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Diet & Exercise

Over half of Welsh residents plan to adopt healthier food and drink habits in 2021, according to research by Noom – here’s Ten Top Tips to Help!

Research by Noom, the leading psychology-based weight loss programme, and OnePoll has found just over half (56%) of Welsh residents plan to kick off 2021 with healthier food and drink habits; a similar number (55%) want to lose weight this year, and nearly a quarter (24%) want to undo bad habits picked up during lockdowns.

After a tumultuous year for health and wellbeing, many Welsh residents are looking to focus on their health. 24% want to better manage stress, while 1 in 5 want to get healthy to tackle an illness. When asked what their plans to improve their health look like, 4 in 10 (42%) said they’ll eat more fruit and veg, and over a third (35%) will eat smaller portions.

However, boredom and stress eating during lockdown could be set to scupper plans: 23% of respondents claim stress eating is their worst unhealthy habit, whilst more than a quarter (27%) say the same of snacking out of boredom.

The research also found:

  • People in Wales are some of the strongest willed in the UK, with less than 2% claiming they’d abandon their healthy habits if they received judgement from friends or family, compared to over 15% in London
  • They’re also getting active: 1 in 5 (22%) want to increase their daily step count in 2021, whilst 35% will get outside in nature more
  • Ahead of starting healthier habits, those in Wales have identified finishing everything in front of them (28%), eating when bored (27%) and stress eating (23%) as their worst food and drink habits

Psychologist and Noom ambassador Honey Langcaster-James commented on the findings, saying:

We know that the development of unhealthy habits ultimately leads to a range of negative outcomes for our overall health and wellbeing, and in some cases poor health habits may even worsen chronic mental and physical conditions if they are not addressed, so it’s exciting to see that personal health is clearly back on the agenda in 2021. It’s important to keep in mind that health improvements aren’t just about eating fewer takeaways, or less processed food though. Taking small, positive steps to improve our overall health and happiness – like making sure we snack less, eat more fruit and veg, exercise and get plenty of fresh air – all contribute towards a healthier lifestyle

Honey shares her top tips below for staying motivated and sticking to your healthy eating resolutions:

Tip #1 – Create a routine that meets your basic needs first

Establishing a routine, whether you’re putting a daily plan in place or setting regular reminders for your goals, helps you to create a sense of normalcy and consistency that will keep you going when motivation starts to wane and you risk falling away from your resolutions. Make sure you set a realistic routine that allows for keeping you hydrated, ensures you get enough sleep, and can actually eat at times that fit in with your general lifestyle.


Tip #2 – Recognise your triggers

For many of us, emotions trigger specific cravings, and it’s important to be able to distinguish between rational and irrational thoughts and behaviours when these feelings arise.

Pinpointing why we crave particular foods and how our environment impacts our behaviour allows us to overcome and break habits that are detrimental, whilst establishing healthier and new ones.


Tip #3 – Identify your cravings

Next time you have a craving, try to figure out where it’s coming from. Is it emotional, nostalgic, psychological (triggered by a memory or routine), or true physical hunger? Begin by identifying your patterns and write them down


Tip #4 – Press Pause on your behaviour

This technique substitutes unhealthy eating habits in favour of healthier, more positive ones. For example, if you’re feeling like you want a snack, try drinking a cup of tea or glass of water first and then assess whether you’re really hungry 10-20 minutes later.  This habit can help establish whether your craving is related to hunger or thirst: the sensation can actually be similar, and the extra time allows you to be in control of your choices rather than you reaching for something on impulse.


Tip #5 – Replace the food or reduce your portion size

If there are foods that you know are so tempting to you that you risk veering off from your goals if you have them around, then it’s a good idea to replace them altogether so that when you reach for them, you have an alternative.

If replacing your craving doesn’t work for you, then you could try changing your portion size.

Allow yourself to indulge in a smaller portion of your food of choice and perhaps replace the bowl or plate you’d usually eat from instead. Ultimately, you can stick to a resolution easier if you think about making swaps and replacements rather than giving something up altogether. Making incremental changes, which are not too far outside of your comfort zone, is going to be key if you want to stay on track without giving up.


Tip #6 – Re-evaluate if you find yourself coming off target

If after you’ve tried to replace a behaviour, food or portion side, you’re still craving a certain food, it’s time to re-appraise your daily food intake and see if there’s something else going on that’s increasing your cravings.

Skipping or missing meals can cause us to crave high fat and sugary foods even more, because our brains are telling us we need that food to give us vital energy.

Psychologically speaking, ensuring your environment is set up to support you in your goal is key, so having fresh fruit in a bowl where you can see it and other cues like this can trigger helpful behaviours, just as much as an advert chocolate could trigger a less healthy one!


Tip #7 – Incorporate mindfulness into your routine

Mindfulness is a proven tool for helping to manage stress, improve sleep, and increase compassion. It’s also widely used in the context of eating to help people maintain a healthy weight and develop healthier eating habits.

Incorporating mindfulness into your routine can help you be more self-aware of the choices you make in your diet and food consumption.

It can take arounds 20 minutes for your brain to register your fullness, so slowing down and appreciating your meal in the present is an important step in being able to respond to your hunger and fullness cues.


Tip # 8 – Build your virtual support system

While we are still practising physical social-distancing, human connectivity is still really important and also entirely possible. It’s crucial to find support for yourself, whether that is through texting friends or speaking on the phone or on a video call with family and loved ones. You may need support with your resolutions and goals too, in ways you may not think you need. Having someone else support you in your goal can be a good way to keep you on track.


Tip #9 – Prioritise your mental health and wellbeing

Whilst it’s important to look after yourself physically and work towards your healthy lifestyle goals, recognise that your mental health is just as much of a priority as your physical health and the two often go hand-in-hand. Self-care and awareness of your mental health are more important than ever.


Ultimately, our minds and our bodies are connected in a myriad of ways, so if you have a weight loss resolution, you have to get in the right frame of mind too. That’s why any healthy eating programme needs to be psychology-based first and foremost, because our behaviour starts in our mind.