Here we are again. The mad blow out of Christmas and New Year (or maybe the whole of December), immediately followed by the inevitable guilt or shame that follows - meaning we come to January 1st feeling the need to change our bodies, our lives, our habits.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think setting ourselves goals and challenges is great. It’s a way of pushing ourselves outside of comfort zones, trying new things and enhancing our lives. But the perpetual cycle of ‘new year, new me’ really does my head in. As if the only time we should reflect on our lifestyles or health is immediately after a period of the year full of excessive food, wine, often a lot of stress and possibly not that much activity.
Adverts shame us for getting fat. In fact the fat shaming goes on all year but it started on December 1st on my Instagram feed this year. ‘WOMEN OVER 40 HAVE A GUILT FREE CHRISTMAS’. ‘BEAT THE CHRISTMAS GUT’. It’s almost all aimed at women and honestly, the coaches that continue to advertise like this should be ashamed of themselves - are we really not past this now?
The dieting will begin, we’ll be miserable for a few weeks on a hugely restrictive diet, isolated from our friends because we’re doing dry January and cannot face the pub without alcohol and sad because it’s still dark outside.
So what could you do instead of New Year's Resolutions that might actually enhance your life? Here’s just a few ideas.
1. Not doing everything on January 1st.
Diet, exercise regime, meal prep, new hobby, walk 10,000 steps, read a book, write a journal. That sounds like a lot to cram into one day when you’re possibly hungover or just tired from staying up til 1am. Instead, I’ll be doing these things when I WANT to start doing them and not because society tells me that January 1st is the best time to do it.
Instead, maybe just go out for a walk, have a bath and get your things ready for work the next day so that when you wake up on January 2nd you can sleep in as late as possible - safe in the knowledge you just need to get dressed and brush your teeth.
2. Build your weekly exercise gradually or find a coach/program to help you.
If you are completely sedentary, going in for a super intense 2 hour gym session with an over zealous personal trainer (and expecting to be able to repeat it twice more that week) is an awful idea. Instead, opt for SIMPLE training sessions that focus on just a few things and repeat them once or twice every week from now until March. Focus on getting really good at those few things and I guarantee you’ll make way more progress than if you do one novelty session every three weeks because you can’t walk for five days afterwards.
If you find that difficult, get a training buddy so that going to the gym becomes a social event and you’ll have someone to push you too. Click here to read my previous post regarding training for beginners.
If you want a truly social, supportive, fun and encouraging gym environment then join one of my women’s training groups! Fill in my enquiry form here and I’ll get in touch with some more details.
3. Have a go at a new sport! (or revisit an old one).
A significantly easier way of getting some exercise done is by playing a sport (my choice would always be team sport). You might make some new friends too! If you don’t enjoy it after a couple of sessions, don’t go back - it’s that simple. You might get lucky the first time and find something you really enjoy but if not, give it a few weeks then have a go at something else. Remember, not everything has to be done in January!
Fancy giving rugby a go? York RI has four fantastic sections for senior rugby with the Women’s, Templars (Inclusive Team), Men’s and Touch Rugby. There’s a section for everyone to have a go, whether you fancy playing contact or not. You’ll have a fab run around but you’ll also be part of an amazing community and club.
4. Skip the diet or restrictive meal plan. Simplify and explore with food instead!
A pet peeve I have had this year with social media’s ‘nutrition coaches’ or those selling meal plans is this incessant need for everything to either be a massively complicated ‘fake away’ or ‘volume eating’ where you bulk your meals out with huge amounts of veg and eat til you’re uncomfortably full as if that’s gonna help you with your habit of overeating.
This idea that every meal needs to be ‘naughty’ or ‘indulgent’ or feel like a treat is probably a huge factor in why many people struggle to lose body fat. It’s almost as disordered as restrictive eating. Sometimes, simple is best and it will take you significantly less time to make eggs on toast for lunch than a full blown ‘fake away’ McChicken Sandwich. That instagram reel whipped it up in 30s. You’ll waste your entire one hour lunch break.
I’m not suggesting food shouldn’t be enjoyed. On the contrary! I love food and I love cooking but I also love fish fingers with beans occasionally. You just might find that stripping back your day to day eating actually helps you really appreciate and enjoy the more indulgent meals when you have them. Just make sure your protein intake stays high and you’ll be satiated til the next meal.
Why not try to choose one new recipe to do once a week or two weeks. Explore with new flavours, cooking techniques, seasoning, textures etc and then enjoy it. If it goes wrong, that’s ok! Stop over complicating your breakfast and lunch. Keep it simple, season it well and stop staring at your emails whilst you eat it. If you’re sick of bland vegetables, experiment with different side dishes instead! This recipe for green beans in a tomato, cumin and garlic sauce is one of my favourites from Ottolenghi’s book SIMPLE (although we never bother with the tofu): https://www.jamesbeard.org/recipes/tofu-and-haricots-verts-with-chraimeh-sauce#
5. Stop making all your goals about fat loss, weight loss or changing your body to make it smaller.
How about this year you just focus on being consistent, getting stronger, better at your 5km run time or something else that’s just about movement for the joy of movement. I stopped selling ‘fat loss’ to my clients almost two years ago and I honestly think that’s why people stick around for so long in my gym. Exercise becomes social, fun and about growth - adding things. Rather than just exercising to burn calories or because you over ate yesterday. Chances are, you’ll see the changes in your body that you desire anyway and you can always focus a little more on fat loss later down the line.
Give your mental health a break this year and stop solely exercising to lose weight. Find joy in movement and see where that takes you this time!
6. Spend more time outside.
Ok this one reads as a New Years Resolution but I think it’s the best thing that we can all do for ourselves this year. There are numerous health benefits from being outside, around trees, looking at nature. It might help you get more creative too! So spend time in your local park, walk by the river (unless it’s flooded), take a bus at the weekend to somewhere a little further afield and just explore. A packed lunch and flask of coffee never tasted better than when you’re sitting on a log in a nature reserve after 2 hours of wandering around. Trust me.
7. If Dry January seems a little bit too much for you, try just drinking lower % beverages or simply not staying out so late.
I think Dry January is a great idea in general, made a little more manageable because there’s probably one or two people in your friendship group doing the same thing - moral support! However, if that feels a little overwhelming or you think it might be so restrictive that it would lead to a huge binge in February then why not try adjusting your drinking habits a little? You could try…
Leaving early: no good decisions happen in the pub past 10pm anyway because that’s usually when the shots come out. So say your goodbyes, down half a pint of water on your way out and get into your bed safe in the knowledge that tomorrow you’ll enjoy the day without a hangover!
Drinking lower percentage beverages: stick to something below 3%. I love craft beer but many of them are so high in alcohol that I’m pissed after two!
Stop buying rounds: it’s really simple, just say no thanks. That way you can drink at your own pace AND you’ll save your cash.
British people seem to have this bizarre relationship with booze where social events cannot function without it. I’m going to try more social events this year with just one drink of wine or beer that I really fancy. If there’s nothing on offer that I don’t want to try or know I love, I’ll stick to a soft drink instead.
8. The most important ‘non resolution’ of all - no expectations!
This means that you can do all the things you want to do, try new sports or ways of exercising, try keeping a journal, get out for a few more walks, eat more vegetables - just entirely on your own terms and you won’t feel shit if you don’t stick to some arbitrary number you made up on January 1st when you were feeling over enthusiastic about overhauling your entire life.
Don’t say: I’m going to only eat chicken and steamed vegetables seven days a week.
Do say: I’m going to try some new recipes to make vegetables more delicious.
Don’t say: I’m going to go for a 5km walk and spend 15 minutes meditating in nature every single day.
Do say: Perhaps I can walk the longer, more scenic route home from work when it’s nicer weather and pause on a park bench to listen to the birds if I have time.
Don’t say: I’m going to give up chocolate and crisps forever.
Do say: I fancy some crisps so I’ve bought this single pack of Walkers from the shop. I’m going to enjoy scoffing them with my lunch today because I forgot my usual vegetable or higher protein snacks.
Don’t say: I need to run for 40 minutes on the treadmill to burn x amount of calories.
Do say: I wonder how far I can run in 40 minutes if I keep at it and try to improve just a tiny bit each time?
Just do what you can, when you can, if you make resolutions keep them small and open - focused more on enjoyment, consistency and growth rather than just restriction. Or do nothing at all, move into 2024 expectation free and if you fancy doing something in March? Go for it!
If you want to join my little gym community, here’s your chance! I have multiple spaces within my women only training groups available at the moment so drop me an enquiry to learn more.
If you’re not quite ready to commit to a training group, how about giving some classes a go?
Check out our timetable, run by myself and two other fantastic coaches called Dan and Charlotte. We have classes for all abilities, ages and we can cater for most injuries/make suitable adjustments. You can use the code FIRSTCLASSFREE to get your first single ticket absolutely free of charge or you could get a full 30 day unlimited classes pass for just £25 (full price is £50) by using the discount code 50JANUARY2024 at the checkout.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!