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New year, new you – healthy eating and fitness regimes

OK, hands up everyone who’s over-indulged in rich food, alcohol, chocolates, snacks, cakes, mince pies and other fat and sugar-laden goodies during the festive period. All but the most virtuous of us like to have a bit of a blow-out – and there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, we’re going to lose the extra pounds in the New Year aren’t we?

You won’t be surprised to hear that the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. Small wonder, then, that every time you switch on the TV there’s an advert for Weight Watchers, Lighter Life, The Special K Challenge or Slim Fast. Gyms also capitalise on the ‘New Year, New Me’ mindset by offering discounted 12-month memberships (payable upfront). Then there are the enthusiastic New Year joggers – I’ve never seen so many of them huffing and puffing past my window!

The question is: how long will these ‘I’m going to shift two stone and run a marathon’ pledges last? The answer in the majority of cases is generally less than three weeks. So why do so many diets and exercise regimes fail before they’ve reached the first hurdle? (Pardon the pun.)

Are our expectations too high?

Well, firstly we live in a society where we expect instant results; if we haven’t lost half a stone in the first week or if we don’t have abs like Peter Andre in the first week we’re disappointed. Even if we do lose quite a few pounds in the first instance, the rate of our weight loss declines rapidly afterwards and we feel frustrated. It might even plateau and we don’t lose a single pound for a few weeks even though we’re convinced that all we’ve eaten is half a banana and a mixed green salad. We think ‘what’s the point in starving myself and feeling miserable if I’m not losing any weight?’ and to console ourselves we reach for the comfort food.

Equally, the fitness fervour you had at the beginning of January begins to wane. You start by buying a new pair of trainers and getting up early to go for a run or a circuit training session at the gym before work. By the third week you’ve kicked the jogging into touch and instead of visiting the gym every day, you’re only going twice a week. By the end of February you’re going once a week, but only if it’s not raining and there’s nothing good on telly…..

The accepted fact is that around 95% of diets fail, generally in the first few weeks and only a small proportion of dieters achieving their ideal weight manage to maintain it for over a year. So what should we be doing instead? Here are a few thoughts.

Choose exercise you enjoy

You are far more likely to succeed with an exercise plan if you choose something that you really enjoy doing and don’t focus on trying to lose weight . If you hate going to the gym, don’t go. Go for long walks instead, dance, go to yoga or pilates, take up badminton, squash, table tennis, netball or kick a football about in the park. Last year, film maker, Michael Moore, started doing a 30 minute walk every day, and as a consequence lost weight without even trying or stressing about it – along with thousands of his Twitter followers who also took up the challenge! His motto, “Walk to walk and nothing else – and the other stuff will take care of itself”, seems like a good plan!

Don’t fall into the low fat/no fat trap

Remember also that you do need to include fat in your diet. Just because a product is labelled ‘low fat’ it won’t necessarily help you to lose weight. Fat equals flavour and you will find that products of this kind compensate for the reduction in fat by adding sugars and sweeteners.

If you are serious about losing weight and improving your health then eat sensible portions, include plenty of vegetables, drink plenty of water and try to reduce your carbohydrate intake. Also, try to limit the amount of processed food you consume, including flour.

Simple changes like having a bowl of soup for lunch a couple of times a week instead of sandwiches, and for example, having a latte and a cake every Friday as a treat instead of every day can make quite a difference.

The Great Weight Loss Scam

Dr Verner Wheelock, our Chairman, has undertaken considerable research which shows that it’s not how fat you are, but how fit you are that is the more important health issue. According to his findings someone who is considered ‘overweight’ yet fit is less likely to die early from health-related issues than somebody in the BMI ‘normal’ or ‘underweight’ categories. So, if you’re currently agonising over not being able to fasten your jeans that’s some real food for thought!

Verner will be publishing his research findings this year in his blog at www.vernerwheelock.com It makes very interesting reading and turns traditional low fat nutritional guidelines advocated by the Government and many other health institutions on its head.

We would like to wish you all a very happy and healthy new year from all of us at VWA. See our Food Industry training calendar