is found naturally in plant products – fruits, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains. When increasing your fibre intake to reach the recommended amount (30g/day for men; 25g/day for women), it is a good idea to do it gradually, to minimise potential side effects such as wind and bloating.

Check out this recipe that is packed full of fabulous fibre from cannellini beans and onion. Rich and tasty to satisfy your tastebuds, and packed with slow release energy to keep you going! Great as a breakfast or brunch option, but also perfect for a simple dinner.


April - Call family and friends more often

April - Call family and friends more often

This intention originally included “spend time with...” though in light of COVID-19 and the importance of social distancing I have taken that part out. But it is still very important to stay connected with family and friends at this time.

Usually the only time that we seem to simply hang with our loved ones, without everyday life getting in the way, is when we are on holiday. We can totally revel in that quality time spent together. Now that is an everyday occurrence and may be getting a bit much for some people, and that is okay. If you need to, and can, find a quiet space for yourself – do! Alone time to reset and calm is really important during this crazy, mixed up time.

Research shows that social connections are one of the greatest predictors for a long and happy life. We usually hear about diet and exercise, sleep, stress reduction, smoking cessation as being the most important factors for longevity... and while they are all very important... most important of all is connecting with other people.

So please make an effort to connect more with those you love. Especially those that are outside of your bubble who are alone. It will actually be better for both you and them in the long run.

Thankfully we live in the digital age where we can still connect face-to-face through a variety of apps. However, don’t forget about those who are technophobes, for whatever reason – too old to learn new tricks, security conscious, don’t have the hardware. Just pick up the phone and call. Originally I was even going to suggest good old snail mail. I know I always get a little thrill if I find something in the letterbox that isn’t a bill. I have a friend who religiously sends me a Christmas card and I love it! Do I return the favour? Not as often as I should. However, with COVID-19 and even though the post is still running, it might just be better to wait and use the snail mail option in safer times.

Take care and stay safe.


March - Practice joyful movement

Practice joyful movement

Movement should be fun and enjoyable! Moving your body shouldn’t be about getting ripped, or feeling the burn, or smashing it out. That all sounds dreadfully painful and not something that you’d want to engage in on a regular basis. And when it comes to moving our bodies it really is more beneficial if we can manage to do something on a regular basis – MOH guidelines is 2.5 hours of moderate movement per week.

Two and a half hours per week?! You are likely wondering when you are supposed to fit that in to your already busy week.

Well, you may have noticed that I haven’t used the word ‘exercise’ but have gone for ‘movement.’ That is because ‘exercise’ is usually thought of as something structured, such as going to the gym, going for a run, playing a sport, going to a yoga class. And these activities usually have a set time. Whereas ‘movement’ incorporates all of those forms of exercise but also takes into account other ways of moving the body that can count towards that 2.5 hours per week. It might be 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there... but it all adds up.

Movement, such as:

* Walking to work or walking the kids to the bus/school.

* Doing the housework.

* Doing the gardening or mowing the lawns.

* Helping a friend shift house.

* Dancing around the living room after 1 too many wines.

It’s about getting up off your butt and moving about in a fun and joyful way. Not that mowing lawns is something particularly fun but that sense of satisfaction in seeing the yard looking neat and tidy is a type of enjoyment I suppose.


February - Set boundaries with social media

Set boundaries with social media

I picked February for this resolution as I was away on an incredible family holiday to Antarctica of all places. It meant that my access to social media was very intermittent. This impending lack of social media engagement was not entirely by choice, I saw things that I will wanted to share, but I had to wait until I returned to fully connect.

Usually when you hear the talk around setting boundaries with social media it is based on unfollowing those that don’t serve your needs. Those whose messages are negative in some way, maybe they make you feel less worthy because your life doesn’t look like theirs. Definitely unfollow that sh*t! Nobody should ever be made to feel less worthy simply because they don’t do, look, live, whatever it is that those on highly curated social media pages are doing.

Another boundary to think of setting with social media is about what you share, and how often. I get that the algorithms are designed to work better for those that post a lot. And I get that that is important for those with business accounts if you are wanting to increase your audience. However, is the stress and anxiety that comes from trying to think up new posts, and trying to get that #instaworthy picture/message really worth it?

Imagine how peaceful life could be without all that. And think about how much more headspace you will have for doing things that really matter in your life, in the moment. Moving away from sharing stuff just to be like everyone else that shares stuff, or comparing yourself to #influencers, to simply focusing on whatever it is you are doing with whomever you are doing it with.

But if you just can’t give it up or don’t want to... what about following some different folk for a while to get a different perspective on life? You don’t have to engage, but it might be interesting or even entertaining. And if you don’t like it, stop following.


January - Drink more water

Drink more water

Since it is summer in New Zealand in January, I thought that "drink more water" was a good starting point. It is (generally) hotter weather, which means more sweating so an increase intake of water is needed.

It’s common to hear that water is essential for your health. But why?

Well, the body is about 50-70% water and water is involved in many important bodily functions, including:

* flushing out waste from your body

* regulating body temperature

* helping your brain function.

So as you can see maintaining water balance is essential for survival. Without water you’ll only last a couple of days. For this reason, your body has a fancy mechanism for regulating when and how much you need to drink – it’s called your thirst. When your total water content gets below a certain level your thirst kicks in and for most people it is very reliable.

You are constantly losing water from your body, primarily in your pee, poo and sweat. To prevent dehydration (and constipation), you need to drink adequate amounts of water. But what exactly is “adequate amounts?”

Well, as with most things, this depends on you as an individual. Some people need more water than others. For some people, more water only means more trips to the loo my darling.

If you want to keep things simple, then these 3 guidelines will apply to most people:

1. When you’re thirsty, drink.

2. When you’re not thirsty anymore, stop.

3. Increase your water intake if you’re exercising or living in a hotter region.

That’s it!

And remember, other beverages (including tea and coffee) can contribute to fluid balance, and most foods also contain water. So if you don’t have water to hand you can easily find something else to quench your thirst.