OPINION: Seven steps to making May the month you get back in shape
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It starts with a haircut.
Have you had yours yet? Somehow, this one seems more important than any we managed to squeeze in between various tiers and lockdowns. Perhaps, prior to the vaccination programme, we were simply too reluctant to mix with people, to worry about how we looked.
Now, however, the haircut is essential. But, it turns out, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. As a friend said to me the other day: "I enjoyed it for about 10 minutes then I started looking at the rest of me!"
Do you know that feeling? Suddenly, everything’s opening up. We’re excited and nervous in equal measure about meeting friends, family and colleagues we haven’t seen face to face for ages. But though we’ve yearned for this moment, now it’s come, we’re taking a long hard look at ourselves, and feel an urgent need to smarten up.
For a start, what are we going to wear? 2020 was the year we forgot about fashion and occasion-dressing. As a consequence, loads of us haven’t bought a new outfit, or routinely worn anything without an elasticated waistband, for 14 months or more.
But buying clothes is a challenge for many of us at present because we’re carrying more weight than we were. And as we all know, there are no quick fixes when it comes to diet and fitness.
However, there are always ways to improve things. We can begin, right now, by taking baby steps towards a fitter, leaner, sprightlier version of ourselves – and these will gradually reap real benefits and help us feel readier to reconnect with life as it changes.
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1. If you don’t want to buy new clothes till you’ve lost some weight, treat yourself to something small like a scarf, tie, aftershave or a lipstick. You could do with a treat, so have one. It will perk you up.
2. At breakfast, swap toast or a sugary cereal for porridge. It’s great for providing a slow release of energy so you can get through the morning without snacking.
Eat it with salt the Scottish way. Or add some juicy fruits like blueberries.
A spoonful of honey is also fine, but don’t use loads of syrup or sugar. Porridge contains good stuff like Vitamin B1 and B5, phosphorus, zinc and iron. And if you’re keen to drop a few pounds, you can make it with water rather than milk.
I never tire of it. Sometimes, especially if I’m busy, I eat it twice a day!
3. Eliminate those biscuits that have got you through the boredom of lockdown. Eat fruit instead.
4. Add several more vegetables to your daily diet – preferably colourful ones. These will fill you up, provide fibre and vitamins, and help you cut back on the amount of high carb foods you may have been eating, in order to feel satisfied.
5. Try a short detox once a week where you confine yourself to fruit and water. But never do this for more than two days in a row, and if you have diabetes, or some other serious ongoing condition, only do it with the approval of your doctor.
In my Anglia TV days, some colleagues and I swore by a grapes and water regime if we needed to get into a posh frock later in the week! I seem to remember we consumed three pounds of grapes a day and drank at least eight glasses of water. And we did it for two days. It worked a treat.
We got the idea from Robert Carrier, the exuberant restauranteur and cookery writer who lived and worked in Suffolk at the time. He told us it was his go-to tactic if he had to shift a few pounds.
6. If you work at a computer all day, consider standing at least some of the time instead of sitting.
Try putting a little table on top of the desk you work at, then placing your laptop or PC on top of that. This is good for overall fitness, and for your back. And research shows it also helps us lose weight. Since I started this eight years ago, I’ve rarely had low back pain and I reckon my brain works better too.
7. Walk more and walk faster. This is the easiest way to increase your fitness. If possible, do this in the mornings as scientists claim that it’s more beneficial than exercising later. So, if you normally take your grandchildren to school by car, or you use the bus for work, why not replace the morning journey with good old Shanks’s Pony?
We all know that new habits take time, but adopting common sense tactics like those above will set us on the right track. Remember, every little helps.
At the beginning, Covid-19 seemed like such a huge threat, we feared we might not live through it. Tragically, we all know people who didn’t. We’re the lucky ones. So, let’s now live as well and wisely as we can, so we can enjoy our luck to the full.