Small steps can improve health

If your clothes are feeling a little tighter than they did pre-lockdown, then Gary Dawkins, of River Ridge Retreat, might just have the solution.

Tackling weight gain and working off the midriff insulation can present as a bit of a daunting task.

But it is not something that has to be done in one hit and there are straightforward and achievable lifestyle changes that mean there is no time like the present.

Where to begin?

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Try these six weight-loss tips.

1. Tweak your lifestyle. By making a 1% improvement each day to your health and fitness you will have made a massive 365% improvement in a year.

2. Skip the salty and sweet aisles at the supermarket. Do this and you are well on your way.

3. Have a good-sized late breakfast of multigrains and protein. This will keep your snacking down during the day.

4. Get plenty of sleep.

5. Drink plenty of water.

6. Follow the DCBA approach: Diet (70% of your attention), then Cardio (15% of your attention), Build lean muscle (10% of your attention), and finally abdominals (5% of your attention)

Make your weight loss stick

If you did make a New Year’s resolution, there’s a good chance you have already lapsed — but it is not too late to turn that around. You will have a much better year if you make your resolution stick.

Here are seven tips to make it happen.

1. Be real. The best way to fail is to force yourself to never eat your favourite food again. Instead, strive for a goal that is attainable, for example avoiding that food more times than you have it.

2. Talk about it. Tell others what your health and fitness plans are, to create more accountability. Even better, find someone with a similar resolution and work together.

3. Reward yourself. Not with junk food or skipping exercise, but by allowing yourself to buy a new T-shirt or catch up with a friend online.

4. Track your progress. Tick off small goals and work on small timeframes, and record these in a journal. Your motivation will remain high when you see yourself achieving the smaller goals. Be patient and the bigger goals will be achieved, too.

5. When you slip up, don’t beat yourself up! Take it one day at a time.

6. Stick with it. It takes 21 days for your new habit to form, and six months for that new habit to fully become part of your personality.

7. When you want to throw in the towel, go back to taking it one day at a time. Make 24-hour goals. Then start increasing them to weekly targets and so on.


 – Eat a snack of protein in the magic hour: 3pm-4pm. Why? Because this maintains blood sugar balance. When our blood sugars spike, the insulin that is released causes fat to be stored around our belly. Examples of a protein snack are a protein bar, light cheese and almonds.

 – Eat a late breakfast. The other magic time is the time between getting up in the morning and first eating. Our body has already had a few hours of not being fed. Hold off a little longer, and this is a golden time for belly-fat calories to be shed.

 – Do your activity (movement) in this golden time in the morning before eating your late breakfast.

 – Have zero grams of sugar or as close to this as is possible. Why? It will keep insulin levels low (remember, insulin stores fat around our waistline) and will keep glucagon levels high. The hormone glucagon is our best friend when shedding fat from the belly.

 – Chew, chew, chew your food. The better the digestion, the less belly bloating.

 – Use the DCBA approach: Diet, Cardio, Build muscle and Abdominal exercises. Spend 40 minutes preparing your meals each day, 30 minutes four times a week on cardio exercises, 15 minutes three times a week doing strength exercises and 5 minutes three times a week doing abdominal exercises.

 – Punch it. This is the best cardio exercise for belly-fat destruction. Boxing works the cardiovascular system, the lean muscle building system and the core all at once.

 – Reverse the trend. Have your largest meal for lunch and a smaller meal for dinner. Simply switch the two. This alone will make a noticeable difference to your mid-section in a small period of time.

 – Eat wholemeal foods and monounsaturated fats for a slimmer mid-region.

 – Control your portion sizes.

The belly-fat destruction programme 

Best breakfast:  (remember to be up and moving for at least an hour before having breakfast): A slice of whole-wheat bread with natural peanut butter and one cup of your favourite berries.

Best lunch: Spinach salad with sliced avocado, grilled firm tofu, and cherry tomatoes, drizzled with a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

Best dinner: Grilled salmon, a roasted sweet potato and sauteed asparagus or green beans with olive oil and garlic.

Best snacks: (remember the golden hour between 3pm and 4pm when you must snack): A cup of fat-free yoghurt with two tablespoons of sunflower seeds or a protein bar or low-fat cheese with crackers.

NB: When possible try to have your dinner meal for lunch and vice-versa.

Activity plan

Cardio exercise: three times a week for 30 minutes

Boxing for 16 minutes (throw punches for 1 minute periods and rest for 30 second periods for 16 minutes. Either: throw punches on to a punching bag or on to punch pads or use a small 2kg weight in each hand and throw punches into the air ) followed by a fast walk, bike ride, jogging or swimming for 14 minutes.

Lean muscle building exercise: three times a week for 15 minutes

Body weight squats to calf raises (four sets of 12-25 repetitions), press-ups (either kneeling or full press-ups for 3 sets of 8-20 repetitions) and alternating lunges with mid-region twist (2 sets of 10-28 alternating lunges).

Abdominal exercise: three times a week for 5 minutes

Abdominal crunch ball exchange (four sets of 12-20 repetitions) and abdominal sit-up (three sets of 12-20 repetitions).

 – Gary Dawkins runs Catlins-based River Ridge health and fitness retreats.


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