The time for festivities has passed – and, if you really want to lose a stone by Easter, cut down on your drinking and stop smoking, then there’s no better time to start

THE team at the Countess of Chester Hospital have helped thousands of people cut down on their unhealthy vices over the years, and today the specialists have teamed up to present some hints and tips on how to make your healthy New Year’s resolutions work for you.

Michelle Redgard, dietetic services manager at the hospital, said: “Sometimes even just the idea of changing unhealthy patterns can seem unachievable, but if you can tackle just one step at a time, it’s surprising how quickly your goals can be achieved.”

Sharon Becker, senior dietitian, recommends clarifying your motives to shed the pounds.

She said: “If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you need to be clear in your own mind why you’re doing it.

“First of all, write down your reasons for wanting to lose weight, and decide if this is the best time to make changes to your eating and activity – do you feel ready? If now is the right time, there are some things you can do to give yourself more of a chance of succeeding.

“Keep a record of everything you eat and drink, as well as any activity you do. That helps to identify problem areas, or feelings or situations that trigger over- eating, and what you most want to change.

“Write yourself an action plan to follow with clear targets. For example, ‘I will be more active and do this by doing a 10-minute walk three times each week’

“The next thing to remember is to set yourself realistic goals. “Realistic goals are achievable, and success boosts confidence in your ability to lose weight. Little changes can make a big difference – losing just 5-10% of your weight over a 3-6 month period, for example, has massive health benefits, and a weight loss of between 0.5-2lb a week is a safe and achievable target.”

Other top tips include:

Starting the day with a healthy breakfast – people who do find it easier to control their weight.

Eating regular, balanced meals and snacks at planned times during the day.

Filling half your plate with veg/salad and dividing the other half between meat, fish, egg or beans and starchy foods like potatoes, rice, pasta or bread.

Avoid eating at the same time as doing something else, for example when reading or watching TV.

It takes time for your brain to know your stomach is full, so wait at least 5-10 minutes before deciding if you need more.

Sharon explained: “While you are on your weight loss journey, accept that the occasional lapse is normal and get straight back on track. “Don’t let it make you lose sight of your overall goals and the progress you have made. Instead learn from it to help you in the future.”

Karen Gaynor, specialist obesity dietitian at Western Cheshire PCT’s Step by Step Healthy Weight and Lifestyle Programme, said: “Moving your body around means you will use up more calories than if you are sitting down.

“Being physically active uses up more calories. In order to lose weight you need to eat fewer calories and burn up more by being more active.

“We know that the target for good health, and to help with weight control is at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on at least five days of the week, such as brisk walking, swimming, house- work or gardening.

“Moderate-intensity means being active enough so that your breath- ing and heart rate is faster than normal and you’re feeling warm. Aim to be breathless, not speechless – you should still be able to talk while exercising.

“But before you start panicking and wondering when you could manage to fit 30 minutes of exercise into each day, remember that you don’t have to do your 30 minutes all in one go. Two lots of 15 minutes, or even three lots of 10 minute bursts of activity, may be just as effective as 30 minutes of continuous activity. Gradually build this up to 60 minutes if you can.”

There are two types of exercise – cardiovascular and resistance. Cardiovascular, or aerobic exercise, includes anything that works your heart and lungs hard, such as brisk walking, jogging, and swimming.

Resistance, or weight training, includes the use of weights and machines, and is good for toning muscles. Both should be included if you want to improve your overall fitness, strength and general health.

Top tips to get active include.

Wash your car by hand.

Climb the stairs briskly.

Mow the lawn and rake the leaves more often.

Go for a brisk walk at lunchtime.

Visit http://www.cwsportspartner- warrington for information on hundreds of opportunities to get active in Cheshire.

For more information about how to join a walking group near to you, log on to and type ‘health walks’ into the search box.

The council runs community cycling sessions. For details of the next event, call the community sport officer on 01244 402273.