Step Forwards

The Little Things

A few days into the new year my partner announced that “once we have eaten the Christmas food, I am going to get fit.”

I appreciated his sentiment. The years of trying to restrain myself completely over the festive period are well behind me, and consequently, through the month of December, my usually reasonably healthy diet is punctuated far too frequently with dips in the quality street tin, visits to the mince pie box and meals comprising primarily of cheese.  However, the choice of words bothered me.

“Why can’t you start to get fit whilst still eating Christmas food?” I asked.

“There’s no point. I’ll just be eating all the calories back on.”

“But you didn’t say you were trying to lose fat.  You said you were trying to get fit.  You can start that now.  In fact, now would be a great time to start building muscle whilst you are still in a calorie surplus. Then when you start cutting you will have more muscle to work with.”

The all or nothing approach to the New Year has always bothered me.  The thought that somehow as Big Ben chimes and fireworks start exploding across the country, your mindset and years of conditioning will somehow slide away and a whole New You will emerge is very appealing, but highly unlikely. It’s also very dispiriting to find that you haven’t overnight developed better time keeping skills, discovered the ability to cook from scratch every night, or found an extra hour in the day to meditate, read, write, sew, paint and all the other things you think you should do to become the ‘best version of you.’

When your plan is to lose weight, lose fat, get healthy or get fit, it can be even harder.  It’s dark, it’s cold, Christmas comfort food is still everywhere, the gyms are so rammed you can barely get in even if you are motivated to do so.  It is oh so easy to think it is all or nothing and chose nothing.

And if you chose all? So many people try to diet and increase exercise simultaneously. The result? Increased energy expenditure with decreased energy input. This will make you more tired. It will make the exercise harder, and if this is a new routine for you, then the likelihood is that as you get more tired you will get less motivated. This can then lead to a reversion back to the ‘nothing’ approach, however much you try.

So do I have a magical solution? No, absolutely not. But the way I approach things is little by little. Because I like to exercise, in January my main goal is to try and establish a routine that is going to work for me and be sustainable. Exercise helps you to build muscle, increases your metabolism, and gives you some of those endorphins that are so vital to get you through the dark, cold days of January.  If you keep working through that Christmas cake, and believe me I do, then you are less likely to actually start losing weight, but you will have built a foundation. Then as the months go on, you can add little things to make a lasting difference, as opposed to that all or nothing approach that only gives you a 50/50 chance of success.

My other advice is to not confuse ‘fit’ with ‘thin’ or ‘healthy’ with ‘undereating.’ Cutting calories does not make you ‘healthy,’ and exercise with the sole aim of burning calories is not going to have the desired effect. So, take this year slowly and with consistency. Remember any resolutions you make are New Years resolutions, not New Days.  You have time.

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