New year, same me?

More episodes in the Sounds Like Health Podcast

Ever wonder how to make and keep your New Year's resolutions? Matt Hoffman, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Nursing, gives some helpful tips to pick the right kind of resolution for you.

Episode Transcript

Mary Leigh Meyer: Howdy, welcome to Sounds Like Health, this is Mary Leigh Meyer.

Sam Craft: I’m her cohost, Sam Craft.

Mary Leigh Meyer: And we are here today with Dr. Matt Hoffman with the College of Nursing. Welcome to the show.

Matt Hoffman: Yeah, thanks for having me. Just a little bit about me, I’m a clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing. I teach in our graduate pathophysiology and advanced pharmacology courses, and have a background as a family nurse practitioner. So, throughout my training and education, anything goes.

Mary Leigh Meyer: So, it is 2019 now. So, everyone’s trying to make their New Year’s resolutions and all of that jazz.

Sam Craft: Well, I mean, they’re not gonna keep them, but–

Mary Leigh Meyer: Oh, no.

Sam Craft: Just have to make them though, right?

Mary Leigh Meyer: Yeah, that’s the most important part.

Sam Craft: That’s why he’s here, right? He’s gonna talk about that, right?

Mary Leigh Meyer: Oh, is he?

Sam Craft: I think so.

Matt Hoffman: Yeah, I’m down. Absolutely.

Sam Craft: Where should we start?

Matt Hoffman: Let’s just start with just the idea of resolutions. And the whole idea that we need to do something, there’s almost kind of a social expectation that it’s the New Year, you gotta start a resolution. And even people kind of start bringing that pressure on, like, hey, Sam, what’s your New Year’s resolution; or have you been thinking about one.

Sam Craft: Just really quick before we get started with all of that, you said social, and it really kinda tipped me off. Do you think, I know we really haven’t got into this yet, but does social media play a big role into that mental thing of, oh, all these people are making resolutions, I gotta do this too?

Matt Hoffman: You know, definitely, and I have to be honest, I’m not really big in social media platforms; there are a variety of reasons. But absolutely, you know, some people are very, very transparent with what they do in their lives and how they choose…

Sam Craft: TMI.

Matt Hoffman: …to share that with social media. Yes, absolutely. And so, it definitely can inspire, motivate people, so there is a strong social aspect, and sometimes expectation among friends, among colleagues to do something to either better yourself, improve things. And it really can be a little bit more stressful and stress inducing for some people, depending on those external pressures and kind of what society or what people are telling them they should do.

Mary Leigh Meyer: Yeah, that’s how I kinda see it, ’cause I’m big on social media, but I think it’s more of the person-to-person communication where I find more New Year’s resolution talks.

Sam Craft: Like from your friend, like, hey, I’m doing this, doing this, what are you doing? I guess I get those occasionally. I always see the ones, I’m gonna be a better person, I’m gonna lose weight. And I think I really admire people that stick by those, but it’s so hard, I mean, for the reasons we’re gonna talk about today I think it’s so hard to live by that kinda stuff, for more than a couple days, which is, I mean, do you know what the average New Year’s resolution is? I mean, I don’t know the numbers, I’m just asking.

Matt Hoffman: I don’t know numbers either.

Sam Craft: I think mines probably a couple weeks, maybe three weeks depending on–

Matt Hoffman: I think depending on the resolution itself will really make a difference. Additionally, some of them are hard to measure, so if I’m gonna be a better person, how does that manifest? How can I measure or gauge whether or not I have fallen through with that?

Sam Craft: When do you give up on that?

Matt Hoffman: Exactly. If I get stuck in traffic somewhere and have just like a couple of bad thoughts and honk a horn or something, oh wait, am I bad person now; have I already ruined, you know. Some people really kind of will interpret their actions and what they’re doing a little bit differently. So, depending on the resolution and how measurable it is would definitely have an impact on that number.

Mary Leigh Meyer: I feel like I always make, instead of a New Year’s resolution, I kinda make a new goal. I have like a goal list for the year. And so, a goal, you know, a resolution implies that I’m going to do this, like this is what’s gonna happen. And I think a goal is like, I’m going to do my best to reach my goal.

Sam Craft: It’s more achievable you feel like?

Mary Leigh Meyer: Yeah, and there’s more flexibility, just like what you said, Dr. Hoffman. You know, if something goes wrong, then that doesn’t mean I didn’t meet my goal. Just means I’m working to meet my goal.

Matt Hoffman: Right.

Mary Leigh Meyer: Okay, so that’s kind of how I make my goals. How do you think people should go about setting their own goals?

Matt Hoffman: I think that the healthiest way to do it is to kind of think about is it realistic and is it attainable. Kinda one of those things where sometimes goals are going to take much longer investment of time, resources. And if it’s something that you wanna accomplish within the year, that’s a really, really good way. But you have to evaluate whatever the goal is. So, if it’s losing some vanity pounds, if you give yourself the end, kind of timeline goal of being by the end of the year I wanna lose my vanity pounds and have kept them off. That’s absolutely attainable. When we look at other goals of, right now I am working in a drive-thru, and I wanna have a six-figure income at the end of the year, I’m not quite sure how realistic that’s gonna be…

Sam Craft: Do I have to reevaluate…

Matt Hoffman: Unless you’re dropping some really awesome hot mix tapes or something, whatever the kids are doing nowadays, to try to get viral or whatever. So, the way that we frame those goals and kind of evaluate them a little bit more deeply is really, really important. Additionally, don’t get overloaded with too many goals. Kind of recognize your own strengths and limitations and know, I think, realistically this goal is gonna be a little bit harder, so maybe I’ll only tack on one more goal for the year. It’s definitely a better way of having a little bit of introspection and reality checking going on at the same time.

Sam Craft: I think that’s a really good point. You mentioned goal expectations and being realistic about your goals. We all make goals every year, New Year’s resolutions, and a lot of us fail. I would say more fail than achieve. I think it’s more about being realistic in those goals and setting them. Mentally, how does that affect you if you, in your studies or whatever that you’ve seen, you go out and make these goals and you just fail? Does it put you, like, I’m gonna lose weight, and you fail and you just fall out the deep end, and you just really, you really don’t recover.

Matt Hoffman: You know, that’s a good point. There’s a lot of social science research out there. There’s a really wonderful book by Gretchen Rubin called “The Four Tendencies”, and she actually highlights some of these ideas of these tendencies that we naturally have that are innate within us. And some people might have a strong tendency but then lean to another one. But there are some of us that exist where that internal accountability, if I say I’m going to do it, it’s going to happen. There are some that actually don’t necessarily need that internal accountability but more so external to get things done. And the failure will manifest differently depending on what those motivating factors were. So, check out her website, check out her book. It’s really great, you can actually do her free online quiz which is where she gathers a lot of her still ongoing data for this to support a lot of her research. But it really depends on your motivation. So, if you’re internally motivated to get something, maybe lose some weight, something along those lines, if you’re motivated and you know that you can get things done without having an accountability partner, or without partner use, someone else to hold you accountable to that, then kudos to you. However, if you don’t really subscribe to that and you really are internally driven, failure would mean something even bigger to you…

Sam Craft: Catastrophic.

Matt Hoffman: Yeah, absolutely. But in the grand scheme of things, when we look at failure, the idea and the implication of it being really, really heavy or potentially catastrophic, if we take a step back and figure out, okay, my plan was to lose five pounds, I didn’t do it. Really, how detrimental is that? Who is it harming?

Sam Craft: Maybe you lost three or four.

Matt Hoffman: Right, right, and you didn’t get all the way to five. You know, just celebrate the small successes. There’s a whole lot out there about positivity and how much positive thinking can actually help us achieve goals, help make us healthier, as well as just mentally put us in a better place. And so, I think that whole idea of failure with New Year’s resolutions kind of potentially can hurt us a little bit more in terms of if we have set an unrealistic goal for ourselves; are we setting ourselves up for failure? So, it goes back to that goal planning idea, because some people really can be more affected than others depending on what the goal is and, especially who might be affected by the failure of those goals.

Sam Craft: Sure, yeah.

Mary Leigh Meyer: So, you mentioned the hypothetical resolution of losing some weight, losing those vanity pounds. That’s a pretty, I wanna say that’s one, if not the most common New Year’s resolution, it’s one of the top three.

Sam Craft: You know about vanity pounds? I’ve never heard of vanity pounds before.

Mary Leigh Meyer: Yeah, I’ve never heard of it, I like it though.

Matt Hoffman: Yeah, vanity pounds, vanity weight. You know, everybody usually has kind of this ideal goal weight that they might stay at, and it’ll fluctuate five pounds or so. So, about those five, maybe 10 pounds for some people. I think five pounds is generally the idea where we think of vanity weight, ’cause you can lose some water weight depending on what you’re doing, how vigorous you’re exercising, you’re eating, those types of things. So that vanity weight, some people swear, you know. I’m one of those people where I can tell if I put on weight, everyone sees it right in my face. I get some chubby cheeks. I get a little jowl going on. So, it’s one of those things that that’s where my vanity weight is, and I try to keep it at bay if I can.

Sam Craft: Well what are some of the diets that people are using to keep off the vanity weight, or helping their goals?

Matt Hoffman: Yeah, well in terms of the weight loss, I think there are two things we gotta think about. People will make their resolution of I’m gonna start X, Y or Z diet, or I’m going to workout more, I’m going to do such and such. When we talk about the diets, the real big trending diet right now is the keto diet. And a lot of people are jumping on that bandwagon. I wanna say years ago, and it still may be pretty popular, I don’t hear too much about it as much as keto, but the paleo diet had a really big heyday a couple of years ago. And so, prior to that, I think back to the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet. Atkins actually has the oldest history prior to South Beach. But when we look at these diets, it all depends on the different types of nutrients you’re taking in. So keto specifically is where you’re taking in high-fat, low-carbohydrate intake. And it looks different in terms of, there are actually four different types of keto diets. The standard keto diet is the one that’s been actually researched more and we have more data on. But then they have other ones where, if you’re a weightlifter, bodybuilder, those types of things, you actually can subscribe to the keto diet, but then you have a modification where you have some carb-heavy days to support those workouts, et cetera. But one of those things is that your body is essentially going into ketosis because you’re limiting the amount of carbohydrates. When I teach patho, I teach my students that our body needs carbohydrates for energy. Our brain needs that glucose. Well the thing that I tell my students as well as my patients is, if you have any fat rolls, anything that you can grab in your body, that is stored energy. So, it’s basically our body taking in all of those carbohydrates saying, alright, I’ve used as much as I can I’m gonna save this for later. It kinda goes back to our caveman days of, when you are having a really good, you’ve eaten whatever animal that you killed and skinned, your body is gonna store that excess for energy later ’cause you may not know when your next meal is.

Mary Leigh Meyer: Or it’s like when I order pizza, I’ll save some of it for later.

Matt Hoffman: Ha-ha, there you go. Yeah, so basically your body is really a very sufficient organism in that it will store any excess glucose in the form of fat. Well what the keto diet does is, since you’re not ingesting a strong, or a high number of carbohydrates, your body is breaking down the fat that it has stored elsewhere in your body, usually your midsection; for me, my face, kind of like I mentioned earlier. And what happens is that your body naturally goes into ketosis where it breaks down the fat to create and release that stored energy. And so, it really is a lot of people get a greater amount of weight loss or weight reduction because of the fact that you’re losing the fat. And it’s been studied and showed that it’s actually allows people to lose more weight than low-fat diets or calorie-restricted diets. And people love keto because you’re not limiting calories, you’re only cutting out certain food sources and food groups, specifically those carbohydrate-rich options.

Mary Leigh Meyer: Interesting, but those kinds of things are so hard to stick to.

Sam Craft: Well now, I was gonna say that this keto sounds more like a, more of a viable option for long term as opposed to, I’m just gonna watch my carbs, or watch my calories and I’m not gonna eat these foods anymore.

Matt Hoffman: Right.

Sam Craft: ‘Cause, you know, all of us have been in that place where, I’m sad, let’s go eat a gallon of ice cream. And you’re done, like it’s over, like your night is gone.

Mary Leigh Meyer: And I feel like I’m the kind of person that tries a lot of things. And only tries them.

Matt Hoffman: Yeah.

Mary Leigh Meyer: I would like to be able to do something like that and actually kind of incorporate it into…

Matt Hoffman: A lifestyle.

Mary Leigh Meyer: Yeah. One of my New Year’s resolutions is just to be overall healthier, just to eat healthier, to think healthier, all of the above.

Matt Hoffman: I think that we have to step back a moment and actually look and examine at how we’re defining what healthy is, because each of us might have a different definition of what healthy living looks like to us. So, if we create that definition ourself, it’s easier for us to kind of challenge and make ourselves meet that versus, if you, Mary Leigh, think that healthy living is what your friend does in terms of working out every single day, sometimes twice, and then only having salads, you know, that’s really where you’ve not created that idea of healthy living; you’re adopting it from someone else’s interpretation. And we always have to kind of reflect on everyone kind of has their own baggage. It’s one of those things where some people, their struggles can get excessive. So, if you attach onto what you think, oh, well they’re healthy, they eat this, they’ve lost all of this weight. They may not be following the most healthy patterns, so you don’t necessarily need to follow health patterns. Which also makes me think of some of my patients that I’ve seen in clinic and practice where they say, oh, well I read this research study about intermittent fasting. You have to recognize the limitations of studies as well as the populations that were researched. They had, ideally, the studies are going to have people that are healthy controls. Whereas I look at my patients with multiple co-morbidities and say, you would not have qualified for this study. So, you can’t expect the same opportunities or manifestations in terms of what you’re doing that’s in line with what the study says.

Sam Craft: I think that’s a good lead way into not every diet or every trick works for every person. ‘Cause I know if I don’t have carbs, I wanna fight people. Like, I am angry. I don’t know why, it’s my body is so used to…

Matt Hoffman: …It’s that innate aspect, yeah. It’s just our caveman brain.

Sam Craft: I just don’t work well without carbs, and I never have, even limited ones.

Mary Leigh Meyer: He does get pretty hangry.

Matt Hoffman: Yeah?

Sam Craft: Hangry, that is correct.

Matt Hoffman: Yes, you know. I think that we’re all…

Mary Leigh Meyer: It’s his middle name.

Matt Hoffman: …definitely guilty of being hangry at times. And it really kind of brings us back to our mind and body connection. So that’s a trigger from your brain saying, hey, look, I need some sustenance, I need you to give me some energy to make me happy; get these neurotransmitters, dopamine, all those fun things going, circulating again. And it really kind of goes back to are we eating because we’re hungry or is it because of a mood thing. Ugh, I had a bad day, I just wanna eat this pint, or this gallon, or however much of ice cream, and move on and just be done. You’re stress eating, you know, not necessarily your body telling you that you are physically hungry. And that’s a really, really big thing that a lot of people don’t, we will, I’m absolutely guilty of mindlessly eating. If there are snacks, and holidays are the worst time for this.

Sam Craft: You just love the taste of the food, I mean, you just keep eating.

Matt Hoffman: I’m not hungry but it’s there, and I love that.

Mary Leigh Meyer: So, at lunch yesterday, there’s this new place that has cheesy garlic bread. I’m sure anybody listening will know exactly what we’re talking about.

Sam Craft: It’s cheesy garlic bread, yeah, that’s amazing.

Mary Leigh Meyer: So, I was planning, planning, keyword, on eating first half during lunch and I was gonna save the second half for dinner. And it was so good. And I ate all of it. And I felt so sick afterwards. I was about to, be like I need to go home. I don’t think I can stay at work.

Matt Hoffman: And that’s something that I believe everybody can relate to in some form or fashion, especially coming out of the holiday seasons where we just have an abundance of food and opportunities, and sometimes a lot of free time to overindulge.

Sam Craft: The leftovers. Yeah, the leftovers.

Matt Hoffman: Leftovers are big. And it goes back to listening to our body and those queues. So, there’s a wonderful diet program out there that, I shouldn’t even call it a diet because it’s really an eating plan where it makes you so much more mindful of how you’re eating and that you’re taking time to enjoy. And that’s really the key principle is you’re not restricting yourself in terms of certain foods, limiting amounts of foods. You’re basically letting your body slow down and engage in the whole eating process. So, with the cheesy garlic bread yesterday, you took those first couple of bites and you were like, this is awesome, your brain had a lot of dopamine surge so that your prefrontal cortex said, this is good, give me more. And you just kept going because of that in your brain. This whole idea of slowing down and eating and enjoying the texture of the food, the saltiness, all of those things that we take for granted and don’t necessarily think about when we’re eating; like when was the last time you stopped and said, you know, chewed slowly and said, ah, “the crunching of this lettuce”, or “the chewiness of this bread”. A lot of people don’t do that.

Sam Craft: I’m gonna go with never.

Matt Hoffman: Right, see? And so, when you do that, remember, we have digestive enzymes that’s produced in our saliva that start the digestive process. So, all of those enzymes, through a really cool system within our gut, release more enzymes in our stomach that will travel up to our brain to tell us when we’re full. So, the slower you eat, and the slower you actually engage in that process, if you’re eating and socializing, that’s a really good opportunity too, you might get fuller faster depending on how much you’re taking; because you’re taking a bite, then you’re talking to your friends, et cetera. Your brain’s going to get that signal, like, hold up, I’m full. If you ate half of a sandwich, you were probably eating it so fast that your brain didn’t get the signal until the other half of the sandwich was consumed. And now your brain’s getting over inundated with the signals, like, hold up, you’re really full. You’re really full and uncomfortable.

Sam Craft: We really Thanksgiving full…

Matt Hoffman: Yeah, absolutely, so it’s one of those things where the eating process, we have turned it into a mindless process because of fast food, to-go food, you know, and just all of the lifestyles that we live. We have somewhere to be, we have limited time to eat before we have to be somewhere else.

Mary Leigh Meyer: And I think y’all both mentioned it earlier, the stress eating. That’s a common coping mechanism for stress, and I think that’s gonna be another one of people’s top resolutions.

Matt Hoffman: Yeah, absolutely.

Mary Leigh Meyer: So, let’s talk about that a little bit too.

Sam Craft: Destress in the New Year.

Matt Hoffman: Yeah. Stress is really, really big. And it’s important to think, people respond to stress in different ways. So, you might have the person that’s a stress eater, and then you might have the person that is stressed and like, I don’t have time to eat; I am so stressed I have to just move on to my next task so that way I cannot be, experience the stress anymore. Stress is individualized, and it’s really important for everybody to remember that our bodies naturally respond to stress, and at low levels, stress is a positive thing because it’s a motivator to us. Like, you have a deadline. That’s going to be a positive motivator for you to get your work done, to submit whatever it is. So, at low levels, stress is actually beneficial for us. However, whenever it becomes excessive and people start developing negative coping habits associated with that stress is where we actually start to see a whole lot more of the mental and kind of unhealthy aspects of stress manifests, such as stress eating. Depending on how much eating it is, it can lead to another cycle. Let’s imagine somebody that’s experiencing stress. Their New Year’s resolution or their goal is to lose X amount of weight. Well they’re stressed, they overate because they found this really awesome cheesy garlic bread at some place. And then now they are feeling so uncomfortable, they’re reminded, ugh, okay. I’m still supposed to try to meet this goal, but I’ve definitely set myself back. That can even add on further stress, potentially depression. You know, it’s one of those things where everybody’s just a little bit different in how they’ll respond to stress. So, the big thing is to recognize what the stressors are. And a lot of times when I counsel patients that are dealing with stress and/or anxiety, one of my questions is, this stress that you’re experiencing right now, is it temporary? When is it going to go away? When will it stop? Or is it going to be something that we have to deal with long term? And that’s one of the big things that people should kind of pause and ask themselves whenever they’re experiencing perceived stress. This is a deadline, it’s an important deadline, but it’s going to end at this window. So, I’ll know that after I get to this date, that stressor’s going to be gone. You know, that’s motivating in and of itself to know this is not going to be stretched out or prolonged. However, people that experience long periods of time of stress, maybe, I think of aging parents and having to take care of aging parents, or people with chronic illnesses, something along those lines; that’s gonna be a bit protracted. And that can absolutely be a situation where you’re experiencing stress, fatigue on top of that, both physical and emotional. It’s a lot more complex, and definitely you might need a little bit more support from that perspective.

Mary Leigh Meyer: So, I think my biggest takeaway was that, when we set these resolutions, we set these goals, we really need to kind of define what it is, define our expectations because I think it’s different for everybody.

Matt Hoffman: Yeah, absolutely, it’s a very individualized process, it’s important not to just jump on bandwagons. And one of the things I had mentioned earlier is, it’s important to have conversations with your healthcare provider to make sure that, if you’re wanting to jump on a keto diet, if you’re wanting to start an exercise program, that you actually have found one that would be appropriate for you, because depending on co-morbidities, you might be putting yourself at risk for other health complications, and we wanna avoid all of that. We’re looking to have a healthier New Year, and one of the best ways to do that is to partner with someone that kind of knows a bit more.

Mary Leigh Meyer: Thank you so much for being with us today.

Matt Hoffman: Yeah, absolutely, I’ll be happy to come and hangout and talk with y’all anytime y’all have me.

Sam Craft: Appreciate, we really enjoyed it, and a happy New Year’s to everyone.

Mary Leigh Meyer: Yeah, happy 2019, everybody. This has been another episode of Sounds Like Health. Join us again next week for Health Hullabaloo when we’ll continue this New Year’s theme.