Updated 05 November 2014

Small changes, big results

If your New Year’s resolution was to lose weight, don’t despair; it does not have to be stressful or complicated! The secret to success is taking one small step at a time.

It’s the end of January and most people’s New Year resolutions have already failed dismally – again! If your New Year’s resolution was to lose weight, don’t despair; it does not have to be stressful or complicated! The secret to success is taking one small step at a time. A few simple changes could make a big difference – over the long term.

We tend to forget that habits (both good and bad) are formed over years, and can’t expect to make a dozen changes in just a few weeks. According to experts, changing or forming a new habit takes at least 30 days and re-affirming the new habit requires another 30 days. The best way to achieve your goal is to break it down into small parts.

One reason small changes to habits work is because you build success quickly, experts say. Each time you follow through on a small habit, you build your confidence and feel more in control. As one habit becomes routine, you can add another small one to it. And soon those small habits turn into a big lifestyle change that you can be really proud of.

Here are four simple changes you could try – one at a time. This way you won't feel overwhelmed. With time, these changes will not only improve your health; they will also help to melt away the extra kilos.

Eat more fruit and vegetables.
If you’ve never liked fruit and vegetables much, you can’t expect to start munching away on these foods all day long, forgetting about the existence of the less healthy snacks overnight. Start your new habit by eating one piece of fruit for breakfast and including at least one vegetable for lunch or dinner. Visit your nearest fresh produce market and choose a few brightly coloured fruits and veggies. Not everyone likes all fruit and vegetables, but by experimenting you are bound to find something you like. Gradually increase your portions per day, until you reach your 5-a-day requirement. Popular fruits to try are: strawberries, watermelon, bananas, apples, grapes, pineapple and sweet melon. When it comes to veggies, easy pleasers include carrots, baby tomatoes, cucumber, peas, sweet potato and mealies.

Stop drinking kilojoules. Fizzy drinks, sweetened tea and coffee, alcohol and even fruit juice are high in kilojoules – liquid kilojoules. Yes, even “healthy” fruit juice can be a kilojoule trap. Instead of drinking orange juice, for example, rather eat the fruit. The fresh orange will not only give you more nutrients, it will also fill you up more because of the fibre content. Many cups of sweetened coffee and tea, as well as alcohol contain lots of sugar which significantly adds to your daily kilojoule/energy intake. Rather fill up on water. Water is the perfect kilojoule-free weight-loss drink, while keeping your body hydrated and functioning in top form.

Plan your meals and remember to pack healthy snacks for work. If you plan in advance, you will be less tempted to buy quick kilojoule-laden fixes at the vending machine or corner shop. Opt for whole grains, low-fat protein, nuts, seeds, fruit and veg. Regular healthy snacks will also help to keep the hunger pangs at bay and make fatty, sugar snacks less appealing. Best of all, packing your own food will help you save money!

Get daily exercise. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start with just 10 minutes a day. It can be a brisk walk around the block, only taking the stairs at work, doing jumping jacks or rediscovering the fun of a skipping rope at home. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a fun activity that you are willing to do once every day – whether morning, noon or night. Ten minutes of exercise might not sound like much, but it is far easier to achieve than attempting one-hour gym sessions from day one. Exercise helps to burn kilojoules, tone your body and up your energy levels. Soon you will feel more confident – and ready to increase your daily activity with five-minute additions until you can do 30 minutes a day comfortably. 

These are just four suggestions. There are many more simple ideas, such as eating breakfast every day, cutting your salt intake and avoiding fatty, fried foods. Will they take you from overweight to slim and sexy in a month? No, of course not! But these small changes will all act as building blocks to gradual and sustainable changes, leading to permanent weight loss and a healthier lifestyle.


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