“…this is how I contribute to the good in the world – being a part of a system that produces wholesome & nutritious food to the world and thus positive global energy.”  — Stan Hildebrand, organic inspector

Image of place setting, with the earth as the plate.

Each January, millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, many of which include losing weight,  getting in shape, or improving diet. But by mid-February, most of our best intentions have fizzled.  Psychologists blame our failed attempts on making too many or too lofty goals and not changing the environment in which we make our choices. So let’s revisit our resolutions and find the paths to renewal in 2018.

Below are five strategies to strengthen our resolve and improve our health. By taking better care of ourselves, we can best care for each other, and that makes for a better world.

Stop “dieting.”

Restricting too many calories makes us feel hungry and grumpy. It’s smarter to focus on food quality instead. To do this, we’ll need to question how, where and who produced our food.

For example, we’ve all heard that “we are what we eat,” but we’re also what our animals ate. Our health depends on how our food is grown, processed and packaged. Agricultural methods influence nutrition as well as soil, water and air quality. Pesticide residues, BPA-lined cans and plastic packaging can all introduce harmful chemicals into our food and bodies. Some of those chemicals — endocrine disruptors — can even lead to weight gain.

To improve food quality, follow these basic steps:

  • Choose mostly fresh, seasonal and regional organic food, and buy directly from the farmer when you can.  In the grocery store, read labels religiously; ingredients are listed in order of predominance. The organic seal offers the best consumer protection.
  • Grow some of your own food, and connect with the earth, even if it’s just a pot of herbs in a sunny window or shared space in a community garden.
  • Learn to cook. Preparing food from scratch really doesn’t take a lot more time, especially when done strategically, like cooking large batches on weekends (store portions in glass rather than plastic) to reheat for super-quick meals throughout the week, and prepping ingredients together as a family. Plus, cooking with our family enables us to relax and connect, control ingredients and be creative.
Sign that says Buffet Restaurant, eat as much as you can, with a caption that says, not the best treatment plan.

Everyone overeats at “all-you-can eat” buffet-style restaurants.

Tweak the environment.

Healthful eating becomes the default when we make it convenient. Keep a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter for quick and easy access, but store the cookie jar and cereal box out-of-sight.

The size and color of our plates influence how much we eat too. For example, our grandmother’s dinner plates measured a full two inches less in diameter than today’s dishes. The larger our plates and bowls, the larger our servings, and the more we eat. Researchers at Georgia Tech discovered that we’ll eat about 22 percent less if the colors of our food contrast with plate color.

Bottom line: Use your biggest plates for salads and vegetables, and use smaller, colorful dishes for more calorie-dense foods, like that piece of cheesecake.

Lose weight while you sleep.

We’ve all seen these laughable headlines, but there’s truth in the value of sleep for maintaining a healthy weight, strong immune system and normal blood sugar.

The medical community is increasingly recognizing the power of our Circadian rhythms and the importance of eating when our bodies are most ready to digest and absorb food – during daylight hours.

In the same vein, give intermittent fasting a try. Allowing at least 13 hours between your last meal in the evening and your first meal in the morning appears to offer multiple benefits, including reducing risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Mind your microbiome.

According to integrative medicine doctor Tanmeet Sethi, M.D., 70 percent of our immune system resides in the lining of our gut. And our physical and mental health depends on the health of the trillions of microorganisms naturally living mostly in our large intestine.

To help them thrive, enjoy high fiber and fermented foods; choose meat, dairy and eggs from organic animals never given antibiotics; and reduce stress through meditation, gratitude and exercise.

Be a food citizen.

Julia Turshen’s “Feed the Resistance: Recipes and Ideas for Getting Involved” is designed to nourish and inspire those hungry for change. This small but mighty book is described as part cookbook and part call-to-service – a “manifesto for food activism.”

Remember: Food is powerful, political and sacred. Those who grow “good” food need our support as our country updates farm, food and health policies in 2018. So let’s sharpen our personal set of “power tools”: our forks, voices and pens. Organize a potluck, share concerns, and let’s join forces for change.

Do you have ideas, intentions, and resolutions for making personal or larger food system change? Share your thoughts below. We are stronger together!