January. If you’re like me you indulged over Christmas. Hell, it’s Christmas after all. And for me, it was my thirtieth birthday so by gum I wasn’t going to worry about eating that extra bag of chocolates.
But now it’s the new year, and time to get back on the straight and narrow. Maybe it’s just that for you – getting back on track with exercise and eating well – but if it’s part of your new year’s resolutions to start a healthier life the next four weeks are going to be crucial in making your good intentions a habit. I’ve got some suggestions and tricks that will help you do this easily, cheaply, and happily.
When I first started my healthy lifestyle it took having these four dedicated and focused weeks to make it stick – I promise you that by just giving it 30 days of focus you’ll feel lighter, healthier, you’ll have more energy and your hair, skin and nails will feel stronger. If you’ve not actively been ‘eating right’ before then some of these might feel strange, but just think, it’s only 30 days of your life.
A healthy life is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. There’s no point in pounding away for hours on the treadmill and then eating a pizza. The opposite is just as true though – by eating well and complimenting with a simple exercise programme you’ll see physique changes rapidly.
Promise yourself this: I will exercise 3-4 times per week for a month.
For some, that will be easy, for others not. But for just four weeks if you really want to, you will be able to find the time.
Switch it up each time you exercise and make it interesting for yourself. There are some great ‘at home’ workouts you can buy if getting to the gym isn’t feasible – my favourite is the Way of Gray – 40 minute HIIT workouts you can do in your living room – or Blogilates – literally the most fun workouts on the internet.
I rotate my exercises four times a week from these:
- Leg day – 45 minutes of weights
- Swimming – 30 – 45 minutes
- Cardio – 30 – 45 minutes of cycling or Cross Training
- Arm day – 45 minutes of weights
- Spin – 45 minute class (Although I’m not quite there again this year with my operation recovery!)
Do whatever exercise you love, but 3-4 times a week get sweaty. You’ll see the difference I promise.
Weaning off the indulgence of Christmas can be hard as your body is so used to blood sugar spikes from chocolate or alcohol. For me it’s more of a psychological thing – I’m so used to being able to reach for the nearest snack whenever I get peckish. The trick in these first few weeks is to make sure you’re eating enough through healthy balanced meals so you don’t get cravings. Don’t fall into the ‘January’ trap of crash dieting!
The Five Golden Rules of January
- I shall not drink sugar. This means no booze, no sugary juices, no fizzy drinks, no sugar in your tea or coffee. This is the one many struggle with – but honestly, it’s only four weeks! This one simple change will help to drop the pounds; one glass of wine is over 250 calories, one can of Cola is 150 calories – and all of it is non nutritional refined sugar that will just make you spike and want more – what a waste of calories! Wouldn’t you rather cut out alcohol for 30 days and be able to eat a (lean) burger? I would.
- I shall not eat refined sugar. No chocolate, no cake, no sweeties. All the things you’ve sworn off after Christmas 🙂 Replace with natural yoghurt and fruit, or have a small (30g) piece of dark chocolate instead. Take a look at my clean desserts if you really can’t make the 30 days treat free.
- I shall not eat refined white carbs. That means no rice, pasta, bread. I’m not saying cut all carbs – far from it, you need the energy to workout! – just make some easy switches: Rye bread for toast, sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta, brown rice or cauliflower rice. Quinoa, bulgar wheat or lentils are all great and easy changes to your everyday meals.
- I will change the way I eat dairy. Cheeses like feta, mozzarella and cottage are light on calories but still packed with calcium and protein that your body needs. Milk subsitutes like almond or soy will help to cut out fats.
- I shall fill up on protein. Eating protein with every meal will help you build lean muscle and drop fat. Make sure you have lean cuts of meat (chicken and turkey are the best!), opt for eggs at breakfast, and eat as much fish as you can. It’s full of omega 3 and is one of the best things you can eat.
- I shall not see fat as the enemy. By this I mean making sure you’re eating ‘good fats’ once a day. You’ll need this for your hair and nails and heart! ‘Good fats’ are foods like avocado, seeds and nuts, oily fish. You can see a whole list here.
Make balanced meals that are vegetable-heavy. If you’d usually have only a spoon of the green stuff and a whole bowl of carbs, then switch it round this month. Small changes like this will help the change become habit and still fit in with your normal life.
When you fill your plate up, think like this:
- Is a third of the plate protein (meat, fish, eggs)?
- Have I changed the carbs for ‘heathy carbs’ (sweet pots, quinoa…)?
- What’s the ratio of meat / veggies / carbs (aim for 25 / 50 / 25)?
- Have I had healthy fats today? (Oily fish, avocado, olive oil).
If you get hungry between meals then opt for healthy snacks: grilled chicken, fruit, seeds and nuts, homemade plain popcorn.
If you’re interested in what I’m eating this month, then I’ll be posting my January meal plan soon.
Good luck, after four weeks you’ll never look back and will wonder how you didn’t do it before. Let me know how you go!