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Lifestyle

Stay Healthy: Diet tips, fitness goals and mindfulness motivation

When it comes to firing up your motivation, ‘everything in moderation’ isn’t the most thrilling message. But when it comes to making healthy lifestyle choices you’ll actually stick to, slow and steady wins the race.

As we march into a fresh new year, it’s tempting to become overwhelmed with enthusiasm and attempt to change everything at once. But when so many resolutions lie in tatters by February, how about taking a new approach this year?

Here’s our three-pronged guide to making goals you’ll stick at in 2018. We like to think of it as resolution, not revolution.

1. Healthy eating for real life – snack swaps & smart take-outs

Grand goals of cooking every meal from scratch, going vegan or ditching carbs completely are all well and good. But when real life intrudes and makes you tired or demotivated, you’re more likely to give up if your targets seem like a steep mountain to climb.

Instead, opt for small changes that will make a big difference and try these smart tricks to stay on track.

Focus on the why

Most New Year’s Resolutions are all about the outcome. Instead of saying ‘I want to lose half a stone’, try focusing on the reason behind the goal. This could mean switching to ‘I want to fuel my body with healthy foods’. It puts the emphasis on the benefit, not what you’re missing out on.

Ditch the things you hate

Detest broccoli? Can’t stand salad? Make this the year you expel the worthy but negative from your life. Switch to healthy foods you do like. Suddenly the whole health kick seems much less of a chore.

Stop beating yourself up

Researchers from the University of Scranton followed 200 New Year’s resolvers over two years. Those who reported success had several things in common, including avoiding temptation and rewarding themselves on the journey to success.

But one of the main traits was believing in themselves. Those who hit the goals set realistic targets and, oddly enough, 71% of the successful resolvers did actually lapse in January.

But they didn’t let a slip scupper their goals. They picked themselves up, got back on track - and hit their target.

Snack switches

Admittedly, this takes a little planning. But if you have nothing to hand to snack on, that biscuit tin’s siren call will be impossible to resist. Package up little bags of almonds - they’re filling, delicious and packed with nutrients. Try freezing grapes - sounds mad but they’re sweet and you’ll have to eat them slowly. Opt for popcorn - three cups of air-popped corn will only set you back around 110 calories.

Trim your takeaway

Most of us fall back on takeaways from time to time. When you’re busy or tired - or just fancy a sofa snuggle, cutting takeaways altogether feels like another nail in the fun coffin.

Instead, just make smart choices. Avoid skinny chips, pies, deep pan pizzas, triple cheese with pepperoni pizzas, egg fried rice, prawn toast, creamy curries and naan. Switch to fish (don’t eat the batter), small, thin-based pizzas, pasta with tomato sauce, chicken chop suey, Szechuan prawns, stir fries, steamed fish and tandoori or madras chicken, prawns or vegetables.

2) Moving isn’t a marathon – Get out of breath every day & mix it up

Getting moving is the best gift you can give to your body. But whether you’re starting from couch potato status or stepping up your fitness level, we’ve got a few ideas to keep you active for the whole year ahead.

Move the goalposts

It’s too much to expect anyone to make enormous changes all in one big hit. Instead of shocking your body and mind with an avalanche of newness in January, schedule changes throughout the year. You’ll be much more likely to stick to them.

Be realistic

Want to run 10k by the summer? Don’t just plod on, bemoaning how far short you are of your goal. Break it down into a plan - apps are great for this - and tick off the achievements as you go.

Get out of breath every day

Full of resolve on New Year’s Eve, it’s easy to convince yourself you’re going to lace on your trainers every day and pound the pavements.

When it’s raining/you’ve got a headache/you’re exhausted/you’re late for work/you suddenly decide you need to wash your shower curtain, it’s not quite such an attractive prospect.

Give yourself a break and simply pledge to raise your heart rate and get out of breath every day. Take the stairs, dance round your living room, park further away, step up your pace...whatever you can do to make that change.

3) Mindfulness, inspiration & motivation

What’s going to carry you through to healthier habits? It’s all in the mind. Get your brain in the right place and the body will follow.

Reflect first

Before you dive headlong into the new year, take a few minutes to review the old one. Without judgement, identify your weak spots - and focus on finding ways to turn them into plus points.

What’s your word of the year?

Even if the details sometimes fall by the wayside, help yourself to move in the right general direction by choosing a word to sum up your goals for 2018. This could be something like ‘light’, ‘happy’, ‘calm’, ‘enriched’, ‘loving’, ‘focused’... whatever you want. Call it a theme to carry with you throughout the year.

Tackle stress

Whether it’s kids, work, traffic or so-called friends who get you hot under the collar, make that change a priority this year.

As the Mental Health Foundation explains, stress is damaging in the short term, raising your blood pressure and subduing your immune system. Over a longer period, it can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. Try mindfulness (the Headspace app is a great resource) or even just have a few breathing techniques at the ready, if the going gets tough.