The biggest mistakes we all make when trying to get healthy in January (and how to avoid them)
New Year, new you.
A saying so overused, yet so unfortunately relevant, it sums up modern society's constant bid for self-improvement. It's the perfect phrase to remind us of our misgivings from last year, as well as our over-indulgences at Christmas, as if our too tight trousers didn’t already tell us that. But there is something to it and if it takes a little reminder of a cheesy new year slogan to kickstart a healthier lifestyle, what's the harm?
We spoke to Ellen Roche, Registered Dietitian and Consultant Nutritionist with Nutrivide Nutrition Consultancy for some tips on practical ways to approach your new diet.
1. Set realistic goals.
If given a time machine, most of us would tell our teenage selves to appreciate our unearned slim figures and quick metabolism. And Ellen emphasises the importance of being sensible when it comes to trimming down.
"A lot of clients approach me saying they want to be a size eight. I ask them when was the last time they were a size eight and they say, ‘When I was 18’ and now they’re in their 40s. Is that realistic for your metabolism? When you’re at 18, it’s at its highest and you’re active, usually involved in a number of different sports.
"When it comes to weight loss, I suggest aiming for losing 10% body weight over three to six months and maintain that for three months at least. Then go from there. A lot of people have a fear they’re going to relapse, so this provides a healthier, practical approach. Maybe don’t focus on your weight as the be all and end all, look at other measures like your improved energy, mood and sleep."
2. Only take advice from reputable sources.
In a world where models and the beautiful people in general have become a source of nutritional advice, Ellen advises to do your research before committing to something from a questionable source. She says: "There are so many mixed messages out there and sources of nutritional advice always look to see if it’s evidence based and proven to effective and safe."
3. Don’t do anything drastic.
Have you heard of Veganuary? No? Congratulations, I’m jealous. It's a relatively new concept by food influencers encouraging more people to dry a vegan diet, at least for the month of January. Whatever happened to the days of just giving up your Tuesday night wine habit developed in December?
While Ellen has no issue with a vegan lifestyle (she often manages clients with niche dietary requirements and manages those who are keen to give it a shot), a lifestyle change shouldn't be underestimated. "Why do we want to do it? If not, maybe consider doing something else that’s less radical. I’d always encourage people in how to go about it correctly," she explains.
"They should try it for a few months and see how they feel, it’s important to support your clients in what they want to do. It’s about doing the correct way and ensuring they maintain their nutrients while adopting a new diet."
4. Carbs aren’t the enemy.
Let's get to the bottom of high protein diets.
Should I really be eating chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner like the #IrishFitFam? "Lots of research shows that people who have protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner have much better weight management. People hear protein and think they should have a 10z steak or two chicken fillets, try something like two eggs, two slices of smoked salmon or Greek yoghurt.
"Make sure you’re not overdoing it and it’s important to include carbohydrates. You’re better off ingesting carbohydrates in the morning, we have less insulin resistance in the morning and if you need to be mentally focused for work, you need those carbs your fuel."
Ms Roche was speaking at the launch of Bio-Kult probiotic’s 'Survive Winter' event in Dublin