Most of us overdo it during the festive season. Christmas is a social, celebratory time that invariably involves friends, family – and way too much food! Those mince pies, pigs in blankets and tubs of Quality Street are very difficult to resist. Not to mention the mulled wine, eggnog, champagne and port. With Christmas seemingly starting earlier every year, it’s all too easy to overindulge throughout the whole of December. That’s enjoyable at the time, but come January, we pay the price. If your clothes are straining at the seams and you feel sluggish and slow, it’s time to take action. I’ve put together some key New Year’s resolutions on how to lose weight. Making a few simple changes now can help you to get lean!
Set SMART goals
First of all, be clear about what you want to achieve. A vague desire to ‘weigh a bit less’ is probably not going to get brilliant results. Instead, think SMART. Set yourself some goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Expecting to lose a lot of weight such as four stones and run a marathon by March is not the way forward. If your objectives seem too far out of reach, you’ll just give up. So start small and give yourself the opportunity to succeed. Maybe aim to lose seven pounds in a month. Vow to consume less sugar, ditch the calorific takeaways, or start a new exercise class. Whatever your personal goal, write down actionable steps to help you achieve it. Tech fans can use an app to stay on track. MyFitnessPal and Lose It! are popular options.
Most people associate diets with deprivation. Eating less of what you like is never an appealing prospect but this is how to lose weight more effectively. So this is where a change of mind-set can be very effective. Instead of focusing solely on counting calories (and what you can’t consume!) make an effort to well and healthily too. However, there is so much conflicting advice that’s it’s not always easy to know how. The NHS Eatwell Guide is a sensible place to start.
Fruit & veg
Above all, most of us are still not including enough fruit and vegetables in our diet. Did you know they should make up over a third of the food we eat each day? Fresh, frozen, dried, tinned or juiced versions all count. Start the day as you mean to go on. After all this is how to lose weight and prevent those extra pounds from returning in the future. Add some fruit to your breakfast cereal, or some spinach to your scrambled eggs. A green side salad with lunch or dinner is another easy win. Filling, veg-laden soups are a star choice when the days are cold, dark and long. Blend some frozen fruits into a smoothie (adding chia seeds and coconut water for extra zing). Still longing for roast turkey with all the trimmings? Oven-roast a selection of colourful vegetables instead. And don’t just plump for the predictable. Ring the changes with some new varieties. Never sampled okra, artichokes, celeriac or kale? Be brave and experiment. Your tastebuds – and your waistline – will thank you for it.
One of the most effective ways on how to lose weight and boost your wellbeing is to give up the booze. Alcohol is laden with empty calories, around 7 per gram (almost as many as a gram of fat). According to the NHS, the average wine drinker in England takes in around 2,000kcal from alcohol every month. Drinking just five pints of lager a week adds up to 44,200kcal over a year. That’s equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts!
If you’re serious about slimming down, consider taking part in Dry January. Taking a month off from alcohol is likely to have a positive impact on the scales – and your health. Abstaining from alcohol can also help you sleep and concentrate better, boost your energy levels, and lower your blood pressure. It can even improve the appearance of your skin and hair.
If you really can’t face the thought of January without your favourite tipple, at least try to cut down. Experiment with low-alcohol options, or even a ‘mocktail’. You can even lose weight by adding soda to white wine. Choose halves instead of pints. Or try the tonic without the gin. With ice and lots of lime, you might not even notice the omission!
There are so many benefits of exercise, there’s simply no excuse not to. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and osteoarthritis. And of course, this is a great way in which to lose weight. As a general goal, at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day is the minimum to aim for. That’s easier than it sounds. Start by making activity part of your everyday life: for example, walk or cycle instead of jumping into the car. If you’re keen to lose weight, as well as lead a healthier, happier life, you’ll need to increase the frequency and/or intensity.
The local gym is a great place to start to lose weight, but it’s not the only option. Think about what you enjoy doing. Love dancing? Look out for zumba, salsa or ceroc classes. Enjoy being in water? Start swimming, or try aqua aerobics. If you’d like to take up running, but aren’t sure how, see if your local community has a parkrun. A new year is the perfect time to try something new. So if you’ve always longed to give yoga a go, attempt a climbing wall or join a karate club, take the plunge. Inactivity doesn’t just help make you fat, it’s described by the Department of Health as a “silent killer”. Moving more can help you lose weight, stress less, feel happier and live longer.
Don’t skimp on sleep
Going to bed early might not be top of your list if you’re trying to lose weight – but it should be. Studies show that too little sleep hampers your metabolism, and can contribute to weight gain. The culprits are the hormones ghrelin and leptin. The former signals hunger in the brain; the latter suppresses hunger and transmits fullness. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces less leptin and more ghrelin. Increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) are another side-effect of inadequate sleep. This may also increase your appetite. So cut down on the caffeine, turn off your phone, plump up your pillows – and snooze yourself slim. Happy New Year!