By Holly Barry
As we head back to work after the Christmas holidays, it’s fair to say that many of us have spent the past couple of weeks over-indulging. We may be quite good at sticking to diets or healthy eating targets throughout the year, but when Christmas arrives, our good intentions tend to fall by the wayside. With so many tempting treats on offer, like mince pies, party nibbles, rich liqueurs and all those chocolates, it’s not surprising that we tend to pile on the pounds over the festive season. In fact, the average adult puts on a full 1kg in weight over Christmas – the equivalent of an entire bag of sugar!
With the New Year comes new resolutions to shift that recently gained weight. Healthy eating offers so much more than weight loss – it’ll make you feel rejuvenated after the stodgier month, boost your general health, mental health, appearance and your self-esteem.
Helping your heart
Making a resolution to lose weight and eat more healthily will have an impact on your overall health, particularly your heart. Maintaining an optimum body weight and taking regular exercise can both help reduce the risks of developing cardiovascular disease.
The British Heart Foundation and the NHS recommend that adults try to achieve 150 active minutes a week, which is less than 25 minutes a day. For time to count as ‘active’, your activity needs to warm you up and make you feel a little out of breath. You don’t have to sign up for a gym membership though, as simple things like brisk walking, dancing or exercising at home can all count towards that target of 150 minutes of activity.
As winter is the busiest time for the NHS, with resources stretched to the limit, there’s even more of an incentive at this time of the year to get fit and stay healthy.
Healing your hair
We all know only too well how much damage the winter months can do to our skin, but we often forget about our hair at this time of year. Hair can suffer just as much during the winter – whether from lack of nutrition caused by poor diets over the festive season, or from cold, wet weather and the effects of constant central heating. There are plenty of things you can do to boost your hair’s health. Healthy eating can play a vital role in helping you achieve great-looking hair, with some foods providing essential nutrients and minerals to really strengthen your hair and make it shine. By identifying which foods can boost hair health, you can easily incorporate them into your healthy eating regime, for visible and long-lasting benefits.
Magnifying your movement
Adopting some simple lifestyle changes in terms of what we eat and how much exercise we take can have a really positive impact on our overall health and wellbeing. Our diet and activity levels can affect muscle strength, coordination, stamina and concentration levels, and even simple changes can have a dramatic effect.
Cutting down on sugary snacks and foods that are high in processed fats is a simple way to improve your diet. Going cold turkey is unlikely to be successful over the longer term, so instead, try to replace sweet treats with nuts and fruit, and try to adopt an 80/20 approach to what you eat. If 80% of your food intake is healthy, there’s room in the remaining 20% for the occasional sweet treat or indulgence.
It pays to approach exercise in a gentle way too, gradually building up the length of time you spend exercising and the intensity of the exercise itself. That way, you build your strength up and stay motivated.
Soothing your skin
Our skin is perhaps the most visible sign of Christmas over-indulgence and harsh winter weather. If you want your skin to look fresh and healthy, you need to pay attention to the foods you eat, as healthy eating can provide long-lasting benefits. All that processed food you ate over Christmas means that your skin has been starved of the minerals and nutrients it really needs. Crash diets won’t help restore your skin’s vitality, as they rarely offer a balanced intake of nutrients. Instead, concentrate on eating your five-a-day, making sure you get plenty of food that is rich in vitamins and minerals, such as spinach, sweet potatoes, blueberries and tomatoes.
Healthy skin also needs plenty of moisture, as without it, skin will quickly look dry, pale and taut. Ensure you drink lots of fresh water, and try to avoid sugary, fizzy drinks and alcohol. Keeping a bottle of mineral water with you at all times is a great way to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Healthy eating and regular exercise play such a vital role in keeping us in shape, both mentally and physically. We literally are what we eat, and bad habits can have an effect on our entire bodies inside and out. Trying to eat well and exercise regularly is more than just a New Year’s resolution – it’s a lifestyle change that we should all strive for, and one that will repay us every day for the rest of our lives.