New Year, new you! That’s probably what the majority of people think as another year goes by, and more often than not, the first resolution is to transform your body by eating healthier and exercising more.
However, when people say they’re going to improve their lifestyle they expect it to happen overnight, and can be achieved by jumping on the latest FAD bandwagon…and unfortunately there’s plenty to choose from!
One, maybe two or three weeks into the New Year and people’s year-long resolutions have stopped. But why is it the case for so many people? Here’s what you have to do to make them last…
1. Set long-term, REALISTIC goals
It’s important to realise that short-term quick fix diets are not the answer, simply because they cannot be sustained for very long. Typical New Year diets are designed to ‘detox’ the body following a festive period of binge eating and bigger waistlines, but after a week or so your body will need more than just green vegetable smoothies!
If you’re somebody who struggles to get your 5 a day (maybe this is your N.Y. resolution?) then including a daily smoothie that contains nutrient rich fruit & veg is a great idea, but this shouldn’t replace whole foods throughout the day. With this in mind, your first point of call is to assess your current diet and set realistic goals and time-scales, as this will help you achieve them.
Fat loss is not straight forward and requires a well-structured diet and exercise plan over months, not days. This is important to ensure you are not deficient in vital nutrients and are not restricting energy intake too much, so you remain healthy and prevent loss of lean tissue.
If you are not sure how to go-about any of the above or what your nutritional requirements are to best suit your lifestyle, I highly recommend consulting with a qualified nutritionist (that’s me!). Sport and Exercise Nutrition register (SENr) is a great place to find a professional to support you, especially if you are very physically active.
2. Avoid FAD diets and do what works for you
Ketogenic (low carb, high fat), paleo, 5:2, & juicing are all fad diets. These are likely to be a huge transformation from your current nutrition lifestyle, making it very difficult to maintain. The media does a great job confusing people by promoting the latest fad that will likely neglect a single nutrient or food group, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies, so try not to believe everything you read in the papers!!
One particular fad is any diet that is advocated to ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’ your body, typically following a Christmas binge. Your body already makes all the antioxidants it needs to remove waste products, so drinking litres of fruit and vegetable drinks won’t enhance this process. Diets that replace food with smoothies or juices often show weight loss very quickly, which is great to some people, but the reason for this isn’t all the healthy nutrients removing impurities from your body, it’s because of the extremely low calorie intake…so no wonder you’re losing weight, and likely a lot of lean mass due to low protein intake!
Furthermore, if you are very physically active or are planning to be, the nutrient and total energy availability from these diets are unlikely to optimally support your training. It is therefore essential to undertake a diet plan that complements your lifestyle, not other people!
3. Be strict, but don’t deprive yourself
If you’re on a diet then obviously sticking to it is the most important task. However this does not mean that you cannot eat any of your favourite foods that may be classed as unhealthy. You will go insane. Your diet should incorporate ‘treats’ that you enjoy as not only will this cure your sweet tooth cravings and actually benefit your psychological health, but it will also help you stick to your diet.
You are much more likely to follow something that you enjoy, that’s why any nutrition plan that I create applies an 80/20 rule, meaning that you eat well 80% of the time, allowing for a bit of freedom the remaining 20%. This does not mean you can binge on absolute rubbish, but if you enjoy a glass of wine (yes, a glass, not a bottle) then this will be taken into consideration!
4. Preparation prevents poor performance
As with anything in life preparation is essential. The same applies to your diet so you have the correct nutrition available at the right time. If you don’t then you are more likely to choose poor options, and this can negatively affect your weight loss goals and sports performance.
Meal preparation is a smart technique to guarantee you have a good choice of foods available in the day, and you can do this the night before or for a whole week.
Having food available when you’re on the go is much better than relying on convenience shops, as this likely means you’ll opt for carbohydrate based foods. Alternatively, a protein supplement such as Big Whey is a great option as this means you have a high quality readily-available source of protein, and depending on your nutritional requirements you can still buy some fruit or mixed nuts, which is much better than a shop bought ready-made sandwich!
5. Do what you enjoy, not what everyone else is doing – exercise
At the start of every year there are always a lot of new faces in the gym and people running in the streets. But as the weeks go by you notice some of the new faces are no longer in the gym and the streets become a bit emptier. So surely there must be a reason why people don’t appear to stick to an exercise regime.
Joining a gym or running are the common expectations when people want to get fit, even if they’ve never stepped foot in a gym before or ran further than to catch a bus. If you’re not used to it or have never done it before, then it may be difficult to persevere. The key to regular exercise is to find something that you enjoy and this can be anything from Zumba to weight lifting. Just because staring at yourself in a mirror on a cross-trainer for an hour works for some people doesn’t mean it will for you, so find an activity/sport/class that you enjoy and there’s more chance you’ll stick with it!
6. Adherence is the key to any successful diet
Overall, whatever diet and/or form of exercise you choose to follow and so long as you’re in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight, just be dedicated and stick with it.
You’re more likely to adhere to something if you enjoy it, so plan your nutrition to suit your needs with an 80%/20% approach, and experiment with different types of exercise & classes to see what you enjoy.