8 Jan 2015

January top tips on diet, exercise & health goals!

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We're all full of good intentions in January, with the exercise and healthy eating resolutions we made at the end of last year fresh in our minds. However, it's not just about finding the motivation to get started, it's about achieving long-term improvements and routines that you can maintain throughout the year. 

To help you plan for the next few months, and hopefully make your "New Year energy" and motivation last, we asked our Nutritionist, Fiona Williamson, to pull together her January top tips. 

Define your goals...

Having a list of realistic goals and part-goals you want to achieve throughout the year (or longer term) can help you focus - just make sure you define them properly, specifying exactly what you plan to do. 

Promising yourself to "drink less alcohol, exercise and eat more fruit & vegetables" is all well and good. However, vague objectives like the above are wide open to interpretation and therefore difficult to measure or maintain. Especially if healthy eating and regular exercise is something you struggle with. 

Be very specific... 

Try to set yourself some very precise and time-specific targets that are easy to keep track of, and provide you with a clear structure...e.g. "In January, go for at least three 30+ minute walks per week; eat at least five portions of fruit & veg every day; drink no more than three glasses of wine per week."

One step at a time... 

If you have set yourself a number of healthy eating and fitness goals, introduce them gradually, one at a time. Listing your goals and part-goals is a great way to stay on the ball, but most often, trying to do everything at once isn't sustainable. 

Implementing lots of sudden, big changes simultaneously - like going from several weekly junk food or chocolate binges and no exercise, to cutting all sugar from your diet and working out 5 days a week - can easily result in a ‘crash and burn’ scenario. And if all the pressure you've piled on yourself becomes too much too soon, you may end up abandoning your goals altogether.

Start with the easiest goal...

List your goals in order, from the most easily obtainable goal to ones which will require more effort and bigger life changes. Then add them into a schedule, where you introduce a new goal when the previous one has become an established routine - e.g.: 

January: 
Reduce snacks between meals from daily chocolate & crisps to just one healthy option per day.  

February:
Once the snacking is under control, commit to walking a minimum amount of steps each day, using a pedometer. 

March:
Add one or two half hour jogs or fast walks per week to the mix. 

April:
Reduce weekly junk food, meals out and takeaways to one or two "treat occasions" per month. Etc.

Working through your goals one at a time will help you slowly but surely build up a range of new, healthy habits, which in turn will make it easier to achieve any bigger, long term challenges and an overall healthier lifestyle.

Similarly, if you are starting Diet Chef this month, perhaps give yourself a few weeks to get used to the new diet and establish healthier eating habits, before taking on a new, challenging exercise routine. 

Allowing one change to become ingrained before taking on the next personal challenge, and avoiding the pressure of overload, will make you more likely to succeed in the long run.

Eat according to the season... 

Most of us change our wardrobe to suit the seasons, but have you thought about changing how you eat to reflect the seasons too? 

Peak growing and harvesting time of plants differ throughout the year for each food – eating foods in-season means they are in a more readily available supply and so can be bought cheaper. Also, they will not be harvested early and transported round the world, so will be of a higher nutritional quality.

Some foods to check out this winter... 

Mandarins / clementines / satsumas
Dates
Pears
Persimmons
Chestnuts
Kale
Pomegranates
Leeks
Turnips 

Exercise doesn't have to be a chore...

If you're not a fan of the gym or working out in general, when setting your January / 2015 goals, why not incorporate some with an easy exercise element? 

Have more fun: 
Aim to set aside more time actively playing with the kids.

Walk the dog: 
Increase the length of the walk you take your dog on. 

Embrace winter: 
Don't save outdoor exercise for sunny spring weather - build a snowman or go sledging!

Get wet: 
Don't let rain put you off a walk or run – you're going to shower afterwards anyway!

Get off the bus: 
Get off the bus a few stops earlier and walk the last stretch to work or home – it will get you moving, and being in chilly weather means your body has to work harder to keep you warm! 

Check out gym deals: 
Keep an eye out for January joining offers in gyms and health clubs – but make sure the offer represents good value, based on how likely you are to use the membership. If you really don't like the gym, there's probably a good chance your commitment to regular sessions will falter once your initial burst of motivation runs out. A great discount isn't a money-saver or a good deal if you end up tied into a contract you're not using. As we've demonstrated above, there are lots of other ways to exercise!

Use MyFitnessPal: 
Track your progress using our fitness partner, MyFitnessPal - set goals and work towards them so you have a plan to stick to. This will also help keep you on track and focused.

Healthy living as a lifestyle... 

Try to think of diet and exercise as a normal, ongoing part of a healthier lifestyle - not just a temporary fix to slim down and get fit for holidays and big events. 

With regards to your eating habits and weight loss, small changes can make a big difference in the long run - like using smaller plates; having  a glass of water before meals; and trying to cover off all nutrients / food groups in each meal (this could be as simple as adding high protein Greek yogurt to your Diet Chef granola). 

Stay positive...

Last but not least, it's important to maintain a positive mental attitude! 

Don't let temporary set-backs put you off. Most of us surrender to unplanned booze-and-junk-food binges every so often, or have weeks when we put in a big effort, but still don't lose any weight. Try not to allow this to undo all your hard work. Instead of resigning yourself to failure, shake it off and get back on it!  

What now...? 

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