by Nicol David
Just like many people around the world, the first few pages of my 2020 plans had to be scrapped. My travel plans, wish lists, and in-person commitments took a back seat for the health and safety of everyone. It was also the first year that I didn’t get to visit my family back in Penang, but like many, I pulled through with video calls and virtual catch-up sessions to stay connected.
I think a lot of us would agree that the pandemic didn’t just stop us from meeting physically – it also affected our finances, attitude towards health and those ambitious resolutions we had at the start of last year. Now, as we enter the first quarter of 2021, many of us are once again busy setting our new year’s resolutions for the year ahead. And while our resolutions and goals might be slightly different this year due to the pandemic, it is also a good chance for us to take the learnings from 2020 and approach our health, fitness and financial resolutions with a new mindset.
Resolution 1: “This is the year I will eat clean (for real!)”
“Eat clean” or “stop emotional eating” are among the top resolutions we hear year after year. Those are life-long aspirations, but I think that the reason why they appear so often as a resolution is because most people fail to achieve them. What about changing our approach to our diets? Sticking to a strict, healthy eating regime is difficult, I hear you. I personally prefer to approach healthy eating as “eating well and balanced” meals rather than going on a “diet”, which sounds restrictive and requires tons of effort.
By tricking my mind into thinking “I am eating healthier” eases the pressure of following a diet and helps manage the guilt after having a good meal. Eating in smaller portions also helps shape a good eating routine. So, rather than gobbling down all of my favourite Malaysian meals at once, I pace them out and savour each bite.
Emotional eating, on the other hand, is not something we can address by controlling food portions. When we are anxious and stressed, it is common for us to seek foods that give us comfort. The AIA What Matters team and I checked in with Dr Sareena Hanim Hamzah, acting deputy director of Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences of University of Malaya, who shared that “Consuming food in response to our emotions reflects the body’s inability to distinguish between physiological hunger and the desire to use eating as a strategy to reduce these emotions. This could affect us both physically and mentally in the long run.”
I couldn’t agree more. Like many of us, there are times when I find myself drowning in emotional eating too. I like fried food, or should I say I love it! However, if I find myself eating fried food for several days in a row, it could be a warning sign that I am self-soothing and masking myself from something unhappy that I have not addressed. As soon as I am aware of it, I immediately take a step back and reach out to a friend or family member to talk it out.
Emotional binge-eating only provokes deeper emotions if we do not identify the source of our distress right away. I find it easier to write my feelings down to have a clearer picture of what made me break my regular eating pattern and address the issue I am facing.
I also agree with Dr Sareena that there is no better time to practice mindful eating than now, where we can cook at home more often than eating out. Mindful eating is all about paying attention to our food and enjoying the taste and each moment of our meal. The end goal here is not to trim down the extra weight but to fix unhealthy eating habits.
One important thing to note is not to be too harsh on yourself. Our expectations of eating clean all the time tend to weigh on us. So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall off the wagon. Just know that you can always get back on track to live a healthier life.
Dr Sareena shared some tips on managing cravings:
- Decrease the frequency of consuming food
- Reduce your energy/calorie intake
- Perform physical activity at least 150 minutes per week
Resolution 2: “I will exercise 5 times a week”
If staying fit is one of your new year’s resolution, you are also setting yourself up for a happier year ahead because exercising, even if just for a few minutes a day, can help boost your mood. I tend to feel restless if I don’t keep active or exercise at home, so I find that the more active I am, the better I am at managing my daily life without going crazy.
I’ve always believed that to reach a big goal, you need to make smaller goals and milestones that would lead up to it. Similarly, fitness results don’t show up overnight, so, establishing a moderate, diversified, and realistic fitness routine that you can easily follow is a better idea to achieve your goals.
Your fitness regime can start off easy and slow. Twice a week, with 10-minute sessions is a good place to start where you can begin with a walk, basic stretching exercises and some simple cardio workouts. Double the fun by adding some variety into your routine as you progress further. I have enriched my fitness routine by exploring and incorporating a few new activities, such as new workout apps, live workout sessions on Instagram, and even started playing basketball and roller skating!
With various fitness activities and ideas in place, I have increasingly felt motivated to stay fit and be active. It also helps that the AIA Vitality app tracks my fitness journey. It has encouraged me to stay on track with my training and rewards me each time I meet my fitness targets, fuelling my motivation to hit the next target.
Resolution 3: “I will save money every month”
I know many of us enter the new year with a goal to save money. I checked in with Mr Devadason Arulsamy, a certified Chartered Accountant and AIA Life Planner who shared his expert opinion on various effective ways to achieve this goal and be better prepared in the long run.
“Generally, the start of the new year is a good time to review our financial conditions – our income, expenditure, assets and liabilities – and shake off bad financial habits. This allows us to have a reality check on our financial standing and develop a necessary action plan.” said Mr. Devadason when asked about the effectiveness of having financial resolutions.
“There is no perfect financial budget or plan. What we design today may need to be reviewed periodically. Having a clear objective is crucial to come up with a realistic budget and financial plan – but keep it short and precise! Life need not be sequential, it can be concurrent but rather than focusing on one goal and neglecting the other, have a simultaneous plan that addresses debts, increasing your savings and setting apart emergency money.” he added.
Tips for cultivating good financial health:
Devadason shared some wise words on shaping good financial habit:
- List down your financial objectives and come up with a savings plan
- Compare prices when you go shopping to find the best deals for you
- Plan your routes and trips well to save on fuel and time
- Have a trusted love one to keep you in check with your financial goals
Looking at the brighter side of things, 2020 was proof that we can find new ways to approach life. Even though we might have had to cancel the things we have set out to do, it was a good chance to learn and explore new things. What’s happening around the world may be beyond our control but working on improving our lives is something that is still within our hands. Good luck with your resolutions this year!
Nicol David – AIA Malaysia Ambassador
Nicol David is AIA Malaysia’s Ambassador. Nicol has an impressive 19-year squash career under her belt, where she dominated global rankings by winning eight World Titles and held the World Number 1 position for a total of 109 consecutive months.
Nicol retired in 2019 and currently focuses on empowering a younger generation of Malaysians to stay fit and active through various initiatives.