Top tips to stick to New Year health and fitness resolutions

By Matthew Rollinson

Often, New Year resolutions involve changes to our health and fitness. What better way to inaugurate a new mental outlook than with a rejuvenated look? It may not always be that we want that beach body, but rather that we need to feel a sense of wellness; to wash away the excesses of the old year and to seek new beginnings.

We asked island health and wellbeing experts Kym Bailey, head personal fitness trainer at Seven Mile Fitness; Andrea Hill, holistic nutrition educator at Andrea Hill Holistic Nutrition; and Quinn McCrimmon, owner and instructor at Quinntessential Movement, for their top tips on how to stay motivated and stick to those New Year health and fitness resolutions.

Why do people tend to struggle to stick to NY fitness resolutions and diets?

All three experts note that the first thing to realise is that there is generally no quick fix. Lifestyle adjustments are not always easy to make so we need to accept and buy into the challenges ahead in order to effect meaningful change.

“‘People are trying to form new habits and habits take a while to stick,” Quinn explains. “Sometimes the changes can be hard and uncomfortable, make you sore, or take you out of your usual schedule, and so we naturally fall back to what we know, are comfortable with, or procrastinate and put off to do later.”

Kym adds: “A common mistake people make is to leap headfirst into an intense regimen and then injure themselves, burn out, or lose interest.”

Andrea notes that it is also important to be realistic with goals.

“People tend to struggle to stick to New Year diets because they are often too restrictive and people's expectations are unrealistic,” she says. “Diet resolutions also involve committing to lifestyle changes that people are not quite ready to make for the long term; the more restrictive the diet, the harder it is to maintain. So, there is often over-expectation on what is achievable, and, underestimation of what level of effort is really required in order to meet New Year goals.”

Top tips to help people who are struggling to stick to a new fitness regimen or diet

Quinn believes more thought needs to go into New Year resolutions. She says that often the reason people fail to stick to their new programme is that their "why" isn't meaningful enough.

“People need to figure out the deepest reasons for their goals and to remind themselves why they are wanting to make these changes,” she says. “Find something you look forward to doing. Something you enjoy. Maybe something new and possibly exciting. Don't overdo it in the early stages as too much too soon can be overwhelming and may result in quitting the plan. Create a challenge for yourself with a reward to enjoy if you meet that challenge.”

Kym also believes it is essential to pick something you enjoy doing and ease yourself in.

“Fitness should be for life, not just the first few weeks of each year!” she says. “You need to make your new workout schedule part of your daily/weekly routine. It should become part of your life and something you look forward to doing and miss if you can’t do it. The time of day you work out should be based on when you can commit to being able to complete your workout.”

Andrea believes that you need to be detailed in your approach.

“Log what you eat into a food diary or online food tracker,” she says. “Do this every day, including the weekends. Tracking your food intake can provide motivation and accountability. Keep unhealthy foods out of the house, or at least out of sight, at least in the beginning. It's harder to make healthier choices if you're constantly surrounded by temptation. Carry healthy snacks with you, especially when travelling and running errands. When people get hungry on the go, they typically end up grabbing whatever is available, and this is often processed foods and sugary energy drinks that don't really satisfy hunger.”

What can people who are struggling to find time, or are not enjoying their fitness routine or new diet do?

Both Quinn and Kym suggest involving a friend or friends. Working out together can be motivational and when one person struggles, their companion can offer support. It also helps to create a degree of accountability, as the process becomes a ‘team effort’ rather than a solo enterprise.

Quinn considers it important to nonetheless retain one’s personal accountability.

“We all have time; it's just finding the right time for you,” she explains. “Maybe you must get up earlier, or cut your lunch break shorter. Whatever it is you can find it at least a few times a week. It doesn't even have to be daily! It can be as simple as a 10-minute walk in the morning, lunch or after work, it doesn't always mean you have to go somewhere for an hour.”

Kym accepts that while life does get in the way at times, you owe it to yourself and your family to find the time.

“You will be happier, healthier and more productive if you just give yourself that window a few times a week,” she enthuses.

Andrea believes that it is also important to abandon the "all or nothing" approach and accept that it may not always go to plan.

“Slip-ups are bound to happen,” she says. “So, if you went a little off course with your diet at your friend's dinner party and indulged in a few unhealthy appetisers, that doesn't mean that your diet is ruined. Be kind to yourself and accept that things are not always going to go smoothly. Instead of considering the day ruined, try putting the past behind you and choose healthy foods for the remainder of the day.”

What other things can people do to create a healthy lifestyle and enhance their fitness regimen?

“Remember the key rule that what you put in your body affects what you get out of it,” Kym says. “Healthy eating and a good balanced diet will not only help you see results but give you more energy to get through your workout and enjoy it.”

Therefore, if your New Year resolution is a change of diet, you should also incorporate a fitness programme. If it is a fitness programme, you need to also consider your diet.

When it comes to diet, Andrea considers it essential to eat more vegetables.

“If there is one food group that energises, fills you up and helps you lose weight it's vegetables,” Andrea notes. “Most people sadly still don't eat enough of this awesome food group and miss out on not only healthy nutrients like fiber, potassium, folate, and vitamin A, but also the amazing health benefits they provide. Don't get stuck in the "salad or steamed vegetable" rut. There are so many other delicious ways to enjoy vegetables: roast them, grill them, add them to your favourite chicken or chickpea curry, stir-fry them, sauté them, add them to a hearty soup or chili.”

Quinn strongly advises getting enough sleep and rest.

“You cannot continue to hammer your body and expect to perform at a certain level consistently,” she cautions. “This goes for exercise but also for many aspects of life. Making sure your body gets enough rest to ensure proper recovery and repair.”

Quinn also extols the benefits of simply getting out into the great outdoors.

“There are many links between being outside and the positive impacts it has on your mental health and wellbeing,” she says. “Benefits include decreased stress levels, promotion of greater relaxation, boosts to your immune system functions, restoration of attention span and, if done in the morning, the ability to leave you feeling happy and energised for the day ahead.”

It seems that whatever your intentions are for the coming year, it is essential to find enjoyment and fulfillment in them. Be realistic, be strong! And what if all this fails? Well, there’s always 2021’s New Year resolutions!