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You have enjoyed a calorie-filled festive season with plenty of helpings of mince pies, mulled wine, Christmas cake (and pudding with brandy butter), chocolates, and probably many other festive treats. Now you are looking at the waistline and noticing a bulge that wasn’t there before. The belt feels one or two notches tighter than it did in November. You have decided that it is time to shed the pounds and shape up. Here are the PG’s 10 top tips for losing weight post-Christmas.

1) Look forward not backward. The most important thing is not to beat yourself up about the weight you have put on over the festive season. We are programmed to eat as many calories as we can during the coldest part of the year and to store it as fat. It is an adaptation, still used by hibernatory mammals, to survive the freezing winters; in the wilderness you can never be sure of where the next meal is coming from and you need the fat reserves as a back-up as well to keep you insulated from the cold. Accept the extra winter poundage and look forward to a slimmer summer.

2) Keep your goals realistic. One of the most common mistakes people make with their new year’s resolutions is making unrealistic goals. Instead of setting yourself up for failure, keep your goals simple and realistic so that you can enjoy achieving them and feel successful, which will feed positivity into all aspects of your life.

3) Make a plan. Not only are people’s goals frequently unrealistic, but they are often plucked from the air at random e.g. “I will lose 10 lbs by the end of January!” How are you going to achieve this incredible feat? What happens if you fail? Much more important than setting up arbitrary goals is to have a plan and then to execute the plan, such as scheduling three 45-minute exercise sessions each week. Put these exercise sessions into your calendar and then all you need to do to stick to your schedule. The weight will fall off as a result. And if you miss a week, because you are sick or travelling, you just go straight back to your schedule the following week.

4) Move more, eat less. The simplest way to view losing fat is that you need to expend more calories than you consume. It may seem blindingly obvious, but if you keep this one and only goal crystal clear in your mind, you will be surprised how much of a difference it can make to the way you approach everything in life, for instance, walking the 2 miles to work when you would usually have driven, taken the bus or underground. Sitting reduces the body’s fat burning enzymes by as much as 90%, so stand, walk and move as much as you can!

5) Weigh yourself at regular intervals (e.g. every other day). Keep a record of the date and time of each weigh in. The simple act of noting down your weight will inspire you to make the necessary changes of eating less and moving more, and you will be further inspired as you see your progress written down. Find someone to share your data with, this will help you to stick to the task and make you feel more driven to show progress to your friend or partner.

6) Change the way you eat. This is very different from “going on a diet”, which implies that at some point the diet will be over and you will go back to your old habits, or, even worse, binge eat to make up for lost time! Instead, change your eating habits and your approach to food.

7) Cut out processed carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits and candy (sweets). You will have heard of “essential” nutrients such as amino acids, vitamins, minerals etc., well there is no such thing as an “essential carbohydrate”; we can gain all the energy we need from protein and fats. Try to get your carbohydrates from nuts and vegetables. If you are on a heavy exercise programme, you may need to increase your carbohydrate intake, in which case go for occasional rice and sweet potatoes.

8) Use exercise as an opportunity to achieve more. It is all too easy to think of exercise as time away from something else you would rather be doing. However, exercise is not only for the obvious goals of getting fit, losing fat and gaining muscle, it is also a chance to meditate; it is time away from work and time to focus on your body. You will also regulate your mind and body systems and encourage endorphin production. If you chose to do some extra walking, why not take the opportunity to listen to audio books? Think of all the reading you could catch up on!

9) Make a lifestyle change. Instead of joining the throngs of people herding into the gym for the month of January only to never return for the rest of the year, try making positive lifestyle changes that you can carry on indefinitely, or at least until next Christmas. This goes hand in hand with your new approach to eating. Making a lifestyle choice will give you positive vibes in the same way that someone might say that they are a “non-smoker” rather than they “quit smoking” or are an “ex-smoker”. You are who you choose to be!

10) Last, but definitely not least, enjoy it! Positive changes in eating, exercise and lifestyle need not be a chore. They will make you feel good mentally and physically. Enjoy those positive feelings.

The best of luck and may you all become the slimmer, fitter, faster, stronger versions of yourselves that you wish to be!

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