As the January blues begin to kick in, evenings spent vegetating on the sofa with a box of chocolates, Christmas TV, and a third glass of wine feel like a distant memory. Once the festive cheer subsides, the extra pounds start to feel less comfortable and many people think drastic action is the only way forward, committing to New Year diets that they just can't stick with.
New research* from the Potatoes: More Than A Bit on the Side campaign has revealed that over one quarter (27%) of individuals decide to cut out whole food groups at once in a January diet, which could be more of a hindrance than a help. Dietitians and other trusted health professionals advocate a varied, balanced diet with controlled portions and plenty of regular activity as the key to a healthy lifestyle. Here are five common pitfalls of dieting in January - the reasons and how to avoid:
1. January blues
After December's fun, January can hit people hard. January means back to work, short days, dark nights, cold weather, the Christmas credit card bill, half eaten boxes of chocolates. Any other month would probably be easier. We crave comfort foods but these don't have to be unhealthy. A baked potato (one quarter of your plate) with some lean protein (one quarter of your plate) and salad (half the plate) fits the bill. Portion control is key - the potato should be the size of your clenched fist rather than a brick and not smothered with a mountain of cheese, creamy sauce or tonnes of mayo! Choose beans, fish, chicken, nuts and seeds.
2. Confusing what is healthy and good for you
In the panic of January dieting, people can be quick to disregard anything that isn't earthly green, seed-like, powdered, or packed into a smoothie, ignoring everyday foods that make healthy choices and are easier on our cash strapped January wallet. Get your information from a trusted source that is not trying to sell you anything and uses properly qualified experts like NHS Choices. Celebrities and those in the public eye are not heath experts and have lots of help behind the scenes.
3. Cutting out too many things at once
After the over-indulgence of Christmas and New Year, we have become used to the extra treats and suddenly eliminating all of our favourite things at once can just seem too hard.
This can be too extreme and unworkable. No one is perfect and trying to be can be both exhausting and unrealistic. The key to getting your diet right is to make the best choices you can for you. Plan in advance with packed lunches or dinners at home. When eating out, think what you are going to order beforehand and stick to it. Ask the staff about the content of the menu such as cooking method and order extra veg/salad. Remember you are the customer so don't be afraid to ask for sauce on the side, a child portion or whatever helps you stick with your goals.
4. Getting back into a routine is hard
January brings plenty of pressures, including trying to eat more healthily, with more than half of us (52%) trying to do just that. More often than not, people are trying to overhaul many different areas of their lives all at once, such as going to the gym, sorting out finances, de-cluttering wardrobes or booking holidays. Combined with trying to follow radical diet and fitness plans, it all becomes too much. Help yourself by relieving some of the pressure - don't go for fad extreme diet plans that you'll abandon. Instead try to make small changes such as eating an extra portion of veg every day, follow a healthy, balanced diet with food from all main food groups, cook from scratch as much as you can and watch your portion sizes.
5. Giving up after the first small mistake
There will always be slip ups when you are trying to eat healthily, but it is important to accept that this happens and to move on from it. If you overeat or make a poor choice, rather than being hard on yourself, reflect for a moment and analyse why. Perhaps you had a challenging or bad day? Argument with your partner? Not enough sleep? Whatever you do, try not to use it as an excuse to abandon everything or let all your hard work go to waste. Think about what you could do differently next time, look forward, and have your next meal or snack as usual, getting back on track with your plan.
*Statistics taken from recent research from the Potatoes: More Than A Bit On The Side campaign, conducted by Censuswide between 23 December 2015 - 5 January 2016. 2,004 respondents were surveyed from the UK and Republic of Ireland.