Rather than setting yourself wildly unrealistic challenges, knock those age-old new year’s resolutions down to size with these little truth nuggets
Not eating between the hours of 7pm and 7am, sleeping for 10 hours, giving up carbs (an entire food group!)… These are just some of the nuggets of health ‘advice’ we’ve had pop into our in-boxes recently. But studies show that setting yourself outlandish goals leads to – you guessed it – failure. Research has also found that less than half of us managed to keep our new year’s resolutions for 2017. So, if you’re suffering from wellness overwhelm, take note of these ‘keep-it-real’ resolutions.
1. ‘I’m going to drop a dress size by the end of January’
KEEP IT REAL Forget crash diets that promise lightning-fast results – they’re unlikely to lead to long-term weight loss. They’re difficult to maintain and may mean missing out on essential nutrients, leaving you low on energy. This can end up with you craving those high-fat, high-sugar foods you’re trying to avoid. Rapid weight loss can also cause gallstones, headaches and dizziness, among other problems. CONSISTENCY IS KEY.
2. ‘Time for a head-to-toe health re-vamp’
KEEP IT REAL Slow down! Don’t try to do too much at once, as you’ll only end up becoming overwhelmed. Instead, why not schedule one health check-up a month – turn the page to find the key ones you might want to put on your to-do list.
3. ‘I need to get fit, so I’m taking on the London Marathon’
KEEP IT REAL You don’t need to go from couch to 10km in four weeks to get fitter. Gently does it. Try running (or walking) at least a mile a day, every day where possible to form the habit. There is also the MapMyWalk, an app that tracks everything from your route and pace to calories burned. And if you can persuade friends to get involved, it lets you share routes and encouraging words, too. Just what we need when motivation is low.
4. ‘I’m planning to eat 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day’
KEEP IT REAL Although one study found that people who ate more fruit and vegetables had a significantly lower risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, most experts still encourage the five-a-day rule. ‘Any more than five-a-day is great and certainly won’t do you any harm, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to achieve it.’ An easy way to up your count? Before you leave the house every morning, in addition to your usual phone-keys-purse check, remember one more thing: snacks. Popping a box of carrot, a small pack of or berries in your handbag will introduce another serving. Or you could have a serving of Tom Brown PLUS for breakfast – it contains all your five-a-day and keeps you full for a long time.
5. ‘I’ll become a “clean sleeper” and be tucked up in bed by 9pm’
KEEP IT REAL Don’t punish yourself for not getting to bed really early every night – for most of us, it’s unachievable. First step? Try to be asleep by about 10.30pm, to get that vital 90-minute phase of shut-eye before midnight. The science behind it? We snooze in 90-minute cycles. The earlier in the night, the greater the propensity for deep sleep, whereas morning slumber tends to be lighter sleep. ‘If you usually go to bed at midnight, it might be unrealistic to say that tonight you’ll be in tucked up by 10.30pm.’ ‘Your internal clock takes time to reset, so why not try to go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for a week and see how that goes? Then add another quarter of an hour the next week, until you get to your “target” bedtime.’ As ever, taking smaller steps to reach a bigger goal has more chance of success.
6. ‘I’m going to embark on Dry January’
KEEP IT REAL While it’s a popular New Year pursuit, the benefits of being booze-free for a whole month are yet to be fully evaluated. Some experts are concerned that it can do more harm than good. Rather than encouraging people to drink less beyond January and change the culture of binge drinking, there are worries that a month’s sobriety can make people believe they’ve done their bit for their liver and go back to hitting it hard on 1 February. ‘Cutting down long-term and having more alcohol-free days could be better for your health, and is probably more sustainable than going cold turkey for the whole of January,’ suggests Vicky. Remember: we shouldn’t have more than 14 units a week on a regular basis – the equivalent of six pints of 4% beer or six glasses (175ml) of 13% wine spread evenly throughout the week – and we should also keep a few days completely alcohol-free.