How was Christmas for you? With 2020 having been such a difficult year, it would be completely understandable if you’ve really gone to town over the festive period, eating, drinking and making as much ‘merry’ as the rules allow.
Possibly you’re feeling a little worse for wear and needing to let your belt out a notch . . . one too many mince pies or an extra spoonful of brandy butter won’t have helped, but chances are it’s not just Christmas, it’s Covid pounds you’re dealing with.
Many of us have relieved the monotony of spending day after day at home by eating and drinking more than normal. In an Ipsos MORI survey earlier this year, 48 per cent of those questioned said they’d put on weight during lockdown, and a third admitted to drinking more.
With 2020 having been such a difficult year, it would be completely understandable if you’ve really gone to town over the festive period, eating, drinking and making as much ‘merry’ as the rules allow [File photo]
But now let’s say goodbye and good riddance to the stresses of 2020, and ‘hello’ to 2021, when life hopefully will begin to return to normal.
To help make 2021 a year to remember for all the right reasons, next week I’ll be launching the Daily Mail’s unique 30-day Health Kick — a month of simple and practical steps to kickstart your health.
Next Saturday’s paper will include our brilliant 30-day wellness journal, a day-by-day diary to record your progress and to give you the structure you need to stay on track. As well as daily tips, it contains a checklist of activities to help improve your health and wellbeing.
Filling in the 30-day journal will help you stick with your good intentions for long enough to notice big changes.
Plus, every week for the next month the Mail will be publishing unique pullouts written by a range of leading experts (including my wife, Dr Clare Bailey) packed with advice and guidance to help you tackle excess weight and type 2 diabetes, and shore up your defences against disease and infections such as Covid-19.
You’ll learn how to keep your mind sharp and ward off dementia with Dr Sanjay Gupta, a leading neurosurgeon, and how to get fit with exercises from fitness expert Joanna Hall every day.
In an Ipsos MORI survey earlier this year, 48 per cent of those questioned said they’d put on weight during lockdown, and a third admitted to drinking more [File photo]
And should you need medical advice, there will be a must-read series on how to benefit from your NHS with Dr Xand van Tulleken and Dr Max Pemberton. To help you get real value out of our 30-day Health Kick before we launch it next Saturday, I’d recommend the SMART approach.
A tried and trusted method for sticking to any goal, SMART was first set out by a successful management consultant in the journal Management Review back in the 1980s and is now used by many experts and entrepreneurs.
SMART — or Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely goals — works like this:
■ Specific: This means it’s not enough simply to say to yourself, ‘I want to lose weight’, or, ‘I want to get fitter’. You need to have a specific goal, such as ‘I want to lose a stone while doing the 30-day Health Kick’, or, ‘I want to be able to run a mile without stopping by the end of January’.
The more specific the goal, the better. It’s also key to write down your reasons for wanting to change. When you’re in the thick of a new diet or exercise regimen, you’ll inevitably have moments of doubt. So before you start, jot down the reasons you want to do the 30-day Health Kick as a reminder.
■ Measurable: To help stay on track it helps to plot your progress, to see how far you have come. That’s where our 30-day wellness journal will come in — use it to record how you are doing.
What you measure very much depends on your goals, but when it comes to health, there are three simple things I’d recommend: heart rate, weight and waist.
Your (resting) heart rate is a measure of how hard your heart has to work to keep you going and, within reason, the lower the better. A 16-year Danish study of more than 3,000 men found that — compared to men whose resting heart rates were around 50 beats per minute (bpm) — men with resting heart rates above 80 were twice as likely to die during the course of the research.
Measure your heart rate — in other words, your pulse — during a quiet moment: the best place to do this is just outside the outermost tendon on your wrist.
Count the number of pulses per minute — measure it a few times, then write down the average score in the wellness journal. If you’re following our fitness regimen, I would expect to see it fall over the course of 30 days.
Next, weigh yourself and calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) — use the calculator on the NHS website. If you’re obese (BMI over 30), aim to get down into the overweight category (BMI 25 to 29.9); or if you’re overweight, aim for the healthy range.
With recipes from the Fast 800 Easy — the new book Clare and I have written, which the Mail will be exclusively serialising as part of our Eat To Beat Disease series from January 9 — you can reasonably expect to safely lose a stone during the 30-day Health Kick.
F inally, measure your waist — the fat in and around the abdomen is bad for you, even if you’re not otherwise obviously overweight.
Ideally your waist should be less than half your height (so if you are 6 ft tall, your waist should be less than 36 in). You can expect to lose around half an inch around your waist for every 1 lb you lose.
There are other measurements, such as your blood sugar levels, the quality of your sleep and your blood pressure, which I will be going into in my series.
■ Achievable and Realistic: There’s no point deciding that you want to run a couple of miles if you’re currently sedentary. That said, I love setting myself ambitious targets so I strive harder.
■ Timely: Give your goals a deadline. ‘I will lose weight’ is not as powerful a motivator as: ‘I will aim to lose at least 10 lb and 2 in off my waist over the next 30 days.’ Again, when it comes to improving fitness or your sleep patterns, 30 days is long enough to see real change.
So do enjoy the festive season. As Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who kickstarts the Mail’s new series today, says, you don’t have to deny yourself every pleasure. But get yourself ready for our New Year 30-day Health Kick for a slimmer, healthier and happier you!
The bacteria we will ALL want to have in 2021
Like everyone, I crave a return to normality and that’s why I fervently hope that in 2021 the Covid-19 vaccines will prove to be as safe and effective when they are rolled out, on a huge scale, as they have been in the recent trials.
I fully expect other Covid vaccines to join those now available and I believe we could have the virus on the run by early next summer.
But we must also remember that not all microbes are our enemies. I expect to see much more research in 2021 showing the multiple benefits to be had from nurturing our gut microbiome, the 100 trillion microbes that live in our digestive system.
Recent studies have shown that they not only play a significant role in improving our sleep and bolstering immunity (more about both in my Eat To Beat Disease series in two weeks’ time), but they also have a major impact on our mental health.
For instance, researchers from Paris have recently identified gut microbes that seem to act as powerful, natural antidepressants. So I will be eating more microbe-rich fermented foods, such as kimchi and sauerkraut.
I also plan to drink a lot less alcohol in 2021. Although never a heavy drinker, my recent two months of total abstinence has taught me that, in the main, I am better off sticking to water.
It might sound dull but trust me it makes me much better company.
Happy New Year!