human:KIND – Getting Back on Track In The New Year

Welcome to human:KIND – our regular space to chat about the things that make us human. This time Paul offers some advice to help with the Festive aftermath.

A Belated Happy New Year you lovely Geeks!

I hope you had an enjoyable and/or peaceful Christmas and New Year. Sadly, the break is over and for many work/school resumed this week. The holiday season can be a time of great change and getting back into one’s usual routine can be a slog. I’m not just talking about getting used to not being on holiday anymore either: Financial pressures of the season, especially for those who got paid early in December, linger into January; the mornings are dark and cold and the nights still arrive far too quickly and last too long.

However, I don’t want to dwell for too long on those issues. The charity Turn2Us offers some excellent advice on coping with the cost of Christmas while Mind has plenty of information to help those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I’d urge anyone struggling to take a look at these sites. But what I want to focus on today are the health implications from the excesses of the festive season – specifically, getting back to your regular eating and exercise routine.

No Shame

Firstly, you need to get out of a mindset of shame or embarrassment. Christmas and New Year are times for celebration. If you enjoyed what you ate and drank, then that’s great. No need to apologise (unless you swiped the last Coffee Cream from the Quality Street – that’s almost unforgivable) and no need to dwell on it. Yeah, so you pigged out and lazed around, but that’s in the past. Now is the…

Time For Action

Take all that energy you’ve been putting into feeling bad and channel it into something positive. Health professionals suggest that something as little as half an hour a day’s gentle exercise is beneficial so this is the perfect place to Begin. Start small and build up. Joining a gym can be really helpful but also pricey so why not try walking? You can do that in the street and it costs nothing. A brisk pace of about 3-4 mph for half an hour a day can wield almost immediate benefits. If you don’t have time for that consider little things like parking a little further from the supermarket when you go shopping or taking the stairs instead of the lift.

If you keep that up for a few days then pretty soon you’ll be ready for more. I’m currently walking 2 miles every lunch break, which takes me about 30-40 minutes. Even in this cold weather, I warm up in no time and find myself unbuttoning my coat and ditching the hat, scarf and gloves within the first half mile.

I’ll be meeting up with WGN’s own Simon Stothard this Sunday (13th January) to attend the Action Challenge Winter Walk – a 20km hike around the landmarks of Central London. Just a week and a half’s worth of these short lunchtime walks will have been enough to get me back in shape for this fun event! If you feel like taking on a walking challenge this year then there are plenty of other events on Action Challenge’s website from beginner to expert level. Why not sign up for one, push yourself and in the process raise a little money for charity? We did the first quarter of the Thames Path Challenge in September (about 30km) and not only did I get a lovely shiny medal for my troubles but also raised over £300 for DiabetesUK.

Running, swimming and cycling are also great ways to exercise gently and at your own pace, but if competitive sports are more your bag then your local leisure centre will probably provide facilities for squash, soccer, badminton and many more. Social media is also a great place to find out about local clubs and competitions of your favourite sports.

The most important thing is that you find something you enjoy and that doesn’t tire you out too much. If it becomes a chore then you start to put it off.

Hungry Like The Wolf

But getting over that post-Christmas hump isn’t just about getting back into a regimen of exercise. Over that week or so I’ve eaten so much unhealthy (yet delicious) grub that I feel like I could burst!

For me, getting back into a healthy eating routine is so much more difficult than the exercise. Perhaps it’s because we end up with so much food in the fridge after the event, and I abhor waste, that I feel I have to finish it. Maybe it’s just that I like crisps and sweets too much! Either way, I find when it comes to a healthy eating lifestyle, it’s the other folks around me who can really help (or hinder).

That’s why I attend a weekly slimming club. The people there encourage me and are genuinely pleased or upset for me when I do have a loss (or gain). Clubs like Weight Watchers or Slimming World can be expensive but the support network, for me, is worth the entry fee. If you’d rather not pay, or are nevous about public weighings then perhaps start a club with a few friends to encourage and look out for one another.

Just Say No?

Something else that can help me say “No” to that second serving of cake is having a goal to work towards. In 2014 my parents promised me a return flight to New York for my 40th birthday the next year. The condition? That I lose enough weight so as not to be charged extra because of my size. On top of this, I asked people to sponsor my weight loss, with the money going to The MS Society. These two factors contributed towards me losing 9 stone in a year. But once the money was paid to the charity and the New York trip was over, the weight slowly crept back on – never to quite the degree it had been before, but enough.

When I analysed the possible reason for this (aside from “I was eating too many delicious things”) I realised that I was aimless – I had nothing to motivate me. Therefore I accepted the challenge to enter the Keswick To Barrow walk in May this year. My target is to lose a substantial amount between now and then. Last time I had a big weight loss I found my energy levels soared and I could walk and run much further. I walked 30km in September so I’m hoping that being about 4 stone lighter than I was back then should provide a significant boost for walking the 60km of the K2B.

Whatever you decide to do to get back on track after the holidays, be it gym membership, a slimming group, Dry January or something else – I wish you all the best of luck. Maybe you’d like to share your tips for getting back on track in the comments below.

Paul Childs

As well as writing for Den of Geek and Your Truth, Paul also runs Badgers Crossing, a site for ghost stories. He loves the 1980s and thanks to a keen interest in Public Information Films he has never been electrocuted or set himself on fire.

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