One of the most common New Year Resolutions is to lose weight. Gym memberships soar in January as many people plan to follow their resolutions. Exercise without changing dietary habits and changing your diet without increasing physical activity have little chance of success as demonstrated by considerable research.

According to the latest Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, the average Australian takes in 35% of their daily energy from 'discretionary' foods - eating lollies, chips, chocolate, fruit juice, soft drinks, alcohol, cakes, pastries, fast food and sugary snacks. Only 6% of those surveyed met their recommended daily intake of vegetables and just over 50% met their daily recommended intake of fruit. The CSIRO 2016  Healthy Diet score report found that 4 in 5 Australians have a below par diet. On average we eat 19 serves of discretionary foods each week.

Navigating the food and diet advice to what is healthy, possible, sustainable and affordable is difficult. Some simple suggestions are:

  • Buy local, fresh and in season
  • Buy food, not products. Use foods in their natural states as the basis of meals and add products as condiments to taste.
  • Reduce portions, but chose quality, perhaps chose local suppliers of meat and eggs
  • Eat mindfully, switch off the screens, put away the phone . Concentrate on the flavour of the food, move away from the source
  • Make a list when shopping
  • Plan your drinks, alcohol contains a lot of kilojoules.  Alternate alcohol with sparkling water or diet soft drinks , set an alcohol limit before arriving at a party.

The best strategy for eating a more healthily is to have strategies to look at the overall quality of your diet, eating more fruit and vegetables and reducing junk foods, not focusing on a single foodstuff or nutrient. The CSIRO researches suggested halving the junk food and doubling the vegetable intake as  a start to improving your intake.

Get a snapshot of how your eating habits measure up by completing the CSIRO Healthy Diet Score at

Some practical advice on improving regular exercise include:

  • Try not to think " all or none", every bit of time spent being active instead if sitting counts
  • Set realistic and achievable goals, write them down
  • Wearable technologies can help with goal setting and monitoring progress
  • Find something you enjoy as your exercise, it may not be the gym, but dance or simple walking
  • Seek help in getting active , especially if you have complex medical or chronic conditions. There are exercise physiologists and physiotherapists who can devise individual plans if needed

There are many benefits from exercise other than weight loss and the associated health benefits from reduced cardiovascular, cancer, arthritis and diabetes risk. Improved mental health, improved sleep , improved sex life, reduced risk  of dementia are just some of the benefits.

The recipe for weight loss adapted from Professor Clare Collins article in The Conversation website for February 15, 2016: Take the following ingredients :

- moderate energy intake

- social support

- a dash of physical activity

simmer for six months

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