How to stick to your new year’s resolutions

Research by health campaigners Change4Life found that just 30% of women stick to their new year’s resolutions, with some of us lasting barely a week into January.

I want to… get fit
Gavin Walsh, personal trainer (bootcampathome.com)
“So many people join a gym in January and simply hop onto the first cross trainer they see. Unfortunately this bores them to death, they soon stop going and completely give up. So the first thing you need to do is arm yourself with some fitness knowledge. Speak to a fitness professional about the best exercise methods for you. Slow, boring cardio is not the answer.

“However, exercise is not the most important part of the puzzle. Nutrition is 60% of the battle. So if you’re going to clean up your diet this January you’ll need to make sure you accept this as a lifestyle change. Otherwise you will more than likely fall off the wagon. There is a price to pay and cutting back on wine, chocolates, crisps, fizzy drinks and refined food is the cost of a leaner, sexier you in 2012.

“Go at it as if it was all out war. Give your body just 28 days in January and then go back to doing everything in moderation. If you exercise with intensity and are strict with your diet, then you will see huge results, and this will spur you on into February and beyond. To overcome the end-of-January blues, make sure you have a goal in mind and write it down. Having set goals in place helps keep you focused and, once you’ve achieved them, simply write new ones.”

I want to… lose weight
Scott Murray, personal trainer (trainingbible.co.uk)
“With all my clients I like to know where we are starting from, where we are going and then plan our pathway on how to get there and what to do if we have to change route. It’s easy to say ‘I’m going to lose weight and exercise more’ but that’s not a plan that you can put into action. You need to know how many calories you intend to lose on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. You also have to consider what you will do when faced with the pudding that you can’t resist.

“With a clear, specific plan you have more chance of success, if you commit your plans to paper and share it with your friends, family and other members of your support team you have an even greater chance of success.

“If you do commit to a diet then be sensible. By shrinking portion sizes, most of us will lose weight, so let’s go back to basics. And don’t starve yourself. Very low calorie diets are used to treat severely obese patients, who are given as little as 800 calories a day. You’re not going to be able to exercise on this amount, so just eat more and be patient!”

I want to… stop smoking
Dr Rebecca Morgan, GP
“Stopping smoking is not easy and it often takes people four or five attempts to be successful. If your resolution is to quit then the best way forward is to choose a quit date and stick to it. Whether it is January 1st, or a random date later in the year, make sure you are physically and emotionally strong enough to withstand the cravings.

“Make it easy on yourself by not picking a time when you have a lot of social events in the diary. If you need support, be sure to surround yourself with good friends who will encourage you to quit. A good back-up plan is nicotine replacement patches. Better still, there are new drugs which halt cravings, though these require a consultation with your GP or at your local stop smoking clinic.

“If you successfully conquer the cravings, then you may develop a cough, but these symptoms will pass and you will know that you have done the biggest thing possible to improve your health in the future. For more information, go to patient.co.uk or smokefree.nhs.uk.”

I want to… stress less
Dr Felix Economakis, chartered psychologist (heaththerapy.co.uk)
To lower stress levels, and keep them there, you first need to raise activity levels, as exercise is known to work off stress. You also need to place limits and boundaries at work. For example, don’t let anyone walk into your office and take up your time unnecessarily or without a plan. Next, you need to place limits on technology use. Switch off your computer and phone when you’re not working, otherwise you’ll never be able to switch off from work. Make time for your hobbies, as these help to recharge your batteries and banish work from your thoughts. Finally, make time for relationships, as these are usually the most important thing to us.

“To make sure you actually stick to your resolution (and this doesn’t just apply to reducing stress levels), don’t overdo it with goals. Make them small and doable. So, come January, don’t try giving up all your vices in one go; do them sequentially rather than concurrently. Your system doesn’t want to feel overloaded. Change is more likely to be real if it happens gradually rather than dramatically. This will take a lot of pressure off you.

“It’s also sensible to get friends involved. Do things together, as this makes you responsible for upholding your end of the bargain. And, where possible, choose activities that you really like. You may burn more calories if you go to the gym as opposed to walking in the park, but if you hate it then you’ll soon stop going, so you might as well do something you know you will stick to.”

I want to… find love
Siski Green, author of How to Blow His Mind in Bed
“I don’t believe that you can truly ‘find’ love until you love yourself enough to feel worthy of being loved. Not only does confidence and happiness attract others, it gives you the self-respect you need to ensure you don’t just ‘make do’ with a partner who isn’t right for you.

“So if your resolution is to find love this year, start by making a list of things you love about yourself and another about things you’d like to change. Then focus your efforts on making those changes. Maybe you’d like to try a career change, learn a new language, find a different group of friends, or lose a few pounds, change your style, try a new sport. Removing the focus from ‘finding love’ not only means you’ll stop giving off that desperate vibe singletons sometimes have, it also means you’ll feel more comfortable and happy being single… which is exactly when you’re most likely to find love!

“Keeping love strong within a relationship is also based on the same principle – love and look after yourself and your partner is more likely to do the same. But it’s not all about you, obviously. According to research from Brigham Young University, couples who ‘play together stay together’. This means exploring new recreational activities together – whether that’s learning to ballroom dance or getting stuck into a game of lasertag – and also doing what you both love more regularly.”

I want to… drink less alcohol
Alison Duker, nutritionist, eatbetternow.wordpress.com
“Drinking less alcohol as a new year resolution can be easier than you think if you have hit the party season hard. Often, when January swings round, people are sick of the sight of the stuff and gladly make an agreement with themselves to abstain for the next four weeks.

“However, after a week or so, if you’ve had a hard day at work or argued with your partner, it’s tempting to hit the bottle and give up giving up. This is often a trigger to keep drinking and get back into your old patterns.

“So, to keep you on the straight and narrow, spend more time with friends and family who are detoxing or drinking less; avoid pubs and restaurants that will turn their nose up if you order water; allow yourself a day off from the sobriety now and again if it’s a special occasion – just stop after a certain number of drinks; nominate yourself to be the designated driver, so you can’t drink even if you wanted to; add citrus fruit to water as this allows water to be more easily absorbed; take up a hobby which replaces trips to the pub; avoid fizzy drinks, excess caffeine from coffee and tea, which diminishes the detoxification capability of the liver and, finally, if you fall off the wagon, get back on it again”