Wellness and Health coach explains how small steady change is the key to long-term health success 8 weeks to a new you.
If you spent the first two weeks of January instagramming your low carb meals and tweeting deadlights goals at the gym, only to fall headfirst into a leftover selection box and abandon it all, then you are not alone.
According to LloydsPharmacy, more than half of Irish people plan on making a New Year’s resolution, despite nearly a third breaking last year’s within a month. This year, the pharmacy chain is on a mission to help us make healthy changes that we will actually keep, with the help of their eight-week Change Your Health Direction programme.
Chatting at the launch of the programme, health and wellness coach Alison Canavan said that most of us make the mistake of deciding to completely overhaul our life in one go, and this approach is destined to fail. “Setting New Year’s resolutions that are unachievable and unattainable and not relative to you and your life is not a good thing,” she advocates.
“People start the year saying ‘I’m going to give up smoking, I’m going to start going to the gym, I’m going to start eating salads. I mean we’re in the middle of winter and you want to eat salads?!”
Alison believes that succeeding in life is about taking responsibility for yourself, and doing the work required to make yourself happier. She says that even the ‘experts’ need to check in on their lifestyle every now and then.
“Over Christmas I wasn’t feeling well and I went to stay at my mum’s to be looked after. I didn’t meditate for a few days and I really felt the effects of it,” explains the wellness expert.
“My mind began to become a bit more attached to negative thoughts, so I knew that I needed to get back on my meditation cushion and get outside for a walk, because that’s what makes me feel good.”
The Change Your Life Direction programme appeals to her because of its accessibility. “I love the programme with Lloyds because it is achievable, realistic and you are supported. Also, you monitor things like your blood pressure, your weight and your BMI. Most people have no idea about any of that. They embark on an eating or exercise plan without having looked at where their health is at that moment. “The free programme has been rolled out at all 93 LloydsPharmacy’s nationwide and offers a weekly weigh in, personal health and wellbeing plan, tips on exercise and nutrition and BMI and blood pressure assessment. After an initial assessment in the pharmacy, you’ll make weekly goals, using your Health Diary to track your progress.
The booklet contains a food diary, which Alison says is key to identifying the changes that we may need to make to our diets. “I always tell people to keep food diaries,” she laughs. “I think it’s important to write down all your food and all your snacks because it’s important to see these things on paper. The fact is, that we all lie to ourselves and we omit an awful lot of stuff. Writing it down allows you to analyse how you eat and identifying where you can do better.”
January is not the time to berate yourself; rather it’s a time to be kind to yourself, Alison says. “For me, this programme is about being kind to yourself. That is, switching from the mindset of ‘I’m not good enough’ to ‘how can I be happier in myself’? We all want to make positive change in our lives, and that starts with making positive intentions for yourself. Even the healthiest among us can incorporate healthier habits into our lifestyles.”
The stepping stone process of making small changes is an ideal place to start to put longstanding changes in place, says the wellness expert.
“Start small with weekly goals. Try to have more colour in your diet, eat a greater variety of food. Then you’ll go back to Lloyds, have a review and decide what to focus on for week two.”
With so many of us living solitary lives, initiatives that get us into the chemist and meeting neighbours on a regular basis is a positive thing maintains Alison.
“One of the big reasons I got involved with this campaign is that I believe so strongly in bringing back a sense of community, and that’s what something like this does. I think that a lot of times in life we try to go it alone, but that’s not the best way to approach life, in my opinion. The good news is that you don’t have to do it — the help is out there, for free!” Following a health programme for eight weeks will create habits that we are likely to keep, says Canavan.
“Rather than a 30-day programme, you are more likely to make new habits that will stick over an eight week period. At the end of it you are going to have a full picture of where you are with your health and moving forward.”