If you've resolved to improve your health in 2014, here are some top tips to help you on your way.
It’s important to be healthy. We all know that. But the all-encompassing benefits that a healthy lifestyle brings may be lost on some. Getting on board with healthy behaviours and ditching the unhealthy ones is the best thing you can do to avoid obesity, diabetes and cancer. The average Joe who eats well and exercises will live longer than the silly Billy who chooses to eat poorly and live a sedentary lifestyle.
The beginning of a New Year is the perfect time to leave behind bad habits and hop on the healthy train. Making resolutions and setting attainable goals for yourself can provide you with just the motivation you need to make some concrete changes to your health. So why are more people not jumping headfirst into a healthy way of living?
Despite all the vim and vigor, many people fall from the path of good health because - let’s face it - changing bad habits can be quite tricky. It’s so important to properly plan resolutions and to get support and advice to change these health related behaviours. If you set out a plan for yourself and seek support from others, chances are you will be much more successful in sticking with your resolutions. Without support and thinking ahead, New Year’s resolutions often slip away before the end of January.
So how will you succeed this year?
It is great that you want to step away from unhealthy behaviors and the New Year is an exciting time to make plans to better your life and the lives of those around you. If you feel good, you will radiate positive energy which will inspire others to follow in your footsteps. If you have resolved to improve your health in the New Year, here are some top-tips to get you on your way:
Write your goals down and be specific
Define your goals in advance and write them down. Often people fail to commit their goals to paper which is a key part in solidifying these ambitions. Goals should be specific and detailed. For example, if you want to lose weight the goal you write down may also include details of physical activities you will perform - like walking to work every morning, taking the stairs, or splashing around in the pool after work. You could also include dietary changes by writing down the specifics. You may resolve to eat fruit for breakfast, to replace fizzy drinks with water, or to cut your portion sizes down. Whatever you choose, write it down and refer back to it daily so that you stay on track.
Be realistic so that you can be successful
Unrealistic goals mean you will be less likely to succeed and this will lead to a loss of motivation. Goals can still be challenging but they must be attainable. When writing down your goals be rational and don’t be hasty. Give yourself ample time to fulfill your resolutions. After all, once you feel the benefits of achieving your goals, you can always set new ones and continue on your path of self-betterment.
Share your resolutions
Tell friends, family members and other loved ones so that they know about your goals and can support you. When people around you know what your resolutions are, they can help to keep you on track and also offer you encouragement along the way.
Learn about the health benefits that achieving your goals will bring
It will be great motivation for you to learn about all the good things that will come when you leave behind unhealthy behaviours. Make sure you get evidence-based health information from your doctor and think about how the information relates to your life. It might also be a good motivator for you to learn what the negative outcomes will be should you continue with unhealthy behaviours.
Develop strategies in case you slip up
Changing health-related behaviours is not easy and you are likely to face challenges along the way. It may be tricky to walk to work if you’re running late, or it could be hard financially to start eating better quality food. If you identify in advance the ways to overcome these challenges you are definitely more likely be successful with your goals.
At times, you may fall back into old behaviours. What’s most important is to not give up on your New Year’s resolution even if you occasionally slip up. Don’t be too hard on yourself and instead pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and march on.
Some of the top New Year’s resolutions and how to stick to them
Shed the weight and keep it off
Here’s the truth: the way to lose weight and keep it off is to develop healthy eating patterns that provide a foundation for good nutrition and healthy weight in the long term. You need to eat a balanced and healthy diet of fresh, whole foods while avoiding energy dense foods and beverages - like alcohol, soft drinks, chips and sweets. Think about how much energy you consume versus how much energy you expend. If you want to lose weight, more energy needs to be used up through physical activity than you consume through your diet.
50% of Australian women, up to 75% of Australian men and one in four Australian children are overweight or obese. Weight loss can be a tough task so keep in mind that it is a long term process which requires a lifestyle transformation. It is not going to happen healthily overnight. If you want to change the way you feel and look, avoid fad diets, and make solid changes that stick.
Get moving and live an active lifestyle
It’s time to get that body moving. Being active is an integral part of losing weight, as the more active you are, the more energy you burn. 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day is the minimum amount recommended for healthy living. It’s not really that much but the World Health Organisation reports that about 60% of the world’s population fails to achieve these levels.
You can start with simple lifestyle changes such as walking instead of driving and taking the stairs instead of the lift. Or you can opt to turn the radio up every morning and dance around your kitchen. These little adjustments are a great way to kick off your new approach to being active. Increase your physical activity levels from there by incorporating 30 minute walks and other low-impact exercises like swimming, into your daily routine. Over time you can gradually increase the intensity, duration and frequency of the physical activity you perform.
When you get active, you will reap tons of benefits. Being active will help you to maintain your heart (cardiovascular) health and weight bearing exercises, like walking, can help to improve the strength of your bones (your bone mineral density). Plus you’ll just feel a heck of a lot better. Performing physical activity is associated with an overall improvement to quality of life. Exercise reduces levels of stress and anxiety, increases self-esteem and provides an opportunity for developing social skills.
Once and for all, quit smoking
If you have decided to quit smoking in the New Year, congratulations on taking the first step towards improved health. It’s important now to talk to your GP or another health professional and find out about the support and assistance they can offer while you strive to achieve your goal. You are probably already aware of the dangers of smoking, but your doctor may be able to provide information about the benefits of quitting smoking. Like for example, that the risk of coronary heart disease halves within a year and the overall risk of dying for an ex-smoker 15 years after quitting is the same as for a non-smoker. These tidbits can serve as great motivation along your path.
More than 20% of the Australian population continues to smoke despite the well-known health risks. People who resolve to quit are more successful in their attempt when they get support from a health professional. Only 3–5% of people who try to quit without support succeed, compared to 15–20% who quit with nicotine patches, anti tobacco information, and other support and encouragement. Evidence shows you will be most successful at quitting smoking if you make frequent appointments with your health professional (e.g. GP) and continue to do so on a long term basis.
In the end, remember that you can achieve your goals. Stay positive and optimistic and don’t be too hard on yourself. If you set realistic New Year’s resolutions and seek support and advice from professionals and those close to you, you’ll be more likely to succeed. Most importantly, have some fun.
Try new recipes, combine your social life with new ways of moving and enjoy your decision to live a healthier life. Don’t let small setbacks get you down, just feel proud of yourself for being able to get back on track. Plan ahead, stick to it, and take pleasure in all the benefits that a healthier approach to life will bring.