Tomorrow is the dawn of a new beginning and the start of a new year filled with hope, ambitions, positive vibes and happiness. For many, it sets the platform for their aspirations and goals. It is an opportunity for each of us, somewhat like a blank slate, which can be filled with good things, new resolutions and accomplishments. We fervently make our own resolutions for the forthcoming year but statistics are pretty bleak on its success rate-less than 10% of resolutions are kept by the end of year and almost 25% of them fail before 15 January. Still, its enchanting to come up with some new resolution every year and this tradition is in fact much older than establishment of the Christian festival or even placing the new year in the middle of the freezing winter. It started with the Babylonians some 4,000 years ago where people promised to repay their debts and return borrowed objects. Egyptians, made sacrifices at the beginning of their year in July and in return prayed for good fortune and rich harvests. Romans started their year with promises made to Janus, the God after whom the first month is named. Some knights took oaths to renew their commitment to chivalry and a 17th-century Scotswoman wrote in her diary to pursue Biblical versus such as ‘I will not offend anyone’ as the starting point for resolutions (https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2018/01/05/the-origin-of-new-years-resolutions). While the means might be different the ideology behind the resolution remains the same-reflect upon self-improvement once a year!
Typical Resolutions Taken
Isn’t it always losing weight or eating healthy food that tops the list of new resolutions taken every year? If you wonder why, each of us are overloaded with plum cakes, booze, cookies, salted greasy food and more following Christmas and New Year eve party which makes many of us inclined towards taking resolutions that are often health-driven after such elaborate partying and eating. Millions of people worldwide take resolutions to exercise more, eat better, drink less and lose weight but a study from the University of Bristol shows that 88% of people fail to meet them. Most common reasons for profound failure include setting unrealistic goals, failing from tracking our progress rates and forgetting. Also, most of the resolutions taken are those that we haven’t been able to accomplish in the last couple of years-they are challenging and hence we take them up as New Year resolutions which makes us doubt our own capability to accomplish them! Some of the top resolutions taken on this basis include losing weight, getting fit, quit smoking, drink less, eat healthier, learn something new, get out of debt, spend time with family, travel more, be less stressed, volunteer, make new friends and spend less time on electronic gadgets (http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2040218,00.html).
Where there is a Will, There is a Way
Though statistics are blank and discouraging the New Year is indeed the time to work towards making positive changes in life. To overcome mistakes, we need to learn the cause behind them. If you think, sticking to resolutions requires sacrifices from our end in the present to reap benefits in the future. For instance, eating a corn salad for snacks might be boring now when you are given an option to choose French fries but in the long-term your choice helps you become healthier. Research shows that people give into temptations about 1 in 5 times they try to resist and this number can increase even more when they are tired, stressed or busy. Our brains overvalue immediate pleasures rather than pursuing future ones. This is where willpower comes into picture. Each of us are blessed with this quality and only when we use it can we overcome our desire for immediate pleasure to stick to our long-term goals. Besides willpower, emotion is another important quality for succeeding in our resolutions. When we place more value on our future gains the emotions make persevering towards those goals much easier-we spend more time on tasks, don’t procrastinate, reduce impulsive behavior and enhance performance of the job. Relying on emotions surely does help you fulfill your promises which helps you look at the year with joy and a sense of pride for accomplishing your goals rather than seeing yourself as a failure once again.
Before you take up a resolution it is always necessary to think why you would like to take up the goal and if you are taking it up for every right reason. Taking things at the spur of the moment will not last long. Whereas, if you think hard about your needs and pursue something that helps you restructure your life for the better you surely have a good chance at accomplishing it. You can take up big goals that might be life-changing and this might even influence the people around you to encourage and motivate you for fulfilling your dream. Work towards the goal by making daily to-do lists that help you feel accomplished by the end of day. Measure your progress by checking out the list and if the goal is something that cannot be measured in numbers split them into smaller ones that can be tracked for progress. During this process don’t be disappointed when you are not able to stick to your schedule a couple of days. Failures are part and parcel of life and we indeed learn things only when we fail. Ponder upon your reasons for failing to keep up with your promise, correct them and move forward with enthusiasm.
Why Not Take Up Micro-resolutions?
If you can’t stick to one big resolution all through the year why don’t you try something different this year? Choose 12 small resolutions for each month and accomplish them (https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecenizalevine/2019/12/26/ditch-the-new-years-resolution-for-monthly-goals--12-ideas-to-improve-your-career/#5a7a7a724401). It’s much easier to focus and dedicate your time to smaller goals for a 4-week period. Following it for a month is a long enough time for making it a habit in your life. The 12 resolutions can be 12 bad habits that you would like to eliminate from your life or 12 habits that you would like to add to your life. Generally, adding good habits is more pleasant and satisfying compared to cutting off bad ones.
Good habits could involve anything like meditation, reading poetry, sleeping for 8 hours during night for the entire month, communicating with nature, listening actively to your child/family without getting distracted with mobiles/television, moving more through the day, adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your daily intake or showing gratitude to a different person daily for all 30 days. When you do something for a month it becomes a habit and you are likelier to follow it thereon. For instance, when you eat fruits and vegetables you tend to correct your eating habits pursuing the right path towards eating healthier. The small goal has paved way for achieving bigger goals automatically. Maybe this year each of you could set the stage for 12 small goals that can be followed, sustained through the period and would make you a much better person in life.
Here’s How to Crack Your New Year’s Resolutions: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/01/heres-how-to-crack-your-new-years-resolutions
5 Ways to Make a New Year’s Resolution Stick: https://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbridges/2019/12/28/5-ways-to-make-a-new-years-resolution-stick/#445aa10d5a77
The Secret for Actually Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions , According to Science: https://www.rd.com/culture/secret-keeping-new-years-resolutions/
The Top 3 Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Fail & How yours Can Succeed: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2019/12/21/the-top-3-reasons-new-years-resolutions-fail-and-how-yours-can-succeed/#203a3b8f6992
Year-long Resolutions Don’t Work. Here’s How to Make 12 ‘Micro-resolutions’ Instead: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/12/27/health/mini-monthly-new-years-resolution-part-two-wisdom-project-wellness/index.html
Ditch the New Year’s Resolution for Monthly Goals-12 Ideas to Improve Your Career: https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecenizalevine/2019/12/26/ditch-the-new-years-resolution-for-monthly-goals--12-ideas-to-improve-your-career/#5a7a7a724401
Having good fun during the holiday season? Tomorrow is New Year and without doubt many of you would be gearing up for the midnight party bash in full frenzy. This is the time of the year when each of us are overloaded with cheesy cream cakes, plum cakes, rich dishes and thick desserts that still linger in our minds from the joyous Christmas party and we look forward to a grand entry into another great year with pompous celebration. Holidays indeed are for fantabulous fun with family and friends alongside yummy dishes that gratify our heart. The butter cookies, roasted chicken and more entrapped with fat, salt and sugar can surely make each of us overindulge in the vast array of dishes. Oh, we have not yet introduced the main element of parties and celebrations these days-our favourite booze that’s often advertised to be available aplenty in any of the parties. This deadly combination of fats, salt and booze can lead to what we term now as the ‘holiday heart syndrome’.
Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?
Holiday Heart Syndrome is a term that was first used in the year 1978 to describe the patients whose numbers rapidly increased during the holiday season admitted for irregular heart rhythms called as atrial fibrillation or AFib. Festive seasons witness the absence of numerous physicians at hospitals as all of us indeed need a break from our hectic work schedule but it’s also the time when a greater number of people are admitted for several reasons. For instance, Diwali is the time of year when hospitals witness more cases of fire-related burns than any other time; wedding seasons bring about ample food poisoning cases that’s relevant to the meals served at marriage ceremonies and now, we have this syndrome that’s the result of overconsumption of food and alcohol.
Atrial fibrillation is nothing but a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can result in blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. Most people describe the feeling as though the heart skips a beat, bangs against the chest wall or flutters rapidly in the chest and this is mostly accompanied by lightheadedness, shortness of breath and chest pain. AFib puts the individual at a 5-fold increased risk of stroke and doubles the risk of heart-related deaths. So, while holiday heart syndrome can affect a perfectly normal individual with no heart problems it poses even greater risk to those with existing heart disease. In general, consumption of alcohol poses a threat to heart health and overconsumption during the holiday season increase the risk of atrial fibrillation in holiday heart syndrome that can also lead to release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
Holidays typically revolve around good food that’s not just one meal during the season but a continuum of eating, drinking and repeating it that’s totally misaligned with your regular food habits and activity levels. Such increased food and alcohol intake double the risk of heart failure in those who are susceptible or already suffer from heart problems. While typically, the recommended levels stand at one drink for women and two for men the holiday season brings about more than 3-4 glasses of alcohol consumption that surely puts you at an increased risk for health issues.
Moderation is the Key
Start planning ahead of the holiday season. If you are the host ensure to take care of all the arrangements well before time else the stress can bust your happiness and the lack of sleep can once again increase stress levels. Plan the day, your commitments to a party and celebration well in advance. If you are visiting your friend’s place for dinner have a light lunch, indulge in some physical exercise and get a good night’s rest before you go. Be conscious about the intake of alcohol, don’t gobble up sweet treats, control portion sizes and have everything in moderation. Enjoy your food and drink slowly relishing every mouthful of it. This would help you avoid overindulging in your favourite chocolate mousse or cocktail booze.
If you do have a couple of commitments over the same day it might result in binge drinking-a glass at your office party, one at your neighbour’s place and another one at your own! Go for a fresh fruit drink, choose a mocktail or go for a glass of soda at any of these places rather than indulging in alcohol at all places. Otherwise, there are classic chances that you might end up at the hospital with some discomfort in your heart. A complete elaboration on how to eat during the holiday season is just a click away at www.firsteatright.com.
Food is divine and the love for eating is omnipresent. Sitting on the floor and eating meals was the unwritten law followed in earlier days. With the advent of dining tables and chairs the concept of sitting down on the ground for a meal has almost vanished from our culture and even kids hesitate to take a seat on a mat considering it to be below their dignity. But as we progress into a super-fast world where even time for a healthy breakfast is lacking our outlook on the way we eat also keeps changing. Its not new to see young adults rapidly gobbling up food (cooked with love and affection by their moms) on their way to college or office. Where is the time for them to sit down at the table with their family and finish breakfast before heading out? Its almost unimaginable as kids and adults these days finish their food on the go in a standing position. I agree that standing has become the latest trend-standing at work, standing while talking over the phone or even standing and having meetings. But haven’t we heard our moms and grandmas plead with us to take a seat, eat the food and then proceed with our VIP work? Alas, have we ever paid heed to their golden words? Never!
But now, we have a new study that proves that food tastes better when we are sitting down. The study focused on how the vestibular sense that’s responsible for balance, posture and spatial orientation interacts with the gustatory sense that controls taste and flavor. Researchers confirmed this by recruiting 350 participants who rated the tastiness of a pita chip either in a standing or sitting position. It was observed that those who were standing gave it a less favourable rating than those sitting in a padded chair. Again, the researchers provided the participants with bite-sized brownies at a restaurant which they commented to be delicious, especially by those who were sitting down. The baker was told to add an extra serving of salt to make the brownie taste unpleasant. Again, when both the sitting and standing participants were served with the salted brownie those standing found it to be much tastier than previously compared to those who were seated. The standing participants couldn’t even decipher the change in taste in the brownie served as they were in a standing posture. On a lighter note, maybe its time for parents to make their children eat healthy, tasteless foods in a standing position! Or even consume your bitter medications while standing!
The same participants were made to taste fruit snacks at a grocery stop with handful of bags. This created additional stress which made those standing and sitting to report negative comments on the fruit snacks. Hot cups of coffee served made those standing lack much insight into the steaming nature of the beverage but led them to reduced consumption of the same compared to those sitting. Maybe, eating while standing can lead to reduced consumption and increased weight loss? But of course, there is increased stress placed on the heart making it to pump more blood. Standing position causes stress muting taste buds-that’s because, there is more focus placed on the stress hormone cortisol which decreases sensory sensitivity decreasing taste perception and in turn, overall consumption. If you are interested in knowing more about cortisol’s effect on our body please visit www.firsteatright.com. Folks, its better to sit down and have a meal patiently than to rush with it in a standing posture. After all, we earn to live well and what’s there to life than eating a peaceful meal that provides us with health and nutrients for a good quality of life?
January is fast approaching which means each of us are ready with our New Year goals. The latest craze besides losing weight or exercising is to embark on a vegetarian or a vegan diet. This might be an inspiration from your favourite celebrity or an inner enlightenment and many of you would be feverishly hoping that this switch over is rewarding and smooth. Becoming a vegan is advantageous to your health, benefits the environment and sounds ethical too from the perspective of many individuals and, according to a research from the University of Oxford going vegan is the single best way to reduce your impact on the planet. But doing something new and different evokes displeasure and anger-veganism is no exception. Though this might not be looked upon with as much contempt and hostility as shown to racism, sexism or likewise vegans are found to be annoying, preachy, unsettling and hypocritical. Another reason why many people loathe vegans is because these group of milk- and meat-haters are the perfect examples of how confused some people are about food choices and how illogical decisions might evolve out of this confusion.
Vegetarianism has its roots in our country but veganism is a new concept that’s surprised everyone in the world, almost becoming some kind of a diet fad but one that’s here to last forever. We are familiar with the concept of vegetarianism that includes avoiding animal-based food and the individuals consume milk and milk-derived products. Veganism means avoiding animal-based foods, milk, milk products, honey, eggs and anything else that’s obtained from animals. Hmmmmm…There is so much to compromise and so much to lose when you plan to go about a new route in life! But most people pursue a vegan diet for health-related benefits-helps primarily in avoiding saturated fats present in animal products and dairy and reduces risk of cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes and hypertension. You are promised a lower BMI, lower LDL levels and overall better health when you choose to consume a diet rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, folate and phytochemicals by eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans. Studies also show that a vegan diet reduces risk of heart disease (probably due to decreased red meat consumption) and lowers risk of diabetes and even cancer but what about studies that show that vegetarians/vegans might also become victims of certain nutrient deficiencies due to avoidance of all animal-based products? Though the British Dietetic Association agrees that a well-planned plant-based diet can be healthy at every stage it is necessary to understand the important glitches and come up with reliable solutions (https://www.forbes.com/sites/sophiemedlin/2019/09/19/do-vegans-need-supplements-how-to-thrive-on-a-plant-based-diet/#726b8a7b3751). We are more bothered about what can be removed from our diet to incorporate a goal and the focus is least on what should be included in higher proportions for better health.
While it is not impossible to attain optimal nutrition from a plant-based diet there are a few key nutrients that are hard to procure on a plant-based diet and even harder to come up with the right intake of supplements for the lacking nutrients.
Common Nutrients that Remain Insufficient in Most Vegans
Vitamin B12: Besides vitamin D, vitamin B has become one of the common nutrients that’s been lacking in most individuals these days. A nutrient that’s essential for brain function and an effective nervous system it’s the most-common nutrient that’s lacking among vegans as there are zero sources of naturally occurring B vitamin from plants. Ironically, the deficiency is not found any soon as the body has a support system on its own to manage vitamin B levels up to 6 months only after which symptoms such as fatigue, constipation, restlessness, weight loss and lack of desire to eat arise. This nutrient is present in abundant in nutritional yeast, fortified ready-to-eat cereals, soy milk, eggs, dairy and fish. Hence, vegans do need to take supplements regularly if they don’t consume other sources of this valuable vitamin after consulting with their doctor.
Protein: Don’t be surprised as we all do know that plant-based protein sources are available but what individuals lack would be to get enough amino acids. Pulses, lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds are good vegan sources but missing out on their intake can lead to serious protein deficiency when an individual doesn’t eat eggs, meat and dairy too. The essential fatty acids required for brain health are concentrated in eggs, meat and dairy and hence, vegans must take algae supplements to compensate for it.
Calcium: Individuals on a plant-based diet are at a higher risk of fractures and lost bone health as calcium is most-concentrated in milk and milk-based foods such as cheese and paneer. Besides dairy there are other sources (kale, turnip, broccoli and bok choy) but the problem is that these are not well absorbed by the body and can lead to deficiency. Calcium supplements is recommended for all vegans, especially pregnant women and children.
Iron: This nutrient can be obtained from two sources-heme (animal-based foods) and non-heme (plant-based foods) iron and its absorption levels depend on the source from which the nutrient is procured. So, despite the presence of ample plant-based sources of iron our body is less able to absorb it leaving the individual feeling tired, weak and fatigued. One solution is to combine your iron-rich plant-based foods with vitamin C-rich diets to maximize absorption. For instance, drink a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice along with iron-fortified breakfast cereal.
Vitamin D: This is a nutrient that’s commonly lacking in a majority of individuals, especially vegans as it is not present in any of the vegan diets. Sunshine is the primary source of vitamin D besides which there are only a few food sources, primarily animal sources, such as cheese, eggs, tuna and milk that supplement our needs.
Zinc: Zinc is limited in plant-based foods and even when consumed its absorption is also restricted. Vegans can choose from fermented soya, whole grains and nuts while fortified cereals, cashews, yogurt, pumpkin seeds and chickpeas are also good sources.
Iodine: this nutrient is needed for making thyroxine, a thyroid hormone required for normal growth. Its main sources are dairy, eggs and fish and vegans are at a definite risk of deficiency. While plants grown in iodine-enriched soil are proposed to be good sources the information is unreliable (https://www.forbes.com/sites/sophiemedlin/2019/09/19/do-vegans-need-supplements-how-to-thrive-on-a-plant-based-diet/#49dfade13751). It is better to take supplements to fulfil the needs.
A vegan diet has been proposed for weight loss but one needs to keep in mind that many of them can overconsume biscuits, cakes, chips and beer while reducing consumption of fruits and vegetables. Many are very thin and this can be disadvantageous in old age; they are at a 30% increased risk of bone fracture due to lower bone density (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/dec/18/doctors-warn-vegans-to-take-risks-of-vitamin-b12-deficiency-seriously) and at a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and diverticular disease of the colon. Substitute rightly, eat the specified quantities and enjoy what you eat. Some nutrients do need supplements and please don’t choose one on your own. Get in touch with a nutritionist or health expert before choosing supplements and it’s even better to get their opinion before turning into a vegan. Meet them once a while to review your health and to ensure that you are getting a good supply of all the nutrients required for a healthy body.
The Four Nutrients Vegans are Most Likely to Miss: https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/the-four-nutrients-vegans-are-most-likely-to-miss-20190501-p51izq.html
Not Getting Essential Nutrients in a Vegan Diet? Food Hacks to be Kept in Mind: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/not-getting-essential-nutrients-in-a-vegan-diet-food-hacks-to-be-kept-in-mind/articleshow/62898341.cms
Deficiencies Veganism can Lead to & Ways to Deal with Them: https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/society-news-beware-the-losses/301076
The 14 Things You Need to Know Before You Go Vegan: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jun/19/the-14-things-you-need-to-know-before-you-go-vegan
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.