With one year over, and the next just round the corner, the potential of a ‘new year, new you’ comes round again. But with so many good intentions how can you keep yourself motivated and maintain these lifestyle changes throughout the new year?
Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top tips on how to keep your diet and lifestyle on track after the 1st January!
So, you’ve made New Year’s resolutions and even if you haven’t written a definitive list, you probably have some thoughts in your mind of what you’d like to address. A new year provides a fabulous opportunity to ‘start afresh’! But how do you keep your resolve?
Don’t start the New Year by setting yourself unrealistic targets. For example, if you want to lose some weight in the New Year, be realistic about how much and how long this is going to take. At the start of any weight loss plan, you may well lose quite a lot of weight in the first two weeks. This is because your carbohydrate or glycogen stores are also filled with water, and the water is released when you’re consuming less calories in a day.
Healthy and sustained weight loss means losing around one to two pounds per week. This is all the fat that can be lost (the body is unable to lose any more fat than this in a week and if you do lose more than this, it is likely to be loss of water and/or muscle) and, of course, it’s body fat that needs to go. Dramatic weight loss will normally lead to a slow-down in metabolism; if you enter a ‘starvation’ diet, once you start to eat more normally again, the weight will go back on again plus another 10%!
Slow, sustainable weight loss in the key.
Life shouldn’t be about a six week plan: it’s about making changes to your lifestyle and diet that you will continue over the months – and hopefully years – to come. So, you may make a New Year’s resolution to give up drinking alcohol, for example; this may be fine for January, but are you sure this is going to be a long-term plan?
Instead, why not decide that you will only drink alcohol one or two evenings per week? That way you will give your liver a chance to recover between your ‘alcohol evenings’ and fully detoxify. You’ll certainly feel more energised by only drinking twice-a-week.
So make your resolutions sustainable, realistic and reflective of a longer-term lifestyle change – otherwise you can set yourself up to fail before you’ve started.
If one of your resolutions is to cut down on sweet foods, or chocolate, then you may find that your sugar cravings make this a very difficult resolution to maintain.
Eating some protein will make sure you keep your blood sugar levels in balance, as well as the cravings. For meat-eaters try including chicken, turkey or other lean meats (as well as fish) into your diet every day; for vegetarians, eggs, soya, tofu, quinoa or lentils are good sources of protein.
Additionally, taking a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement that contains chromium will also help to stop cravings: the mineral chromium specifically keeps blood glucose levels in check.
So many people choose a New Year diet plan but really don’t like the foods they are being asked to eat! This is going to make it very hard to sustain.
We’ve established that it’s not about a six week plan, but sustainable changes. So if you’re hoping to lose some weight and you know that you enjoy eating biscuits, for example, make sure that your new diet plan includes some biscuits!
I often advise people to remove dairy from their diet, for health reasons, and sometimes to help with weight loss. If you are a lover of dairy, you won’t want to exclude it completely from a new diet plan, but there are healthier alternatives which you might enjoy just as much: for example why not try coconut or almond milk? You may not feel as deprived as if you cut out milk altogether.
If you love your sweet snacks, you may need to work hard to avoid the cakes in the office, but why not have a bar of delicious raw chocolate in your drawer at work? You can eat a piece of this instead as a sweet treat.
It is not about having a life of denial, but finding healthy alternatives whilst still enjoying eating.
This is probably the best piece of advice I could ever give.
A lot of people feel they are in a situation where food controls their life as opposed to them controlling the food they eat. Food becomes a very emotional thing for many people. Once you have resolved to make changes to your eating, either to lose weight or for other health reasons take control of the situation. Don’t allow food to rule your life.
For example, if you know you’re susceptible to a 4pm biscuit binge because your energy levels are flagging, then include protein in your lunch time meal – you’ll feel less likely to binge on sugary snacks.
By not seeing food as the enemy, but as an enjoyable part of life, your relationship with food can become more balanced. Don’t allow negative thoughts about food to come into your mind: you are ‘in charge’ and you’re not going to allow food to rule your life moving forward.
So welcome in the new year and the lifestyle changes it may bring! Make as many resolutions as you want to, but make them realistic. And keep going – it’s going to be a great year!
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