For many of us, the new year marks a fresh start – a time to refocus, to set goals, and improve. However, despite the best intentions, resolutions are often both unrealistic and unachievable. And when we don’t succeed? We give up, go back to our old habits, and promise to make next year different.
When it comes to setting goals related to health and well-being, our FoodFit program offers up a different approach that starts by emphasizing that each participant is unique — there is no one-size-fits-all plan — and that everyone deserves to feel their best. The hands-on cooking and exercise program is being offered in communities across Canada thanks to funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada. It empowers people living on low or limited incomes to make lasting changes to their health within the limits of their circumstances. And it does that in an atmosphere that's all about empowerment, and having fun with food. It’s why so many participants finish the program feeling accomplished and motivated to keep going.
Here are five tips that FoodFit coordinator Erin Gionet uses in the program that might help you stick to your health goals all year round.
Name your motivation
When FoodFit participants set goals at the beginning of the program, they're asked to think about what’s important to them and what they personally want to achieve. When the question is framed this way, people's goals are often related to improving quality of life, feeling better, and having more energy. As participants work through the FoodFit curriculum and start eating more whole foods and moving more, they get more sleep, they feel more energized throughout the day, and it becomes easier to follow a healthier lifestyle. “It’s a positive feedback loop – the better you feel, the easier it becomes, and the more motivated you are to keep going."
Make changes gradually.
It takes time to form a new habit. Taking things one day, one step, one meal at a time, makes a change a lot easier to adopt for the long-term. In FoodFit, participants are encouraged to incorporate new ingredients and more whole foods gradually, in ways that are accessible and affordable. “That’s one great thing about the group cooking session – participants get the opportunity to try new recipes without having to spend money on a lot of ingredients they don’t already have in their cupboards."
Surround yourself with support
Fostering a community of like-minded people is a critical component of FoodFit. Participants feel a sense of camaraderie with one another, keep each other motivated, and can turn to one another for support. Belonging to a community that comes together every week and supports each other’s progress helps people see that not only is it possible to feel better, they deserve to feel better. “Some participants struggle with social anxiety and barely say a word when they first join the program,” says Erin. As the weeks go by, though, she sees them gain confidence, open up to their peers, even crack jokes. They develop relationships that continue to flourish outside of the program.
Measure progress that matters
A good goal is a goal that you can measure. When it comes to health goals, there are plenty of meaningful ways to measure progress that have nothing to do with a scale. At the end of a twelve-week FoodFit program, many participants have significantly reduced the medication dosages they take for health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. “One of our participants was taking four shots of insulin and four pills a day to manage her diabetes when she started FoodFit,” says Erin. “She’s done so well in the program that she’s been able to cut those dosages by 90 per cent. She says it’s changed her life.”
Give yourself credit
Celebrate the steps you’ve already taken toward achieving your goals. Congratulate yourself for showing up and taking action. FoodFit participants are facing multiple barriers that can make just showing up to the program a challenge -- limited mobility, lack of access to transportation or even warm winter clothing. “Just showing up is sometimes the hardest part. Making that commitment to yourself to get out the door and come to the program every week is a big deal, and it’s worth celebrating."
FoodFit is all about building healthy habits and doing the best you can with the resources you have. It’s about making slow, sustainable changes that support better health for life. These are just a few of the ways FoodFit sets participants up for success, and a lifetime of health. Learn more.