February, the month we give up on our healthy New Year’s resolutions, so how do we make them last?
For many, making a New Year’s resolution is a way to adopt some positive changes into your life, and what better time to start than on the first day of a brand-new year? Some of the most common resolutions include kicking bad habits into touch, starting a new exercise regime, and eating healthier.
However, a recent study suggests that by mid-February, around 80% of these New Year’s resolutions fail. As humans, we are creatures of habit and as our motivation begins to dip, old behaviours start to creep back in and so does the guilt and the sense of failure, so we quit.
So, how do we incorporate new healthy habits into our lives and ensure that they stay for good?
Improving your diet for good
Don’t overcomplicate it; eat less move more
Adopting a healthier lifestyle can be as simple as eating less and moving more. With all the different types of diets plans available, healthy eating can get complicated and when this happens, adopting a healthy lifestyle becomes overwhelming, making it hard to stick to.
To maintain a healthy weight, an adult male needs to eat around 2500 calories per day, whereas an adult female should eat around 2000 calories per day. To lose weight, calorie intake must be limited. Your daily calories must be lower than your calorie output, and the simplest way to do this is to eat less and move more.
Monitoring your calorie input
There are free tools available to monitor the number of calories that you are eating every day. Apps such as Myfitnesspal allow you to track the foods you are eating, the calories you burn through exercise and your weight loss journey, if losing weight is your goal. The app will also provide you with the number of calories you should aim to eat each day based on your height, gender, weight, lifestyle and of course, goals.
Tracking your calories will also help you identify which of the foods or drinks you are consuming that are high in calories. For example, fizzy drinks contain plenty of sugar and calories, but don’t fill you up, so swapping out fizzy drinks for water will reduce the number of calories and sugars that you put into your body.
Eating less sugar also offers plenty of other health benefits, including, lowering your risk of high cholesterol, heart disease and other chronic health issues.
Drink plenty of water
Replacing fizzy drinks is the first step towards drinking more water, but did you know that it is recommended for adults to drink two litres of water per day? That’s around eight glasses of water. Drinking more water is essential for our bodies to function properly and by doing so, you’ll enjoy many of the benefits upping your water consumption brings.
Firstly, drinking more water can help reduce sugar cravings and in turn, aid weight loss. Sometimes our brain can confuse the feelings of hunger and thirst, so when you feel like reaching for a sugary snack, try drinking a glass of water first.
Water also aids performance, whether that be exercising, schoolwork or your performance at work, drinking water helps reduce ‘brain fog’, upping your concentration levels, your energy and your performance.
Drinking plenty of water on a regular basis has also been shown to help sustain a good state of mental health and wellbeing. In many cases, the happier and more positive we are, the easier your healthy habits will become.
Don’t go hungry
When limiting your calorie intake, naturally, you will be eating less and if you are hungry, you will be more likely to fall back into old habits and reach for the biscuit tin.
Don’t go hungry, fill up on the foods that are lower in saturated fats and/or are high in fibre as well as protein.
These foods will keep you fuller for longer, so you won’t feel the need to snack and they include:
- Wholegrains – these are high in fibre to keep you full. Think brown rice, oats, wholemeal bread and bulgur wheat.
- Lean proteins are low in calories and will also help keep you full. They include chicken breast, fish, beans and pulses such as lentils, that can be added to soup dishes and curries.
- Fruits and vegetables, we recommend that you eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Almost all fruit and vegetables are low in fat, contain high amounts of fibre and count towards your 5 a day. It doesn’t matter whether they are fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Potatoes do not count as one of your five a day, as these mainly consist of starch.
- Healthy Fats –also known as unsaturated fats, healthy fats can help keep you full and provide your body with the energy it needs. Healthy fats include avocados, dark chocolate, eggs, nuts, extra virgin olive oil and fatty fish. However, eat in moderation as healthy fats still contain a lot of calories.
*Try increasing your fibre intake slowly to help prevent stomach cramps. It’s also important to also increase the amount of liquids that you drink.
Be aware of hidden sugars
Keep an eye out for hidden sugars, particularly in takeaways foods that are not only packed with salt but loaded with sugar too. Eating too many takeaways, even when you think you are having the “healthier” option, can make you gain weight and in turn, increase your risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease.
It’s also important to be aware of foods that are labelled as low fat, low calorie or 0% fat. It is easy to mistake “low fat” foods as healthier alternatives to foods that contain higher levels of fat. However, low fat alternatives are usually packed full of artificial sweeteners that are essentially refined carbohydrates, which contain sugar as well as chemicals. Refined carbs raise blood sugar and insulin faster, leaving us hungry soon after eating them. So, when you are reaching for low fat alternatives, you may find that you are more tempted to reach for something else not long after. As a result, you will likely consume a higher number of calories throughout the day, damaging your healthy-eating efforts.
You’ll benefit much more from enjoying full fat natural yogurt with fresh berries than a low-fat yogurt for example. Not only will the fats in the yogurt keep you feeling fuller for longer and provide your body with the energy it needs, but it will prevent you from reaching for the 11am biscuit – another hunger-generating refined carb.
Eat the things you enjoy, without the guilt.
It’s unrealistic to say, “I am never having a takeaway again”. Over-restricting yourself can set you up for failure and self-sabotage. If you do decide to enjoy the odd treat, don’t feel guilty about it. Enjoy the treat and move on from it. Remember, one treat won’t undo all your hard work. Changing your lifestyle is about maintaining a well-balanced diet that you can maintain for the long term.
Do what you enjoy
Exercise doesn’t always mean sweating away at the gym five times a week. If it’s something you enjoy, then that’s great! But, if you find it a chore, then you are less likely to keep it up. Think about what you enjoy, whether it’s walking, dancing, cycling, working out at home or joining a class or local sports team. Making your exercise fun will make it easier for you to incorporate it into your everyday life.
Have a workout buddy
When you have someone else to join in with your workouts, not only are they more fun, but it also keeps you accountable. If you’ve arranged to meet a friend for a walk or committed to doing a home-workout with your partner, you are more likely to see the exercise through. Not wanting to let your exercise partner down can be a great motivator. What’s more, sharing your fitness journey with someone else can also be a really enjoyable process, and if you are a little bit competitive, can help you push yourself that extra bit harder.
Workout at home
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, home workouts have become more popular than ever. Besides enjoying the comfort of working out at home, working out at home eliminates the issue of feeling self-conscious when exercising at the gym and in front of others. Home workouts also cost nothing and can be a quick 20–30-minute session in the morning, making it easier to fit them around your lifestyle.
Below you’ll find some great workouts, available online for free.
- The Body Coach TV – this YouTube channel by Joe Wicks comprises of 20–30-minute HIIT sessions (high-intensity interval training), children’s workouts, as well as workouts suitable for all different levels including advanced and beginners’ workouts.
- Body Project – 5-day low impact plan – Here you will find a series of low-impact exercises, ideal for those with issues with their joints.
Get the family involved
Making home workouts a family event can help you instil positive habits into your everyday routine and make the whole household feel good!
Starting the day with a ‘P.E with Joe Wicks’ session, for example, can ensure that the whole family adds exercise into their routine and form great habits for the future.
Take a look at some of our recommendations below:
P.E with Joe – More from The Body Coach, you will find plenty of P.E with Joe workouts here. These include 25-minute family-friendly P.E sessions.
Cosmic Kids – This YouTube channel comprises of children’s yoga and P.E sessions that the whole family can enjoy.
Be mindful of how you feel after exercising
It’s true what they say, you’ll never regret a workout. Take a minute to think about how good you feel after exercise. Exercise helps stimulate those feel-good hormones, having a positive effect on your mental health. What’s more, exercise helps you sleep better, which not only helps improve your mental health, but it is shown that better quality sleep contributes towards a lower calorie intake too.
Adopting a long-term healthy lifestyle will make you happier, fitter and stronger. It’ll provide you with more energy and motivation to do the things you enjoy. Healthy eating and exercise offers more than just losing weight but you’ll soon reap all the additional benefits that come with it too.
For more information and resources about your health and wellbeing, visit the NHS Live Well page.