The unhealthy truth
Back in December, with only two weeks to go until Christmas Day, a report was released on the ‘growing health catastrophe’ in England, as obesity has become the biggest threat to women’s health. The 2013 statistics showed that 56% of women aged 34-44 and 62% of women aged 45-54 were overweight or obese. The news wasn’t great for men in the UK either, who sat at 67%, meaning that across the nation, 63% of all adults had weight related issues.
It was suggested by England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, that the food industry was to blame, with supermarkets’ cheap promotions on unhealthy food and putting calorific snacks close to the check out. Dame Sally also said that there might soon be the need for a sugar tax, unless the industry can make changes before then. But no matter the price, temptation will always be around us, and unless you have willpower of steel, it’s very difficult not to give in to sugary, fattening treats.
We all know of the problems caused by obesity, but shifting even just a few pounds can help us to feel better, more confident, and dramatically improve our health too. It will come as no surprise that this year, in a survey carried out by American global information and measurement company Nielsen, it was found that the top two New Year’s Resolutions were “Stay fit and healthy” and “Lose weight”. Most of us would probably agree that after the festive season, it’s less a case of staying fit and healthy, but more reinstating that healthy lifestyle after it has fallen by the wayside…
It’s the combination of both good nutrition and activity that work together to form a healthy lifestyle, not only bringing benefits to your wellbeing all over your body, but also encouraging weight loss as well. But an introduction of either of these, let alone the two combined, is easier said than done, especially just after what is likely to have been a Christmas and New Year ‘bingefest’. We’ve decided therefore to lend you a helping hand, bringing you seven steps to help you achieve a happier, healthier year.
1. Be Positive
We are all natural-born sceptics. When faced with a change, our first reaction is likely to be a list of reasons against it: “I can’t do it because…”, “It won’t work because…”, “The things that will get in the way are…”. Any of those statements sound familiar? It’s all part of being unsure, and understandably, probably a little bit afraid as well. If you are experienced in making healthy lifestyle changes, the idea of being scared by it might seem ridiculous. But take a moment to think back to how you felt when you first started; the first time you entered the gym, or the moment you decided to change your eating habits. You will probably have felt nervous and doubting, but as soon as you started, those feelings will have either lessened, or vanished completely. It’s the fear of the unknown, and it’s only natural to feel negatively towards it.
Know and accept that when you first start, you’re probably going to want to run screaming from these changes, no matter how much you really want them to work. Take those excuses and turn them on their heads; how will you combat the things that might get in the way? How will you make sure that you can achieve what you set out to do, and how will you give these new habits the best opportunity for them to work? Making time for yourself and for the changes you’ll be introducing will be the best way to ensure that they flourish.
2. Set a goal
When beginning an exercise or a healthy nutrition habit, it’s important to have a goal to work towards. This might be getting down to a particular weight, dropping down a clothing size, or maybe achieving a certain level of fitness. Your goal may also be time-dependent, for example, running a marathon, fitting into an outfit for your wedding day, or being more toned before going on a beach holiday. Either way, having some kind of finish line in sight will help keep you on track towards it.The most vital part about setting a goal is making sure that it’s a goal for YOU. There’s no point having a goal set by someone else, or for someone else. Do it for yourself. If your heart isn’t really into the goal you’ve set, then you’re not very likely to be driven to achieve the end result. Equally, if you start out on a goal and realise it’s the wrong one, have the confidence to change it. Don’t be afraid to be ambitious with your goal setting either. There’s a great phrase: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land in the stars.” Then again, you might just surprise yourself, and hit the moon itself…
3. Find your motivation
Setting a goal can be difficult though, especially if you aren’t exactly sure of what you really want, or what you might be able to achieve. Take a moment to think to a time in the future, and focus your mind on visualising where it is you want to be. This could include how you want to feel on the inside, and exactly what you want to look like on the outside.
Think of yourself as making these changes for this future version of you. It may seem rather daunting at the beginning, but the idea of what you might achieve in the future should act as motivation to get you going, and keep you going throughout your journey. If it’s a weight loss goal you want, it could be the idea of a “before and after” photo that drives you. At the times when it seems impossible to carry on, and your finish line seems miles away, remember the reason you started, and how far you’ve come. You may not be there yet, but you’ll be closer than you were yesterday.
4. Get the best start
At the start, the task can sometimes seem like an enormous mountain to climb. But even the best athletes started with the first race, the first training session, and even the first step onto the track. You may have big dreams of where you would like to be in the future, but remember that in order to get there, you need to start, and no matter how good they might be at a later stage, nobody was a pro in the beginning. You may falter, but you won’t be the first person to and you certainly won’t be the last either. Ask the questions you need to ask, and accept the help that is offered to you. Every bit will be invaluable.
Take each day as it comes, and make the most of what you can achieve in that time. By looking at a change in this way, this will break the mountain into a series of manageable hurdles to skip over. Even the smallest steps will build up to make a big difference, and most of the time it’s not about how long it takes you to get there, it’s just the getting there that matters.
5. Have a plan of action
You’ll now have a goal, and the motivation to start, but to get there you’re going to need some good planning in place too. This could take the shape of a monthly exercise plan, or a weekly meal planner. A well-put-together plan will keep your journey to success in order, and make it more achievable too. Factor in stages for yourself so that big tasks can be broken down into more reasonable sized chunks. Think through your goals in detail, and work out how exactly you’re going to get them. For example, if it’s a well-defined stomach you want, what exercises can you do to tackle this particular area?
Just like your excuses in initial stages, think hard about what might get in your way at each stage, and plan for it. If you’re starting out in a new exercise class, what equipment will you need to take with you? If you’ve got a big party coming up where there might be unhealthy food on offer, what’s your plan for tackling it? Will you eat before hand, or take alternatives with you? Even if you’ve planned to let yourself enjoy the party, this will have been your decision made with a clear mind and factored into your planning.
6. Be prepared to pick yourself up
There are those occasions however where, no matter how hard we try, a plan will falter. This may be due to something unexpected catching us by surprise, our willpower being weakened, or simply life getting in the way. It happens. You’re only human. The best possible thing to do is to forget what has been before and to focus on the current moment as your new starting point. The temptation after failing on, say, a healthy eating plan, would be to carry on with the bad habits, with the age-old thought of “I’ve been bad, so I might as well be terrible”.
If one car tyre gets a puncture, you don’t slash the other three. This would be sabotage, and you certainly shouldn’t do this to yourself and your goals. Picking yourself up, brushing yourself off and carrying on as best you can gives you the most successful chance of getting back on track quickly.
7. Don’t give up
We may tell ourselves there are obstacles obstructing us in our journey to a healthier lifestyle, but at the end of the day, there is nothing really standing in your way except for yourself, and you’re far too important to be the thing that stops you getting to your goals. There will be difficult times and moments when you feel like giving up because the task ahead seems completely impossible. But don’t. You may feel you need to slow down, loosen up your regime, or make adjustments along the way. All of that is fine, but try your hardest not to come to a complete standstill, as it will make it so much harder to get going again.
With the steps that we have given you above, the goal setting and the planning, you should feel motivated to achieve anything that you want.