1st January...a day millions of people decide to make the coming year a healthier one, they aim to lose weight and drop down a dress size or two in time for Summer. I'm sure we've all made this new years resolution at one time or another, and I'm guessing most of us have failed our new healthy regime within the next month or so. This is normally due to unrealistic goals or focusing on the wrong thing to get you into a positive mindset, this isn't what we want as we end up feeling like failures which can lead to binge eating and self hatred. So, how do we not let this happen? I'm here to give you some guidance.
One of the main things I think is to not focus on the number on the scales - this means don't go jumping on the scale every single day in the hope you'll have magically lost 5 pounds over night! I believe the number on the scale doesn't actually mean anything, it doesn't define your health or your happiness and they're the two most important things. You could weigh 12 stone and be ultra fit, super healthy and truly happy and you could weigh 9 stone and be lacking in energy, unfit and have low self esteem. On top of this you must remember that muscle does weigh more than fat..I know a personal trainer who used to be 9 stone but was a completely different body shape to what she is now, she now weighs just under 11 stone and is one of the fittest, most active, confident and happy people I know.
When your aim is solely to lose weight you'll start cutting meals and depriving yourself, leading to malnourishment and an unhappy body & mind. Furthermore this can contribute to binge eating from all the pressure you're putting yourself under or you could develop something more serious like an eating disorder. However, when you aim towards health you'll never be at the mercy of negative thought or deprivation, you'll feel happy and safe in the knowledge you're doing all you can for your amazing body and mind. It requires the same amount of work to make yourself happy as it does to make yourself sad...choose happy! (If you think seeing a certain number on the scale will make you happy then you're wrong, trust me).
Forget about the diet programmes! When I say this I mean fad diets such as Atkins, dukan, and also the weight-loss companies such as Slimming World, Weight Watchers and Slim-Fast. This may be a little controversial as I know people do lose weight initially on these programmes but over 90% of these people do put the weight back on once they come off the programme. This is because these diets don't change your lifestyle, they restrict you with calories/fat intake/etc for a sudden amount of time so you do lose weight but when you move away from this plan you have no idea how to eat properly. It's also important to remember that the weight-loss companies are there to make money - they're a business and their ultimate goal is to create profit for themselves, this means they'll do whatever they can to get people losing weight quickly which we know isn't the healthiest at all and also isn't a long-term answer. Not to mention the majority of these companies products or meal plans (I have looked into them myself) are loaded with pure rubbish that won't be doing your body any good at all. You may lose weight to start with but it's not a solution to a healthy, happy life.
Don't count calories. Counting calories is a very old fashioned thing and it's time people caught on to the fact low calories don't equal health. All calories are not equal, there's a similar amount of calories in an avocado as there are in a Mars bar...does this mean their nutritional contents is the same? Of course not. Eating an avocado will provide your body with wonderful fats, vitamins, fibre and potassium whereas eating a Mars bar will spike your sugar levels, leave you feeling groggy and are full of processed ingredients. Count goodness, not calories.
Get creative. So, you've decided to ditch the diet and focus on health over weight-loss....brilliant, but how do you make it interesting? I'm telling you now healthy eating is not about only eating iceberg lettuce and never indulging in sweet treats so forget that idea right now. My diet has never been healthier, but it's also never been so full of flavour, colour, spices, herbs, tastes and food I enjoy more than anything. I'd recommend picking up books like Deliciously Ella's and Madeleine Shaw's, following foodie accounts on instagram and get into reading health blogs as they're all brimming with the most delicious recipes that your mind and body will love. These recipes may even give you inspiration to create your own dishes that you personalise to your likes, so get creative in the kitchen and come up with wonderful dishes that not only nourish your body but that you enjoy totally as well.
Choose exercise that you love. I was the kid at school who would deliberately forget their P.E kit or pretend to be ill so I didn't have to do sport but now I'm so passionate about exercise and moving my body, who'd have thought? It's all about finding a form of exercise you love, trust me there's something out there for everyone! Stop choosing exercise that makes you feel miserable in the hope that you'll feel better in your body, you won't. A fitness regime based on hate will result in a never ending path of self-loathing and dissatisfaction. Train towards something you love! I personally don't like sports such as hockey and netball nor do I like running but I do love yoga and really enjoy HIIT training too. Try different things out, maybe it'll be cycling or dancing or skating or rowing or pilates...there'll be something. Exercise is so important as it releases endorphins, so when we move our body we become happier, more relaxed, more capable and we feel energised.
Listen to your body. One of the most beneficial and important lessons I've learnt on my healthy, happy journey is to read the signs and messages my body is giving me. Trust your gut (literally) and your heart. Every body is different so every body needs different things, for me I can't eat gluten or dairy and my body rejects sugar. It takes a lot to become intune with your body and mind but with practise it'll become second nature, you'll realise which foods your body thanks you for feeding it and which foods your body is tortured by. If your body is telling you it's hungry then eat, if it's telling you it's full then stop. Our body never lies and it knows what it needs more than anyone else, so take notice of the signals it's sending you and respond to them in a nurturing way.
Remember too that certain foods are addictive - eating sugar because you're craving it isn't listening to your body's needs. Once you cut these processed foods out of your diet you'll soon never want them again, your body will smile due to this.
I think my most important point is this - don't stress and don't put pressure on yourself. It's very easy to become all consumed when you start a journey to a healthy you and you start punishing yourself if you slip up or eat cadburys chocolate. Life is about enjoyment, having fun and doing more of what makes you happy not counting every calorie or keeping track of your fat intake. If you think of this change as a lifestyle (not a diet) then you're far less likely to be upset with yourself for any 'slip-ups' as they're just part of your life and you know you give your body the best the rest of the time, so those few squares of cadbury dairy milk isn't the worst thing in the world is it - in fact beating yourself up for eating it is far more damaging. Love food and all it has to offer, don't look at it as your enemy for this damages your relationship with it. If you look at the meal in front of you and wonder just how fat it will make you it'll either make you fat, or worse it'll make you feel guilty. Real results come from real love - self love and self respect.
Food is there to be enjoyed and exercise is fun, never forget that or lose it within your worries or obsessions.
I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016!