Diet blog: on the naughty step

Judith Wills / 06 January 2017

Our diet expert on a telling-off for the middle-aged from Public Health England and finding motivation for those New Year resolutions.

Well that’s a great start to 2017, isn’t it? 

I’m talking about the new Public Health England report, which was splashed gleefully across the front pages of most of the media the other day. 

Take the 'How Are You' quiz from Public Health England

It was depressing enough to get me reaching for the choc and the red - just when I’d come to terms with starting on that saintly eating, plain water and treadmill plan for the foreseeable future.

The report, produced in conjunction with Oxford University, gave all of us of so-called ‘middle age’ a right old rollicking. It roundly, if you can forgive the pun, told us off for being fat, lazy, alcohol-dependent poor excuses for humans.

Are you drinking more alcohol than you think?

Less than twenty per cent of us are, apparently, leading the right kind of lifestyle for health.

The only good thing about the report is that at least not one of us individuals now has to feel that we are alone in our idle, over-indulgent, pathetic ways. We’re all – or at least, mostly all - in it together! 

And we still have that less-than-20-per-cent out there somewhere, to have a go at if we can find them. Smug, virtuous, goody-goodies that they are, we can chuck our leftover Christmas pudding and cake and mince pies at them when we notice them on the streets.  Well, we might if we had any leftovers but in truth, we don’t.  Who ate all the pies?  We did, of course.  And on second thoughts, if we did have any leftovers, we wouldn’t waste them on the skinny, would we?

Oh – and don’t think you’ve escaped the rollicking just because you happen to be Welsh, Northern Irish or Scottish. Oh no – statistics for overweight, lack of exercise and alcohol intake for Britain as a whole are more or less as bad.

So where do we all go from here?

Some people respond well to being told off, it being the motivation they need to get going, and if that’s you, you may well already have lost half a stone and are getting up at 6am to go cycling in the dark and cold.  Good for you.  Others, like me, don’t respond well to ticking offs from schoolteacher-like strangers.  So I shall pretend it never happened, and, when the chocolate and wine is finished, start back on that plan of action for my slightly tubby, slightly lazy, slightly alcohol-dependent poor excuse of a body, and do it because I want to do it, not because some organisation told me I must or get sent to the naughty step.

I want to do it because I’ve written a pretty long list of reasons why and how my life is going to be better if I do get a healthier body.  Looking at such a list really is motivating.  I started off thinking I’d be able to conjure up two or three – the old faithfuls such as ‘get into that quite expensive coat I fell in love with and bought over a year ago, even though it was a bit tight, and have yet to wear’.  But a couple of hours and nearly 20 reasons later I really did feel energised and full of positivity.

Each one of us can do this if we want to enough.  I’ve started by going for a beautiful walk up a nearby area of high common land and watched the buzzards and red kite soar.  I’m glad to leave the festive season indulgence behind, get stuck into the type of vegetable-loaded diet that I do actually love, get out and do stuff every day (however tempting it may be to stay indoors) and begin to feel good about myself again within days, which I know I will.

My advice to you all (other than the 20% of course)?  Write your own motivational list, then write lists of the healthy or reasonably-healthy foods you do like (be honest, there are some!) and shop for those.  Look up some tasty, simple, healthy recipes for them on the web.  Please don’t get caught up in madcap foolish diets where you’re allowed only one or two foods, or you have to live on 300 calories a day, for example. 

Visit our healthy recipes section

Work out the ways you can be more active each day – again, the web is full with sound ideas.  But you must choose activity suitable for your fitness level, lifestyle and personality. 

Set yourself a starting day – and start.  If you happen to have a friend, partner or colleague you can join with to do the programme, even better.  It really will help keep the motivation going.

Biggest tip? You’ve got to like what you’re doing in order to sustain it.  Sounds simple – but so many people try diets and exercise plans that are just never going to work for them.

Next time, I’ll be looking in more detail at some healthy eating plans that may be just perfect for us of a certain age …

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