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New Year, New You Strategy That Will Work For You

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Losing weight and getting fitter are two excellent choices for resolutions; the big challenge is to keep those resolutions going further than the first week in January so that you achieve your desired goals.

To help you focus on starting, continuing and remaining fit in the New Year, we have the ultimate New Year, new you strategy, including:

  • A simple, effective 5-step fitness plan
  • Fitness focus tips that really work!
  • Target ideas to help you reach your goals

5-steps to fitness

With your motivation at maximum levels, the temptation to enroll at your local gym, throw yourself headlong into exercise classes and slash your diet to the bone is extremely high. However, before you embark on your personal journey to improved health and fitness, take a little time out to plan and prepare. Time spent in this phase will pay dividends again and again in terms of safety, continuity and long term improvements. Simply follow the 5-step plan below which will set you on your way safely and effectively.

1

Safety first

To start with, it is vitally important to ensure that it is safe for you to begin an exercise programme. Complete the safety checklist below and if you answer yes to one or more questions, or alternatively, if you are at all concerned about starting training, then make an appointment with your doctor for a checkup before you start.

Health-status safety checklist

  • Are you aged over 30 and/or have not exercised for some time?
  • Do you suffer from any medical conditions?
  • Are you a smoker or have recently given up smoking?
  • Have you undergone any surgery in the past two years?
  • Are you suffering from any injuries?
  • Are you currently on any prescribed medication?
  • Are you unsure about beginning an exercise programme?

Once you have the all-clear from your doctor then you’re ready to step out on the road to ‘new you’ fitness.

2

Seek professional help

Before you launch headlong into exercise, seek out an exercise professional who can provide expert input into your plans. A good exercise professional should be qualified to assess your current fitness levels, including cardiovascular (CV), strength, your nutrition and most importantly, with respect to your posture – flexibility. All are fundamental to a proper health and fitness programme. Time at this point will reap continual benefits during subsequent stages because your training will be relevant to and correct for you and your progression will be faster.

3

Set targets

Target setting is extremely important as it will give you goals to aim for. Your goals can be anything you like, for example a desired weight, a particular dress size, a sporting event that you would like to try or complete, absolutely anything that you like. Discussing your targets with an exercise professional is also extremely useful as they should be able to advise on progression and offer relevant advice on how to reach your desired goals safely and effectively.

4

Start steadily

In the first few days of your new exercise regime, when your enthusiasm is likely to be high, it can be very easy to do too much too soon. The dangers here are overload, in the form of overworked muscles, fatigue, soreness, or worse still; injury. Any of these problems will be extremely de-motivating so it is important to balance your enthusiasm against your current fitness levels. Start sensibly and slowly so that you make the desired gains without struggling to walk or move for several days after your first session!

5

Adapt and modify

One of the keys to maintaining improvement during an exercise programme is to ensure that the body is sufficiently challenged so that adaptation (or fitness improvements) occurs. For real, long-lasting results, it is essential that your training is continually modified, adapted and updated at the correct pace for you, so that your health and fitness progresses and equally importantly, your motivation is maintained.

Keep that focus

However motivated you are at the beginning of your new fitness regime, there are certain to be times when your enthusiasm wavers. Other commitments, tiredness, bad weather and work are just a few of the challenges to your commitment that you will face as you try and maintain your ‘new you’ focus. When those ‘wobbly moments’ appear, keep your eye on the ball by trying one of the following strategies to counteract those negative thoughts.

Write it down

Write down your personal reasons for making your lifestyle changes, why it is important to you, what you aim to achieve and how good you’ll feel when you achieve your goals. Use this record as a touchstone to reaffirm your enthusiasm when the going gets tough.

Phone a friend

Linking up with a like-minded training partner can do wonders for maintaining your motivation. You can support each other when any negatives appear and sometimes, the simple act of making an exercise date with a friend can be enough to get you out of the door when your motivation is flagging.

Stepping stones

At the beginning of your exercise plan you will have set yourself a target – which may take many months to achieve. The danger here is that although you progress towards your target, because it is a long way off, you sometimes feel that you’ll never get there. The solution is to set some interim goals – or stepping stones which are mini targets to aim for as you get fitter.

For example: If weight loss is your goal, break it down into monthly targets – and importantly, celebrate each monthly achievement.

If your goal is competition based, perhaps to complete a 10k race, target a 5k race as part of your build-up. The smaller event is an ideal short term focus point and will also serve as an effective measure of how your fitness is progressing.

New you – all year!

Start as you mean to continue and continue just as you’ve started is an appropriate mantra for your New Year focus. By planning ahead and beginning slowly, your health and fitness gains will be sustainable and you will achieve long lasting results. Additionally, employing a few simple tools for target setting and adaptation will ensure that you enjoy continual progression towards your goals. Fad diets and quick fitness fixes don’t work and will leave you unmotivated before January is through, so instead, focus on smart strategies – the new you is just around the corner!

7 Strangest New Year Traditions Around The World

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1

Scarecrow burning – Ecuador

To banish any ill fortune or bad things that happened in the past year, Ecuadorians set fire to scarecrows filled with paper at midnight on New Year’s Eve. They also burn photographs of things that represent the past year, which leads us to believe that New Year is just a thinly veiled excuse for Ecuadorian pyromaniacs to set things on fire.

2

Round things – Philippines

In the Philippines New Year is about one thing, and one thing only; cold hard cash. Hoping to bring prosperity and wealth for the year ahead, Filipino people try to use as many round things as possible to represent coins and wealth. Round clothes, round food, you name it; if it’s round, they want in.

3

Broken plates – Denmark

If you’re ever in Denmark and wake up to find a pile of smashed crockery outside your door, it’s probably New Year’s Eve. Unused plates are saved up all year, until the 31st of December when they are hurled at the front doors of your friends and family in a strangely vandalistic display of affection.

4

Eating 12 grapes – Spain

As the clock counts down to 12 and people around the world are preparing to watch fireworks and drunkenly kiss each other, Spaniards are staring at bunches of grapes with a steely gaze. This challenge involves stuffing your face with 12 grapes, one for every ring of the bell. Succeed and you’ve got good luck for the year ahead.

5

Takanakuy Festival – Peru

This annual Peruvian festival held at the end of December is all about people beating the living daylights out of each other. Competitors face off in a ring for a round of bare-knuckle brawling, which is overseen by local policemen. Takanakuy literally means ‘when the blood is boiling’, but apparently all of the fights are friendly, and represent a fresh start for the year.

6

108 rings – Japan

Think the countdown of 12 rings takes too long? Try 108 on for size. In Japan bells are rang 108 times in a Buddhist tradition that is believed to banish all human sins. It’s also good luck to be smiling or laughing going into the New Year, but who knows how you can be in a good mood after having to sit through that prolonged ringing.

7

Coloured underwear – South America

In South American countries such as Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil, your fortunes for the year ahead are all decided by your underpants. Those who want to find love wear red underwear for New Year, whilst gold diggers should opt for yellow, which brings wealth and luck. If you’re just after a bit of peace for the New Year, some white pants should do the trick nicely.

New Year, New You Strategy That Will Work For You

An image of New Year, New You Strategy That Will Work For You

Losing weight and getting fitter are two excellent choices for resolutions; the big challenge is to keep those resolutions going further than the first week in January so that you achieve your desired goals.

To help you focus on starting, continuing and remaining fit in the New Year, we have the ultimate New Year, new you strategy, including:

  • A simple, effective 5-step fitness plan
  • Fitness focus tips that really work!
  • Target ideas to help you reach your goals

5-steps to fitness

With your motivation at maximum levels, the temptation to enroll at your local gym, throw yourself headlong into exercise classes and slash your diet to the bone is extremely high. However, before you embark on your personal journey to improved health and fitness, take a little time out to plan and prepare. Time spent in this phase will pay dividends again and again in terms of safety, continuity and long term improvements. Simply follow the 5-step plan below which will set you on your way safely and effectively.

1

Safety first

To start with, it is vitally important to ensure that it is safe for you to begin an exercise programme. Complete the safety checklist below and if you answer yes to one or more questions, or alternatively, if you are at all concerned about starting training, then make an appointment with your doctor for a checkup before you start.

Health-status safety checklist

  • Are you aged over 30 and/or have not exercised for some time?
  • Do you suffer from any medical conditions?
  • Are you a smoker or have recently given up smoking?
  • Have you undergone any surgery in the past two years?
  • Are you suffering from any injuries?
  • Are you currently on any prescribed medication?
  • Are you unsure about beginning an exercise programme?

Once you have the all-clear from your doctor then you’re ready to step out on the road to ‘new you’ fitness.

2

Seek professional help

Before you launch headlong into exercise, seek out an exercise professional who can provide expert input into your plans. A good exercise professional should be qualified to assess your current fitness levels, including cardiovascular (CV), strength, your nutrition and most importantly, with respect to your posture – flexibility. All are fundamental to a proper health and fitness programme. Time at this point will reap continual benefits during subsequent stages because your training will be relevant to and correct for you and your progression will be faster.

3

Set targets

Target setting is extremely important as it will give you goals to aim for. Your goals can be anything you like, for example a desired weight, a particular dress size, a sporting event that you would like to try or complete, absolutely anything that you like. Discussing your targets with an exercise professional is also extremely useful as they should be able to advise on progression and offer relevant advice on how to reach your desired goals safely and effectively.

4

Start steadily

In the first few days of your new exercise regime, when your enthusiasm is likely to be high, it can be very easy to do too much too soon. The dangers here are overload, in the form of overworked muscles, fatigue, soreness, or worse still; injury. Any of these problems will be extremely de-motivating so it is important to balance your enthusiasm against your current fitness levels. Start sensibly and slowly so that you make the desired gains without struggling to walk or move for several days after your first session!

5

Adapt and modify

One of the keys to maintaining improvement during an exercise programme is to ensure that the body is sufficiently challenged so that adaptation (or fitness improvements) occurs. For real, long-lasting results, it is essential that your training is continually modified, adapted and updated at the correct pace for you, so that your health and fitness progresses and equally importantly, your motivation is maintained.

Keep that focus

However motivated you are at the beginning of your new fitness regime, there are certain to be times when your enthusiasm wavers. Other commitments, tiredness, bad weather and work are just a few of the challenges to your commitment that you will face as you try and maintain your ‘new you’ focus. When those ‘wobbly moments’ appear, keep your eye on the ball by trying one of the following strategies to counteract those negative thoughts.

Write it down

Write down your personal reasons for making your lifestyle changes, why it is important to you, what you aim to achieve and how good you’ll feel when you achieve your goals. Use this record as a touchstone to reaffirm your enthusiasm when the going gets tough.

Phone a friend

Linking up with a like-minded training partner can do wonders for maintaining your motivation. You can support each other when any negatives appear and sometimes, the simple act of making an exercise date with a friend can be enough to get you out of the door when your motivation is flagging.

Stepping stones

At the beginning of your exercise plan you will have set yourself a target – which may take many months to achieve. The danger here is that although you progress towards your target, because it is a long way off, you sometimes feel that you’ll never get there. The solution is to set some interim goals – or stepping stones which are mini targets to aim for as you get fitter.

For example: If weight loss is your goal, break it down into monthly targets – and importantly, celebrate each monthly achievement.

If your goal is competition based, perhaps to complete a 10k race, target a 5k race as part of your build-up. The smaller event is an ideal short term focus point and will also serve as an effective measure of how your fitness is progressing.

New you – all year!

Start as you mean to continue and continue just as you’ve started is an appropriate mantra for your New Year focus. By planning ahead and beginning slowly, your health and fitness gains will be sustainable and you will achieve long lasting results. Additionally, employing a few simple tools for target setting and adaptation will ensure that you enjoy continual progression towards your goals. Fad diets and quick fitness fixes don’t work and will leave you unmotivated before January is through, so instead, focus on smart strategies – the new you is just around the corner!

How To Have A Great Christmas And Not Gain Weight

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1

Don't ditch your gym habits entirely

First of all, try to keep in mind that Christmas itself lasts only a couple of days – there’s no need to ditch your gym regime for a whole week in the lead-up (or fall-out).

2

Try and stick to your usual eating habits in the run up

Just because it’s Christmas, it doesn’t mean you have to gorge yourself on mince pies, nibbles and booze every night. In fact, the more you stick to your usual eating habits in the lead-up, the more special it will be to eat Christmassy foods on the day. Try not to snack mindlessly in the Christmas rush – make time for your meals and stay hydrated, so that you don’t mistake thirst for hunger.

3

Expend energy in festive preparations

As far as calorie burning is concerned, our ‘spend and save’ strategy begins a few days before Christmas, when you have the opportunity to expend more energy than usual on preparation chores like shopping, cooking and cleaning. Put as much effort as possible into these activities, such as parking the car at the far end of the car park at the superstore rather than opting for home delivery, kneading pastry by hand rather than shoving it in the blender, and polishing your own windows instead of getting the cleaner in.

4

Don't skip breakfast

And as for the big day itself? Don’t forgo breakfast, no matter how hectic your morning is. Starting the day with a meal boosts metabolic rate by 10 per cent, and reduces the risk of you overeating later on. But skip the fry up – have something light, such as a boiled egg and a slice of wholemeal toast, or fresh fruit and yogurt.

5

Exercise in the morning

If you’ve got time, exercising in the morning will gear up your metabolism for the rest of the day. In this scenario, intensity is more important than duration as the harder you work, the greater the ‘afterburn’ effect of continued higher calorie burning. A 20-minute brisk run or bike ride would be perfect. The frostier the better – research shows that we burn up to 12 per cent more calories working out in cold weather, as the body has to work harder to maintain its core temperature.

6

Time to put on your Christmas day outfit

Wear something that doesn’t have an elasticated or loose waistband; this will give you a benchmark of tightness. If it fits in the morning, you want it still to fit by the evening. It’s a harsh wake-up call when you need to undo that top button to fit in another helping of roast potatoes!

7

Dinner dilemmas

Choose carefully and Christmas dinner needn’t be a disaster area. For example, choosing the white turkey meat instead of the darker stuff can save you calories and fat grams. Remove the skin, too, or just restrict yourself to one tasty mouthful of crispy skin (well, it is Christmas, after all!).

8

Don’t feel obliged to eat more than you normally would

Turning down seconds doesn’t mean you didn’t enjoy your meal – it’s just that you have had enough. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with politely putting your hand over your glass when it still has wine left in it, so that you can keep track of how much you’ve had. If you get the choice, opt for filo pastry mince pies – less fattening than puff or shortcrust pastry and just as delicious. Also choose custard instead of brandy butter and cream.

9

Time for an aperitif?

A pub-sized serving of Baileys will set you back 100 calories (and let’s face it, who pours pub-sized servings at home?). Why not go for brandy, with 65 calories and no fat per measure?

10

Getting back on track

Once the big meal is over, busy yourself with clearing the table, washing up or entertaining the kids. Anything active is better than parking yourself on the sofa with a box of chocolates that you really haven’t got room to eat. The same goes for Boxing Day, which otherwise has the potential to be a repeat performance of the previous day’s excesses. Avoid the Boxing Day blowout by organising to do something active with the family – such as a walk or a game of rounders in the park. The you can enjoy your turkey sandwiches guilt free.

Eating Out Over The Festive Season

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If you’re trying to get slimmer, stick to one or two courses instead of the full three – and watch your portion size. Also try not to add salt at the table, as most foods will already have been seasoned in the kitchen.

Starters

Vegetable soups are a great starter option and can also help you get your recommended daily portions of veg – but try to avoid cream-based ones! Along with your soup, choose wholemeal bread rolls over white, as these provide extra fibre.

Mains

There’s no reason not to choose turkey for your main course. Not only is turkey the traditional Christmas meat, it is also extremely high in protein. If you would rather leave the turkey until Christmas Day, however, then why not try a seasonal fish such as salmon.

Look at how a dish is cooked, go for grilled or baked foods over fried or roasted. A grilled lean steak can be an excellent healthy choice, as it will provide you with a rich source of protein and iron.

Always make sure you have a side order of vegetables – and more importantly, make sure you eat them! There are lots of great root vegetables in season at this time of year, so you should be spoilt for choice.

Desserts

Choose a fruit-based dessert, as this will contribute to your recommended portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Also, ask for single instead of double cream with your dessert. By doing this you could save a whopping 112 calories!

Finally, if you feel there is something indulgent on the menu that you simply cannot resist despite your best intentions, then don’t be too hard on yourself – it’s Christmas after all. Why not take away some of the guilt by ordering one portion with two spoons? Half the portion means half the fat, sugar and calories.   

Drinks

If you’re drinking spirits, remember to stick to diet mixers, this could save you hundreds of calories. You could also try having a tomato juice mixer, which will add to your recommended portions of fruit and veg!

Christmas is the season to be jolly and most of us enjoy the odd tipple or three at this time of year! But if you are watching your weight, it is worth noting that alcohol contains a substantial seven calories per gram (carbohydrates and protein both contain around four calories per gram), and will also increase your appetite – so make sure you have your drink along with or after your meal to avoid over-indulging.

Top Tips To Cut Christmas Day Calories

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To show you how these calories add up, here’s an example of what a typical Christmas Day’s eating might look like:

Breakfast

  • Buck’s Fizz – champagne and orange juice
  • Scrambled eggs on thick white toast

Total: 546 kcal

Christmas dinner

Starter:

  • Smoked salmon
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Brown bread and butter

Total: 644 kcal

Main:

  • Roast turkey
  • Gravy
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Bread sauce
  • Chipolatas
  • Stuffing
  • Roast potatoes
  • Roast parsnips
  • Honeyed carrots
  • Braised red cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Red wine (three glasses)

Total: 1,407 kcal

Dessert

  • Christmas pudding with brandy butter
  • Cheese Board with chutney, grapes, crackers and oatcakes
  • Port (one glass)

Total: 1,492 kcal  

To finish:

  • Coffee with milk and mince pies

Total: 492 kcal

  • Snacks
  • Nuts, crisps, baked snacks
  • Fizzy drinks (two cans)
  • Chocolate

Total: 1,142 kcal

Supper

  • Sandwich with turkey, cranberry sauce on white bread
  • Cup of tea with milk and sugar

Total: 410 kcal

All of which comes to an overall total of a whopping 6,133 calories! And this amount could easily creep up if a few more boozy drinks were added at the end of the night.

Here are some tips on how you can cut Christmas day calories – without feeling like a dietary scrooge!

  • Drink water throughout the day – not only will this keep you hydrated, but it will also stop you mistaking thirst for hunger and therefore overindulging. Drinking water can also increase feelings of fullness.
  • Swap white bread for brown to add fibre to your breakfast, and bulk out the eggs with a chopped tomato for extra nourishment.
  • Have your smoked salmon with freshly squeezed lemon and black pepper instead of hollandaise sauce, and skip the butter.
  • You can afford to be a bit more relaxed with Christmas dinner itself, which is fairly well-balanced, containing lean protein, starchy carbohydrates and plenty of veg – but try to avoid the fattier parts of the meal, such as the chipolatas and crispy turkey skin.
  • When serving, make sure the majority of your plate is piled high with vegetables, and watch your portion size.
  • Although turkey is a lean meat, you can cut calories even further by avoiding the darker meat and sticking to white meat only.
  • Make bread sauce with skimmed milk.
  • Steam your vegetables to retain nutrients.
  • Swap roast potatoes for boiled.
  • Pudding time: swap brandy butter for custard made with skimmed milk.
  • Aim to have low-calorie non-alcoholic drinks (water is ideal!) between each glass of wine, or drink white wine spritzers instead.
  • Go easy on the cheese. Try having a small amount of the strongest one available, such as Stilton or Roquefort – this will make you feel more satisfied than a large amount of a mild cheese would.
  • Choose oatcakes over crackers for the slow-release sugars they contain – they keep you feeling fuller for longer. Oats also contain heart-friendly soluble fibre, which may help clear cholesterol from the blood stream.
  • Skip the mince pies (by the time Christmas Day rolls around you’re probably sick of them anyway!).
  • Avoid the crisps and baked snacks if you can; swap these for seasonal treats like nuts and satsumas. Not only will you be cutting your fat and calorie intake, but you’ll also be providing your body with healthy oils and vitamin C.
  • Give the chocolates a miss, or try good-quality dark chocolate instead; this will give you the cocoa kick in fewer calories. As an added bonus, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate may, in small amounts, help to prevent heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Swap full-sugar fizzy drinks for diet drinks or diluting juice.
  • Swap white bread for brown at supper-time and bulk out your sandwich with some green salad.

Following these tips could save you a considerable 3,394 calories – which just shows you really can have your cake and eat it!

5 Small Resolutions That Make A Big Difference

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Although losing a fifth of your body weight might sound great, is it really achievable? The chances are that come February your New Year’s resolutions will have been ditched until next year. But it doesn’t have to be the case! Small resolutions can lead to bigger things.

1

Drink herbal tea

After consuming a month’s worth of food and two months’ worth of drink within just one week, it’s no wonder that after the Christmas period we all vow to be healthier and lose weight over the coming year. Yet, how many of us manage it and how many of us come up with excuses about why we can’t stick to our resolutions?

Research shows that the weight we gain at Christmas is not usually lost over the ensuing 12 months and that every year we get heavier. To change this predictable pattern, get into drinking herbal tea. Some herbal teas, such as green tea, are thought to aid weight loss, and the antioxidants within herbal teas can help improve your skin and protect your heart and blood vessels.

2

Book a course

The long, festive break can make going back to work harder and many people want a career change or a new job come January. Although this might be a good thing, finding a new job is not an easy task. To make this New Year’s resolution achievable you should book onto a course at your local college.

Take a look at the jobs you would like to have; what qualifications or experience are employers looking for? If you see a gap on your CV that could hold you back from getting the career you crave, then book onto a course. Before you do so make sure that the course is recognised within your industry and that it suits your style of learning.

3

Count the cash

Most people’s bank accounts are not looking too healthy after the dozens of presents you have just forked out on. Therefore most people make a New Year’s resolution to improve their finances over the coming year. Although this sounds like a simple resolution, it’s one that most people fail to stick to after February.

To make sure this year is different, buy a piggy bank and when you get home from work stick in some coins you have loose in your wallet, purse or pocket. It is surprising how quickly and how much money this saves. After two or three months you will need a new piggy bank. Do not open the money boxes until December next year. Chances are, if you’ve stuck to the daily money-giving routine, you’ll have enough saved to cover the costs of Christmas.

4

Start a new chapter

Now that you’re no longer at school, it can be difficult to find the time and energy to read. Once you’ve settled into bed with a good book it can only be a few minutes before you’ve nodded off. Yet, reading can improve your memory and help prevent mental decline, so not only is it relaxing and enjoyable it’s also great for our mental health.

To make sure you get to read more this year why not buy a collection of short stories? You could also join a book club to make sure you stay focused every month. Another way to make sure you read more this year is to download a book list that has been voted for by others, so that you have a stock of well-written and gripping books to read. Finally, you can always start a book review blog and write your opinions on the books you’ve read.

5

Get the travel bug

After slipping back into your normal routine after the excitement of Christmas most people are desperate to break out of the rut they feel their life has fallen into. Most people yearn to travel in order to break free of their normal restraints, but quitting your job, leaving your home and tying up other responsibilities like rehoming your cat means that traveling around Thailand for six months is not a realistic New Year’s resolution. 

Yet, other forms of travel are achievable and can make a big difference to your attitude towards your current lifestyle. For example, rather than going on your usual vacation this year why not volunteer on an overseas project for two or three weeks? You can also travel within your local area. Pack a bag and head out exploring for the weekend. Don’t book any accommodation, just head to the train station and catch a train somewhere new. Although not the most glamorous of trips, you will still get a thrill from the unexpected and will not feel like your life is so predictable or planned out.

5 Easy Ways To Shed Post-Christmas Pounds

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1

Give away leftover treats

After feasting for nearly two weeks, it can be hard to stop eating; especially so if you have too many treats in the cupboard. When people come over for Christmas they tend to be laden with gifts and the odd food-based present. Inevitably, not all of the food items you bought or were given will be eaten come January the first.

Yet with all of those Christmas goodies in the cupboard you’ll find it that much harder to stick to your new healthy eating regime. Rather than keep all of that calorific food, why not continue the Christmas cheer and pack up the food into a hamper or basket and give someone you know a treat. Or, give the hamper to a worthy cause. This will help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions.

2

Drink water

For the majority of us, Christmas is spent nibbling cookies, cakes and all sorts of other unhealthy food. Therefore, once the festive season ends our bodies are filled with harmful toxins. To flush out these substances, drink lots of water. You should aim to drink around three quarters to one full gallon of water in order to flush out these toxins.

If you don’t like drinking water or struggle to guzzle lots, then we have some tricks to help you drink more. Firstly, you could invest in a drinking glass that you really like. Or you could attach elastic bands to your water bottle. Every time you drink a bottle’s worth of water you can remove one of the bands. If you dislike the taste of water, try decaffeinated iced tea or add some squeezed lemon juice to turn plain water into a refreshing, zingy drink.   

3

Make plans

After Christmas most of us struggle to shed post-Christmas pounds because we are bored. January signals a time for cutting back and staying in, so that we can address our finances and save a little money. Yet after all the glitz and fun of December, staying in becomes hard and we often find ourselves bored and low. Consequently, most of us tend to indulge in a little comfort eating. This is terrible news for your resolution to shed that Christmas weight.

To combat the boredom and post-Christmas blues you need to plan some fun, cheap activities. You could volunteer at a youth centre, enter a fun run event or arrange to meet up with friends and go on a long walk somewhere pretty.

4

Protein

Want to kick your sluggish post-Christmas metabolism into life to shed those post-Christmas pounds? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that protein is the solution to your metabolism issues. For breakfast eat around 10 to 15 grams (0.35oz to to 0.53 oz) of protein in order to get your metabolism into gear at the start of the day. An egg on toast or some low-fat yogurt with honey and nuts is a great breakfast if you want to shed that Christmas weight.

After your busy day, half an hour before you go to sleep you should eat another protein heavy snack. This time you could choose a small protein shake or some cottage cheese with berries and honey. Eating protein before bed will help to increase your metabolism when you are asleep.

5

Light a candle

Over Christmas we consume a shocking amount of sugar. Therefore, when we come to shed post-Christmas weight our blood sugar levels are unstable, which can cause us to crave calorific, unhealthy snacks. If you want to beat these cravings the trick is to light a vanilla candle.

A study at St George’s Hospital in London found that vanilla-scented patches significantly reduced participants’ appetite for sweet foods and drinks. It is believed that this is because the smell of vanilla can help to suppress sweet cravings. This January, make sure you have a stock of vanilla scented candles in your cupboard and light one when you have an urge for something sweet.

Get Into Your Party Dress In A Fortnight

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You've got two weeks to get fit to party!

This 14-day plan tackles excess body baggage in three ways – aerobic exercise will increase calorie expenditure, and, of course, get your most important muscle of all in shape (your heart, girls, not your butt!). Your ‘daily dose’ of aerobic exercise aims to burn 300-400 calories per session, and it is best to vary the type of activity you choose, both to reduce the risk of injury and provide physical and mental variety.

Strength training will firm and strengthen weak, flabby muscles and prevent the loss of lean muscle mass that usually accompanies dieting. It will also improve posture by creating balance between opposing muscle groups, enhancing function of the stabilizing muscles and improving range of motion. The full body strength workout below gets all your major muscles involved with just nine moves, by working more than one muscle group at a time – saving time and getting you the best results.

The third prong of the fork is moderate calorie reduction – to maximise the deficit between the amount of energy you consume and the amount you burn. We suggest cutting 350 calories per day – (which amounts to a 17.5% reduction on a typical 2,000 calorie per day diet). It’s sufficient to make a significant difference but not so much that you won’t have the energy to complete the workouts. You’ll find some tips on cutting those calories below.

But bear in mind that this is a two-week plan – not a way to eat or exercise for life.

Read on to find out more about how to put the diet plan into action…

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The aerobic exercise plan

Day 1

Daily dose: 45 minutes of brisk walking (at least 4mph pace) swimming or cycling.

Strength circuit.

Extra helper: Take a conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) supplement every day for the next fortnight – it has shown promising results in enhancing fat burning and lean tissue growth.

Day 2

Daily dose: 30 minutes running (at least 10 minute mile pace) elliptical training or rowing.

Extra helper: Drink a cup of coffee an hour before your workout today to maximize the use of fat as a fuel.

Day 3

Daily dose: 45 minutes of brisk walking (at least 4mph pace) swimming or cycling

Strength circuit.

Extra helper: Substitute one sugary canned drink or an alcoholic one with a fresh juice or fruit smoothie (with no added sugar).

Day 4

Daily dose: 45 minute to one hour aerobics or step class or exercise video.

Extra helper: Ensure you are getting eight hours sleep a night, to help you recover from the workouts.

Day 5

Daily dose: 30 minutes running (at least 10 minute mile pace) elliptical training or rowing.

Strength circuit.

Extra helper: Eliminate bloating by ensuring you eat plenty of potassium rich foods, such as dried apricots, bananas, potatoes and kiwi fruit.

Day 6

Daily dose: 45 minutes of brisk walking (at least 4mph pace) swimming or cycling.

Extra helper: Practice drawing your navel to spine throughout the day – this is the tummy flattening move you’ll need for that figure hugging dress!

Day 7

Strength circuit.

Extra helper: Stretch out classically tight hip flexors, chest and shoulders with yoga’s inverted staff posture. Lie face up across a foot stool with a pillow on it, with feet on the floor and arms outstretched beside your ears. Hold for at least a minute. You could use a Swiss ball instead.

Day 8

Daily dose: 30 minutes running (at least 10 minute mile pace) elliptical training or rowing.

Extra helper: Make sure you eat some protein with every meal – it helps you feel satiated and uses up more calories in digestion than fat or carbohydrate.

Day 9

Daily dose: 45 minutes of brisk walking (at least 4mph pace) swimming or cycling

Strength circuit.

Extra helper: Start body brushing, to boost circulation and aid the release of toxins. It gets your skin glowing, too. Always brush upwards, towards the heart.

Day 10

Daily dose: 45 minute to one hour aerobics or step class or exercise video.

Extra helper: Practice the carb curfew (no carbs after 5pm) for the next four days. That means no pasta, rice, bread or potatoes with your evening meal, but plenty of veg or salad. The body holds on to three grams of water for every one gram of carbohydrate it stores, so this strategy will help you shed weight by reducing overall carbohydrate intake.

Day 11

Daily dose: 30 minutes running (at least 10 minute mile pace) elliptical training or rowing.

Strength circuit.

Extra helper: Drink green tea – studies show that it boosts metabolism.

Day 12

Daily dose: 45 minutes of brisk walking (at least 4mph – or 6.43kmph pace) swimming or cycling.

Extra helper: Book yourself in for a professional fake tan or DIY it! Darker skin will make you look slimmer!

Day 13

Strength circuit.

Extra helper: Follow your final strength circuit with a full-body stretch, holding each position for at least 30 seconds. Alternatively, treat yourself to a sports massage to iron out tension and tightness.

Day 14

Daily dose: 45 minute to one hour aerobics, step class or exercise video.

Extra helper: Wear solid colours (black, brown and other dark shades are most slimming), put your hair up and wear heels to create a taller, longer, slimmer silhouette! Go girl…

Now consider the strength element of the plan…

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The strength circuit

Perform the strength circuit after your daily dose to save time warming-up. On days where there is no daily dose, warm up for at least five minutes by walking, marching on the spot and performing some general gentle circling, bending and extending motions.

Aim to do one set of each exercise (the number of repetitions suggested is shown in each case) and then repeat the whole sequence again. Do the exercises in the order shown to give muscles that have just worked a chance to recover before they are called upon again.

Squat jumps

Works 70 per cent of the body’s musculature, according to studies, including pretty much every muscle below the belt!

Stand with feet below hipbones, tummy gently pulled in and arms relaxed by your sides. Lower your bottom down into a squat position (thighs close to parallel to the floor, knees behind toes) and then leap up as high as you can, landing straight back into the next squat. You can use your arms to help propel you.

Aim for eight repetitions.

Dips

Works back of the arms, upper back and shoulders.

Shuffle to the front of a low coffee table or use your bottom stair, with your hands gripping the edge (fingers pointing forwards) and your shoulders pressed back and down. Your legs should be bent, feet flat on the floor. Now, lower yourself towards the ground by bending the arms but do not allow the shoulders to roll forwards. Only go so far as to create a right angle at the elbow joint. Execute each repetition slowly, focusing on using the muscles at the back of the upper arm to push you up.

Aim for 12 repetitions.

Ball curl-ups

Works the abdominals.

Sit on a fit ball close to a wall and maneuver yourself so that your feet are against the wall and you are facing it. Lie back on the ball, with fingers lightly supporting your head and position your bottom at the very front of the ball’s surface. Now draw your navel to spine and curl the shoulders and torso upward. Pause then lower and repeat.

Aim for 16 repetitions.

Lunge with overhead press

Works the bottom, thighs, shoulders and back of upper arms.

You’ll need a little coordination for this one! Stand with feet below hipbones, and a weight in each hand, resting on your shoulders. Lunge forward with your right leg, bending the knee and allowing the left foot to come off the floor and the left knee to travel towards the floor. Simultaneously, extend the arms overhead – lifting the weights straight up, with palms facing forwards. As you return the right leg to the start position, lower the weights back to the shoulders. Lift them again as you step forward with the left leg.

Aim for 12 alternating repetitions.

Ball pullover

Works upper and mid back and chest and stabilizing muscles.

Take a weight in both hands (hold the stem with both hands) and carefully lower yourself back onto a fit ball, with the weight suspended directly over your chest. Stabilise yourself by keeping the bottom and ab muscles tight and your pelvis level, and then extend the weight up and over your head, allowing the arms to slightly bend as the weight lowers behind you. Pause, then without arching your back, draw the weight back to the start position and repeat.

Aim for eight repetitions.

Step-ups with biceps curl

Works hips, thighs bottom and biceps.

Stand in front of a step between ankle height and just below the knee (the lower the easier) with a weight in each hand. Step up with the right foot, ensuring the foot goes fully on to the step with heel down. As you step up, bend both arms, to bring the weights in towards the shoulders. As you step down, lower the weights by straightening the arms. Now step up with the left foot, repeating the arm curl.

Aim for 20 repetitions.

Incline push up with rear leg lift

Works chest, upper arms, shoulders, bottom and back of thighs.

Stand a metre in front of a sturdy table and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge. Draw your navel to spine and bring your body into a straight line from the heels to the crown. Now, lower your chest towards the table by bending the arms at the elbow. Simultaneously, extend one leg behind you, really squeezing the bottom to lift it. Lower the leg as you straighten the arms. Lift the other leg as you perform the next rep and continue to alternate for the rest of the set.

Aim for 12 repetitions.

Ball roll in

Works core stabilizers, abdominals, chest, front of shoulders, upper arms and hip flexors.

Lie face down over a fit ball, and shunt forward until just your knees are on the ball, and your weight is supported on your hands, arms shoulder width apart. Contract the abdominals and tilt the pelvis so your back is in a straight line with the legs. Now curl the ball in towards your chest by contracting the abs and rolling the ball towards your torso with your lower legs. Hips should never be below shoulder height – keep shoulders drawn back. Do the move slowly, with control four to five seconds each way.

Aim for eight repetitions.

Bridge with fly

Works glutes (bum), lower back and inner thighs and chest

Lie on the floor with knees bent, feet flat and a cushion, rolled-up towel or foam ball between your knees and a weight in each hand, held extended above the chest. Raise the body up by rolling through the spine enough to allow the pelvis to clear the floor, squeezing the cushion with your inner thighs to maintain the position. Visualise your knees moving away from your body. Now, holding this position, lower your arms out to the sides at nipple level (keeping the elbows slightly bent). Pause just before they reach the floor and return arms to start position. Complete all repetitions while maintaining the pelvic bridge.

Aim for eight repetitions.

As an additional element of the 14-day plan you can try some of these moderate calorie reductions strategies…

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Calories cutting tips

To maximise the deficit between the amount of energy you consume and the amount you burn, we suggest cutting 350 calories per day – which amounts to a 17.5 per cent reduction on a typical 2,000 calorie per day diet.

It’s sufficient to make a significant difference but not so much that you won’t have the energy to complete the workouts above. Here are some top tips on how to cut those calories:

  • You might think the best way to zap 350 calories from your daily diet is simply to skip a meal. Wrong. Your body actually burns up calories in digesting food, so the fewer meals you eat, the less of a chance it has to do that. Space your meals out throughout the day.  
  • Downsize your portions by approximately a fifth on everything except for fruit and vegetables (potatoes don’t count!).  
  • Eat mindfully. Over the next fortnight, you can’t afford to ‘waste’ calories by eating mindlessly at the fridge, or straight from the saucepan – make sure that you sit down to savour all your meals and snacks.  
  • Don’t scrimp on protein. Eat a portion of protein at lunchtime – equal to the amount of carbohydrate you eat — to help avoid an energy slump in the afternoon, which could have you heading for the vending machine.  
  • Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper to fit in with the body’s natural rhythm in metabolism – which is primed in the morning and tails off during the day.  
  • Go easy on the mochas, flavored lattes and hot chocolates with cream on top – stick to plain Americano coffee, tea or herbal tea for the next fortnight.  
  • Watch the booze. If you regularly drink alcohol, you could be adding hundreds (or even thousands) of calories on to your weekly intake. Just one 440ml can of premium lager weighs in at 260 calories, so opting for a soft drink instead over the next two weeks is wise.

New Year's Resolutions You Should Never Make

An image of New Year's Resolutions You Should Never Make

The ‘New year, new me’ mentality only works if you actually do it. We’ve all seen the people at the festive parties bragging about the many goals they’ll be committing to, and how they’ll be a totally new person. Most of the time, the idea wears off and they divert back to their old ways. So this is our guide to avoiding the cliche resolutions you definitely shouldn’t try.

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Quit your job

Surely drunkenly calling your boss up on New Year’s Eve and leaving an abusive voicemail about where they can stick their job is one of the worst New Year’s resolutions you can ever act on? Quitting your job over the festive period is bad news if you don’t have a new job to go to come January. Firstly, it’s bad because after Christmas your savings account is probably looking rather unhealthy. Plus, after the Christmas period lots of people look for new jobs, meaning that the competition for that position you want is going to be tougher than ever.

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Join a band

Just because the likes of Nirvana started their epic career in a garage, it doesn’t mean you’re going to follow a similar path. Bum notes, cat scratch twangs and excessive feedback are a few things that’ll dominate your playing. Sure, if you’re already an accomplished player, then why not join others in a similar boat. Just don’t go there if the extent of your experience is primary school recorder.

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Find someone to marry

As you might have guessed, you can’t find a wife or a husband in a catalogue. It’s not an easy business, but if you’ve had your parents nagging you to settle down all Christmas or you’ve been paraded in front of what feels like a hundred happy couples at numerous festive parties, then your desire to find someone to marry might be higher than normal. Yet, love strikes when you don’t expect it. So don’t try to plan to find “the one”; give it time and you’ll find someone when you least expect it.

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Lose X amount of weight

So, your stomach now jiggles and you seem to have sprouted another chin, but promising yourself that this is the year you lose X amount of weight and get a body that could rival a personal trainer’s is not the answer. Big goals are unrealistic and have to be one of the worst New Year’s resolutions to make. Plus, after all of the indulging you’ve been enjoying, sticking to a healthy diet is harder than ever. Set smaller weight loss goals, like eating out less and going swimming more. You’ll achieve more, we promise.

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Join a gym straight away

Joining a gym straight away doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to stick to it. Studies have found that 60 per cent of gym memberships go unused and that by mid-February gym attendance has subsided back to the pre-Christmas levels. Instead of joining a gym without a clue as to what you’re supposed to be doing, why not sign up to a gym class or buy a pair of running shoes? These goals will be far easier to stick to and you’ll see more benefits compared to joining the gym.

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Travel

So you’ve booked a one-way ticket to some far-flung exotic destination. Great; so what about your house, your pets, your job, your partner, your debts? The list goes on and on. Although traveling is great, booking a flight as part of your New Year’s resolution is a bad idea. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. Plus, think about why you want to get away? Is it because you’ve just seen your ex with your best friend at a Christmas party or because you hate the monotony of your life? If it is, remember that traveling won’t sort out these issues and they’ll still be there when you come back.