Every New Year many people begin the year with the intention of making a change or two. Usually it is something that will improve themselves or their life. In almost every case it relates to things that we eat or drink too much of, modifying or stopping bad habits that we engage in or perhaps exercise that we know we really should engage in. The beginning of a New Year is a great time to make change. The start of a New Year is a fresh start, a new page, a blank canvas. The problem in most cases is that these New Year resolutions don’t last, and before the end of January we have given up and gone back to our old ways.
I doubt if anyone would disagree about the need for us to eat healthily, lose weight and exercise more, or, where relevant, to moderate our drinking or stop smoking. So how do we keep it up?
The trick is to set achievable goals for theses resolutions. Don’t expect to loose 4 stone in 6 months or to a couch potato into doing an hour in the gym every day. These sort of resolutions are going to fail therefore set a goal that is achievable in the short term.
Weight loss Aim for weight loss by modifying your diet a little at a time, and build momentum. Aim to cut out unnecessary extra snacks or sugary drinks and watch as you start to lose maybe a pound each week. This will encourage you. Follow this up with perhaps a more structured weight loss regime by deliberately reducing calories, cutting out fat and reducing carbohydrates a little. For further weight reduction, perhaps it might be better to seek advice from a Dietitian or join a slimming club. Not only will you get professional advice, but also encouragement on a regular basis to encourage you to go further.
Exercise Start with a brisk walk 3-4 times each week for 10 minutes and start to feel the difference. This can then be increased as you feel able. After achieving 20 minutes 3 times or more every week, it is good to start to vary the exercise and to begin to swim or cycle. This will help to prevent boredom and will also work different muscle groups. Only then would I recommend going to a Gym for an induction into a more rigorous exercise routine- if you wish. In this way you won’t waste money on a Gym membership until you are well into the swing of things and are more likely to use it. You don’t have to go to the Gym though, as walking, cycling and swimming are exercises that you can do for the rest of your life, and we would encourage you to do this.
Smoking Start to smoke by the clock instead of when you get the urge e.g. work out how many cigarettes you smoke in a day and divide that into your waking hours. For example if you smoke 10-15 cigarettes daily, decide that you will only smoke on the hour every hour, but if an hour comes and you feel fine and not in need of a cigarette, just wait until the next hour. It is only an hour!
“This will change your thinking about smoking. You will begin to take control rather than allowing cigarettes to control you. You will reduce your intake and this will then motivate you to seek advice and help about stopping. There are now many ways to stop smoking.”
There are many Nicotine replacement therapies such as patches, nasal sprays, tablets, and even now e cigarettes (but not those with tobaccos in them – the so-called Hybrid e cigarette). There are tablets which are prescribable and which reduce your urges to smoke. There are various complimentary therapies like Hypnotherapy and acupuncture which may also help. There has never been a better (and potentially easier!) time to stop smoking.
You may feel that you have slipped so far into bad habits and laziness that you will never turn things around, but little changes, which are consistent, do yield results. By simply cutting out the chocolate biscuit or two that you have at your work coffee break, you might lose half a stone in 6 months. It is a little change, but it can make a big difference.
Most people fail in their well intentioned resolutions each January because they bite off more than they can chew, so don’t make that mistake this year. Set yourself achievable goals and make 2016 the year that you made a difference to your life.
Dr. Roger Brown
Consultant General Practitioner
Kingsbridge Private Hospital