How to beat two of Britain’s most common vices this New Year
It’s now just a few short weeks until the end of the year. As we say goodbye to 2016 and look forward to the coming year, our thoughts inevitably turn to New Year resolutions. A recent YouGov survey found that 63% of Brits intend to make a New Year resolution, with more than a third of respondents acknowledging that their resolutions had usually fallen by the wayside by the end of January. No matter how many times we have tried to stick with a resolution in previous years, we all like to try again each year, eternally hopeful that this year things will be different. For many, resolutions tend to focus on health-related issues, such as eating more healthily, losing weight and giving up smoking. Let’s take a look at how to tackle the two most common resolutions, to maximise your chances of success.
Why make a resolution?
At some stage or other in our lives, most people are conscious that they could do more to look after their health. Throughout the year, we somehow put those thoughts to the back of our minds, and do nothing about them. As the New Year approaches though, we have time off work for the festive period, and we start to look forward with optimism for the year ahead. That optimism gives us the impetus to set those goals, but to succeed we really need to plan a little on how to stick at it.
Resolving to eat healthily
Many resolutions to eat more healthily or to lose weight are driven by the excesses of the Christmas holidays. On average, we consume an astonishing 7,000 calories on Christmas Day, so it’s perhaps not all that surprising that come the New Year, gyms and health clubs are packed with new customers, determined to change their ways.
For many people who resolve to eat more healthily, January 1st will come as something of a shock. The vast majority of people have no idea of their daily calorie intake, or how to understand food labels. With little or no planning, it’s not that surprising that so many of us fail in the first few days of our resolutions.
The NHS actually recommends breaking down your resolution into more manageable and more measurable chunks, to increase your chances of success. Planning ahead of New Year’s Day will give you time to research meal plans for the first few days, and to buy in any food you might need. Rather than setting unrealistic goals, it’s better to set smaller, more achievable goals. So, instead of resolving to lose a stone in a month, why not resolve to lose 1lb per week for 14 weeks? Having smaller goals with smaller timeframes will help you keep momentum and will give you a sense of achievement.
Aside from dieting, the other food-related resolution that many of us make is to eat more healthily and more cheaply. All too often, we fall into the trap of believing that supermarkets offer the cheapest and best food, when in fact this isn’t usually the case. By buying locally, from independent butchers, greengrocers or farm shops, you can buy fresh, seasonal produce in the quantities you actually need, rather than the pre-packed quantities that the supermarkets force us to buy. If you’re unconvinced, do your own field research and shop local for one week, to see the difference in quality and price. As well as sourcing fresher food at better prices, you’ll see the additional benefits of less food waste and reduced food miles, and you’ll be putting money into your local economy.
Resolving to give up smoking
Every year, thousands of people resolve to give up smoking. Given that almost a third of all deaths in the UK are attributable to smoking, it’s not surprising that so many people want to quit. Even if the health benefits of giving up smoking don’t hit home, the thought of how much money you spend per year on cigarettes might do the trick – on average, each smoker spends over £2,500 per year on the habit.
Going ‘cold turkey’ is the least likely way to succeed, when giving up smoking. Again, you need to plan your strategy to have the best chances of permanently quitting. Consider using patches or gum, or even switching to e-cigarettes. Vaping, or e-cigarettes, could one day be available on the NHS to assist smokers to give up, per a 2015 report by Public Health England. Whichever means you choose, it could also help to have a friend give up at the same time, so that you can stick at it together and motivate one another. Do tell your friends and family that you’re quitting too, so that they can be supportive and aware of what you’re going through.
Whatever resolutions you make this year, with a little forward planning and a clear strategy, you could dramatically increase your chances of success. 85% of people who quit smoking at New Years are still going strong 6 months later, which is surely proof that short term pain can bring long term gains. It’s also worth looking at your New Year’s resolution success as part of a wider picture. Doing well with a resolution to eat more healthily and lose weight could see you taking up a new sport or hobby, getting out more and meeting new friends, for example. With luck, some solid planning and a little determination, your actions on January 1st could kick-start a whole new you!