In partnership with Vivienne Alexa
It's that time of the year where we enthusiastically start to set goals and resolutions, only to lose track later down the line. It got us thinking, what can we do differently to make changes in our lifestyle for the long haul? Local Holistic Health Coach, Vivienne Alexa, shares her thoughts on how to find your personal best by switching the focus to gaining health rather than losing weight.
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As we start another year, and set goals for what we’d like to achieve in 2022, are you feeling the pressure to lose? Lose the late night snacking, lose the extra glass of wine, lose the carbs, lose the extra pounds that have been creeping on? Whilst I think that New Year’s resolutions have the best of intent, they can often be too focused on the negative, the losing and the giving up. We often enter into them wondering how long it’s going to be before we fail. Sounding familiar? I think we set ourselves up for failure because we make drastic changes that seriously lack any joy.
What if we were kinder to ourselves, took it a bit slower and - wait for it - loved the changes we made? So as we embark on 2022, I challenge you to make this year, the year you gain. Gain health and gain happiness, for now and for the future. Here are my five tips and challenges to help you focus on gaining rather than losing.
First up is a mindset shift, and I appreciate this isn’t something that comes overnight. What does health mean to you? What the scales tell you, what you eat, how much you exercise, or simply not being ill? To me, it’s waking up every day feeling refreshed, full of energy and enthusiasm for what’s ahead. It’s about enjoying the way I move my body, loving the food I eat, and doing work that aligns with my values and purpose.
However, when health is spoken about in the media, there is often a tendency to focus too heavily on one metric: weight. And whilst being a healthy weight is important, howwe achieve it is just as important. Often, weight can be treated like a destination to be reached as quickly as possible, and by any means necessary. But health should be about the journey. It should be about taking the route and the pace that is right for you. It’s about making good decisions when roadblocks arise and, ultimately, enjoying the ride - instead of turning the car round and heading back where you came from.
GAIN: When you’re living, moving and eating in a way that works for you, there are so many other positive benefits to measure. Focus on the improvements in your energy, mood, skin, sleep and digestion, as well as gaining a more focused mind and just generally shaking off those nagging niggles.
CHALLENGE: Answer the question "What does health mean to you?"
Have you ever signed up for a new fitness programme because you felt it was the right thing to do, or because the latest influencer looks incredible for doing it? How long did it last? A few weeks? A few months? I believe that when we do what we love, it’s easy to keep doing it.
Maybe it’s the social aspect of a team sport or fitness class, the solitude and thinking time of a run, or going for a walk so you can listen to that podcast you’ve not been able to squeeze into your schedule. These little extras of socialising, headspace and time, all make a difference to why we want to do something. Take them away and you’ve lost the joy - and probably the motivation too.
GAIN: By loving what you do, you’ll find movement that makes both your body, and your mind happy.
CHALLENGE: Think about the kind of exercise you love. What is that 'little extra' that makes you love it even more?
We know that we need to brush our teeth twice a day every day to keep them healthy, because a consistent, proactive approach reduces the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. But when it comes to other areas of our health, we can be a little less consistent. It’s really important at this point not to confuse consistency with perfection. So, cut yourself some slackand drop the "I will never…" or "I will always…", as an all in / all out approach can lead to a vicious cycle.
Finding ways to establish consistency in a way that works for you and your lifestyle is key. When it comes to food, it can be helpful to use the 80/20 or 90/10 principles here. Choose a healthful option 80-90% of the time, then enjoy something a little more indulgent the other 10-20% of the time. You can apply similar principles to the number of days you exercise, the number of alcohol-free days, or any other health goals you may have.
GAIN: By taking a more balanced approach to your health goals, they will become more achievable, enjoyable and you will find it easier to be consistent.
CHALLENGE: Ask yourself 'Is there an area of my health that I would like to bring more consistency to? What is stopping me from being more consistent?'
We are bombarded with messages every time we pick up a product; the traffic light system, ingredients list, nutritional content, the 'Fortified with' or the 'Free-from', and not forgetting the convincing reasons we must buy it. Imagine if fruits and vegetables were packaged in the same way; the traffic lights would be green, the ingredients list a fraction of the size and the health benefits and 'Free-from' lists extensive. They're so good for you, they don’t need labels to convince you!
Packed with an array of nutrients, fibre and water, fruit and veg does so much more than bring colour to your plate. And although wholegrains, nuts and seeds have been processed and packaged for our convenience, they too bring us many health benefits.
GAIN: Eating a variety of minimally processed foods, as close as they can be to how nature intended, provides us with just about everything our body needs to function properly. And remember the list from ‘measure up’, you’ll start to experience those benefits in abundance.
CHALLENGE: Explore ways to fill your trolley and your plate with more foods that have fewer claims. They generally have less packaging too - it’s a win for you, and a win for the environment!
Busyness has become a badge of honour. The busier we are, the more we are getting from life. However, the busier we become, the more we are focusing on the future. What’s coming next? What do I need to plan? What mustn’t I forget? When we’re in the future, we’re not in the present and it becomes really difficult to appreciate the good that is happening right here, right now. A beautiful sunrise, a compliment from a friend, a smile from a stranger, or the innocence of a child’s take on life. The more we see and appreciate these moments every day, the more we will look and the more we will find.
GAIN: When you are living in the present and focused on seeing and experiencing the positive, life feels so much sweeter.
CHALLENGE: Try to take a moment to be thankful for something different every day.
"Hello, I’m Viv, a Holistic Health Coach, and co-author of From Plant To Planet. I love helping clients discover ways to live, move and eat more consciously, bringing them health and happiness now, and in the future. I believe health is truly personal and I work with clients to make sustainable changes (that they love!) to achieve long-term transformation.
For years, I suffered with terrible tonsillitis, hives, inflammation and fatigue. After trialling what felt like every diet and exercise programme, I eventually identified that I am severely intolerant to dairy and eggs. What works best for me is a home-cooked, plant-based diet and some form of high energy exercise everyday. I believe in going back to basics and that what’s good for us is also good for the planet.
I am a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and hold a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from e-Cornell."
"You will always be you, so don’t try and find a new one. Instead reconnect with yourself and find what it is that you want to gain, not just this year but in the years to come. Have these challenges got you thinking? If they have, I’d love to hear from you! I offer a free one hour health coaching session to help you explore your vision for health and happiness. You can reach me at email@example.com and follow me on Instagram and Facebook."