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Mindset Shifts to Focus on for a Healthier 2022

Published: 1/3/22
By Alexandra Frost

Now that the new year is underway, your resolutions may seem more challenging thank you envisioned. Instead of leaning into the latest fad diet or an expensive gym membership, learn about the importance of small mindset shifts to make your resolutions stick.

We’ve all made one too many New Year’s resolutions that undoubtedly fail; over 80% of people who make a New Year’s Resolution abandon them by February. So instead, for 2022, let’s throw out the “shoulds” and “coulds,” and tune into what mental and physical health experts say about the most effective ways to change your mindset to improve your health. 

Reframe the pursuit of health as a joy, not an obligation

Convincing yourself you have to exercise, or you have to eat vegetables, meal after meal, and at every workout, will lead to a mindset based on obligation and deprivation. Talking to yourself differently about the pursuit of health can help you reframe your perspective.

New York Times Bestselling author, Robby Barbaro, 33, wrote “Mastering Diabetes,” and works as a health coach for a program by the same name. He also has type 1 diabetes, having been diagnosed as a teenager. 

“This mindset of living healthy, for me, is my greatest joy in life,” he said. “I don’t see it as a sacrifice. I like making healthy food, I like shopping for healthy food, I like being active, I like waking up well-rested because I went to bed early. I love being out in the sun because the moment the sun hits my face, it feels good.” 

He hopes people recognize that healthy things might also be some of the most fun things in life, rather than the short-term benefits of other indulgences. “If I have this pastry from my favorite bakery, it tastes really good in the short term, but I feel the impact as a person living with diabetes for sure,” he said

The connection between gratitude and health isn’t just theoretical. Multiple studies have shown that this shift has health benefits, including lowering your risk of heart disease. So, in 2022, try using words that replace obligation with joy as you pursue a healthy body and life. 

Kaitlyn Gannon has a master’s in exercise science and is a certified strength and conditioning and corrective exercise trainer (which specifically looks at correcting movement imbalances and compensations). She’s also the owner of Svelte Performance gym in Dallas. She says she is trying to go with a more “grateful” mindset for what her body is allowing her to do. 

“There are some people who physically cannot be active for whatever reason – they’ve had surgery, they are cancer survivors, they’re going through recovery,” she said. “Be grateful to have a body that is able to move. It shows the mindset of wanting to take care of it.

Replace restriction with eating for fuel

Many of us have been programmed, and trained from a young age, to choose certain foods because we like them, rather than for the nutrients and energy they give us to complete activities in our day. Gattone says a mindset based more on your lifestyle, and the nutrition needs that creates, is more helpful than a restriction-based mindset, which will most likely fail.

“Food is presented to us to nourish our bodies to be able to be effective, whether it’s through work, exercise, or recovery,” she said. “What is your lifestyle? Whatever you’re eating, you’re eating to supply your body for what you need to do throughout the day.” 

Her advice aligns with research that demonstrates restrictive fad diets don’t work over the long term anyway.

For her clients with diabetes, this is even more essential, she said, as eating correctly to fuel workouts will help regulate your body. Shifting how we think about food to see it as fuel, rather than something we enjoy or not, can impact our decisions around it. This can ultimately lead to us making healthier choices that better align with our goals.

Focus on just one meal

If you’ve ever overindulged at a meal, or missed a few days of your exercise routine, you know how discouraging it can feel. But it’s possible that you are looking at success, or failure, through too narrow a lens. Barbaro advises his clients with diabetes to focus on one meal at a time. 

“We don’t care how long it takes for someone to really master breakfast – it might take a week, a month, or longer,” he said, explaining that for him, “mastering” means enjoying breakfast, knowing what to make, how to buy it, how to handle different breakfast situations, and more. “Then move on to lunch and do the same thing...dinner might be challenging because of the family situation, but be patient with yourself and [focus on] one meal at a time.”

Succeed at one small thing at a time, not all your goals at once

Maybe you want to eat more vegetables, lose weight, and move more. It’s unlikely that just speaking all three into existence at the start of a new year is going to yield any lasting results. Instead, narrow your focus. Taking baby steps toward a single goal and celebrating those first is what Adam Potash recommends. Potash is a celebrity chef and health coach, with a health and nutrition certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York.

If you are trying to lose weight, for example, Potash says we should actually focus on much smaller changes than we might think. “Do just one change per week,” he said, “Maybe it’s more water intake. Maybe it’s getting better sleep. Maybe it’s limiting the times that you eat...focus on one thing at a time so it’s not intimidating.” 

Once you’ve laid the foundation for your house (your body), as Potash analogizes, then start adding the bricks. He said, “It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing mentality.” 

Researchers continue to study the growing body of evidence that habit formation through repetition, or ritualized behaviors, can help a healthy habit “stick.”

Stop forcing yourself to love something you don’t

If every morning you try to mix spinach in with your eggs, but you hate spinach, you are never going to accomplish the balance, or that “mastery” of a meal that Barbaro speaks of. Instead of continuing to hate what you feel that you “must” eat, find better alternatives.

In this fashion, Potash recommends staying away from things you don’t like, and experimenting with things you do. 

This can help people start to enjoy integrating more vegetables or nutritious foods into their diets, rather than resenting it. So step away from the spinach if you truly hate it, and try mixing those eggs with whatever your favorite vegetable is instead for long-term success. If you are still intent on “learning to like it,” researchers suggest a very gradual approach over time to eventually acquire a new taste for it.

For more information on building health habits with small steps, read, “How to Change Any Diabetes Habit, Part 2: Think Mini,” and, “The Dangerous "All or Nothing" Mentality,” both from Adam Brown.

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About the authors

Alex Frost is a Cincinnati-based journalist specializing in health/wellness, parenting and relationships, education, trends, personal finance, business, and lifestyle writing. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Parents, Women's Health, Healthline,... Read the full bio »