New Year's resolutions - should we make them?

Should we be making New Year’s resolutions in light of the craziness in the world?

As I get older, my New Year’s resolutions don’t seem to change – lose weight, get fitter and be less stressed at work.  This year feels different.  Living in New Zealand, I am lucky to be able to move around freely, but like most New Zealanders, we are conscious of the worldwide carnage Covid-19 has brought. 

As I drove into work this morning - to our new Zestt Wellness office and laboratory - I heard on the radio that intensive care units in Southern California are full.  Wow, just wow, this is one horrific pandemic with so many families affected, it’s quite overwhelming.

Years ago, I read a book “Overwhelmed” and it stuck with me.  Author, Brigid Schulte described her harried life and then described pockets of society which seems to escape from this busyness.  I remember thinking at the time – it’s all so simple, when we feel overwhelmed we need to ask ourselves what can I do in my life which will make a difference?

The same is true now, time spent scrolling social media or listening to alarming news could be spent reading a novel or cooking something delicious.  I am choosing to spend January in learning mode.  It’s the summer holidays here, so I have three books on the go – The Half Life of Hannah by Nick Alexander (fiction), Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin (memoir) and Fiber Fuelled by Will Bulsiewicz.

It’s the last book I want to talk about now – what a great read and in line with much of what Darcy (Zestt co-founder) and I have been researching and very much behind our drive to set up Zestt Wellness – we love plants and plant bioactives. 

Darcy, who suffers from an autoimmune disease, sarcoidosis, has also been driving me hard in terms of reading about gut health.  Wow, what a fascinating area of research.  It feels early though, really early and there is still so much to learn about food as a preventative medicine in relation to our gut microbiome biodiversity.  It will be a challenge just keeping up – but that is what we will endeavour to do with Zestt Wellness, so we can bring you the best products.  The challenge for us will be making sure we walk the talk as well!

So where does this all sit with my new year’s resolutions? I loved the concept of eating 30 plant species a week in order to give my microbiome the diversity of fibre it needs to flourish (in the Fiber Fuelled book). 

Right now, I know I can achieve that – my fabulous husband, Kevin, has grown me a wonderful vegetable garden so I have veges coming out of my ears and time to think and plan and cook delicious salads, stir fries and bakes (by the way on this front I can highly recommend Nadia Lim’s cookbook, Vegful).  I know this will be difficult to maintain once works starts and we roll into Autumn and winter – pasta and mince is just so damned easy - and loved by my three teenagers!

So Darcy and I are developing a very cool plant fibre product which we will be testing this winter ourselves and I am looking forward to bringing to you– more about that later.  The other angle I am pondering is how far to go down the vegetarian or vegan line (which the book strongly recommends).

I have to say, I do question a couple of the scientific conclusions within the book, for example the association of red meat with colon cancer.  The scientific studies which brought about this conclusion were based on meat mostly eaten in the US, processed meat – burger patties and the like.  These products are full of preservatives and other compounds that are certainly not good for our microbiome.  I think, just like with gluten, we need to separate variables in our analyses with regards to whole food groups and highly processed food groups.  Otherwise, we risk demonising food groups that we have eaten for thousands of years.  There is also some good scientific evidence around the effects of dairy products like cheese and yoghurts on our gut microbiome. 

On top of that, I simply cannot imagine not eating meat at all.  This year I went to a Christmas party where there was a pig on a spit. Eating the crackling off that was one of life’s great joys -why would I take that joy away?

So here is where I have got to.  I plan on eating less meat and dairy, but that which I do eat will be high quality and in smaller proportions – with the occasional pig on a spit gorge.

I definitely plan on eat more plant-based fibres and phytochemicals – 30 plant species a week, I’m actually really excited about that. 

And in moments during the year when I get that feeling of overwhelm, I need to remember to focus on what I can control and slow down enough to cook a nutritious meal to share.  Happy new year to you all and I would love you to join us on our wellness ride!