How many times have you made your health a New Year’s resolution only to forget all about it within a few weeks? Not anymore!
Most people end up abandoning their New year’s resolutions because they make lofty promises to themselves and go about it all wrong. So what can you do differently? Set realistic goals, for starters. Secondly, focus on health above all else. When you focus on health, weight loss will eventually follow without you having to do anything else. On the other hand, if you focus only on your weight and calories, your health will take a back seat (which really defeats the purpose, if you ask me). We don’t want that, do we?
Here’s what you can do instead. These easy steps will make it a lot easier to stay on track, be healthy (and eventually lose weight).
- Set achievable and realistic goals. Did someone tell you you can lose a pound a day? That’s just not possible. At the simplest level, it is practically impossible to have a deficit of 3500 calories a day (new studies show that the equivalent of a pound is not really 3500 calories as it was originally thought, and that it is much more difficult to lose weight consistently and in the long term). However, do not be disheartened. This is why it’s more important than ever to focus on health, and long term weight loss will follow without you having to chase it.
- Focus on lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, exercising regularly, practising stress management and getting good sleep will keep you healthy. Don’t count calories. Counting calories gives more stress and takes the focus away from being healthy to just losing weight. This isn’t ideal because if you aren’t losing as much weight as you thought you would (or should), you will be unnecessarily stressed. Worse, you might be tempted to go on starvation diets and other extreme measures to lose weight which are far from healthy and serve no positive purpose for anyone.
- Stock healthy foods in your kitchen – Whole foods are foods closest to their natural form, that is minimally processed foods. Examples are vegetables, fruits and whole grains such as brown rice (instead of white rice), Steel-cut oats (rather than instant oats), whole grain bread (instead of white bread) as well as raw and unsalted nuts and seeds. When you eat these real, wholesome foods, portion control happens naturally because all the fibre adds bulk and fills you up quickly, making it difficult to overeat. Their nutrient density prevents cravings.
- As far as possible, cook your meals from scratch so that you avoid unnecessary ingredients and additives such as sugar, preservatives, flavour enhancers, rancid fats and food colours. If you must eat processed foods, try to choose only the ones with no added sugar and limited ingredients. Read ingredient labels carefully.
- Exercise not just to lose weight but also to feel good. Exercise at least 3–4 times a week (ideally every day). Exercise helps improve blood circulation, metabolism, brain function and all other body systems in general.
- Watch what you eat but do not diet. Avoid refined carbohydrates, sugar and trans fats. These ingredients lead to obesity, insulin insensitivity, heart disease and many forms of cancer. You can still enjoy an occasional sweet treat. As long as you know it is a ‘treat’, meant to be enjoyed in moderation. If you are addicted to sugar, cut off refined added sugar completely and have frozen or fresh fruit (but not fruit juice) whenever you feel like having something sweet. Avoid alcohol, soda and other beverages with empty calories.
- Get family and friends to support your goals. You don’t have to eat healthy or exercise alone. In fact, your chances of sticking to a health-specific plan are much higher when you enlist the support of family and friends to motivate and encourage you. You can all motivate each other and get healthier together, and have (moderate) cheat days together and get each other back on track . That way it’s much more fun and you’re more likely to stay consistent and succeed in your goals.
- Weigh yourself a few times a week (at the same time each day). Studies show that people who weigh themselves frequently are more likely to eat healthy and lose weight. It’s important to weigh yourself at the same time, such as only in the mornings, because your weight can vary considerably throughout the day. However, do not be obsessed with weighing yourself and the weight that the scale shows you.
- Drink lots of pure (not tap) water to hydrate yourself. Water is very important as it helps flush out toxins and impurities from your system. Completely sub