New Year, New You
Posted on December 27, 2016
After the overindulgence of Christmas, many of us start the New Year with an opportunity for self-improvement. December is a month long celebration devoted to eating, drinking and partying, and when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st and the New Year is heralded in – what will be your New Year resolutions? Is it a “New Year, New You”? For many losing weight, getting fit, stopping smoking, eating more healthily or drinking less, are on the agenda.
Over 7 million of us in the UK will make a New Year’s resolution to improve some aspect of our health. About a third of New Year’s resolvers make weight loss their primary goal, and about 15% aim to begin an exercise programme. If you’re nodding your head and thinking, “Yup, that’s me” take heart. Your objective is a noble one, and, if accomplished, you will surely do wonders for your health.
Studies have shown that from mid-November to early January, individuals will gain an average of half a kilogram. With men gaining slightly more, around 900 grams each, while women gained a little less, about 500 grams apiece . Half a kilo may not sound so bad, but studies have found that on average, people will gain about one kilogram each year and keep it ON. This phenomenon has been called the “weight creep”. After 10 years of these small increases in weight, it amounts to an additional 10 kilograms of weight. The holiday weight gain could be a more important factor in the obesity epidemic than we realize.
So keeping a New Year’s resolution can be more important than we realise. It is tough to keep your resolutions and a promise made in hast when we feel guilty after Christmas, can quickly be forgotten when you resume your normal routine in January.
Health and wellness company Activ8rlives suggests some simple and small steps to help us achieve realistic goals this coming year. Small achievable steps can easily be worked into your everyday routines, that don’t involve a huge commitment in terms of money or time but adding these small incremental adjustments together bring about accumulated benefits that we can all achieve for a healthier and fun year ahead.
10 Simple and Achievable Steps
1. Don’t skip breakfast
When we skip breakfast, particularly for women, we tend to make up for the lack of calories at breakfast later in the day and we don’t burn off these calories fully when we eat later. Therefore, we tend to store them as fat. Not only do we make up these calories but we don’t kick-start our metabolism early enough in the day. Include some protein in your breakfast, not just carbohydrates and sugars. For example, add an egg, milk, yoghurt or bacon to help fuel up for the day and burn off these calories, as opposed to storing them as fat.
2. Use smaller plates
This step is really simple, just use smaller plates and bowls for your food, eat more slowly and as a consequence you reduce your portion size and don’t eat as much. This goes for super-sized drinks as well – just make it smaller and we will be surprised that you feel satisfied as you become accustomed to the reduced portions. We all tend to eat what is on your plates, so by reducing the plate size we reduce the portion size.
3. Swap your foods
There are many healthier options we can take with regard to food choice, and swapping for lower calorie, lower sugar, higher fibre, less fat, less processed foods and fresh uncooked fruit and vegetables will bring about small and achievable reductions in your overall food intake. This will yield not only a reduction in consumption, but a beneficial rise in the quality of the nutritional content. For example, by cutting down from full cream milk to semi-skimmed milk an average serving of 250 ml is halved saving of 83kcal, a 285kcal muesli bar reduces to 85kcal for a delicious fresh apple, and medium sized portion of skinless chicken breast rather than with the skin brings a reduction of about 35kcal. Every little reduction in calorie intake can add up over the week, month and year – so it is always worth making those swaps for the longer term. One simple example if we swap to semi-skimmed milk, we will save the intake of an additional 30,295kcal in 2015.
4. Eat together at mealtimes
You may already naturally undertake this next step and if not we could try this for at least 5 evenings a week. The daily practice of eating together at a table for the evening meal, as a family or friendship group, is universally and cross-culturally a natural behaviour. Turn off the TV, put away the mobile phones and spend half an hour together enjoying your food, catching up on each other’s day and enjoying each other’s company. Research supports this simple behavioural change which helps you be more mindful or connected to your food. As a result you tend to eat more slowly, reach satiety or the feeling of being comfortably full sooner, thereby reducing your food intake.
5. Record what you eat
Recording what you eat in a food diary extends the mindfulness concept of what you eat further and it helps us to make better and healthier choices of food. A simple and quick method of recording what you eat at mealtimes, for snacks and drinks is to take a photograph of your food and upload it to an online diary. To look back over what you have eaten in any given day will give us insight into why you may not be achieving the weight goals we are aiming for, or why you feel rundown and tired because of your food choices. Activ8rlives has developed a useful Smartphone App for select Android and iOS devices that is free and simple to use. Just snap a photo with a smartphone and simply score your meal or snack as a “good” food choice or a “bad” food choice. For those die hard calories counters you can do this as well.
6. Being habitually active
In a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report  it estimated that within the WHO European Region, almost one million deaths per year are attributable to insufficient physical activity. In many countries, therefore, physical inactivity is now considered one of the major causes of death.
Inactivity is the one thing we can change most easily and that will provide the greatest benefits to our health and wellbeing. Starting small with an increase in walking, adding more walking activities within your daily routine will bring benefits to your health and it’s free and available all hours. Overwhelming research shows that you could reduce the risk of a range of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, some cancers, dementia and a host of mental illnesses just with 60 minutes activity each day. Notice that we do not say exercise, just activity of moderate intensity, such as a brisk walk.
Building up your stamina through walking, with the aim to achieve 10,000 steps daily once you are fitter, equates to about 60-70 minutes of moderate activity daily. This may be the best prescription your doctor can ever give you. You may not have the time to do this amount of walking in one session, so space it out during the course of your day by parking further from work or getting off the bus or train a stop earlier and walking the remaining part of our journey. At Activ8rlives we call this Park and Stride! Take the stairs and not the lift, or walk to the shops for those last minute groceries rather than driving. Be creative but take time to enjoy the pleasure and the health benefits of being more active. It saves money too. Starting a car for short journeys uses more fuel because the car engine is cold. It’s much cheaper to walk or cycle.
7. Monitor your activity
Learn to record your activity and soon you will invent your own ways of achieving the daily goal. By recording your activity you again become more mindful of including it in your daily routine, and this can easily be recorded with the Activ8rlives BuddyBand2 wristband which is rugged and waterproof (to 2m) measuring your steps, distance, energy expenditure and sleep tracking. It has a large bright easy to read display with 24-hour clock, 3-interchangable comfortable wristbands and Beltclip – choose your way to wear it. Uploads your data via wireless connected smart devices to the free Activ8rlives Health App (iOS 7.1 and above / select Android 4.3 or above). Apple Health (HealthKit) integration. Multiple notifications: alarms, inactivity, messages, text, email and much more. Your daily, monthly, yearly activity is graphically displayed alongside other individual data, such as your food diary, weight, BMI, blood pressure, lung function, blood glucose level or anything else we want to self-manage about your health and wellbeing.
8. Weigh yourself daily
There is contrary research about whether we should weigh ourselves every day but Activ8rlives recommend that you carry this out at the same time every day and after you have used the toilet, ideally in the morning. This will keep you informed as to your weight fluctuations and it will encourage you to think before you put food into your mouth. No more mindless eating! As you become more informed about your own weight and activity levels, it can really help you moderate your food choices. What goes into your brain is as important as that which goes into your stomachs!
9. Get encouragement from others
We all stick to our health goals if we undertake them as part of a group or family. Encourage your family, friends and colleagues to join you in increasing their activity, invite them along for a walk at lunchtime or after dinner in the evenings. By involving others around you in activity this will help your own motivation, includes a fun opportunity to socialise and you will all get a boost to your mood and endorphin levels. Not to mention a better more restful sleep.
Activ8rlives provides a group focus so that you can set-up your own group, so that you can all strive together and encourage each other to stick to your simple goals for improving your health and wellbeing. Along the way you can keep in touch with your fellow team members and take some virtual walking trips around the World on the Activ8rlives website.
10. Sleep on
Getting enough sleep also helps us maintain a healthier weight, as we tend to consume more calories when we are tired, and typically we snack and pick more often in the evenings as a result. These extra calories do not have a chance to be burnt off and are stored as fat overnight. A good sleep on average is 6-8 hours, so if you’re not getting that time, get to bed earlier or catchup on the weekend. The Activ8rlives BuddyBand2 now records your sleep as well as activity.
Millions around the world will be making their New Year’s resolutions on the 31st December — the chance to wipe the slate clean at the start of the calendar year is a powerful notion that crosses cultures. Yet for so many of us it ends in failure, often within a week or even 24 hours.
Activ8rlives attributes the success of New Year resolutions based around health and wellness to three things: firstly that your goals are realistic in nature; secondly that your attempts should be small and achievable steps rather than drastic unsustainable changes; and lastly that you write down or record your goals and progress to give yourself feedback and accountability for your healthy behaviour changes so that celebration of your successes are part of your new or renewed outlook.
Changes to your overall health and wellness are not achieved overnight. It takes time and you will frequently fail along the way – that is normal. When you feel empowered to change your lifestyle and adopt a healthy and active way of life your energy and stamina increases, you get fewer coughs and colds, you feel great and are generally a lot happier. So take it one step at a time. Activ8rlives provides the tools for self-managing your health and wellness at home. We draw on the motivational support of our groups – others help us because they want us to succeed. By helping us, they are actually reminding themselves (being mindful) of what they need to do to help themselves.
Every day is a new opportunity for us to change for the better. Standby for exciting news about our new programme called 5%-in-10. Starts in January.
 Jamie Cooper & Joy Dubost, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 2013.
 World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe (2013) Physical activity promotion in socially disadvantaged groups: Principles for action.
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