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2020 may have been a doozy, but we’re taking on the new year with positivity and a renewed sense of hope for what’s to come — especially as it pertains to personal health and fitness. Whether you’ve made resolutions or simply feel inspired to give your mind and body a little extra TLC, we’ve asked some local experts to provide us with a few tips to boost our wellness and self-care in 2021.

Woman doing sunrise yoga on mountaintop

Follow these tips and tricks from local experts for a healthy 2021.

9 Suggestions for a Healthy 2021

1. Define what “getting healthy” means to you.

“We believe that before you can ‘get healthy,’ you have to define what that means for you and what ways it’s safe for you to approach those goals. Not all health goals are for all people. For example, if you have a history of disordered eating, then a weight loss goal isn’t going to serve you and may, in fact, make you less healthy. So, we recommend that you first start by identifying what health outcomes you’re seeking. No one wants to be healthy just to be healthy. Is it because you want to play with your grandchildren longer? Because you want to avoid getting sick or even getting others sick? Is it because you want a rich, full life? If the goal is to reduce anxiety, your health goals might be to find a therapist you like or practice more meditation or both.” — Elizabeth Moore, CEO & co-founder of TRILUNA

2. Don’t be afraid to be a beginner and embrace virtual sessions.

“Never be afraid to be a beginner; we all have to start somewhere. Your fitness level or weight should never deter you from your goals. Finding a program that you love will always keep you engaged in fitness. Without a doubt, virtual sessions are here to stay, and they are both convenient and cost-effective.” — Bambi Watt, owner of Willow Studio

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3. Create a forum for movement every day.

“I suggest moving every day in some form or fashion, whether [you take] a small group class, walk or jog in the fresh air, or do a workout video at home. This is physically beneficial for your body, but it is also extremely beneficial for your mental health — especially during these times. [It also helps to] find an accountability partner, which might be a friend you workout with or a friend you keep up with virtually. The ‘let’s do it together’ mentality always helps me to pursue and achieve my goals.” — Anna Tefel, owner of Studio Novo

Woman doing sit-ups to achieve a healthier lifestyle in 2021

“Plan out your workouts for the week (or even a few weeks), and stick to them,” advises Studio Novo owner Anna Tefel. “I always find that if I have a plan, I am way more likely to follow through.”

4. Return to a routine and reconnect with what you value.

“My first suggestion is to return to routine. When first quarantined, many of us worked diligently to stay active, engage in creative outlets, and remain connected to our loved ones. This has waned over time, as many of us are feeling collective fatigue, and we’re overloaded by persistent stress. The second suggestion is to find new ways of reconnecting to what you value and work it into your routine. Sometimes we naturally gravitate toward activities because they align with our personal values. When we lose activity due to COVID-related restrictions or precautions (for example, not being able to attend our go-to exercise class), we also lose engagement with something very important on a deep level, which also helps to bolster our mood and life satisfaction. My suggestion is to take a proactive approach to recapture that in a creative way that’s feasible in our current circumstances. This means examining your social connections, activities you enjoy (perhaps you haven’t engaged with them in a while), sleeping habits, and eating habits. Look for areas that might need a little attention. Afterward, think of a small goal that can be achieved in a week, and work to schedule it into your day.” — Lindsey C. McKernan, Ph.D. MPH, Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Vanderbilt.

5. Practice gratitude and mindfulness.

“After an incredibly difficult 2020, I would suggest practicing gratitude and focusing on self-care in the new year. Each of us needs time to reflect and stay focused on our blessings. Take a minute before getting out of bed each morning to remind yourself of the things you are grateful for. This simple habit will lead to more happiness and serve as a healthy start to your day. Another step to help reach your goals for 2021 is to take time for yourself whenever you need it. Mental and physical health go hand in hand; to be in a good place physically, you have to be in a good place mentally. To bring joy and happiness into your life, practice small acts of kindness, and remain mindful and present in your daily life. Also, a little crinkle of CBD never hurts on those stressful days to bring you back to balance!” — Tara Joseph, CEO & co-founder of 3rd Eye High

Woman doing yoga stretches

“Taking a proactive, paced approach and staying consistent with working toward goals will help you achieve the things you’d like to change,” says Lindsey C. McKernan, Ph.D. MPH, an associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Vanderbilt. “Hopefully, it will help improve mood and energy levels, too.”

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6. Resist the need for perfection.

“Know and understand that nobody, and no diet, is perfect. People blame themselves for previous bad habits, ‘letting loose’ during the holidays and quarantine weight gain, which in turn can cause more stress, anxiety, and negative implications on our bodies and mind. Also, ditch the fad dieting! Fad diets are plans or trends promoted as fast weight loss, nonsensical nutrition advice, and unsustainable long-term habits. Some examples are the keto and blood type diets and intermittent fasting. We recommend focusing on a healthy, balanced diet similar to the Mediterranean-style diet. We also recommend intuitive eating practices, which honor your hunger cues, eliminate restrictive eating habits and respect your body. [It also helps to] make ‘SMART’ goals! Make Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely goals for the new year. Setting these types of goals can help to clarify your ideas, reflect on what hasn’t worked in the past, use time and resources efficiently, and see results.” — Allison Tallman, Registered Dietitian & co-founder of Nourished Routes

7. Get creative in your vegetable consumption.

“We’re always a fan of smoothies and juices because they make consuming vegetables more enjoyable, and it can be done on the go. As folks have discovered new ways to work out on-demand versus working their schedule around workout classes, home workouts will probably continue. Also, healthy concepts that prioritize foods, that can also be delivered and still taste great, will continue to [be in high] demand — even in the colder months — as people enlist third-party delivery services (like DoorDash and Postmates) as accountability partners for good nutrition.” — Rachel Layton, Managing Partner of I Love Juice Bar

Two I Love Juice Bar smoothies

I Love Juice Bar, which is launching a brand new menu in 2021, makes nutrition accessible with their delicious smoothies … some of which now feature the addition of CBD.

8. Kick your immunity into high gear.

“With COVID-19 in full swing this winter, keeping your immune system strong remains a top priority for protecting your health. To support a strong immune system with nutrition, the first priority is to ensure you’re eating enough food; when we eat less than our body needs to thrive, the immune system suffers immensely. If you have a low appetite, follow a low-calorie diet, have malabsorption in the gut, or eliminate multiple food groups, you are likely at risk for under-nourishing your body.

If you find yourself in a rut with food, it can be incredibly impactful for your body — and your taste buds — to aim for more variety with your meals and snacks when you have access to do so. Variety is important because different foods have their own unique array of beneficial nutrients, so our bodies thrive best when we eat as diverse a diet as is accessible. Consider aiming for small steps when adding more variety to your diet. For instance, if chicken is your default protein for most meals, consider adding a meal with fish, tofu or beef instead. If you find you always choose green vegetables, try another color like orange carrots, red tomatoes or purple cabbage. If you tend to get the same takeout meals over and over, consider ordering a new dish once in a while to mix it up.” — Kaitlyn Kownacki, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Nashville Nutrition Partners

Mason jar of healthy eats for 2021

“In order to redefine wellness on your own terms, you will need to do a lot of unlearning,” says Elizabeth Moore of TRILUNA. “Stop following social media accounts that make you feel inadequate. Follow more accounts that practice well-rounded wellness and highlight many different body types. Consider talking to a non-diet nutritionist or therapist if that’s accessible to you. Consider how the wellness of your community affects your individual wellness. Don’t be afraid to reach out for the help you need.”

9. Make it more convenient to be healthy.

“If you find yourself eating takeout frequently, consider a healthier option such as ordering prepared meals or prepping your own for the week. If you have pre-cooked meals ready to heat and eat, you’ll be much more likely to choose the healthier option because it is the easiest option. Even if you have just a few of these meals ready to go, it makes all the difference when you’re struggling with your own willpower. An added benefit of eating prepared meals is that you’ll also have a portioned option. A common mistake is over-eating, so this helps you avoid that. Staying healthy comes down to scheduling and creating habits. Try your best to schedule meals, track macro nutrition if possible, and schedule your exercise. It may not be the most convenient, but apps like MyFitnessPal make it easier to track nutrition and develop healthy habits. If you order meals from our website, you have access to all of the nutritional information on every meal, which makes it even easier to track.” — Spencer Donaldson, co-founder & chief executive officer of Eat Well Nashville

Here’s to a healthy and happy 2021!

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