This year my New Year’s Resolution was not to give up anything!
The barrage of adverts on social media this January about how much weight we could all lose if we gave up this or that or went on some bonkers diet was exhausting and I can’t help but wonder by now how many people will already have given up giving things up.
This constant pressure to be thinner, to exercise more to not eat meat or drink wine or eat sugar or junk is boring and it adds stress to our already crazy lives. Can we all just give ourselves a break!
A year ago, I started working with personal trainer and women’s mentor Nicola Sinclair – the end goal wasn’t to lose weight but to increase wellbeing. It has been a huge eye-opener and I’ve learnt an awful lot. I have lost weight too but for once I’ve kept it off and I haven’t given anything up.
The main thing I’ve learnt is just what a massive impact stress has on our health – when you’re stressed your body releases the hormone cortisol, your blood sugar levels go up and you tend to crave less healthy foods.
That fight or flight response which has helped humans survive and evolve – that feeling of adrenalin and being on high alert had become a permanent feeling to me as I juggled two children and a business. I worked late every night, my sleep was usually disturbed by a toddler and my days were spent racing around, checking emails on my phone in rare quiet moments and basically running full pelt.
It isn’t healthy to live like that – actually stress makes you more likely to put on weight and it’s a contributory factor in diabetes and Alzheimer’s. A good night sleep has huge restorative effects, it lowers our blood pressure, relaxes our muscles enables tissue grown and repair to take place and restores our energy.
So, the fist thing I changed was getting to bed earlier – my workload doesn’t allow that every night - but I make it my mission at least three nights a week.
I’ve also started building in time away from screens. I lounge in the bath once a week, I go jogging and I often leave my phone in another room while spending time with the kids. There’s much more I could do of course but the demands on my time that come with being a working mum remain.
With an hour of personal training once a week I began to get fitter – I discovered how exhilarating boxing could be and, having lost a little weight, running which has always been my thing became easier.
I still eat my fair share of junk and enjoy a glass of wine more often than I should, but I have seen how much more energy I have when I eat healthily. I take a probiotic before bed when I start to feel run down and I think it helps. I haven’t got the willpower to go the whole hog… poached egg on bed of wilted spinach for breakfast is enough to make me barf at 8am but a bowl of muesli seems a good compromise!
A couple of weeks after I reduced my carb intake, I started to crave less starchy foods – it isn’t a major switch but has been enough to keep the pounds off.
It has been a steep learning curve and some exercise/food suggestions are a step too far for me. But a year on I’ve found my middle ground and, when the stress starts creeping back in, I know what’s needed.
Little adjustments and lifestyle changes and an understanding of the physiological impacts of stress and sleep deprivation have changed my outlook.
It’s much harder to make a radical life change such as giving up sugar, alcohol, meat or dairy but a couple of minor adjustments here and there can have a big impact and be easier to maintain.
Another local mum (pictured below) who worked with Nicola to improve her wellbeing, described her journey as "fun" and "not one of restriction or omission." She added: "By almost reprogramming the way I feel about my diet and exercise I have been able to make informed choices about the food I eat.
"I have almost retrained my taste buds and can now factor in how food will make me feel afterwards, which in turn helps me make the right dietary decisions.
"Losing weight was my original goal but I believe I have achieved more than this."