New Year… new start… new health?
I AM VERY happy that a change of circumstances has made it possible for me to be back writing the ‘Resident Prescription’. So here we are, together again, at the beginning of a New Year. And, as we all know, this is the time for the traditional New Year resolutions.
Weight loss, more exercise, better relationships, smoking cessation… these have always been at the top of the turn-of-the-calendar objectives for both sexes, and health related ones are definitely the most popular. But I’m not going to tell you what to eat, how to diet or how to stop smoking.
The most important thing is to consider any New Year resolution in a realistic way, which is something most people don’t. This brings us to the most common New Year resolution – to lose weight.
Losing weight and eating less junk food top many lists, but sticking with these good intentions is just not easy. The problem is that most people have unrealistic expectations. When someone decides to lose weight, they often also decide that this is the year they are going to completely change their diet. So, they tend to cut out major food groups and tell themselves they cannot have any sweets or carbohydrates.
But this is just too hard to do and is, of course, a set-up for failure, because by mid-January those resolutions are already in line…for the next New Year. Willpower is not the issue, if willpower is about depriving yourself – that certainly isn’t exciting. Depriving yourself of something is depressing.
A much wiser decision would be to cut back on desserts and have one only once a week…maybe on a Saturday! Think positive, think that you will feel better and have more energy if you eat healthily.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO:
Eat better and be healthier instead of just ‘losing weight’!
Have you ever asked yourself why you eat and drink? To feed your body? To compensate for ‘problems’? Because it is one of life’s pleasures? Because it is an important social and business behaviour? All this is true and possible with better eating habits.
To have better eating habits should be a whole year’s resolution, not just a New Year’s resolution. When making dietary changes, start small and set a few realistic goals. In the long run, you will have better self-esteem and more self-confidence because you will actually stick with them!
First steps for a realistic weight loss plan
• Talk to a professional. A doctor, dietician or a qualified health professional can help you determine your ideal body weight and the safest way for you to achieve it.
• Eat smaller portions.
• Eat a wide variety of food to be sure you are getting the nutrition you need.
• Eat food with a lot of fibre. These include fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
• Eat fewer high-fat foods. These include dairy products, like cheese, butter, whole milk, red meat, cakes and pastries.
• Exercise for at least 20 minutes, at least three times a week.
Instead of deprivation,
The reduction approach is much more realistic than the ‘all or nothing’ technique. Food is good, necessary and one of life’s pleasures; but just because we are over the weight we should be, there is no reason why we shouldn’t enjoy food.
It is better to set goals that are realistic, achievable and well defined. When people have an ‘all or nothing’ approach, they are so excited about the resolution that, if they do not perfectly follow what they have established, they become too hard on themselves.
You do not have to join a diet programme to lose weight and keep it off. What you need is to make a plan – and this plan must be realistic. If you can lose a pound a week, that’s great. And if all you are able to do is to stop gaining weight, you are still ahead of the game.
Keep in mind that what makes you put on weight is not what you eat between Christmas and New Year but what you eat between New Year and Christmas!
This year think about what is important to you, make your resolutions and vow to make this the beginning of a happier, healthier you. Starting with an easy objective, something that you can be successful at, this reinforces you to keep going.
Good luck and good health for 2005!
Best health wishes,
Consultant in General and Family Medicine
Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service. Tel. 917 811 988
• In part two of Dra. Maria Alice’s article, she will be giving you tips on how to avoid common diet traps and help you with ways to boost your metabolism.