It’s the new year and many people will be signing up for gym memberships, going alcohol free for January or starting a new diet all in hope of getting healthier, fitter or losing weight. But by the end of the month, many will have fallen off the wagon and resumed their normal habits. Why is this and what can you do to break the cycle of binge and diet?
After the excesses of the festive season, many will resolve to get healthier in January but often they set unrealistic goals for weight loss and fitness or worse still, they embark upon a fad diet, of which there are no shortage in the media and on the bookshelves. They make many changes all in one go, without thinking whether these will fit into their lifestyle or whether they can be maintained in the long term. Cutting out several food groups like carbs, grains, meat and fish or dairy is not only unnecessary for most but it’s also very hard to maintain, especially if the rest of the family aren’t doing so. Setting a goal of going to the gym 5 times a week when you’ve never trained before is also unrealistic and hard to maintain (not to mention a risk of injury). Equally, aiming to lose a stone in January is likely to lead to disappointment and potentially a regain of more weight in the long run.
We might be used to setting SMART goals at work but why not do it with your resolutions? Be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. So if weight loss is your goal, aim to lose no more than 2lb (1kg) a week and give yourself short and medium-term goals that incorporate contingencies for weeks where you may have a wobble (and don’t worry when you do – it happens to everyone!) If you want to get fitter, sign up for a fun run download a couch to 5k plan, making sure you give yourself long enough to build yourself up to your goal. Make the goal achievable by ensuring you have the time to devote to training or preparing food as well as an eating plan that is tasty, easy to stick to and suitable for the family and give yourself motivation during the process by rewarding your achievements. There are many ways to reward yourself without food or spending lots. You could put money aside each week until you reach your goal and then treat yourself to a new outfit, piece of fitness gear or a weekend away. Or for more short term motivation, book in for a massage, go to the cinema (no popcorn!) or even have a long soak in the bath to reward hitting a weekly goal.
Fight the fads
You can’t move for faddy diets in January. While most of them will result in weight loss in the short term (if you can stick to them) inevitably that weight will be regained (and often more than you originally lost) because these plans are not easy to maintain in the long term. Juice diets, diets removing food groups when you don’t have allergies or intolerances or ‘nutribabble’ diets with pseudoscientific rules and claims have very little evidence to support their long term effectiveness and you can end up with deficiencies or losing lean muscle rather than body fat.
Detox diets and ‘clean eating’ are also on trend, even for those who don’t need to lose weight or get fitter. While it’s a great idea to eat whole foods, avoid junk foods and cook for yourself, a lot of these so called clean eating plans can eliminate foods unnecessarily like gluten containing foods or dairy. Moreover, even after the excesses of the party season, there is no need to do a detox diet. The body is perfectly capable of detoxing itself without the need for potions, pills, supplements or exclusion diets.
Finally, weight loss and getting fitter or healthier isn’t something you do for 6 weeks before you go back to the old habits. The changes you make should be sustainable for life. That’s why it’s important to go slowly, make small changes gradually, expect the odd setback (and keep going), be patient and if you can, recruit your partner, family or friend to support you in your journey. If you need inspiration, speak to a Registered Nutritionist or Registered Dietitian who will be able to give you the latest evidence-based advice and motivation.
Just please please, don’t do a juice diet…