Give up New Year's Resolutions to Thrive in 2015

By Kate Bennett, PsyD and Corrie Van Horne, RDN

With the new year comes a natural instinct to reflect, look back on the year that passed, and prepare for the year ahead. Often times, this process leads to new year’s resolutions: Lists of things that people want to accomplish to improve or change their lives. We would like to challenge the tradition of resolutions by making 2015 the year of new year’s intentions.

Resolutions are problematic because they focus on what people do not want in their lives (i.e. stop eating certain foods or get out of debt) and absolutes (i.e. lose a specific amount of weight or give up smoking instantly). The problem with focusing on you do not want in your life is that your brain hears what you do not want versus the negation of it. For example, if you think to yourself, I do not want to eat that chocolate cake at the party tonight, your brain is solely focused on the chocolate cake. As a result you cannot stop thinking about it, likely end up eating the cake, and ultimately feel bad about your “failure.” Absolutes, also known as all-or-nothing thinking, leave little room for flexibility or adaptability as life happens. Inevitably, when people create an absolute resolution, life happens (interferes with the rigidity of the desired change) and people give up. For example, if you decide to follow a certain diet in 2015 but then find yourself driving through New Mexico desert land, you are certain to feel anxious and defeated as you stop to order "bad" food. Why bother trying to improve your life if situations continue to interfere with the perfect pursuit of that new resolution?

Given that resolutions set people up for failure, we propose that you start 2015 off with intentions: Positive changes that you would like to pursue over the coming year. By focusing on what you want to happen, you are more likely to achieve it. Furthermore, intentions allow you to work towards a goal in small increments versus expect overnight success. This creates room for flexibility and adaptability while life happens and circumstances change.

Here are a few ideas for New Year’s Intentions that will help improve your happiness:

1. Make 2015 a year of gratitude. Over the past couple of years, gratitude has become an increasingly more popular topic of conversation in mainstream media and individual lives. There is good reason for it. Science links gratitude to happiness and well-being. If you want to improve your overall happiness, consider starting a daily gratitude journal. Commit to recording a few things that you are thankful for at some point each day. Remember, no matter how rotten the day, there is always something to be grateful for. Consider using this five year journal so that you can reflect back on past years as you maintain your journal over time.

2. Create time to connect authentically with others. As technology advances and social media increases in popularity, many people rely on texting, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to feel connected to others. While it is convenient to text a friend, enjoyable to peruse online pictures, and effortless to scroll through a Twitter feed, these activities tend to create more distance between friends than closeness. Set an intention to check-in weekly with friends or family members in-person or on the phone. You will be amazed by how much more satisfied you feel after spending an hour talking with a good friend compared to spending that same hour scrolling through Facebook.

3. Take up the practice of self-compassion. We live in a society that focuses on comparison and achievements to build respect and self-worth. The reality is that comparisons lead to negative self-talk and ultimately interfere with individual happiness, values, goals, and relationships. Rather than criticize yourself for another 365 days, commit to practicing self-compassion instead. Take time to engage in self-care (i.e. take a warm bath or go to bed early) when you are tired rather than force yourself to work late because a co-worker always seems one step ahead of you.

4. Look back to move ahead. Somewhere along the way, many of us learned that anything short of perfection is unacceptable and, worse, labels you as a failure. The reality is that nobody and nothing is perfect. In fact, the word imperfect spells “I’m Perfect.” Let 2015 become the year that you embrace both your strengths and weaknesses. Rather than constantly evaluate your flaws and search for areas of improvement, focus on your strengths and learn from your mistakes. Embrace mistakes as a learning opportunity. Great things come from those who are brave enough to identify what went wrong and use that information to try a second time (or third or fourth or fifth). Ask yourself, "What worked and what can I improve upon?"

5. Practice mindfulness daily. The eastern tradition of mindfulness and meditation is becoming an increasingly more mainstream practice and for a good reason: Too much distraction, comparison, criticism, and productivity takes away from the simple pleasures in life. When you slow your mind down, your awareness of the things right in front of you intensifies, the mind quiets, and contentment increases. Next time you notice yourself worrying, take a deep breath, figure out when you have time to address the problem (if you have not already done so), and let it go. Worrying every minute of the coming day will not solve the problem but it will interfere with happiness and satisfaction. Instead, focus on the friends and family right in front of you, enjoy the beautiful blue sky, or simply fall asleep. Let go and cherish the present moment.

If changing your relationship with food is the top priority for 2015, we encourage you to not focus on weight loss or restricting food intake but, rather, set intentions based on balance, variety, and moderation.

6. Slow down. While this can be difficult, it is important to slow down when it comes to planning, preparing, and eating food. When planning and preparing food, focus on what sounds good. Take time to plan meals and prepare the food while contemplating the gratitude that you feel for the food itself or other aspects of the food like nourishment, satisfaction, and possibly pleasure. When eating, take time to engage in all five senses, slowing down to enjoy and savor the textures, aromas, tastes, and visual aesthetic of your food.   

7. Trust. We all have an inner wisdom, that with practice and perseverance, we can become attuned to. Our bodies are designed to regulate themselves, let us know when they need nourishment, and indicate what type of nourishment they need. Take time to listen to your intuition in order to grow and develop trust in your body and to develop a more balanced relationship with food. Note: Slowing down will enhance your ability to respond intuitively to hunger and fullness cues and trust your body.

8. Engage. Meal time can be a time to be still, to rest, and also a time to connect. When sitting down for a meal or a snack, whether it is with others or alone, fully engage in the process. If the meal is shared with others try to focus on the conversation and connection. If you are eating alone, bring awareness to your senses and the feelings and thoughts that come up for you while eating. 

9. Nourish. Remember, food is a source of nourishment for the body and the connection that often happens at meal time is nourishment for the soul. Rather than focus on good or bad or right or wrong, take time to experience the nourishment of your body and soul, expressing the gratitude you may feel. 

Finally, remember that while the start of a new year is a convenient time to implement positive changes in your life, you can set intentions and bring them into practice any day of the year. The most important thing to do is to identify where you want to head and then create daily steps for leading you in that direction.

May 2015 bring you joy and happiness as you learn from the past and move towards the future.

Debunking Common Sport Nutrition Myths

By Corrie Van Horne, RDN

Elevate Nutrition

As an athlete do you find yourself sifting through sports nutrition information wondering what you can believe and trust to be true? I am continually amazed by the amount of food and nutrition related myths out there, and the constant bombardment of nutrition related messages that most of us find ourselves on the receiving end of. In this fast paced, consumer-driven culture it can be difficult to know fact from fiction. Let’s take a look at some common myths related to sports nutrition.

Myth #1: Supplements are better than food

You know the guy at the gym with the veins popping out of his neck, arms, and forehead? The one touting the latest powdered substance he is using to bulk up? The first myth that I would like to debunk is that supplements are better than food – or rather, that they are going to have some sort of magical effect on training and performance. Unfortunately, supplements are often pushed as being better than food in the sports nutrition world in terms of how they will improve performance in sport. However, research shows that a diet rich in the six essential nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water can enhance performance as effectively, or even more so than expensive supplements. Our bodies are designed to ingest nutrients from food and then utilize those nutrients for fuel. It is important to know that simply eating a well balanced diet will properly fuel your body for whatever your fitness or performance related goals are. Really, it is just a matter of doing some research to find out what the right balance of nutrients is for your specific sport, and then figuring out how to get those nutrients from food.

Myth #2: Low carbohydrate diets are optimal for athletes

Do you paleo? Have you had “too many” carbs today?  A common trend for athletes (and the general populous) these days is low carb diets. When it comes to being an athlete this trend should be ignored. Carbohydrates or glucose, what carbohydrates are broken down into in the body, are our number one fuel source for athletic performance. When an athlete is concerned about performance level and consistently improving training, carbohydrates are the most important nutrient. Carbohydrates provide the fuel our bodies need to train and perform. If you struggle with fatigue or sluggishness during training, the fix may be as simple as adding more pasta, rice, bread, fruit, or dairy to your diet. As an athlete, it is crucial that we eat carbohydrates consistently and frequently throughout the day, everyday. Carbohydrates provide the necessary fuel to allow us to train at our max which results in better performance overall.

Myth #3: Water adequately re-hydrates our bodies

Do you sweat a lot during training and performance? The last myth I’d like to cover is that water is adequate for rehydration after exercise. If you sweat a lot during exercise or training, then water alone is not adequate for rehydration. When we sweat, not only do we lose water, but we also lose sodium and other electrolytes. You'll likely need extra sodium along with your fluids during training bouts lasting longer than 60 minutes, and with rehydration following a training session or competition. The easiest way to make sure you’re getting enough water and electrolytes is to have small amounts of a sports drink throughout training or competition lasting longer than an hour. The added benefit to having sports drink is that you’re also getting a little carbohydrate to replenish those fuel stores as you burn through them. It is also important to rehydrate and refuel following training with water and some salty food.  

I could write all day about sports nutrition related myths – but the three I covered are some of the most common and crucial as they relate to training and performance. As an athlete, it is important to make sure you are getting the right information. For more information on sports nutrition go to or contact a local sports registered dietitian nutritionist, who can help you debunk myths and optimize your nutrition.