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8 top tips to achieve your New Year health and fitness goals

Belfast PT and nutritionist Alan Waterman shares his top tips to achieve a healthier lifestyle in the New Year

By Alan Waterman

Come January, you, along with countless others, will be sitting drawing up your list of New Year's goals and resolutions - but for many those goals are going to be the same as those which failed to be achieved in 2017.

"I want to lose that extra stone."

"I want to get fit."

"I want to be able to get back into my favourite old clothes."

Sound familiar?

Knowing where and how to start our health kick can be a challenge for many of us, and we so often adopt the wrong approach and focus on the wrong things- that's why we can find ourselves running through the cycle of failing to achieve our goals.

To help get you off to the best start on your 2018 fitness goals, here's some of the biggest considerations you should be having to make when it comes to your New Year's diet and exercise regime.

1. Sustainability is incredibly important

Going go hit January hard? Are you going to put yourself through 12 weeks of dieting and training hell to achieve the body you always wanted by Spring?

Good luck keeping that up when life gets in the way and your priorities have to be re-jigged.

The number one question we need to ask ourselves is: "Is this sustainable long-term?"

The methods we use to achieve our results are the same methods we need to continue to implement to maintain those results - if the methods themselves are unsustainable, or we try to run an approach which is unsustainable for us in the long run, the results won't be sustainable either.

If you can't see yourself following through with your New Year diet and training routine in six months or a year's time, you may need to reconsider the approach you're going to take.

2. Have realistic expectations

When thinking about how to make the most of that new gym membership, many find that they throw themselves into a high volume, 7-day-a-week training routine, whilst tracking every calorie that passes their lips.

When we think again about sustainability, if you consider your current lifestyle, how realistic are your new intentions?

Someone with no responsibilities and a standard 9-5 job will be able to dedicate more time and effort into a training and nutrition plan than a single parent juggling two part-time jobs.

The approach we take has to be one which can be accommodated by our lifestyle - we should aim to mould our diet and training around ourselves, rather than trying to fit ourselves into a specific fixed approach.

3. Take it slow

It can be easily tempting to go and dramatically overhaul your approach to exercise and how you eat within the space of a single day - after all, we've decided that we needed to change, so we go and change everything.

The problem is that the more we try to change, the less of a chance that any of those changes will stick, and quickly find ourselves drifting back into our old ways.

Building habits takes time and patience, and we only really benefit from trying to change up to three things at a time - more than that, and they all become harder to adhere to.

It might not seem like much, but taking every two weeks to begin working on a new habit can lead to 25 new daily habits in a year - that can be a total transformation in your daily routine.

4. Be flexible

Studies show that those who follow rigid diet structures can actually gain more weight, struggle more with adherence, and develop more disordered eating habits compared to those with a flexible diet structure.

Diet flexibility often means a case of attempting to balance out the books, in order to try to keep your calorie intake within target range.

Flexibility means we can still have some overindulgence, but is a means of allowing for moderation, not an excuse to go all out.

Incidents where calorie intake is higher or food choices are more loose can be accommodated by a little more strictness or control elsewhere.

Allowing ourselves to keep our favourite foods in our new diet leads to a greater likelihood of adhering to it, which sets us up better for sustainability in the long run.

5. Set yourself realistic targets

A couple of unfortunate truths...

One, building muscle is harder and takes longer than most people realize.

 Two, weight loss gets harder and slows down the more weight we continue to lose.

The common theme? This takes time!

We most likely have our ideal results as an image in our head, but it will often take us longer to reach that point than we actually realize.

Planning on losing two stone in six weeks? Not going to happen. We have to appreciate that the results we want will likely take us longer than we initially thought, especially if we hope to maintain those results. Patience is key.

6. Hit the weights

Weight loss doesn't have to mean hours of pounding away on a treadmill or enduring spin classes multiple days of the week - in fact, these methods, although they will help you lose weight, will likely not leave you with the bodyshape you desire.

Building muscle (or at least maintaining our current levels of muscle mass) will set us up much better for creating that shape as we lose bodyfat, and resistance training is our best way forward to help us achieve that.

Aiming to weight train between 3-5 days a week is a realistic expectation for most, depending on your lifestyle.

7. Don't forget about health

It's easy to get so caught up in working towards achieving our dream bodies that we tend to overlook what should always be our number one priority - our own health.

Many fad diets out there which promise quick results may help us lose weight quickly, yet are not only unsustainable, but they can also put our health at risk.

Attempting to power through extreme low calorie, low carb, or low fat diets can begin to take its toll on our hormonal health, whilst leaving us devoid of many of the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function efficiently.

8. Commit to it

Want me to make you feel uncomfortable? Half-assing gets us nowhere.

When something stirs up in us a desire to change, we must realise that change is a product of commitment, and we won't see one without the other.

Change is always possible, but only if we commit to making changes to achieve it.

Improving our bodies doesn't have to mean massive, sudden, extreme alterations to our lifestyle, but we do need to commit to making changes, otherwise the results we want won't come.

If we want change, we must commit to it.

Want to discover more ways to get your 2018 fitness goals off to a great start? Make sure to check out the Facebook Page for daily advice and tips.

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