Forget about last year and the goals you did not achieve. Maybe you didn’t lose those last five kilos or quite conquer your carb addiction.
This year, focus on being realistic and systematically addressing your common fitness and weight issues.
Realistic goal setting is incredibly important says Sydney City nutritionist Jennifer May. Kick off your health plan with weekly goals.
May advises the following:
• Exercise every other day without fail.
• Drink two litres of water every day, and a glass of fresh lemon juice in water every morning.
• Start to increase your vegetable intake until you are eating about six handfuls of vegetables per day.
• Aim to include protein at every meal (remember these can include beans, nuts, lentils etc.)
• Score your energy levels in Week 1 from one to 10 with 10 being the best you have ever felt, and do it again in Week 4. Note if you see any changes.
Then, it is time to address your common fitness and weight pitfalls.
Problem: I lose motivation after a few days.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at changing your eating habits. May suggests consulting with a nutritionist and setting small achievable goals.
The sense that you have achieved something helps to keep you motivated. She emphasises the importance of truly evaluating where you are in regard to your eating pattern, and being honest about how often you eat junk food, the foods you cannot give up, the challenges in your life (time, energy, money, inspiration) and looking at the real reasons you find it hard to commit to your goals.
It is also important to not fall into the “all-or-nothing” trap. She mentions a friend who says that if she is not eating salad, she may as well eat ice cream. Totally not the approach to take!
Problem: I have difficulty controlling my craving for sweets.
When we crave sweets, it usually means: we are tired, we are thirsty, or we need some protein. May recommends first having some green tea, which will give you an energy boost, rehydrate you, and improve your ability to digest protein.
Wait 20 minutes, and then eat a protein-rich snack such as an egg, some raw nuts or a rice cake with a bit of cheese. This will deal with most cravings for something sweet.
She also recommends eating a bit of protein with every meal. A mid-afternoon slump could be a sign of iron deficiency. If this happens regularly, and it is accompanied by fatigue, grumpiness or anxiety, see your doctor, as you might have an iron or another deficiency.
Problem: My time is limited and junk food is quick and easy.
Junk food is readily available and it is relatively cheap. But is also calorie-laden, and very high in fat, sugar and salt – an excess of these three is not only bad for your waistline, but also for your health. Eating fast food daily can increase your cholesterol levels.
Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease and chronic diseases such as diabetes and arthritis, says the Heart Foundation of Australia. Eating well may take a little planning and preparation, but it is worth every single minute.
Get into a habit of taking fresh fruit and healthy home-made lunches to work. Once a week junk food probably won’t hurt you, but a daily intake of it certainly will. Preparing healthy food yourself will not cost you more than buying junk food; it might even save you some money.
Problem: I hate working out.
Even if you hate it, there’s just no getting away from it: you need to exercise to stay healthy and keep your weight down. There are ways to make it less painful, such as working it into your everyday schedule by climbing the stairs instead of taking the lift, and parking at the far end of the shopping centre.
Playing with your kids or walking with a friend won’t feel like a workout, as your attention is distracted while you’re active. Over the last decade, researchers from Brunel University in London have found that exercising while listening to your favourite music improves the beneficial exercise effects by up to 15%.
Problem: My lifestyle means I eat out a lot, so it’s difficult to lose weight.
On most menus there is something healthy to eat. You just need to find it – and order it.
Salad without the dressing and grilled fish and vegetables are always good options. Both alcohol and non-diet canned drinks pack a real punch when it comes to sugar content, so keep that in mind.
Share a meal with a friend when you go out – restaurant portions are often huge and more than enough for two people. If you have any say in the matter, choose restaurants that you know have healthy options on the menu.