Do you want to slim down and shape up? Now is the best time to start. These easy, no-nonsense healthy eating and fitness tips will help you lose weight safely, get fit and feel great. Share them with your loved ones and start the new year as you mean to go on – fitter, healthier and feeling better than ever before.
1. Get cooking. Make your own meals from real fresh ingredients. It’s free to look up healthy meals online and if time is short look for quick and easy recipes to replace unhealthy takeaways and ready meals. You can make tasty, filling healthy meals for all the family in under twenty minutes or batch cook a large amount and then freeze it in portions to use throughout the week. Cook with a variety of vegetables, whole grains (brown pasta and rice) and lean protein such as beans, lentils and fish to see real results in how you look and feel. 2. Eat soup. Soup keeps you fuller for longer. Warming winter soups will be your new staple as you start to eat healthier. You can make a delicious healthy soup in under half an hour, freeze it and reheat it in just five minutes! Take a container of your home-made soup into work for lunch, or a flask if you have nowhere to reheat it. If you add pasta (ideally wholewheat) to it you won’t even need a roll. Minestrone is amazing as it has protein in the beans and carbs in the pasta along with some of the best vegetables around. Casseroles and stews are also full of goodness so invest in a slow cooker and put the dinner on before you go to work, letting it cook all day to enjoy as soon as you come home. Image from Wonderful New You. 3. Add a side salad. The French are known for their cheese and wine and lovely white French bread yet French women are brought up to eat everything in moderation and to eat a side salad with every meal. How many overweight French women do you know? Read ‘Why French Women Don’t Get Fat’ and learn why you don’t have to live on boring salads alone, you can still enjoy your cheese and wine and cake, just set some limits for yourself. 4. Make a stir-fry. Invest in a wok and you could make a healthy stir-fry for the whole family in under ten minutes at least once a week. Add lean chicken cubes, tofu or prawns, plenty of vegetables and either a small squirt of sauce or better still: make your own sauce from lemon or lime juice, corn flour and fresh coriander and serve with rice. Delicious, simple, quick and healthy eating. Just leave out the prawn crackers. 5. Eat between meals. Eating little and often is good for you. Have a proper breakfast, a healthy mid-morning snack, a good protein-rich lunch, a light mid-afternoon snack and a proper dinner. Smoothies, cereal bars and flapjacks taste great. Home-made banana flapjacks with nuts and seeds are as nutritious as they are delicious and need less sugar as the sweetness comes from the banana. Just watch your portion sizes. Drink water often and dilute fruit juices to make them less sugary. A fruit and yogurt smoothie is perfect to keep you going between meals. 6. Lose weight slowly. Losing weight must be done steadily – your health is more important than your dress size. Read up on healthy eating to find out more about portion sizes, buy a book of healthy recipes such as the Food Doctor’s Everyday Diet cook book or consider asking for help from a dietician if you feel you need expert one-to-one advice. If you’re overweight and feel very unfit then it is advisable to consult your GP to ask for some general guidelines on nutrition and how to start exercising safely before getting started. Image of Lucy Buchan, Personal Trainer.
Find the fitness for you
7. Eat less, move more. If you need to lose weight then start by making changes to your diet and begin exercising, building up to at least three times a week. You don’t have to sweat it out for an hour, a twenty minute walk to work from your car parked further away than usual is a great start. 8. Make time. If finding time is hard then make time in your busy schedule to fit in just 30 minutes per day. You don’t have to get up early, exercise during your lunch hour, straight after work, just before dinner or last thing at night. Thirty minutes per day is all you need. 9. Do it to music. If one of you has to stay home to babysit while the other goes out to exercise, take your iPod along with a playlist to fit your activity. Fast songs for running or speaking books for anyone who would rather be curled up reading literature. 10. Create good habits. When you repeat an activity on a regular basis such as every day for just six weeks it becomes a habit. Make fitness your new daily or weekly habit. It may start off feeling like a chore but it will soon become a habit that you can’t do without. 11. Try some local classes. There’s something for everyone these days – from Zumba for anyone who loves to dance to kettlebell training for men and women who want to see fast results in their body sculpting. You don’t have to just run, swim or row. 12. It’s free. If money is the obstacle then exercise at home, walk to work or go for a run round your local park. Many leisure centres offer a free introductory weekly membership so take advantage to try the classes, go for a daily swim or get your gym induction. Cycling, walking and jogging are free.
Call in the experts
13. Hire a personal trainer. If you want to lose weight and need a boost of added motivation a personal trainer will design a fitness programme specifically for you and ensure you work to the top of your ability. Find a female trainer if you feel more comfortable with a woman and you can also ask them for advice on nutrition too. A good personal trainer is worth every penny, I promise you. Results are guaranteed. 14. Book into a Boot Camp. If you’d prefer be part of a group and like the idea of strict army-style discipline, enrol in a boot camp. You could make new friends at the same time who could become future ‘gym buddies’. If that sounds too terrifying, for an alternative new-age style boot camp try Mrs. Mojo’s Online Bootcamp for Your Mind and Body.
Get in shape together
15. Involve your partner. Getting fit and healthy with your partner will bond you even closer. Taking up a fitness regime as a couple and learning to cook delicious healthy meals could even improve your relationship as it will give you a shared interest as well as a positive goal. If your partner isn’t interested and you don’t want to start on your own then ask a friend. 16. Make love more often. Having sex burns calories, reduces stress and brings you closer; it’s an act of love and a whole lot more enjoyable than lifting weights or running on a treadmill.
17. Feel good. Exercise makes you feel good, it’s a fact. Exercising releases ‘dopamine’ in our brain naturally increasing feelings of pleasure and happiness. You will start to notice the natural high you get after exercising and look forward to regular exercise for the way it makes you feel, not just how it makes you look. 18. Meditate. Take up a yoga class or buy a yoga mat and go barefoot in your living room in front of a yoga DVD or Wii Fit. Yoga and meditation calms your mind as it tones your body and the practice of yoga reminds us to take time out from our busy lifestyles for ourselves. 19. Relax. Book a one or two-day spa trip with your partner, friends or family. Enjoy a long swim in the pool before having a relaxing massage, facial or manicure. If you can’t afford a full-price spa day then look for last minute deals or create your own oasis at home.
20. Think of your loved ones. See health and fitness as a lifestyle change for their long-term good, and not just your own. Embrace healthy eating alongside regular exercise to ensure you’ll be around to play with your grandchildren when you are older. Now’s the time to give up smoking too. Don’t see it as giving up, see it as starting a newer and more positive lifestyle for the future.
If you’ve wanted to lose weight for a while and you’re now planning your wedding, use your big day as the catalyst. You’ll never be more motivated than now, you even have an end date to work to. Just think how you would like to appear in your wedding photos and there’s your goal. If you don’t need to lose any weight you can still use some of these ideas for general wellbeing. Image from the Body Image Movement. And if you really don’t want to change your diet or do any exercise but wish you had smoother lines – cheat – invest in shape-wear and remember you are loved for who you are, not how you look.
Here’s to a healthy and happy 2014 for us all.