Words: David Leck
The “New Year, New You” message is one that’s frankly been done to death but the encouraging news is that if you treat it as a lifestyle choice rather than a quick fix you’ll see greater and enduring results – and you could even end up having fun on the way.
Phil Wyatt, Wellness Manager at Sencio Community Leisure, is quick to stress that the benefits of following a healthy lifestyle must go far beyond a New Year detox or a rush to look like a beach beauty or muscle ripped Adonis by Easter.
And with the latest findings suggesting the worldwide cost of obesity is about the same as smoking or armed conflict and greater than both alcoholism and climate change, the need to hammer that message home is one that’s becoming increasingly linked to an economic and health time bomb.
“Experts predict almost a half of the world’s population could be obese by 2030,” says Phil. “So forget the message people like me are always going on about and just consider the difference even the smallest change could make to you.
“The single biggest mistake is that the year on the calendar shifts forward and people rush into healthy living. Forget it – it almost certainly won’t work and you’ll end up discouraged. The best thing by far, especially if you’re not used to regular exercise, is to start with small changes.”
No matter how much eminently qualified professionals like Phil tell us what most of us know is plain common sense there’s no substitute for the example of someone who has transformed their life through exercise and the right meal plan – just take one look at Vickie Martin.
The 42-year-old is both a model of determination and an inspiration to anyone who has seen the road to weight loss and better health as one littered only with obstacles.
Crucially, she is someone who has achieved a formidable transformation by adhering to the two undisputed basics of healthy living – regular exercise and a good balanced diet.
The sales executive lost five stone over six months in 2010 and has subsequently shed a further five, taking her from 22st to her current weight of 11st 9lb – something she hasn’t been since her teens.
“I’d tried every meal plan and possible solution from blood group diets to hypnotherapy,” says Vickie. “And I wasn’t just carrying all that extra weight. I had a slipped disc, gout, hip rotation and no energy. I was in pain all the time and was so close to going for a gastric band. Then one day, with 40 on the horizon, I had an epiphany and decided it was up to me to take control.”
It started with a total reduction in the amount of carbohydrates combined with an exercise regime that saw Vickie work closely with the fitness team at Edenbridge Leisure Centre.
“The guys there have been absolutely brilliant; so supportive and encouraging. It’s a daunting prospect to even think about exercise when you are so overweight but they have been fantastic. I can now run 40 minutes on the treadmill quite happily and they have also helped me tone-up which is obviously crucial when you have lost so much weight.
“I’m so proud of the fact I’ve not only lost the weight, I’ve changed my thinking and my life and now I’m going through the operations to finally give me the body I always wanted,” adds Vickie.
With benefits such as increased energy levels, fewer aches and pains, improved sleep and a significant chance of reducing risk of illnesses such as heart disease and Type II diabetes (oh, and you can thrown in a heightened libido as well!) why do people struggle with the concept of a sustained healthy lifestyle?
Laura Fraser is a Sevenoaks-based personal fitness trainer with a refreshingly commonsense philosophy:
“I don’t expect people to be in the gym every day or eat their body weight in lettuce or quinoa! That’s a silly approach and one almost certain to fail. I want someone’s transition to be as seamless as possible,” she says.
“Many of us pick up bad habits from our parents so I believe it’s vitally important that we make changes in learned behaviour. Eating well and eating ‘clean’ doesn’t have to be difficult and even small adjustments can set you successfully on the right track.
“I also appreciate lifestyles are hectic and for most people spending endless hours in the gym is just not realistic so, for example, I might devise some exercises a person can simply perform during the adverts while watching television.”
Is there one bit of advice Laura would offer? “Don’t be forever jumping on the scales. I don’t generally use weight as a guide, I use inch loss. If you start eating well, even gradually, and do some regular exercise you will start to feel the benefits – and those benefits can be transformative.”
What’s next for the inspirational Vickie Martin? “I am going to do a marathon. A couple of years ago there was, quite frankly, more chance of me going to the moon than running 26 miles! Now, I know I can do it,” she says with understated determination. And who would doubt her?