Talkin’ Bout A Resolution



Want your healthy living intentions to last beyond January? Our new resident dietitian and nutritionist Leo Pemberton has a 10-point plan.


1) Set SMART goals for 2015.
Resolutions often tend to be a huge list of don’ts. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. If weight loss is your focus, set a sensible goal – a weight you’ve actually been at within the last few years. Be realistic about how long you expect this to take: 1-2 pounds (0.5-1.0kg) weekly weight loss is achievable and more likely to stay off. Give yourself some leeway and keep a record of your efforts. A goal weight shouldn’t be in the underweight BMI range (under 18.5 kg/m2).


2) Record your achievements.
Staying on track is the key to success with any health and fitness goal and will keep you motivated. In the short-term, a food diary can help to identify how and when things have slipped. For example, if you tend to eat a lot in the evenings, look back: it could be that you’re simply not eating enough at lunchtimes and are understandably ravenous hours later. It’s something I often see in clinic, where clients have been cutting carbs or just having a soup or salad for lunch. Technology is your friend – the NHS BMI Tracker app is simple to use and gently reminds you to enter your weekly weight. MyFitnessPal is good for logging food and activities. Simple pedometers or wristbands such as Fitbit can be great motivators to getting more active.


3) Beware the fad diet, ‘detox’ or cleanse.
It is a myth that the body needs to detox – it does this perfectly well itself. Many diets involve cutting calories to dangerous levels and can really mess with your metabolism, making weight loss in the future much more difficult. Avoid any diet which promises 5 pounds weight loss in a week. Self-styled health gurus – frequently with no formal nutrition training – often advocate cutting out entire food groups. This has no scientific basis and puts you at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Choose your health role models carefully. Davina McCall sets a great example. Her approach is based on eating well, exercising and feeling happy, without yo-yo dieting.


4) Create your rules
Small changes can have the biggest long-term impact. Replace juices and fizzy drinks with fresh fruit and calorie-free drinks. Switch from refined to wholegrain carbs, cook fresh instead of ready meals. Reduce your calorie intake without going hungry by upping the proportion of vegetables on your plate. Avoid heavily processed foods and long ingredients lists. Always aim for at least 5 different fruit and veg portions a day. And remember that what you do most of the time will impact your health – not the one time you fall off the wagon and scoff on a burger and fries.


5) Shop for success!
Keep cupboards, fridge and freezer well stocked. Dry goods like grains, beans, lentils and pulses add bulk to meals without the excess calories and last for months. If you have a freezer go for veg like peas and spinach, and frozen berries to add to breakfast. People can be snobby about freezing but great fish, lean meat and Quorn can all be frozen for future use. For fresh fruit and veg, a more regular top-up shop is best. At the supermarket, remember to root around for the furthest away ‘use by’ dates. At home, divide packaged fruit between fridge and bowl and top up as needed. A fruit bowl should be in full view as a reminder – the middle of the dining table is ideal.


6) Get cooking!
Twenty cookbooks collecting dust on the shelf? Make it your goal to find one recipe a week from them to try. Not all celebrity cooks urge you to pile on the butter and sugar. Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater, Yotam Ottolenghi and Gizzie Erskine often feature healthy, balanced recipes and promote plant-based foods. If you want to use whole grains more but don’t know what to do with them, use the BBC GoodFood site to find tried and tested recipes.


7) Identify your barriers
Life will always get in the way of achieving your goals – if you let it. Most people I see in clinic are incredibly busy, juggling work and home life. Finding a balanced routine can take some planning. If you feel that your health goals are being sabotaged, work out why. Focus on what you can change. If a friend or colleague constantly offers you sweets or chocolate, tell them you’re serious about staying on track and politely ask them to keep their Crunchie Bites to themselves. Book an exercise class in advance and vow to cancel only in an emergency. Buddy up with a friend who has similar goals to you or reward yourself with a pamper for sticking to the plan.


8) Find your third space
A neutral place, outside of your home or work life can be priceless in terms of the rewards and doesn’t need to be expensive. Running clubs, yoga classes, swimming lessons or a cookery course are all opportunities to meet people with similar health goals. Never undervalue the power of peer support!


9) Power up for breakfast
Skipping breakfast is a false economy, both in terms of weight maintenance and also how it affects choices you make later in the day. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or complicated – seven different powders and cereals are all well and good but if you’re always seriously pushed for time, a quick-fix like breakfast biscuits, yoghurt and fruit at your desk is definitely better than nothing. Personally, I can’t get by without porridge oats, low-fat milk and berries. It sets me up till lunch.


10) Give yourself a break
New years resolutions often fail because we try to tackle so many areas at once. January is hard enough as it is – Christmas comedown, miserable weather, empty current account – without trying to cut out sugar, caffeine, fags and booze in one go. Instead, try having a few alcohol-free days each week, gradually reduce caffeinated drinks and replace high-energy sugary snacks with low-GI options. Multi-grain crackers, savoury popcorn, fresh fruit and fat-free Greek yoghurt or a handful of mixed unsalted nuts are ideal.


In a nutshell: power up your day with a good breakfast. Include slow-release carbs – like couscous, brown rice, quinoa and sweet potato – with lunch to stabilise blood sugar levels. Add lean protein to main meals such as grilled chicken, fish or tofu and a good side of vegetables.
Cook more and avoid heavily processed foods, try high protein-high fibre options such as lentils to fill you up without the added calories.
Keep well hydrated: water, low-fat milk and herbal teas are great options.
Build physical activity into your diary and review your goals and progress each week.
Aim to get at least seven hours sleep each night and create a calm bedroom environment: keep devices away from the bed and block out artificial light sources.
Most importantly, be happy!
Facebook: Your London Nutritionist
Twitter: @LeoNutrition




Image credit: Michael Stern

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