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Updated 04 January 2012

Real diet resolutions

If your diet resolutions never last beyond the second week of January, DietDoc has some advice for you.

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We all make many good resolutions at the start of a new year, but, being human, most of our earnest resolutions probably will not be kept. Within a week, or two or three of the new year, you may well find that you have broken your resolve. Rest assured that you will not be alone!

When it comes to dietary New Year's resolutions you will probably succeed if you select only one change in your habits and stick to it. You can choose from a variety of dietary and lifestyle changes that will have a positive influence on your health and well-being.

For example, you could decide to lose weight, get fit, or stop eating fatty junk food and drinking litres of cold drinks and/or alcohol. Let's have a look at how you can achieve the benefits of some of these changes:

Weight loss

After the excesses of the festive season, most people resolve to lose weight and stick to a slimming diet. Select your diet carefully. Don't fall into the trap of using a starvation (less than 1000 kcal or 4200 kJ/day), or a fad diet (one that cuts out a whole food group like carbohydrates). Select a sensible, balanced diet that has a somewhat reduced energy content.

Experts agree that reducing your daily energy intake by about 500 kcal or 2100 kJ will produce a steady, sustainable weight loss of 0,5 to 1 kg per week. Your slimming diet should also include all the food groups, such as carbohydrates, fats and protein.

It should contain plenty of fruit and vegetables to provide protective nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and phytochemicals to keep you healthy while you lose weight and low-fat, or fat-free milk and dairy products to not only maintain your bones and teeth, but also help you lose weight.

Resist the temptation to use slimming pills and potions. They all cost a lot of money which would be better spent on joining a good gym or Walk for Life. These pills also contain harmful compounds such as epinephrine, pseudo-epinephrine or synephrine that could cause a long list of negative side-effects including addiction. Many of these products also do not produce the desired results.

If you look carefully, most slimming products are combined with very-low-energy diets and it is these diets that accomplish the weight loss, not the pills. So you could just as well save the money you spend on the slimming pills and products, and use a sensible slimming diet instead.

Let this year be the year when you approach slimming in a sensible and balanced way. You will not only reap the benefits of weight loss, but also maintain your health and sanity, and for once be able to stick to your resolutions.

Exercise

If you feel like a slob after the Christmas and New Year parties, you may have decided to start an exercise regimen. Once again be sensible. Don't select a type of exercise that you actually loathe, but feel you must do, because 'it's good for you'. This is a recipe for failure.

Consider what you would like to do and what you can see yourself sticking to for the rest of the year. Luckily there are many different types of exercise to choose from: 

  •  join a good gym if you like the social scene, need the supervision of a trainer, and most importantly, can afford it
  •  join Walk for Life if you are sociable, enjoy being outdoors and require guidance from the trainers who will monitor your progress on a weekly basis
  • start a home workout programme (ask FitnessDoc for such a programme) or consult a biokineticist to work out a specific programme for your needs
  • start doing water aerobics if there is a club near you and you like swimming. This is an excellent way of getting fit and using up energy
  • participate in your favourite sport (basket ball, rugby, netball, squash) as long as it ensures that you get three or more hours of activity per week
  • take up cycling if you like the challenge of competing and are prepared to spend a lot of time on improving your performance
  • go for brisk walks or jogs in your neighbourhood every day (walk the dog who will also enjoy getting out), slowly increasing how far and fast you walk or jog
  • do anything that will get you active on a regular basis - take up modern dancing, pilates, Kung Fu, or whatever you enjoy doing

Be sensible and ease into your exercise programme. Don't start from being a couch potato and then try doing 500 situps or running 10km. You will only harm your body and fail to stick to your resolution.

 If you are over 40 and suffer from any illnesses, have a medical checkup before you start your exercise programme and discuss your intentions with your doctor, who may advise you to only do specific types of exercises at specific intensities. You don't want to become ill.

 Go easy on the alcohol

Every gram of alcohol you consume contains 29kJ of energy, so if you do resolve to lose weight this year then you need to go easy on the alcohol. Try to cut down and not to drink every day. When you do have a drink, dilute the alcohol with ice, water, or soda water to make your drink last longer. Have a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you consume at a party and you won’t suffer from hangovers, or load your body with excess energy.

 Whatever you decide on, make a choice that is sustainable for the rest of the year. Real results take time to achieve and it takes times to lose weight, get fit, firm up and build muscles. Give your body a chance to surprise you by being patient with it and making sensible changes this year.

 Any questions? Ask DietDoc.

 (Dr IV van Heerden, DietDoc, updated January 2013)

(Pic: iStock)

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