If you find that 2 months or so after adopting your new diet and/or exercise plan, you suddenly find yourself back to the lazier, more gluttonous self you were over the festive period, it is probably because those New Year’s resolutions you set yourself were too extreme.
If you have been eating anything and everything under the sun, how do you expect to happily follow a diet of celery sticks and steamed chicken three times a day? If your version of exercise has been walking from the couch to the fridge, is it realistic to expect yourself to be able to run a ten kilometre race by the end of January?
Start simple and start slow. This way you have a much higher chance of keeping up your new health habits (and even improving on them throughout the year) rather than sprinting out of the starting blocks and hitting the wall 2 months in.
Let’s start with the “diet”:
If you find something, whether it is in a magazine, on the internet or advertised in your local pharmacy, that promises “amazing results in just a few weeks”, walk on by or flip that page over. If such a thing existed, we wouldn’t have the obesity problem we currently do. If something advises you to swap out a meal for a special shake or to take tablets, somebody on the other end is gleefully rubbing their hands together as you fill their pockets with more of your wasted money. Move on.
Start with these simple steps:
- Cut out all forms of “junk food” – even if this means going through your cupboards and giving away foods leftover from the holidays. Don’t be fooled by things that promise to be “gluten-free”, “fat-free” or have “no added sugar”. Check the ingredients label: if there are ingredients on it that you are not familiar with, put it down – it is a junk food. A rule of thumb is to think: “would my great-grandmother have had this?” If not, avoid it.
- With the above instruction in mind, what should you be eating? Good quality meat, eggs, plenty of green veggies, some unrefined carbohydrates and good quality fats.
- Drink more water. If you adhere to the first instruction, you have already cut out all cool drink, fizzy drinks, juices etc. Add alcohol to this list – your liver could do with the break.
- Make your portions smaller. At each meal, serve your food in a smaller bowl or on a smaller plate. Over the festive period, we adapt to eating bigger portions, even beyond the point of being full. Remember that it takes the brain 10 – 15 minutes to signal that you are full, so eat slowly and wait before getting seconds. On this note, serve your food, put the rest away in the fridge and sit down at a table and eat slowly – avoid eating while doing other things as this distracts the brain from acknowledging that the stomach is satisfied.
Once you have achieved the above steps, get more personalised advice that will suit your family’s budget and lifestyle. This ensures long term success and not the weight fluctuations that come with many quick-fix diets.
Now for the exercise:
Come January, the gyms are full and the roads are busy with people running and cycling. This is fantastic. However, this is also how a lot of injuries and burn out occur - people doing too much too soon.
Get advice from a biokineticist who can assess where your fitness levels stand and design a personalised programme that is based on what your goals are. This doesn’t necessarily mean a gym contract – they will design it with your needs in mind.
Here is to a healthy, happy 2017!