The change from the old year to the new is often a spur to turning over a new leaf, especially with regards to health.
Unfortunately, diet and fitness resolutions often don't last.
The fact is that many of us are hooked on instant gratification. In an era where you can send an e-mail around the globe in an instant, it also seems it should be possible to lose weight and get fit in a very short period of time.
Sadly, not. Most health-related changes take time. The human body isn't a computer that can be switched on and off. It needs time to adjust its millions of cells and their functions to the changes you decide to make.
The answer is to set reasonable goals. These tips will help you succeed:
a) Weight loss
Probably the most popular New Year's resolution is to lose weight.
If you need to lose a total of 20kg, start the year off by aiming to lose just 5kg. This is an attainable goal. Once you achieve this, it will motivate you to stick to your eating plan and start working on shaking the next 5kg.
If you think you're going to lose the 20kg by the end of January by popping diet pills, starving yourself or following a fad diet, you may lose some weight, but by the end of February you probably will have regained all you've lost.
b) Increased fitness levels
You've decided that 2008 is the year in which you're going to get fit. So, switching over from a totally sedentary lifestyle, you start running for 40 minutes at a time.
This is a recipe for disaster. No couch potato can be transformed into a marathon man in an instant. It takes time to get fit, build muscles and firm up your body. Leaping from your couch into the gym can do more harm than good (it can even be fatal).
If you haven't exercised for years, have a medical examination before you start to make sure that your heart and joints will handle it. If you're given a clean bill of health, start with moderate exercise until your body has adjusted and strengthened. As you get fitter, you can increase how long and fast you exercise.
c) Eating more fibre
If you've decided that 2008 is the year in which you're going to eat a healthy diet, high in fibre, you need to give your body, and especially your digestive tract, time to adjust.
People who suddenly start eating masses of fibre may find that they develop abdominal pain, bloating, winds and diarrhoea. Not surprisingly, they quickly revert to their previous low-fibre diets.
The trick is to gradually increase your dietary fibre intake. For example, if you suffer from constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you would start off by eating one teaspoon of bran a day on your breakfast cereal for 1-2 weeks. If this agrees with you, you can double this, and so on – until you're eating two tablespoons of bran daily.
By letting your body get used to the higher fibre intake, you'll have a better chance of realising this resolution.
d) Cutting out chocolates and/or caffeine
If you change over from eating one or two slabs of chocolate a day to zero chocolate, you may suffer very real withdrawal symptoms. Chocolates contain highly addictive substances such as serotonin, endorphins and phenylethylamine.
Like all addictions, you'll achieve greater success by slowly tapering your intake. Start off by eating 1-2 blocks of chocolates less every 2-3 days so that your system is gradually weaned.
The same applies to caffeine addiction. Gradually reduce your intake by one cup of tea or coffee, or a glass of Coke, every 2-3 days, until you've broken the addiction.
- (Dr I.V. van Heerden, DietDoc, January 2008)
Any questions? Ask DietDoc