Overhaul your diet and get set for a healthier, fitter new year

The new year is an opportunity for everyone to think about what they want for their health and wellbeing in the new year. The trick is to set some simple achievable diet and lifestyle goals that you and your family will stick to.

Where to start?

The first thing to do if you want to improve your diet and manage your weight is stabilise your eating patterns. This means imposing some order on eating and having consistent meal times. Sticking to mealtime routines helps to keep hunger under control. Start the day with breakfast. Research shows breakfast skippers are more likely to gain weight than breakfast eaters.

Think about portion size

Once meals are a regular pattern, you can then look at reducing the portion sizes of high calorie foods and adding more vegetables, fruit, pulses and whole grains to meals.

See food as your friend and not your enemy

It is important to enjoy your food and not to view it as the enemy. Research has shown that if you ban a particular food from your diet, you think about it more and then cave in to temptation. It is much better to reduce your intake of a particular food than ban it all together.

Do I need to count calories[1]?

Knowing the calorie content of standard portions of energy dense foods such as cheese, cakes, biscuits, meat and meat products will help you to manage your energy intake. There are plenty of very tasty, natural foods which are full of the nutrients you need and low in calories. It is also important to eat only when you are hungry. Recognising the body’s physiological signals - like hunger and satiety[2] - helps you to judge how much to eat.

Balance energy intake with exercise

Exercise is your best friend when you are trying to lose weight. If you eat a 200 calorie chocolate bar exercising aerobically for between 20 and 30 minutes will use up the extra calories, make you feel good and improve muscle tone and increase cardiovascular fitness all at the same time.

What is the best kind of exercise to do?

The best kind of exercise is the exercise you do! For exercise to be an effective form of weight management you need to like doing it regularly. Some people find doing a variety of different types of exercise easier to sustain over the long term.

Can technology help?

Yes and no. Smart phones can be used to keep a diary of what you eat and track the exercise you do. Tablets, smartphones and computers can also be used to create healthy shopping lists which prevent impulse buying. Shopping on on-line helps you to plan meals, get inventive with your cooking, reduce waste and cut out impulse food buys. Watching TV while you eat is not a good idea as it leads to MINDLESS eating (discussed in an earlier post).

Healthy psychology

How you think and feel plays a major role in managing your health. Use positive terms to help you achieve your goals and don’t beat yourself up if you slip up along the way. Ninety percent of people who go on a ‘diet’ regain the weight they lose. It is better to make achievable lifestyle changes one step at a time rather than going on a strict diet that will not last. Work on your inner self too. Mindfulness and meditation can help you implement your good intentions.

[1] a calorie here refers to the unit of energy known as a kilocalorie (kcal)

[2] Satiety is the terms used to describe how full you feel after eating

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