2015 is coming to an end and a brand New Year is about to start. This is probably the time when most people make New Year resolutions which usually involve food, drinks and exercise. People are promising themselves they will do everything it takes to be healthier, fitter and/or slimmer. Are you one of them? Then starting from tomorrow, you will finally join the gym (or start going if you are already a gym member), ditch the alcohol, ban chocolate and all sugars from your diet, eat more vegetables, and stop smoking. Better still you will start a strict detox for 3 weeks. Maybe you will do all of the above at the same time. Or maybe not.
Unfortunately, as we get back to our routines and the excitement of the new plans start to fade; most of these will be totally forgotten by mid February at the latest. Sounds familiar? Trust me, we have all been there. We have all tried to stick to our great resolutions but …yes there are always buts!
The truth is that as exciting as these plans sound, most of the time they are short lived because they are just unsustainable and totally unrealistic. Many people are looking for a quick fix and are prepared to embark on fad diets and crazy detox plans for the month of January hoping to fix all the damage done during the holidays, or even before that for that matter! Let’s get one thing straight: detoxing or ‘being good’ (whatever that means for you!) for a short period of time and then return to your old eating habit, is just a waste of time.
Does this mean that we should not have good intentions to improve our health and wellbeing? Does this mean I do not want you to call me from next week and get busy working with you on some of these intentions? Have I actually had too much Prosecco over the holidays and lost the plot? No, absolutely not! This might be just the right time to reconsider your new plans a little.
This is the time to realise that your health (not just your liver’s wellbeing) is a long term commitment. It is the time to forget about quick fixes, the no-more-alcohol promises, the chocolate/sugar bans, or the crazy (non-supervised) detoxes. All these strict restrictions will not work in the long run and when you abandon them you will feel defeated and upset very quickly which is not a good way to start the New Year.
Why not aim for one or two achievable, small and realistic goals instead? Your body (and your mind!) will benefit more from some small and consistent changes that you can sustain through the whole year, than a short time of sad restrictions. Bear in mind that I still think that a supervised detox (like a juice cleanse for instance) can be a wonderful way to kick start a new healthy eating plan and just what you need to get you motivated. What I want to make clear is that you should aim for the long term game and not waste your energy on just a January whim.
So here you are a few ideas for some small achievable and realistic health goals:
- Is alcohol your weakness? Instead of going for a dry January, aim to go for 4 consecutive alcohol-free days per week all the time. This will help give your liver a rest and you will gain in energy, better sleep and clearer skin.
- Are you eating too much gluten? If you are having cereals in the morning followed by a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner, you certainly are. Aim to restrict gluten intake to just 1 meal a day to begin with, working towards removing it completely from your diet. Gluten intolerance or sensitivity (which is not celiac disease) is on the increase and many people find that when they remove gluten from their diet they experience improved digestion, less bloating, more energy, less water retention and better moods. So, swap the cereals for some oat based porridge, the sandwich for a gluten free wrap and the pasta for some rice. Your gut will soon thank you for this!
- Addicted to caffeine? You are if you are consuming more than 4 cups of caffeinated drinks a day. Why not try to stick to one cup of coffee/tea, in the morning for example, if you cannot face the day without it (I am with you on this one!) and switch to herbal/fruit teas during the rest of the day? It might take you a few days to get used to this but it is actually easier than you think. Avoiding stimulants during the day will also help to keep your blood sugar levels more stable which means no mid afternoons energy dips.
- What about exercise? Instead of planning to work out at the gym 5 times a week, start with getting off the bus/tube a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way to work. Better still, could you walk/bike to work instead? Exercise does not have to take place at the gym, you can increase your physical activity by doing something more enjoyable like dancing, gardening, swimming or playing a game of football with the kids.
Have fun tonight and when you have a toast to the New Year remember your new attainable goals and drink to those too!
May I wish you a happier and healthier New Year!