Friday 9 December 2016

Mix up your new year routines to keep it fresh

Ask the GP...

Nina Byrnes

Published 05/01/2016 | 02:30

Invest in a weighing scales
Invest in a weighing scales

Our GP gives advice on how to achieve your health goals in 2016 and also improve the health of your family.

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Question: I start a new diet every January. I do well for the first three weeks but then it always seems to fall by the wayside. How I can avoid this and stay healthy?

Dr Nina replies: Evidence suggests that about half of us make New Year's resolutions every year. These inevitably start in earnest but the fact is that approximately 80pc of those resolutions will fail. The end of the third week seems to be a common time for this to occur so you are not alone. My usual advice is don't make new year resolutions in the first place. This doesn't mean don't make efforts to be healthier, but if you rely on a date to start and see it as the start of a 'diet' then subconsciously you are also likely waiting for the finish date when you can return to 'normal' eating.

I don't believe in diets. I do believe in healthy eating and making concerted efforts everyday to get the nutrients that you need. The first step in this process is educating yourself about healthy eating and nutrition. A good basic rule is to avoid processed foods and high sugar snack foods. Make yourself aware of portion sizes. Quite often we are eating the right food but too much of it.

Get a basic scales and weigh and measure portions to get your eyes used to appropriate portion sizes. Don't have 'treat days'. If you are trying to lose weight remember consistency is important. You can undo an entire week of good work with a night of drinking and a take away. If you must have treats make sure they are small and occasional.

Keep a food diary logging everything that you eat. That includes the chips you pick off your partner's plate or the sample chocolate you picked up while doing your weekly shop. Speaking of shopping, don't shop hungry. Make a list and stick to it. Don't buy in sweets and treats. If you actually have to get up and leave your house to get them when an urge hits, you may think twice.

Don't forget to log liquid calories. Milky coffees, alcohol and smoothies can all be a significant source of these.

Have realistic expectations. It is unlikely you will be able to change the habits of a lifetime overnight. It is also likely that you will slip back to old ways. Don't see this as failure, just get up and start again the next day.

Remember, "success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out", said author Robert Collier. Have a happy and healthy new year.

Question: I have three children ranging from age five to 15. I really want to improve our health as a family in 2016. Can you recommend one single intervention that will suit everyone and we can undertake together?

Dr Nina replies: Regular activity and exercise is one of the best gifts you can give your children and it will benefit you all now and in the future.

Exercise can be the solution to a whole host of ills, yet it is a hugely underused therapy. This doesn't mean you have to run to the gym seven days a week. Simply getting up and moving around will help. Adults should incorporate 150 minutes of exercise into their weekly schedule with 10,000 steps per day. Children and teenagers need 60 minutes of exercise daily with 15,000 steps.

There is lots of evidence to show that those who sit less and move more lead healthier and even happier lives than those who don't. Regular exercise reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by 35pc. It reduces your risk of diabetes and colon cancer by 50pc. The risk of breast cancer is reduced by 20pc.

Exercise remains important throughout life and regular exercise can reduce the risk of falls by 30pc, hip fractures by 68pc, osteoarthritis by 83pc and dementia by 30pc. Exercise has a mood-lifting effect; it reduces the risk of depression by 30pc. Exercise has been described as the world's most cost-effective drug. It would be hard to find any pharmaceutical treatment that can match the statistics above.

Try and make every member of your household aware of the time they spend sitting. Using fitness trackers such as wrist bands can be helpful. Keep a chart of each member's weekly activity and perhaps use this as the basis for a reward chart of sorts. Try and introduce a new activity every week whether that is walking, running, dancing or swimming. Mixing it up keeps it fresh and fun.

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