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Hello again and a belated Happy New Year!

It’s the time of year when thousands of well intentioned people convince themselves, this is the year they are going to get healthy, fit, slim and happy!

Whilst I encourage everyone to strive to achieve all of those brilliant states, I also advise caution. Make your aspirations achievable. We tend to want everything now in this day and age, and with the minimal of effort and cost, which often thwarts the end results.

My humble advice would be, think twice, and then think again about what you want to change the most, write it down. Look at it again after a couple of days, amend anything you previously wrote down, leave it again for another day; then start to plan your journey. Take into account your lifestyle, in the sense of what time you have to dedicate to the task. Your finances, your true expectations, and a realistic timescale, and whether you can, or want to do this alone, or with a group, then off you go.

Should you want to be slimmer this year, and healthier from eating better, then this can be a lot simpler than you imagine. Eating wholesome real foods will help you shed the pounds and reward you with more energy, less potential headaches, better bowel, better sleep, better skin and hair and, have a less stressed physical body. So think about what you are eating on a normal day, and tweak it. Cutting down the amount you eat will start the ball rolling. Changing the snacking on sugary biscuits, chocolate to having fewer, and adding alternatives like, unsalted nuts, raw carrot, celery, an apple, banana, red grapes, or a pre-made health snack that could be fruit and nut based, or oat and seed based. These will have sugar in them, so you get your sweet fix, but will have nutritional value that will be adding to your ‘Health Account’, as opposed to depleting it with bad foods.

Your new regime doesn’t have to be drastic unless you want it to be, and have the will power, stamina and determination to follow it through. Eat more fresh natural foods, and less refined processed foods. Sometimes eating a little and often suits people better than three set meals when you tend to over indulge. If you want to stick to your meal times, then add more fresh foods like the vegetables, salads, nuts and cut down on the pastry, sauces, bread, gravy, keeping the emphasis on green steamed vegetables and raw foods. If raw foods is a new concept, eat in small quantities until your body gets used to it. Grated carrot, celery, spring onion, red cabbage and beetroot, with little mayonnaise makes a great addition to a meal. Be experimental with your choices; ginger root, leeks and stir fried greens takes minutes to prepare but full of goodness, cooked in a tiny amount of coconut oil. If cooking your vegetables always steam, stir-fry, or roast them, never boil them.

Exclusion diets can be tough and often do not give you the long lasting result you seek, so I would suggest you tweak what you eat now, favouring smaller healthier quantity and quality, than drastic changes. Eat more fresh natural foods, allow yourself a treat everyday, a biscuit or some chocolate preferably dark, and feel good about yourself, instead of feeling guilty when you need that treat.

You do need to check the labels on packets at the shops though. Many cereals are full of sugar, so look for Shredded Wheat for example, instead of the Cheerios, which should be banned in my opinion; sugar free muesli instead of the sugar laden granola cereal cluster types. Natural live plain yogurt that you can add your own blueberries or other fruit and nuts to, rather that the fruit yogurts which nearly all have added sugar. Live yogurts rather than non-live and yogurt-like deserts. There are hundred on the shelves nowadays, and nearly every single one is packed with sugar, such is due to our sweet tooth of today. You can get the sweetness from natural fruit, organic honey, it won’t take long for your tastebuds to accept the natural sweetness in foods rather than the added sweeteners. Avoid ‘diet’ foods, they are often nutritionally void and have artificial sweeteners added, none of which are good.

Drink more water, have smoothy nutritional rich drinks that are freshly made, and remember to “chew your liquids, and drink your solids” to help the assimilation of the nutrients from whatever you are ingesting. In other words, take your time to eat and drink whilst in the mouth. Don’t gulp your fluids, nor hoover your food from the plate. Take your time to chew solids until they are liquidised and mixed with all the saliva and enzymes needed for proper digestion. The same with fluids, take your time to drink it, rather than gulp the whole glassful in one action. The process of extracting all the nutrients out of what we eat and drink, essential for health, starts in the mouth, and taking that little bit longer to taste, and enjoy your food and drink is an excellent start to improve your overall wellness.

Breathe, stretch and walk. All of which are free and possible every day of the week. Breathe good and deep (see other posts on the importance of breathing correctly). Nice deep abdominal breathing everyday, will help calm your body so that it can assimilate the nutrients and digest your food better. Making the bowel work better and takes some of the stress from your internal workings generally. We naturally have to breathe to be here, so how easy is it, to make sure the breath is working for you and not against you. Breathing correctly is a key stone to total well being and cannot be over stated, it is an essential part of being healthy.

Stand up more often if you have a sitting occupation, just stretch, lift the arms over the head and stretch upwards. Roll the shoulders slowly and relax them and the neck. Bend over towards your toes, and dangle your body, allowing gravity to free tension from the spine. It also helps circulation to the brain. Bow your body forwards – standing up push your pelvis forward and gently stretch. This is particularly beneficial to people who sit for long periods of time, it creates an opposite stretch to how you will have been sat. Get into the habit of stretching whenever the opportunity arises through the day, then, particularly first thing in the morning, and last thing at night.

Walk more every day; if you already walk, give yourself bursts of walking faster so you get a work out. Proper footwear that cushions impact on the heel and supports your feet is better. Think about once a week at least, go for a really good walk, either in distance, or endurance. If there is a walk you can do that makes you sweat and increase your breath then you know you are working out! A walk that involves steps, or a hill, will naturally increase the calories used. This can be the highlight of the week, walk with family or friends, dogs, or by yourself, deciding where you are going to go, make it a social event, helping others get outside and enjoy the great outdoors too, it’s a win win situation.

Most importantly, your mental health is essential to wellbeing. So this year, make that a daily focus too. If you are happy and balanced in your mind, then everything you do will be  easier. You will be able to achieve more goals and targets when you are not battling against yourself. Those invented reasons for not doing the exercise, for really needing that extra chocolate bar, will be replaced with a kinder mental approach, not the guilt. If you really really need the chocolate, then have it. If you are in the right state of mind, that chocolate bar will be taken in your stride and you will automatically compensate with extra effort in your walk, or less sugar elsewhere in that day. It isn’t failure, it’s balance.

So have fun, laugh, sing and enjoy your life and do something exciting whenever you get the chance. Be kind to yourself, be true to yourself, and as long as you are gracious and truthful in your efforts, a healthier you will be waiting for you at the end of the year!