"Diet" and "New Year's resolution" are two concepts in close association. Losing weight has long since dominated people's new-year goals. But being unkind to your body is not really our vibe for 2019. According to a YouGov poll, the most common health-related resolutions shared by Americans in 2018 were to eat healthier, get more exercise, and focus on self-care. These are notably different from the resolutions that topped people's lists a decade ago, when "lose weight" was the number one health-related aspiration of 2008. This pattern shows that slowly but surely people are moving away from unattainable, doomed diet plans and toward a more balanced approach to food that's more about getting well than losing weight for the sake of it.
To continue this trajectory, we've put together a list of health-focused aspirations to pursue in 2019 that have nothing to do with dieting. Forget calorie-counting, liquid cleanses, and other unhealthy diet behaviors, and try one (or all) of these things instead.
1. Make a healthy swap (like kombucha instead of soda)
Dieting may be out for 2019, but gently improving any less-than-perfect nutrition habits you might have is definitely in—like excess refined sugar consumption. This year, we learned from a continuing national health survey that over 60% of children and 50% of adults drank a sugary beverage on the day they were polled in 2014. And binging on junkie sweets, which stimulate the brain's reward system making it almost impossible to quit them, is even more common. According to holistic nutritionist and founder of Kore Kitchen Meryl Pritchard, "Studies have shown that sugar can be more addictive than cocaine."
If you know you tend to overindulge in a certain food that has literally zero nutritional value, try making a goal out of replacing it with a healthy alternative, like swapping soda for La Croix or Kombucha for that fizzy fix, or a naturally sweet snack like dates instead of candy.
2. Aim to eat plant-based a little more often
Going 100% plant-based overnight can be daunting or unrealistic for some folks, but going part-time vegan or "flexitarian" can have huge benefits on your health and the planet, too. Earlier this year, Newport Beach–based registered dietitian Dahlia Marin told us, "According to Oxford academic Dr. Marco Springmann, if the world transitioned to a vegan diet by 2050, the global economy would save $1.1 trillion dollars, considering decreased healthcare costs, greenhouse emissions, and environmental savings. Even if everyone became a 50% vegan by then, we would gain 50% of that economic benefit and make a significant impact on health and wellness."
Start out with doing Meatless Mondays or replacing the animal protein you'd normally eat with plant protein, like tempeh or jackfruit, half the week. Here's more advice on how to go part-time vegan.
3. Try a natural energy-boosting supplement instead of coffee
Caffeine is a miracle drug, but coffee can also make you anxious, mess with your sleep schedule, and give you a stomach ache. Not to mention feeling dependent on the stuff is not exactly ideal. If it makes sense for you, see if you can replace your coffee habit with an all-natural energy booster with fewer side effects, like Moon Juice's Cosmic Cocoa, an "arousing" adaptogenic supplement you can add to a smoothie, or Four Sigmatic's Mushroom Focus Shot, which is packed with brain-boosting plants like lion's mane, rose hips, Rhodiola, and guayusa.
4. Cut out cancer-causing ingredients
Instead of cutting calories next year, cut toxins: A 24-year-old cancer survivor recently shared with us six common food ingredients she avoids, including GMOs, processed meat, artificial food dye, and high-fructose corn syrup. "Refined sugars [and foods made with them] are the source of major insulin spikes and feed the growth of cancer cells," she says.
5. Eat more (healthy) carbs
Can we stop writing off carbs as the enemy already? In 2019, instead of resolving to eat less bread, resolve to eat more good carbs, like quinoa, chickpeas, brown rice, beans, and millet, all of which are some of the most nutrient-packed foods you could possibly eat. (Read more about the healthiest nutritionist-approved carbs here.)
6. Develop a probiotic habit once and for all
If you've yet to hop on the probiotic train, let 2019 be your chance. Research continuously shows that gut health is more important to our digestion, skin, mood, immune system, and overall physical and mental health more than we ever realized. Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in your gut helping to fight pathogens and yeast that can compromise your health in truly innumerable ways. Eating probiotic-rich foods like kimchi and kombucha, or taking a supplement, to support this good bacteria can improve your health, skin, and general well-being in ways you could not imagine. Read more about the benefits of probiotics here.
7. Experiment with CBD
CBD took the wellness market absolutely by storm this year, which is no surprise, considering the myriad of compelling new research that the compound decreases anxiety. If using food to improve your mood sounds appealing, try playing around with CBD supplements in the coming year—Byrdie's assistant editor Erin is a fan of this CBD-infused coffee recipe.
8. Focus your food choices on balancing your hormones, not losing weight
So many of us deal with hormonal troubles—from PCOS to fibroids to endometriosis—and we're learning more and more about how food can have enormous benefits on these conditions. Instead of letting your weight govern your food choices in 2019, let your hormones be your guide. Here are a few helpful articles on how healthy carbs, cutting down on refined sugar, and dark chocolate can help with everything from hormonal acne to PMS.
9. Treat yourself
Here's a radical idea: Instead of making it a point to eat fewer delicious treats in 2019, make it a point to eat what you want when you want—that way you won't end up playing that game of deprivation and overindulgence. If you love dessert, have it, but maybe make a slightly healthier tweak to it, like choosing a plant-based item instead of dairy. For example, here are 10 vegan pie recipes that are scarily delicious.
Next: Read what mindfulness really is and how to practice it.