Did you decide to finally work on getting yourself in shape for the new year? You're not alone. In fact, because it's also a new decade it's likely that more people than usual made the same vow.
Unfortunately, research show that less than one in 10 of us manage to stick to our resolutions.
Maybe that's because the others don’t know the big secret to success when changing your ways. It has a ring of commonsense but still most people overlook or dismiss it:
Do What You Like.
That doesn't mean "do what you feel like" -- that'd be a recipe for disaster. It means pursuing diet and fitness programs you can enjoy. In other words, don’t take up jogging if you hate running, and don't take up a diet that won't allow you to eat potatoes if that's your favorite veggie.
That said, below is a routine to follow to give yourself your best chance of success with your fitness aspirations this year.
( Before we start, note that you shouldn't make major changes to your diet and exercise regime without consulting a professional -- especially if you're older or not in great health )
Measure and Target
January is National Healthy Weight Awareness Month. It's no use having a vague ambition like "lose weight", "eat healthier" or "exercise more". You need much more precision. So…
What is a healthy weight for you? There are a couple of ways of calculating this.
The first is known as the Body Mass Index, or BMI. This is a simple calculation based on a person's weight in relation to their height. It breaks down into four categories -- underweight, normal, overweight and obese. Obviously, you want to be in the normal range.
You need to know where you are as a starting point and where you want to be in the future. Here's a simple table, which will give you the answers you need: https://www.britannica.com/science/body-mass-index ).
The second technique is based on your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). If your waist measurement is bigger than that for your hips, you're at high risk of heart or stroke problems.
Ideally, before starting out, you should also know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, so you can check your progress next time you have bloodwork done.
Above all, be realistic in your ambitions. This isn’t a race; if your targets are too tough, you won't reach them. Instead, think of this year's effort as being the first stage of a permanent lifestyle change. You don't want to get caught in that yo-yoing drama of losing weight then putting it back on again.
The Diet That Works for You
There are hundreds, probably thousands, of diets that promise to help you achieve your goals. Many of them are passing fads; others are more enduring and often backed by scientific research.
Every year, US News & World Report, publishes a table of the 30 most popular diets, ranked by experts in order of effectiveness. It's worth checking the latest one, published this month (see https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall ).
Use this only as a guide, and then research those that appeal to you, to discover what they include and exclude.
For example, you'll find that the Mediterranean diet eliminates a lot of fatty food, while the Atkins diet does the opposite, reducing carbohydrates instead. And in the middle, the newly revised Weight Watchers program (now just called WW) allows you to eat virtually whatever you like -- but only up to a limited number of WW points.
It's worth doing thorough research because the more you like what's on offer, the more likely you are to stick with it. Furthermore, some experts think that certain diets (some low carb ones for instance) may have health risks, so you need to go into this with your eyes open.
Ultimately, although different foods have different effects on our weight, the most important part of losing weight involves taking in less energy (aka "calories") than we expend. If you don't use any other approach, you can target weight loss this way, if you know the calorific value of what you're eating -- and there are plenty of calculators online for this.
Recommended intake to maintain weight is: 2,000 to 3,000 calories for men and 1,600 to 2,400 for women, Use a calculator like https://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html to get a more precise number.
Remember, this is to maintain your weight. To reduce weight, you would have to trim your number . According to the renowned Mayo Clinic, cutting 1,000 calories a day would enable you to lose 1lb to 2lbs per week.
Bear in mind that healthy weight demands healthy food. It's generally agreed that plenty of vegetables and fish are the key to a healthy diet. And virtually all diets stress the importance of limiting your intake of processed foods. There's no substitute from home-cooking with fresh ingredients.
Fit and Trim
What can exercise contribute to your healthy weight challenge?
What many people don’t know is that exercise by itself, while it may make you fitter, won’t necessarily help you lose significant weight. It may speed up your metabolism (the rate at which you burn up your calories) and improve your heart health and general wellness, but for best effects it needs to happen alongside a diet.
Exercise does burn up calories -- somewhere between 150 and 300 calories for every half hour, depending on the intensity. But it can also make you hungry and build muscle so its immediate effect on weight loss may be limited. However, more muscle will also increase your metabolism rate.
The good news is that research shows that simply walking briskly every day or undertaking regular household activities like gardening and cleaning, can make a substantial contribution to your wellbeing.
You could gain extra fitness through gym workouts, where you might also find help on a program through a personal fitness trainer.
As with diet, the important thing is to select an activity that you enjoy. Ideally, do this with a partner or friend, for mutual support. And do it regularly.
To learn more about the health benefits of a fitness program and this year's Healthy Weight Month, see https://tinyurl.com/weight-prog
You took measurements at the beginning of this challenge. Keep them under review. Good progress will encourage you, but be prepared for occasional speedbumps, so as lose motivation.
Getting to a healthy weight will not only increase your potential for a longer, fitter life, it can also work in your favor for life insurance -- making it easier and cost less to obtain. Tale to us about this if you'd like to know more.
There's no secret to achieving a healthy weight: you exercise more and you eat less and better. But doing those things regularly is the big challenge. If you're about to take up the healthy weight challenge, remember to "do what you like". Good luck!!!