Who says you have to wait until the New Year to go on a health kick? If all the rich festive food and alcohol is making you feel sluggish, start planning your new health regime now. Make small changes today, and you won't feel like you're going cold turkey in January.
Here are six ways to ease yourself into a new health regime.
1. Swap coffee for herbal tea
If you drink a lot of coffee, cutting out the caffeine completely can leave you feeling pretty rough. And if you're suffering with headaches, you're less likely to want to hit the gym come January. Start cutting back now by switching to decaffeinated coffee once or twice a day, or swap your afternoon cup of Joe for a herbal tea instead.
2. Eat more fruit and vegetables
Juicing may be all the rage, but there's no reason to eat your fruit and vegetables in liquid form. In fact, eating them in their natural state (rather than pulverizing them) means you benefit from the increased fibre.
"For example, you could add salad to your daily sandwiches, eat a portion of salad as a side dish to main meals or cook up a big batch of vegetable soup to eat before meals," suggests leading UK nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville.
3. Wean yourself off sugar with natural yoghurt
Nothing beats a dollop of cream with your Christmas pudding. While it's fine to indulge now and then, it's easy to get carried away over the festive season. Wean yourself off intense sugary snacks by eating natural yoghurt instead. Add a handful of berries or nuts, and a little cinnamon and sweetener to taste.
4. Eat smaller meals
It might be traditional to eat a huge turkey dinner at Christmas, but eating lots of food in a short space of time isn't good for the digestion. Begin eating smaller meals every three hours and you'll help prepare your body for the January diet.
5. Drink more water
Drinking plenty of water will help your body deliver nutrients and flush out waste. "Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink water, as thirst is – along with headaches and dark yellow urine (healthy urine is pale yellow) – a sign of dehydration," warns Dr Glenville.
Your body's need for water is constant and experts recommend that you drink between 6–8 glasses a day, more if you are sweating, exercising or if the weather is hot. Herbal teas count as a glass of water but drinks containing caffeine e.g. black tea and coffee, do not as they are dehydrating.
6. Get active
Finally, don't forget to exercise. Increasing your activity levels now by exercising once or twice a week will help ease you into a New Year's fitness regime. Start by taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes, two or three times a week, and then build up to walking and jogging.
For instance, you might begin with a brisk five-minute walk, then alternate 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking, for a total of 20 minutes. As the weeks progress, the time you spend jogging will increase. Jogging is a great way to lose pounds (a moderately-paced 30-minute run will burn around 300 calories), as well as helping to tone your legs and bottom and strengthen your core abdominals.
There are some great jogging programmes available online and as apps for iPhone and Android. The NHS's "Couch to 5k plan" is useful if you're just starting out. Set over nine weeks, it comes with a week-by-week guide on how long you should walk and run for each session and has free podcasts that you can download to your phone from iTunes.
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