When it comes to the whole “New Year, New You” fitness regime resolutions, the hardest part can be sticking to it, without alling back into bad habits.
Three months into 2017, the number of gym memberships that have either lapsed or are not being used at all, have no doubt sky-rocketed as people ditch the treadmill and let their training gear gather dust.
Expert nutritionist, Areen Abuhejleh, from health insurance firm Daman, believes there’s a simple reason why people fall off the workout wagon – motivation.
“Often, when getting active and changing your lifestyle, you don’t see any major change in your weight, even if you are doing everything right,” she tells Time Out. “You’re still losing body fat, but gaining muscle mass at the same time, so the scales might not be a good way to judge at times.”
What you might not realise is that this switch from being active, to suddenly stagnant can be caused by binge eating – on healthy foods. Abuhejleh suggests such bingeing is akin to a junk food addiction.
“Eating plenty of nuts, salads, fruits and clean food, can often lead to people craving treats more than usual – and more often than not, leaving the good stuff for the bad,” she says. “It’s important to treat yourself from time to time, as it acts as a motivation to train again and eat healthier for the next meal. The trick is to ease yourself into your new healthy eating plan week by week, without bingeing on healthy food.”
If you can cut out all that scoffing, you’ll have more time to get active. But don’t be daunted by the prospect of changing your lifestyle, as even the little bits of exercise can add up to a healthier you.
“Try to use the stairs at work instead of the lift and try not to sit in front of your computer screen for more than 30 minutes at a time,” explains Abuhejleh. “Even park your car five to ten minutes’ walk further away from your office to get the blood flowing before and after your working day.”
The UAE-based nutritionist recommends 30 minutes of activity a day. However, if you don’t have time to spare or are feeling demotivated, break this up into a 15-minute workout in the morning and one in the evening before slowly building up the load.
Daman, for example, runs a number of fitness-based events during the year, with the Color Run and the Electric Run calendar highlights bringing the fun factor to pounding the streets. But, apart from signing up to a fun run, here are Abuhejleh’s other top tips to make a real change to your health:
• Get motivated by trying a group class or outdoor bootcamp. These groups are a good way to keep you active and meet like-minded people who will be committed to similar (if not the same) goals as you. Changing your exercise routine can also help, as a familiar pattern often leads to boredom and a lack of motivation.
• Your body needs rest. So, often, people overdo exercise in the first few weeks, leaving their body sore, fatigued and, ultimately, demotivated. Your body needs a one- or two-day rest between training sessions, with a good eight hours of sleep.
• The most important thing is that your goals need to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Focusing too much on physical activity or a diet plan isn't achievable and would put you off in the crucial early weeks.
• Find a motivational partner. Some people can train on their own, while others need buddies to work out with, giving them that push to exercise or feel committed. Find a partner who has the same aim as you and will be with you through the journey.
• Reward yourself. From time to time, a treat is good for you once you’ve achieved a goal. A food reward, which may not be overly healthy, not only satisfies any cravings you may have, but will spur you on the next day to get back to training and eating well. And rewards are different for different people. It could be a weekend getaway, a cinema trip with popcorn and fizzy drinks, family time with snacks and treats – the main thing to remember is you need to work hard once again to justify another reward.
For a full list of ActiveLife by Daman events, visit www.damanhealth.ae.