The festive period is so filled with temptation and indulgence it can be a real struggle to revert to healthy eating and exercise habits in January. Lack of sunlight lowers the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, so your enthusiasm often feels lower than ever at this time of year. Here are some top tips to help you to get back on track and feeling your best:
- Re-train your brain
Instead of resenting the changes you’ll need to make, think of the nutritious food you eat as high quality fuel that will help you look and feel better with every mouthful. Make a list to remind yourself of all the benefits of regular exercise (such as feeling less sluggish, reducing digestive discomfort and being able to wear clothes you don’t currently feel comfortable in) and ensure you create positive associations with your new healthy lifestyle.
- Ditch the detox
Before you embark on a strict January detox, it’s time to cleanse yourself of the concept that we need to be periodically detoxified. Restrictive detox diets might claim to rid your system of toxins, but your body already does that job for you; working to break down what goes in, absorb the good and excrete the not so good. Restricting your food consumption limits intake of energy and important nutrients needed for good health, which can cause unhealthy side effects such as headaches, dizziness and low energy. If you want to maintain optimal health then the best approach is a balanced diet.
- Be realistic
Rather than focusing on one ultimate end result, try dissecting your goals into smaller, bite-size pieces to make them seem less intimidating. Take it one day at a time (for example eating a healthy breakfast, or going for a daily walk) then gradually up the pace. By being realistic with your goals, you’ll be far less likely to feel overwhelmed and throw in the towel by the end of the month.
- Be prepared
By keeping a well-stocked kitchen, you’ll be better equipped to keep up your healthy eating plans. Cheap and easily available, lentils are high in protein and fibre but low in fat. Keep a few cans in your cupboard, rinse thoroughly then add to salads, soups, casseroles and stir-fries for a nutritious, FODMAP-friendly protein boost. Frozen and pre-chopped fruits and vegetables are also a godsend for throwing together smoothies and quick, nutrient-dense meals.
- Try something new
You’ll find it particularly hard to get back on the wagon if you’re not excited by the meals you’ll be eating. Have a good look through recipe books, magazines and blogs and plan to cook something tempting and delicious each week.
- Get some support
Let your friends and family know what you’re trying to achieve and that you would appreciate their support. It’s likely that someone close to you will have similar health and fitness goals, and working together can be a great way to stay motivated.