Make 2021 Your Healthiest Year Ever

7 tips to improve your health and lose weight without dieting

Start the new year on the right foot!

New year weight loss is one of the top resolutions every year.  But many weight loss programs will result in losing weight in January, then a return to bad habits for the rest of the year. This year, why not take a different approach to new year weight loss, and make lasting changes which will see you through the next 12 months and beyond?!

Make a healthy start to 2021

It is the start of a new year, and 2020 has been a difficult one for many of us. Most of us want to start afresh for 2021, so what better time to commit to making lasting change and moving away from yo-yo dieting and feeling deprived? 

Becoming truly healthier is fairly straightforward if you make small, achievable changes to your lifestyle which will move you slowly away from unhealthy foods and habits and lead to a permanent shift towards good health.

By incorporating these good habits into your routine, you should find it easy to start this new year off in the right way and make the transition towards true health.

Click here to see our suggestions of essential resources for your health journey.

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1. Change Your Mindset

The first important thing to understand is that ‘dieting’ doesn’t work, and is not a good option for long-term weight loss. Diets usually involve restricting or eliminating foods, often based on calories or fat content, which will make you feel deprived. 

This can work in the short term, and weight loss will often happen in the initial few weeks, but they are very difficult to sustain and not particularly good for your overall health.

Up to as 80% of people who lose weight will gain it all back once they revert to eating normally. 

This leads to the never-ending cycle which many of us have experienced, of starving our bodies to lose weight, then overeating and gaining it back again. 

This is a destructive cycle to find ourselves in, and the only way to break it is a change of mindset.

chia pudding with berries

The purpose of changing the way you eat should be to achieve optimum health. Weight loss is simply a welcome bonus which comes along with good health. 

Your first aim should be to pack as much nutrition into your meals as you can, which will result in you nourishing your body, not depriving it. 

Even if you are still eating unhealthy food alongside nutrient-dense food, your body will thank you for it and your health will begin to improve. 

Eventually, you will find yourself CHOOSING healthier options and leaving the junk food behind naturally, rather than feeling like you are forcing yourself to give up the foods you enjoy.

2. Eat REAL food

If you only make one change to your diet, it should be this. Switch back from the over-processed, ‘fake’ foods that you have been eating in the name of weight loss, and go back to eating real food. Products such as butter substitutes, artificial sweeteners and low-fat dairy contain ingredients which are much more harmful than the original food which they replace.

fresh oranges growing on tree

Try and buy foods which you can imagine growing/living in their natural environment. 

For example, if you are eating beef, you know that it has come from a cow. You can visualise it living on a farm and grazing on grass. 

Compare that to a diet soda. Can you imagine that soda growing in nature?
I can’t! 

This can be a fun way to work out whether the foods you are choosing are likely to be nutrient-dense. Foods that are good for our bodies should be easy for you to visualise in nature, and the closer they are to their natural state when you eat them, the more nutrition they will provide.

 

Examples of real food include

• Unprocessed fruits and vegetables including leafy greens
• Nuts and seeds which contain important omega-3 fatty acids
• High-quality meat and fish, ideally organically reared
• Whole carbohydrates such as quinoa, sweet potatoes and chickpea

3. Add an extra portion of vegetables to each meal.

As we’ve already discussed, the key to shifting your diet in a more positive direction, without feeling deprived, is to ADD nutrient-dense food to your diet first. A simple way to do this is to add an extra portion of vegetables to every meal. 

This can be a fun way to start your healthy endeavours, as you can try new vegetables or new ways of preparing vegetables that you already like. 

For optimum nutrition, you should aim for leafy greens such as watercress and spinach, and rich coloured vegetables such as beets and tomatoes.

Here are some suggestions of vegetables to help you #eattherainbow

• Tomatoes, chillies, bell peppers
• Carrots, orange peppers, butternut squash
• Yellow peppers, sweetcorn, golden tomatoes
• Spinach, broccoli, french beans, kale
• Beetroot, aubergine(skin on), red cabbage, purple broccoli 

rainbow salad
basket of fresh vegetables

By incorporating a range of different coloured vegetables into your meals, not only will you get a huge variety of deliciousness (is that a word?!) but you will be giving your body a whole host of vitamins and minerals.

Adding more veg to your plate will also fill you up, making you less likely to snack and crave sugar. Eating a large portion of veg at lunchtime should keep you fuller for longer and help keep mid-afternoon cravings at bay.

Since we said add vegetables to each meal, that must also mean breakfast….so on to step 4!

4. Have a green smoothie every morning

A very easy and delicious way to increase the nutrition in your diet is to drink a green smoothie every single day. You can have them for breakfast, or replace your mid-morning coffee. The energy hit you will get from the smoothie will beat anything your morning cup of joe can provide! 

Homemade green smoothies are packed with vitamins and minerals, as well as being loaded with fibre to keep you full for longer. They taste delicious and should keep any sweet cravings at bay. 

Don’t be put off by the colour and the fact that they contain spinach! As long as you have fruit in there, you will not taste the spinach at all – but you will definitely get all of the health benefits it provides. Take the plunge today and you will wonder how you ever got through the day without your trusty green smoothie!

Check out our post on why you should have a green smoothie every day here!

5. Drink a large glass of water on waking and before each meal

glass of fresh fruit

This is such a simple habit to incorporate into your day, but such a vital one. In his book “Own the Day, Own Your Life”, Aubrey Marcus points out how ridiculous it is that the first thing most of us do as soon as we wake up, is to pour gallons of water over our bodies, without putting any inside. 

If you don’t deal with dehydration as soon as you wake up, the effects will stay with you for the rest of the day. These include feeling lethargic, dizzy and generally having less energy.

glass of water

Keep a large glass of water by your bed so that you can drink it as soon as you wake. This will immediately make you feel more alert, which can have a big impact on your morning. It can also help to flush toxins from your body and stimulate the bowels.

Drinking water on an empty stomach can also stimulate your metabolism and lead to consuming fewer calories throughout the day. 

Often the signs of thirst and hunger can be confused. Drinking a large glass of water 30 minutes before a meal is a good way to prevent overeating. If you are not fond of the flavour of plain water, try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime.

6. Go Meat Free one day a week

Although this may seem like a daunting task to some meat-eaters, having one meat-free day a week is a great way to reap the benefits of vegetarian food without having to make a huge lifestyle change. 

We started following Meat Free Monday a few years ago and now choose to have a few days a week where we don’t eat meat or fish. The benefits to the planet are significant too, so your conscience can rest in the knowledge that you have nourished your body while being eco-friendly at the same time!  

To find out more about Meat Free Mondays, check out Billy’s post here.

It is important to distinguish between avoiding meat and following a healthy, plant-based diet. Swapping a beef burger for a Quorn burger and polishing it off with a plate of chips and a diet coke is not going to have a positive impact on your health. 

The point of going meat-free once a week is to supercharge those days with high nutrient meals that are both delicious and nutritious. Plants-based meals also tend to be cheaper than meat, so you can save money too.  

For delicous weekly recipes and ideas, have a look at our Meat Free Monday recipe page.

Eating too much red meat has been associated with an increased risk of cancer and heart disease. Having a completely meat-free day every week will make sure you are cutting down on meat products and filling your body with live fresh vegetables instead.

You can, of course, choose any day of the week to give up meat. We choose to follow Meat Free Monday, which was started by Paul McCartney and has been endorsed by chefs such as Jamie Oliver, as it gives us a nice healthy start to the week, and we can spend time at the weekend preparing lunch and dinner in advance if needed, so there can be no excuses!

7. Incorporate exercise into your day – starting with just 10 minutes

January is famously the month when gym memberships go through the roof. However, there is no reason to jump into a punishing workout routine in order to increase your overall health.

In the same way as crash dieting in January will likely lead to over-eating in February, overdoing the exercise at the beginning of the year can result in burnout a few weeks later, especially if exercise was not previously part of your daily routine.

Instead, it is better to start slowly, by aiming to incorporate 10 minutes of extra exercise per day, which you can then increase gradually if you wish.

Here are my personal favourites for getting your heart rate up:

Walking

Walking is one the easiest and most enjoyable ways to get your required exercise for the day and is one of our favourite ways to get moving. We make sure to go for a brisk walk every day, no matter what the weather is like.  

Walking can be such a sociable way to exercise as well. You could convince your colleagues to go for a walk before lunch, so you can have a chat while you get your steps in. 

I did exactly this last January, and now a group of us go for a 10 minute walk every lunchtime. Why not treat yourself to an activity tracker and have a fun competition to see who can get the most steps in during the week/month? You don’t have to buy a fancy expensive one – this tracker is great value, has all the features you will need and comes in a variety of colours to suit both men and women.

Making sure to take the stairs instead of the elevator is another simple change which will make a big difference over time. 

The health benefits of walking include reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, lowering of blood pressure and stronger bones. Just make sure to keep a good pace and re-hydrate afterwards.

At home cardio workouts

You don’t need to hit the gym to get a good workout, if you have enough space you can easily do a whole-body workout in the comfort of your own home. 

My go-to gal is Jillian Michaels, and has been for years. I have purchased nearly all of her DVDs over the years and last year purchased her fitness app.

The app allows you to customise your own workout from dozens of different categories including kickboxing and yoga, and also allows you to access her library of DVDs.

If you have your own preferred workout DVD, then give that a go in your living room. Again, you can start with just 10 minutes a day and increase as you improve.

I prefer to work out at home before going to work as it gives me a great burst of energy to start the day.

Let us know in the comments below what your favourite at-home workout is.

yoga workout at home

Yoga

Yoga is a form of exercise that is often overlooked by those trying to shape up and lose weight. However the benefits of regular yoga practice are significant, even for beginners.

Yoga is a great way to de-stress and lower cortisol levels. Sugar and fat fuel the brain with feel-good chemicals, so in times of stress we often look to those foods to make us feel better. So yoga can help with weight loss by reducing the chances of us seeking out junk food in times of stress. 

Again, begin with just 10 minutes a day in the morning or evening and you will be surprised at how quickly your ability improves. Head over to Youtube and enjoy one of the many free yoga programs, and you will soon be enjoying lower stress levels, better posture and more restful sleep.

Finally, keep your fitness goals realistic and don’t compare yourself to others. Do you feel intimidated by those people on Facebook who are training for marathons and running 5Ks left and right? 

Setting health goals that also help others is great, but not everyone has the time for this. Aim to achieve a fitness target that suits you and your lifestyle and be proud of yourself for sticking to it

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Putting these small changes to your diet and lifestyle into practice will set you up for a January that will be full of energy and vitality. More importantly, it will continue next year and beyond. In my experience, the positivity you feel from eating and living well also has an effect on those around you. You may soon find others looking to you for inspiration and following in your footsteps.

Here’s to feeling the healthiest and happiest you ever have! 

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