Small change, big difference

Forget complicated diets and exercise regimes. Keep resolutions simple and you are more likely to stick to them, says Rob Hobson.

Most of us have a good idea of what we want to change or improve for the New Year, but trying to alter too much, all at once, can be difficult and rarely works. Instead, it’s best to change a number of small things which, by themselves, are relatively easy to achieve but when taken as a whole can greatly improve your quality of life.

So make 2017 the year you…

Eat well

Being overweight significantly increases your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, as well as certain cancers. You will also feel better and healthier simply by carrying less weight.

Make breakfast your main meal of the day. Avoid snacking and keep sugary and highly processed foods to a minimum. Importantly, beware of the ‘empty calories’ found in alcohol and fizzy drinks – a common problem which can lead you to underestimate your daily calorie intake. Eat more fresh fruit, vegetables, raw nuts and whole grains while cutting back on salt, refined grains, refined sugar and fatty foods.

Fit in fitness

The list of benefits is endless. Exercise not only helps you lose weight, but is also good for your mental health, keeps muscles strong, stimulates blood flow, improves heart and lung fitness, lowers blood pressure and levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, reduces the effects of depression and helps improve self-esteem.

Exercise at least three times a week for about 30 minutes and the good news is you don’t have to join an expensive gym to do it. Try walking during your lunch break or take the stairs instead of the lift. If you are travelling a short distance, cycle or walk instead of using your car and consider parking further away from your office than normal to get some extra walking time. Make sure you choose an activity you enjoy and exercise with a friend if that helps.

Drink up

Your body is over 70 percent water and hydration levels are critical for healthy cell function. Staying hydrated lubricates the joints, boosts energy and helps prevent constipation, while a glass of cold water before a meal can help weight loss by reducing appetite.

Aim for about eight glasses of water each day along with other fluids such as milk, juice and moderate amounts of tea and coffee. How can you tell if you are well hydrated? A good rule of thumb is if your urine is a pale straw colour.

Say ‘no’ to stress

Chronic stress can lead to hypertension, poor digestion, a weakened immune system and many other problems.

Take a break from work if the stress becomes too much to handle and remember that not many people’s last words are, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office!’ Try yoga, deep breathing and meditation techniques and take regular breaks in your day devoted to ‘me’ time – if only for five minutes. The secret is to deal with stress sooner rather than later.

Sleep right

Sleep deprivation has been linked to stress, depression as well as problems with immunity and obesity. The average amount of sleep needed is seven hours but everyone is different, with women sleeping about 15 minutes longer, on average, than men. You’ll know you are getting the right amount when you wake feeling well rested, ready to go and don’t feel sleepy during the day.

Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, including weekends. Use your bedroom as a place for sleep and sex and not as somewhere to work or watch late night movies. Switch off televisions and computers 40 minutes before bed so your body clock knows it’s time to sleep. Avoid eating and drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks late in the evening and don’t exercise just before going to bed

Did you know?

Naps can boost brainpower and make you feel more alert, but late afternoon naps can interfere with night- time sleep. Don’t nap after 3.00pm.

Nurture relationships

Research suggests that loners are twice as susceptible to illness than people in a relationship or socialites. Studies suggest that regular hugs lower blood pressure and heart rate while couples report their general health is ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ – higher than single people – suggesting that emotional support increases wellbeing.

Take a deep breath and go out and meet people. Tell your family and close friends how much they mean to you – don’t wait until it’s too late. Remember too, that sex is not only good for you physically but also mentally, helping to lower stress levels and boost your immune system.

Stub out for good

Quitting smoking is the single biggest thing you can do to improve your overall long-term health and it is never too late to quit – however old you are or how long you have been smoking. Health benefits include more energy, better circulation, improved sense of taste and smell plus reduced risk of heart disease and lung cancer.

There has never been a better time to stop smoking, as new treatments are available from your GP or local stop-smoking service to help you quit. Your pharmacist can also give you advice and help on over-the-counter products.

Watch your tipples

The good news is that moderate alcohol intake – one to two standard drinks a day – appears to be good for your health, especially if it is red wine, which is full of antioxidants. However, there is a fine line between just enough and too much, so check your intake. Always try to stick within weekly recommendations of 21 units a week if male and 14 units a week if female.

Aim to have two or three alcohol-free days a week and use a pub measure if pouring drinks at home – many people pour a triple at home believing it to be a single. Another good tip is to try drinking spritzers or having a soft drink between alcoholic drinks if you’re out socialising.

Stick to it

Make a list of your goals and why you want to achieve them. Stick it where you’ll see it regularly. It’ll help you stay focused and avoid moments of weakness.

  • Be realistic. Don’t try to change everything in one go.
  • Tell a good friend about your resolution so they can support you and keep you focused on your goal.
  • Remember that it’s human to fail every now and then – don’t get discouraged.
  • Keep reminding yourself why you have made your resolutions and, don’t lose sight of the end goal.

Rob Hobson is a registered nutritionist and Healthspan’s head of nutrition. His new book ‘The Detox Kitchen Bible’ is available on Amazon or visit for more recipe ideas.

Last modified: June 10, 2021

Written by 4:23 pm Health