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New year, new me

As one year ends and another approach, we might be hearing phrases like “new year, new me”. Looking after our health is fantastic no matter the time of year and many can feel a surge of optimism with January in sight. You might like to harness the energy of any new year’s motivation you have to make changes. Some like to set particular goals such as the NHS’s ‘couch to 5k’ or reach a certain clothes size or weight. We’ve chosen our 5 top tips to help you move towards reaching a slimmer build. We’ve tailored our recommendations to those with a bowel, urinary, or respiratory stoma, or a spinal cord injury.

Get to know what matters most to you and be realistic

Have you ever set out with great intentions, made many plans, followed them for a little while, and then gave up? It wasn’t that you failed, rather the resources failed you. We can put pressure on ourselves and set too many goals which overwhelm us. The reasons behind our motivation can also dwindle so it’s key we choose those which matter to us. Make it something meaningful and concrete e.g. “I want to reach a slimmer build because it will reduce my joint pain meaning I can play with my grandchildren more”.

To set yourself up for success, choose a specific and realistic goal with an appropriate time-frame. Losing 3 stone in 2 months? This is an unhealthy rate and can make you unwell. Losing ~1lb a week or 1 stone over 3-4 months = sustainable and a more enjoyable journey!

Aim for balanced meals

Have you wondered what ‘balanced eating’ actually means? Maybe you have a bowel-stoma and feel you can’t have what’s traditionally thought of as ‘balanced meals’. While the NHS’s ‘Eatwell Guide’ is a great visual guide to balanced eating for the majority of the population, it might need tweaking for your individual needs.

A filling but also lower energy plate could look like half a plate of mixed vegetables, a quarter plate of protein e.g. fish and a quarter plate of a complex carbohydrate e.g. brown rice. Choose foods you enjoy, cooking and flavouring them to your preference. You might like to find some new recipes to try, perhaps some of ours from our Ostomates Kitchen and Spinal Cord Injury resources.

If you can’t tolerate much fibre, you might better manage having each third of your plate as these food groups. Chewing your food slowly and taking your time to eat can help you feel fuller without overeating large portions.

Be mindful of snacking

Do you feel you overeat and that’s holding you back from reaching a slimmer build? We might stress-eat or eat as a way to reduce boredom. Sometimes we can feel on ‘auto-pilot. When we know what we’re experiencing we can identify where to direct our energy.

As an example, you may have daily desserts because it’s a habit your family has formed over the years. Cutting out foods altogether is rarely successful and can lead to us craving them and ‘falling off the wagon’. Eating well has to be flexible to be sustainable, so find your balance between enjoyment and health. Rather than daily desserts, could you aim for one a week? To help rewire this habit, you could initially try an activity after dinner to distract you. Some like to do puzzles like a crossword, journaling or take advantage of video call technology to connect with loved ones.

Drinking enough water

When we’re well-hydrated we have better physical and mental energy levels. We can also have fewer cravings, especially for sugary foods and drinks. Did you know our body can sometimes misinterpret thirst for hunger? Having a glass of water with or after your meal can help you stay hydrated, but also make you feel fuller from a regular portion size of a meal. If you’ve been given tailored advice from your Doctor or Dietitian to not drink fluids with meals then please follow their guidance. Then, aim to drink enough fluid through the rest of the day.

You may find our hydration guide useful for extra tips on how to drink enough. Although written with those with urinary catheters in mind, much of the advice can apply to those without too.

Boost your physical activity

We all have different physical capabilities and our baseline for our activity levels will vary. Being more active has numerous health benefits like helping our mental wellbeing, increasing our muscle strength, and reaching a slimmer build. We can often think quite ‘all or nothing’ with our health changes, but starting small and building up is often more achievable and sustainable. Every positive change counts, even if tomorrow is just two minutes more activity than what you did today.

Depending on your needs, you could do bed-based or chair-based exercises. Perhaps trial some of the NHS’s examples here.

Choose something you’re more likely to enjoy and schedule it into your day or week so you’ve given yourself the best chance. If you try your plan for a week and find it doesn’t suit you, change it up!

For extra support, you might like our Simple Steps resources on how to gradually build in exercise.

There are no set rules for making health changes and everyone’s starting points, journeys, and end goals will differ. These top tips can be used together or you can choose 1 or 2 to start you off. You may have been inspired and are going to try another approach altogether. I encourage you to find what works for you and keep reflecting as you go along. It’s this which will continue your success and help turn ‘diets’ into lifelong habits.

About the advice and opinions of our bloggers

We hope you enjoyed this article from our guest blogger. They are expressing their views or knowledge on a topic because of their experience & background. Some of the opinions expressed may not reflect the views of Fittleworth or your NHS professional.

It goes without saying, but this is not clinical advice. Each person will have an individual set of medical factors to consider. So please do not to make significant changes to your diet, exercise or treatments before consulting with an NHS professional.

Laura Coster

Laura Coster is a Registered Dietitian who is passionate about helping people feel confident in managing their health and find joy through what they eat.

She has worked in the NHS advising people at various stages of their stoma journey and continues to help promote gut health to all.