Healthy New Year Resolutions

From a daily walk to a handful of nuts, Dr Rowena Nicholson suggests ways to look after your health - and feel and look better for it

Many New Year's resolutions are health-related and the New Year is a good time to plan for a healthier future. However, bear in mind that most resolutions are quickly broken, and with stopping smoking and losing weight coming top of the list, failure is usually a sign of being over-ambitious at the wrong time. Big changes are best planned in advance with professional support, rather than starting on the stroke of twelve in the middle of a celebration. However, there are many ways of improving your health, so this year consider some of the following:

Enjoy looking after yourself: Rather than associating health with deprivation or hardship, change your attitude to that of enjoying looking after yourself. So, instead of depriving yourself completely of chocolate, for instance, treat yourself to a good organic dark chocolate twice a week (healthier than the cheap kind and you'll feel satisfied with less). Choose healthier foods and activities that you will enjoy rather than forcing yourself to eat or do things you resent.

Go nuts: Half a handful of nuts as a snack will help to suppress your appetite, as well as adding essential fatty acids that reduce the risk of heart disease. They also contain antioxidants which help prevent cancer. Often avoided by slimmers, they can in fact be very beneficial. Note that peanuts are not nuts, and that you need plain nuts - not roasted or salted.

Slow down: Most of us are always on the go, but we also need time for ourselves. Taking time out makes us more effective and able to concentrate. Spend time on a hobby, or simply sit down with a good book; even better, join a yoga class or learn how to meditate - it will help you balance your lifestyle. Yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce stress and lower blood pressure, and these activities will benefit your immune system.

Add some colour to your life: Antioxidants are the natural anti-cancer/heart-friendly constituents in our diet. Include a range of different-coloured vegetables and fruits in your diet. Order an organic vegetable box - it will improve the variety of what you eat and be fresh from the farm rather than a chemical-laden import that may have been in cold storage for months. You'll also feel virtuous for doing your bit for the environment.

Soak up the sunshine: Sun is essential to health, as we make vitamin D when sunlight reaches our skin; it's only burning which is detrimental. Caucasians need about half an hour of sunshine daily on exposed arms and face. Finding this a bit tricky in the depths of winter? Take vitamin D 400iu daily. It will protect against cancer, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis - and lift your mood.

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Get walking: If the thought of the gym fills you with dread, why not fit a walk into every day? It will improve fitness and cardiovascular health and a lunchtime walk will leave you feeling more alert for the afternoon.

Book an MOT: You wouldn't expect your car to continue running well without a little attention and fine tuning, so why not look on your health in the same way? Prevention is better than cure, and attending to small things now can make a big difference later. Your practice nurse may be able to do a basic check on your cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar level. However, if you wish to take a more in-depth look at your health and be proactive in planning for a healthy future, consider a private health screen. Even better, go for a holistic health screen which combines all the standard medical checks with an assessment of your nutritional status, posture and lifestyle.

Please note that anyone who has a medical condition, is pregnant, under age or taking medication should check with their medical practitioner before taking any supplements.

Dr Nicholson is an Integrated Physician at The Centre for Balanced Medicine in Chudleigh. She has trained in general practice, allergy, nutritional and environmental medicine and a range of complementary therapies. Contact her on 01626 854743 or via

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