If you’re struggling already as we enter February and need some inspiration to help you stick to or maybe kick-start your new found healthy lifestyle, read on, says Martin Granger.
For many of us, January serves as a time of reflection and reassessment of one’s lifestyle as we set out to quit smoking, cutting down on the drink and losing weight.
It’s no surprise then that gyms and health clubs experience a significant seasonal spike in the days immediately following the New Year’s eve festivities, while the NHS is took advantage of this period of contemplation with the launch of its Smokefree January 2014 campaign.
But if you’re struggling already as we enter February and need some inspiration to help you stick to or maybe kick-start your new found healthy lifestyle, read on.
The benefits are indisputable. This 2006 study found that obese smokers were six to 11 times more likely to meet their maker before the age of 65 than non-smokers of a healthy weight, while the adverse effects of excessive drinking (and that’s much less than you might think) are significant with the rate of alcohol related deaths in individuals aged 30 to 50 up substantially since the 1980s – particularly among women.
Many of us, too, like a drink and like many things in life, that’s no problem in moderation. Excessive consumption however is linked to weight gain both directly, through an increased calorie intake and impact upon your body’s metabolism, and indirectly through unhealthy habits associated with binging such as snacking on fatty foods.
Drink too heavily for too long and there are other nasties to consider, such as liver cirrhosis. Not only is it usually terminal without transplant, cirrhosis is particularly concerning as symptoms normally do not become apparent until the damage is beyond the point of no return.
The grim spectre of death aside, there are softer benefits. Regular exercise, coupled with a healthy diet and associated habits, can not only leave us feeling more energised but also happier thanks to the release of endorphins – the same ‘feel good’ hormones that are also released during sex.
And the rewards aren’t just physical, but also fiscal. The cost implications can be quite staggering. A 20-a-day-smoker can save over £1,000 per year, a figure that soon becomes eye watering when totted up over a decade or two.
A tobacco-free life can significantly reduce life insurance premiums according to Steve Barnes, financial adviser at Endsleigh. “We all know smoking is bad for our health and it can almost double the cost of life insurance premiums, although achieving a saving here does require complete abstinence.
“Any kind of smoking in a 12-month period classes you as a smoker in the eyes of an insurance company. It doesn’t matter if it’s an occasional secret cigarette in times of stress or a regular habit, in order to be classified as a non-smoker by life insurance companies you need to have abstained from smoking or from using nicotine replacement products for at least 12 to 18 months.”
The cost of a cheeky drink, too, takes its toll with the average Brit believed to consume around £1,000 worth of booze each year, or around £60,000 in a lifetime. Clearly, that figure could be much higher if you’re a particularly heavy drinker.
Add to that the purported £1,300 a year we spent on takeaways and you could be looking at not only a considerably heavier wallet, but also a much lighter reading on the bathroom scales.
So there you have it. Save money. Be healthier. Be happier. Sounds like a no-brainer – so why then do so many of us struggle so much to shrug off our vices when the benefits are so clear?
The answer, we believe, is that it’s just bloody hard. Bad habits for most of us aren’t a new development, but rather something that we’ve picked up over many years. With that in mind, we’ve put together three top tips to help you on your way.
1. Write it down
Writing things down and keeping them somewhere visually prominent helps to keep them at the front of your mind. Research suggests that you’re more likely to stick to a resolution when you write your ambition down and read it aloud on a daily basis.
2. Be specific
It’s easy to be ambiguous or generalist when setting resolutions, but you’re more likely to get to where you want to be if you’re specific about it. For example, don’t just write ‘lose some weight’, ask yourself exactly how much weight you want to lose. Similarly, if you’re planning to ‘cut down on drinking’ to what extend do you hope to achieve? Are you talking complete abstinence, or is a pint after work on a Friday still going to be allowed?
3. Ask others to support you
Don’t just rely on your own willpower. If you’re planning to quit smoking, tell someone close to you such as a friend or family member. Ask them to remind you of your resolution should you be tempted to nip out for that crafty fag. Remember though, whether you succeed or fail, it’s up to you. Good luck!
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