Holidays wouldn’t be half as much fun without indulgences – late lie-ins, decadent meals, aperitifs and after-dinner drinks. But long stints of hedonism can leave you feeling less than stellar at the end of your vacation. And being out of shape doesn’t make it any easier to get back into a healthy routine. Here’s what you need to know about rebooting your body after binge season…
Get back on track as quickly as possible, advises Cape Town-based personal trainer Shelley Wolff. Though rusty muscles and extra kilos aren’t the best motivators, the longer you put off rebooting, the harder it is to kickstart the process. “Stop beating yourself up and feeling guilty – rather evaluate where you are and make a change in your lifestyle,” she says. “It’s important to have a plan – failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Make it a reality
Review and reset your goals, write them down and read them often. Imagine how you’d like your body to look or create a vision board of your dream body and weight loss/fitness goals. Visualisation may get you in the right frame of mind to pursue your reboot programme, but it may do even more than that. In a study by the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a group of subjects who visualised flexing their arm muscles but did no actual weight training were shown to have improved bicep strength by 13.4 percent after 12 weeks.
Track your progress, from your initial fitness level, weight, measurements and body fat percentage, and break your ultimate goal down into small, measurable steps to make it less daunting, says Wolff. “And be sure to reward yourself for success,” adds Adventure Boot Camp head trainer, Wendy-Joy Timmes. Spoil yourself once you’ve achieved your first centimetre loss or weight loss goal, whether it be with a facial, a new hairdo or a pair of shoes you’ve been hankering after.
Tackle the bulge
Obesity is a growing problem both globally and locally, with over 61 percent of South Africans being overweight. Even scarier is that most are either in denial or unaware that their weight is a problem. A recent national study by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline found that as many as 78 percent of obese people believe they’re healthy. Obesity can be linked to medical problems, but in most cases it boils down to a simple set of scales: taking in more kilojoules than the body needs, while not doing enough exercise to burn them off. Putting on a little extra weight over the festive season isn’t a train smash, the problem comes in when the fat is not lost and slowly builds up year after year.
Aesthetic and emotional considerations aside, obesity is dangerous. Although cancer is often perceived as the world’s most formidable mortality threat, in reality it is eclipsed by heart disease and stroke, which take more lives annually than all cancer strains combined, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa (HSFSA). Being obese or even overweight can drastically increase your chances of heart disease or other health complications – in fact, researchers estimate that obesity is responsible for up to 2.8 million adult deaths per year.
And it spells equally bad news for couples who are wanting to have children: A study that was carried out on cows in August 2011 revealed that those who were exposed to elevated fatty acid levels in the ovaries were less fertile.
“We know from our previous research that high levels of fatty acids can affect the development of eggs in the ovary, but this is the first time we’ve been able to follow through to show a negative impact on the surviving embryo,” says Professor Jo Leroy from the University of Antwerp in Belgium.
You are what you eat
“Clean up your diet, eating small, regular, nutritious meals and snacks and start exercising again,” says Wolff. “If you need help get hold of a dietician or nutritionist who can create an eating plan for you, hire a personal trainer to help get you motivated, or find an exercise partner – it helps to be accountable to someone else."
Detox: yay or nay?
Detox diets were all the rage until recently, when word got out that some purifying regimes aren’t so good for you after all. A drastic approach involving fasting or over-the-counter detox supplements isn’t the best way to go, says Ayesha Seedat, a dietician with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa (HSFSA). “Be wary of products that claim to miraculously ‘cleanse’ and energise. Many enemas recommended to attain ‘colonic cleanliness’ in fact contain harsh laxatives and/or diuretics which can cause more harm than good, while other ‘detox’ treatments have been proven to be hoaxes without any real benefits,” she cautions.
The body’s liver and kidneys make up the filtration system, which naturally detoxifies the body every minute of each day – a perfectly good job that is done without any external interference. A better way to reboot your body is to cut the excesses and follow an “everything in moderation approach,” advises Seedat. Go easy on sugar, alcohol and saturated fats and incorporate plenty of water and fibre – nature’s detoxifiers – into your diet to flush out the system.
Get your grains
Wholegrain products like whole-wheat or low GI bread are high in fibre, which helps to control appetite and cravings, and contributes to reducing your cholesterol.
Deeply coloured fruit and vegetables like spinach, carrots, rocket, berries and pumpkin are rich in micronutrients and antioxidants.
While dairy isn’t traditionally thought of as a gut-buster or health-booster, the latest research suggests it may protect against heart disease, insulin resistance and obesity. HSFSA recommends including two servings of low-fat dairy into your daily diet. Low-fat yoghurt rates particularly high on the benefit scale because it contains probiotics that are thought to lower blood pressure and help in the digestive system.
Oily fish such as tuna, sardines, snoek and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids believed to protect against heart disease, as well as valuable vitamins A and D. Try substituting these fish varieties for red meat – they are higher in vital protein but lower in saturated fats.
Nuts, peanut butter and avocados are high in healthy fats, which help to regulate cholesterol when eaten in moderation, as well as Vitamin E – an antioxidant that boosts the immune system. Two or three servings of these a day is optimal: one serving is equal to two tablespoons of nuts or peanut butter and a quarter of an avocado.
Choose the heart mark
HSFSA has approved certain “heart-healthy” foods that are generally high in fibre and low in saturated fat, sugar, salt and cholesterol. Look for the Heart Mark logo on items when you’re out shopping.
Benefits of losing weight
- Improved self confidence and self image
- Increased energy levels
- Lowered cholesterol levels
- Reduced blood pressure
- Decreased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes
- Improved reproductive health and fertility
- Decreased risk of sudden death from heart disease or stroke
If your BMI is more than 25kg/m2, and/or if your waist measures over 94cm (men) or 80cm (women) – then make those changes now and shed a few kilos