New Year Resolutions You Can Keep
We've all heard of the phrase 'New Year, New You.'
The idea seems great - promising ourselves to get fitter and healthier in the new year, especially after a binge over the Christmas and New Year period.
I wonder if too many of us are trying to make too many changes too fast.
Are we setting unrealistic targets or timescales? A good proportion of resolutions seem to falter even before January has finished.
Changing to a healthier lifestyle can take time, and it's very easy to be too hard on ourselves at first.
Some of us may want to lose weight. Are our weight loss targets a little too aggressive? Losing weight is not a one size fits all task. It should always be tailored to the health and lifestyle of the individual, after taking into account many factors.
For others, healthier eating and drinking in general is the goal. Maybe you just want to find the energy to get through each day without feeling exhausted?
Is it realistic to get that 'perfect body’ in time for summer? Is it really necessary to take away those couple of bottles of wine and bars of chocolate each week? How likely is it that gym membership to be a one stop solution to your 'problems'?
Of course, for some people, specific goals and aggressive targets are very achievable, and they will thrive on the challenge. However, for the majority of us, improving our health and wellbeing need not be measured in terms of numbers or hard and fast targets.
Rather than committing to resolutions, there are some simple changes that I recommend all year round. These are 'resolutions' we can make to improve our health that are much easier to keep going throughout the year.
With that in mind, here are my top tips for resolutions. Choose as many as you feel comfortable with....
Switch to a healthier breakfast
A lot of us are starting the day with an unhealthy breakfast, or even no breakfast at all.
Breakfast is one of the key meals of your day and one of the simplest to make changes to.
If you’re not eating breakfast every day, your first resolution should be to starting having one! And, if you are having breakfast, look to understand how much sugar is in your food and drinks and consider portion sizes. For example, a portion of cereal is often listed as a 30g or 40g serving size, but the majority of us will be having a bigger portion than this - often 50-60g. Cereal is also deceptively high in sugar – containing at least 3 teaspoons in a regular portion. If in doubt, weigh it out!
Eggs are great for breakfast and you can add other healthy foods such as leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers and onions. Another idea would be a low-sugar and high protein yoghurt or smoothie with fruit, nuts or seeds. A protein shake with added flaxseed oil or chia seeds is a good option.
If you just can’t give up your cereal, porridge or All-Bran are two of the better choices.
Sticking with toast? Nut butters, including almond or cashew can provide useful amounts of protein and beneficial fats instead of sugary options like marmalade, jam or nutella. Marmite is also a better option, although high in salt.
Eat more protein
Many UK diets are lacking in protein, and it is not uncommon for us to go until our main meal of the day in the evening before we have any significant protein intake.
As an example, cereal or toast for breakfast along with a sandwich or pasta salad are all likely to be low in protein, but protein is vital to our wellbeing and is needed in every meal and snack. Proteins are the body’s building blocks, building new tissues and repairing those that are worn out. Without adequate protein the body cannot create enough energy to maintain good health.
Aim to include a quality source of protein in each meal and snack such as poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, peas, beans or cottage cheese.
Eat more GOOD fats
The body needs fat to provide energy and maintain hundreds of essential processes for overall health.
We all need a regular supply of good fats for brain function and maintaining the health of our cells. Many people are unaware that eating more unsaturated fats from food such as oily fish, butter, nuts, seeds, olive oil, eggs and avocados can help them LOSE body fat (as part of a balanced diet).
As a rule, saturated fat intake should be fairly limited in comparison.
Prepare your mind and body for sleep
Getting enough hours of sleep, and the quality of that sleep, are both important.
If you are regularly starting the day still feeling tired or agitated then you’re effectively setting yourself up for a bad day before you’ve even started it.
Eating a more balanced diet, which includes a selection of the beneficial proteins and fats I have listed above, will help to maintain balanced blood sugar levels. A diet that is low in protein and beneficial fats and with too many carbohydrates, such as sugary foods as well as white bread and white pasta, will cause sharp rises and falls of blood sugar, leading to feelings such as anxiety, restlessness, tiredness and also potential weight gain and (ultimately) type 2 diabetes.
Some other suggestions to help aid your sleep are: avoiding caffeine after 5pm; spending the hour before you go to bed away from TV and smartphones, computers, etc.; engaging in activities that help promote sleep-inducing hormones such as serotonin and melatonin, e.g. try reading, meditation or creative hobbies before bedtime and mentally promise yourself that any niggles or worries are best resolved the next day.
Introduce simple exercise
Exercise doesn’t have to be blood, sweat and tears. Just five walks a week for 20-30 minutes each time, and at your own pace, can have a positive effect on your mood and energy levels.
Many people find positive effects from simply swapping the drive to work for walking, or joining their partner on a walk with the dog each evening.
Above all, enjoy your resolutions!
Changes won’t necessarily be visible overnight, but gradual change will help you change your lifestyle for good. If you do falter, all is not lost!