With each New Year there comes a wave of people desperate to improve themselves, making promises they may not keep and resolutions they may not stick to. The gym gets busier, Facebook fills up with gym selfies and statuses that inform you of what your Facebook friends have eaten and how many hours they’ve spent working out. We’re all guilty of it, because once the Christmas indulgence is over and done with and the New Year rolls around it’s normal to feel like you desperately want to change.
Truth be told there’s probably no one in existence that doesn’t have things about themselves that they’d like to change. Whether it’s their wobbly thighs or their bingo wings, their double chin or their belly (or in the case of some of us; all of the above!) we all have something we want to change and the New Year seems like the perfect time to do it.
So where do you start? What foods do you ban and how long do you avoid alcohol for? How many times a week do you go to the gym and when you’re in there, what do you do?
The honest answer is there is no answer. There is no cut and dry answer to any of those questions because we’re all different. Forget trying to find which type of exercise works best for weight loss and instead find an exercise that you enjoy. If you can’t do that (because for some of us exercise, no matter what it is, is always a chore) then at least find a gym that offers plenty of flexibility. If you’re like me and don’t enjoy the gym then forcing yourself to go at inconvenient times is only going to end badly.
My first piece of advice is find a gym that’s open long hours (mine is open 24 hours) so that you can easily slot some gym time into your daily routine at a convenient time for you. If you’re not a morning person then getting up at the crack of dawn to work out before work is not a routine that’ll last long so for long term improvements to your image and health you need to develop a routine that you can do pretty much effortlessly for as long as possible. If you start the New Year with an unrealistic gym routine that doesn’t fit with your lifestyle, the chances are you won’t achieve the goals you’ve set yourself because you’ll inevitably get fed up and give up.
Secondly don’t set out with a plan to ban certain foods. We all like a treat now and again and the truth is as long as you moderate treats and don’t regularly binge you can still achieve your weight loss goals, in fact you might see better results in the long run. If you moderate your treats rather than banning them altogether you’re more likely to end up with a healthy balanced diet that keeps you satisfied. If you love cake but ban it completely from your diet then you’re more likely to end up caving one day and eating a whole cake in one go, whereas if you allow yourself a little piece of cake now and again you’ll keep your cravings satisfied whilst maintaining a balanced diet.
Life would be incredibly dull if we didn’t allow ourselves the odd treat now and again; whether that’s pizza, cake, chocolate or wine, whatever it is that you love don’t seek to ban it from your life entirely for the sake of losing weight because that’s just unrealistic. For me my biggest problem was alcohol. I became something of an alcoholic during my first two years at university and would drink a bottle of wine to myself most nights. Of course, booze is full of calories and I inevitably piled on the pounds. In my efforts to lose weight and get fit I haven’t banned myself from booze completely, I’ve just cut down. I’ve not touched wine (yet) this year but I have had one or two Jack Daniels and Cokes (diet coke of course) and I’ve still shed quite a few pounds. One drink, one slice of cake or one bit of chocolate every now and then isn’t going to ruin your entire weight loss plan and if you find a way to have the things you enjoy in moderation as part of a balanced diet then you’re likely to stay satisfied and adopt the diet changes for life rather than just a few months (which is something that anyone who’s fallen into the trap of yoyo dieting is familiar with!)
Another piece of advice I’d give is do your research if you’re a bit of an exercise novice. I was totally clueless about the gym before I joined; all I knew is that I dreaded it. I don’t have a very good attention span for things like exercise and I knew I’d struggle to endure hours and hours of running on a treadmill without getting bored and giving up halfway through. I didn’t know where to start in the gym so I did some research and to my delight I found that a shorter burst of cardio (about 20 minutes) might be more effective for weight loss if I incorporated HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) so instead of running on a treadmill at a low intensity for hours on end I just do 20 minutes of HIIT on the elliptical (which entails alternating 2 minutes moderate intensity, then 30 seconds of high intensity). It keeps me from getting bored and, actually, I’ve seen far better results from it than from the less intense cardio workouts I’ve done in the past. I do this alongside about 30 minutes of lifting various weights (I try to lift them as heavy as possible and if it doesn’t hurt I try harder!) and so far, so good! So do your research and find an exercise that suits you so that you’re more likely to stick to it.
Another tip that I’ve found to be successful is setting gym days. I do Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday with Tuesday and Friday as my rest days (you do need a couple of rest days in the week otherwise your body will never get chance to recover!) These days for me are as non-negotiable as my job and unless I am very ill or injured I have to go; no other excuses will do. This mindset has been very hard to achieve but it has been incredibly helpful. If you can set yourself days for the gym and force yourself into that way of thinking then I urge you to try it because it really helps with motivation!
Finally, set yourself a target. No matter what it might be, have a date in mind and set yourself a goal. Bear in mind that you should be losing around 2 pounds a week (that’s the healthy rate at which to lose weight) so set your target with this in mind, an unrealistic target like 30 pounds in three weeks will only leave you feeling disappointed. A series of short term goals are more likely to keep you motivated, so pick a date a couple of months from when you start, and work out how much you’d like to lose in that time. My goal is the 12th of March; the day of my engagement party. I intend to lose 20 pounds by then so I can buy a new dress and look hot as heck! Having that date in mind has really helped my motivation because it feels like less of an endless uphill battle and more of a sure and steady progression.
The most important thing is your health, don’t do any ridiculous exercises that might jeopardise your health and don’t limit your diet so much that you’re not getting the nutrients that you need. You can consult a doctor if you feel you need a medical opinion, or there’s plenty of advice and information available online. My advice is purely hints and tips that have helped me to achieve, I’m not a professional in the diet or fitness field! But hopefully these things might go on to help someone else as well.
Exercise, eat well and have fun! It shouldn’t be a chore J