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New Year resolution: One woman, six goals in twelve months

Nutritionist Jane McClenaghan achieved all her goals in one year

By Stephanie Bell

If your New Year resolutions have already gone by the wayside then you might want to take a leaf out of Jane McClenaghan's book. According to research, within just nine days of the New Year three-quarters of us will have given up on the improvements we hoped to make to our lives in 2015 - but not local author and nutritionist Jane.

The well-known Belfast businesswoman believes she has found a foolproof and easy way to success after achieving all of her goals set in January 2014. As the New Year dawned, a triumphant Jane was able to look back on last year with more than the usual amount of satisfaction, having ticked off everything on her resolution list.

This time last year Jane (42), who runs Vital Nutrition clinic on Belfast's Lisburn Road, set about writing her goals in a book, detailing everything she wanted to achieve in 2014.

Included were a total of six ambitious aims for enhancing the quality of her life, both personally and professionally.

Top of her list was to move into and renovate her new home, then in business she aimed to work at selling every one of the 3,000 copies of her new cookery book, Vital Nutrition.

Jane also vowed to more work in the community, establish new partnerships in her business, get fitter and win an award.

Thrilled to have achieved every one of them, she says: "I'm like most people and set myself goals but don't necessarily achieve them all as the year goes on."

Jane says: "Last year, though, I think what made a difference was that I took time to write them all down in detail and then reviewed the list every three months. Writing it down makes it more tangible rather than having it as something in your head. It felt more real and it worked for me.

"I kept looking at the list every now and again and that helped to keep me on track and focused on what it was I wanted to do.

"It was as simple as that. Just having them written down and reminding myself of what they were kept me focused and motivated me to make them work. It feels absolutely brilliant to be able to say I achieved them all."

Jane's career was set when she developed a passion for good food in childhood after helping her mother prepare family meals using produce grown in her own family garden.

She studied food science at the University of Reading and her hunger for healthy lifestyle choices lead her to work alongside some of the UK's foremost nutrition experts - Patrick Holford, Marilyn Glenville and Ian Marber (the Food Doctor) to name a few - before returning to Northern Ireland to set up her own consultancy.

In 2001, Vital Nutrition was born and Jane has successfully helped thousands of people make easy, manageable changes to their diets with a view to achieving a better state of health and wellbeing.

Her busy professional life sees her run cookery classes, nutrition workshops and one-to-one consultations, as well as advising on workplace health.

She also supports people with a variety of health issues and has a special interest in hormone balance and adrenal support to aid stress and exhaustion.

She lives in south Belfast with her partner of six years, Neville Walker (47), who works for The Conservation Volunteers.

Jane and Neville enjoy a number of joint interests outside of work, including walking, eating out and going to live music gigs.

A favourite hobby of Jane's is knitting and crocheting, which she says helps her to relax.

"I'm not very good at it," she laughs. "But it is my de-stresser and I only ever knit scarves, blankets and hats."

Top of Jane's New Year resolution list in 2014 was buying her first home with Neville and decorating it before the year was out.

After many years renting and months searching for their ideal home the couple moved into the house of their dreams in south Belfast on January 10.

"The house was exactly in the area we wanted and it needed an awful lot of work," says Jane.

"We spent a lot of money last year getting it the way we wanted. We knocked down an old lean-to and rebuilt the back of the house, creating a beautiful space which is like a garden room.

"We decorated the whole house, which was on my list, and although it is a work in progress we achieved what we wanted, even though it meant no holidays in 2014."

Goal one achieved, Jane also kept focus on her second resolution - to see all 3,000 of the initial print run of her book, Vital Nutrition, sell out before the end of the year.

Writing her own cookbook has been a passion of Jane's for many years. She spent five years alone developing the recipes.

When it was published in November 2013 she was both proud and delighted but faced the challenge of promoting and selling it.

"I worked hard last year to sell it and did all the marketing and promotion myself," she says.

"It was self-published and I was really lucky that Easons and Waterstones and some small independent shops agreed to take it.

"I never thought I would sell 3,000 copies in a year and it was amazing that by November it was sold out. To be honest, I still can't quite believe it.

"The feedback has been fantastic and so positive. People are taking it with them in their handbags when they go shopping to help with their shopping lists and that's exactly what I wanted. I wanted it to be something people could use rather than a pretty book sitting on the kitchen shelf.

"It has also sold in Canada, Sweden, America, France and Germany, so there are little pockets of it all over the world, which is amazing."

Jane had also hoped to free up more of her time last year to devote to community work, something which she also feels passionate about.

She was thrilled when asked early in the New Year to become the ambassador of the Big Lunch project. This nationwide initiative aims to bring communities together with an annual Big Lunch event every June.

People are the key ingredient, with the idea that those taking part are helping to create friendlier communities in which they start to share more, from conversation and ideas to skills and resources.

"Working in the community is something I feel really strongly about and have done a bit of through the years," she says. "Last year, though, I really wanted to devote more time to it and was so proud to be asked to be ambassador for the project.

"It fitted in with my ethos that eating should be shared with friends, neighbours, family and community.

"I also linked up with the Grove Wellbeing community group, who have their own garden. Every month members brought the produce they had grown and I would cook with them and show them how to use it.

"After cooking together we then ate together, which was fantastic."

Her fourth resolution involved branching out her one-to-one consultations from Framar Health and establishing more partnerships with brands with the same values as her own.

Jane achieved this by securing a partnership with Active Health Solutions, a multi-discipline physiotherapy practice in Holywood where she now runs a monthly nutrition clinic.

Goal number five, meanwhile, was about improving her own well-being and fitness. To this end, she joined Tribal Fitness, an outdoor boot camp which she attended faithfully every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the year - in fact she admits she became "totally addicted" to it.

"I've always walked or cycled but I'm usually so busy that my exercising routine always suffered," she says. "I was determined to change that in 2014. I think it worked because I made it a priority. I put the classes in my diary every week and wouldn't take a booking for those times.

"It also appealed to my sense of community. I just love getting together with the women in the class. It's great craic and I have made new friends who I go for a drink or meal with now and again.

"It has helped me get fit and feel great."

After 15 years working hard to build up her business and reputation as one of Northern Ireland's leading nutritionists, Jane was especially thrilled to crown her successful year in 2014 with her first award.

It was the one of the six resolutions on her list which came completely out of the blue in November and which presented the biggest challenge, after she was told she had been highly commended for her outstanding practice at the national CAM Awards.

The awards are the UK's 'Oscars' of the complementary and alternative health industry, and recognise individuals who are making a real difference through their work.

Jane beat off stiff competition from across the whole of the UK and Northern Ireland to be acknowledged as a practitioner whose work has inspired and motivated through best practice.

"It was great because it was kind of out of my control," she says.

"I was nominated by a friend in England and had no idea I was up for the award and yet it was something I put on my list last January.

"When the news came through I couldn't believe it and was absolutely delighted."

Having achieved all her goals last year Jane is currently working on a new list for 2015, top of which is to ensure she gets a holiday abroad.

With her business, fitness classes and renovating her new home, though, her life is already pretty full, but she believes there is always room for improvement.

"I think instead of just letting things happen that you need to get out there and make it happen," she says.

"I'm still working on the changes I need to make this year and I think when making a list you have to look at what's important for you.

"This year I also hope to value friendships and people more. Instead of just messaging people on Facebook I plan to make an effort to meet them and go and have a cup of coffee."

Jane's eight tips for turning resolutions into reality  

1. Be focused: Get a goals book and write a new goal at the top of each page. This will help you focus on exactly what you want out of the year ahead. Like a business plan, this will help you achieve exactly what you set out to do. Subconsciously your brain will work out ways to help you achieve these goals, so this simple act is more important and powerful than you think.

2. Be specific: With your goals, the more specific, the better. For example, if losing weight is your top priority, note exactly how much weight you are going to lose and the time frame you are going to do it in, such as "I will lose 1st 3lb by April 1, 2015". Then be more specific and write how often you plan to exercise, and what food groups you are going to eat more or less of.

3. Positive statements over negative: All too often we set ourselves unrealistic goals such as "I won't eat any chocolate in January". Most people, once they say this negative statement out loud, go hunting for the Dairy Milk. Instead, try turning goals into positive statements, such as "I will eat more vegetables and chocolate will be the occasional treat". This will go a long way towards improving your overall health and wellbeing and knowing that chocolate is not banned will spur you on.

4. Visualise: Try to visualise the end result. For example, if your aim is to lose 1st 3lbs by April 1, 2015, try hanging a gorgeous dress that you want to fit into on the outside of your wardrobe. This reminder will help you stay focused.

5. Be practical: Again with weight loss in mind, start as you mean to go on. Declutter your fridge, clear out your cupboards and get organised. A well-organised kitchen with a few key essentials will make this healthy eating lark so much easier.

6. Eat more, not less! Forget counting calories, sins or points. Life is too short. Instead, eat more good quality, healthy, nourishing food such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses, fish, salads and herbs. Forget the outdated idea of calorie counting and start enjoying food again. Take time to sit down, relax and enjoy your meals and you will find you feel more satisfied by eating well.

7. Be organised: Make a shopping list and hit the shops. Think about what you are going to need over the next few days so you are prepared for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Spend one hour a week batch cooking soups, a big pot of curry or a tasty tagine so you have something nutritious to eat midweek. Make in bulk and freeze.

8. Get a goal buddy: Reachable goals are shared. We are far more likely to stick to our plan if we know our friends and family support us. Being part of a team increases our determination, our stamina, and our courage. Find a support network and share your dreams.

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