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New year new you

The New Year has arrived and it's time for the new you to be unveiled. Experts say that making even small changes to diet and lifestyle can make a major difference in the year ahead. "A lot of the time, when people go on these 'health kicks' for the New Year, it's the all-or-nothing approach which never works," says the Herald's nutritional therapist Elsa Jones (right, above).

"They set themselves up for failure because they decide they are going to change 10 things all in one go and they tend to go for a complete lifestyle overhaul."

Elsa says that people have a much better chance of sustaining health benefits if they start slowly. When it comes to diet, she says that making small changes can make a big difference.

"Take a little bit of time to sit down with yourself. Give yourself half an hour and actually write down what you want to change and why. I think when you write something down it can really help you. Write your goals down and put them somewhere where you can see them."

"So swap your white bread for proper brown bread, your white pasta for brown pasta, your white rice for brown rice."

Elsa says that many Irish people live off refined carbohydrates. "We are having refined cereals for breakfast with white toast. We are having a white baguette for lunch. We are coming home and having a bowl of pasta and sitting down and having a cup of tea and biscuits. That is all just white-flour food. It's all refined carbohydrates. And that wreaks havoc on our energy levels because it makes our blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day, which means our energy levels go up and down," she says.

Lentils and beans -- including chickpeas, kidney beans, butter beans and cannellini beans -- are cheap and convenient. Beans and lentils are very nutritious foods as they are packed full of B vitamins, they are full of fibre and they are an excellent source of protein, Elsa says.

While we would all like to cut out snacks, that's not always practical. Elsa says that if we have snacks between meals, we should be more sensible about what we eat.

"Swap biscuits for nuts," she says. A palm-full of nuts, whether they are almond or cashew nuts or whatever the choice of nuts is, will keep people going to the next meal because they are so filling, she says.

Pat believes that people should write down "realistic goals". He says it will give them the impetus to get started for the rest of the year.

She says that some people do "repetitive buying. I think we all have done it. You really have to look at what you have at home, make the list and see what you need".

For instance, somebody who likes wearing A-line skirts may have too many of them, or those who favour one-button jackets may have one in every colour.

"You have got to be very careful with your money and how you spend it.

"If you look back on photo albums of how you have looked for the past 10 years, I always think that's a good indication if your style has changed."

People don't have to spend a huge amount of money to make a change. "It might be wearing a scarf to inject a bit of colour, or changing your blusher, changing how you do your make-up, or getting a new hair style, or wearing a different style of boot that you haven't worn before."

Lisa, the author of Enjoying Style and Fashion, adds that a lot of people go on diets for the New Year.

"I don't think diets work because they are always a quick fix and there is no quick fix to getting yourself in shape."