Lots of people decide to lose weight and get fit in New Year, to work off all that holiday indulgence. But then they don't keep it up and lose all the benefit of that initial enthusiasm. What you need is something that's manageable and sustainable, that it doesn't feel all  too much, all too soon.

If I'd gone to a regular gym, I'm sure I wouldn't have stuck with it - I'm not the type to be able to just use an exercise machine, while watching mindless pap on tv, or listening to whatever music, it just isn't me. Then on top of that,  I had all sorts of body issues, being a size 20 when I started tai  chi - I'm now size 14 and the weight has stayed off. At first, I  didn't even notice I was losing weight, but one day I was doing a partner routine, and kept having to stop to hitch up my trousers. Then I had to buy two complete sets of new clothes as I kept going down in size....

The losing weight wasn't anything I'd aimed at, since I'd more or less given up and got resigned to being large, very large :) However, I had changed the way I  ate, due to a brush with  cancer and taken up tai  chi. The combination meant that I gradually felt I could  manage more, without being out of breath the whole time, as well as the pounds starting to shift.

So how to achieve this? Firstly, don't stress about  wanting to become fit, or wanting to lose weight. Instead, look at what you're eating and change it to being healthier. I don't eat any less than when I was large, but I eat differently (details further below). Taking up tai chi meant I wasn't trying to kill  myself with loads of strenuous exercise, but instead easing into it gradually, at my own pace. It was the constant drip-feed of practising that made the difference, whereas charging at it was all too much like hard work for  me ;)  I started with once a week at the club, and practising half an hour a day at home, for the first year. After that I gradually increased the amount of time I  spent at the club  (which has the excellent policy that the more sessions you attend, the cheaper it works out, not so much for the exercise benefit (though that was substantial), but even more because I was making friends there, so the whole thing was nice to go to, to be with fun people, and to feel the benefit of.

And now, for my diet - first off, I don't believe in self-denial. Starving yourself is not good for you - look at the skeletons walking around in the street and think of the osteoporesis and organ damage they're incurring through being far too thin. Instead, I looked at what I was eating - ready meals,  processed food, plenty of cheese and not  much veg. Typical unhealthy eating of someone who doesn't have either time, energy, or inclination to change a routine. So I then introduced foods that I had read were good at fighting cancer - I have no scientific studies to prove any of these, they're just stuff I read about - more veg, especially broccoli, carrots, aubergines, mushrooms,  squashes, red peppers and other stuff - the one veg rule, was that I eliminated any veg I hated. My diet therefore avoids broad beans, butter beans, mushy peas, celery and other such horrors. Then I added spices - turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic, paprika, which I had read had anti-cancer properties, and which made my food taste much more yummy. At first, I'd chop up enough for a meal and add whatever fish, tofu, chicken, then fry the lot in olive oil. But I figured with my lifestyle, it was much more efficient to make up 20 portions of assorted cooked veg, divided into 20 ice cream containers and just whip out a container as  I needed veg for my meals.

You will notice that my main meal doesn't include any carbohydrate. I haven't eliminated this, but just cut it down to one portion of carb in a day, which is usually my sandwich for  lunchtime. Breakfast is usually fruit of some sort - again only fruit I like, not fruit just for the sake of eating fruit. For snacks I have bought in  quanitities  of various nuts - almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts - and pumpkin seeds, which I mixed up into the proportions of each that I like and whip out to nibble on whenever I feel peckish through the day.

Then I have 2 days off a week from this routine. 5:2 diets are in just now, but basically I have 5 days I eat  things off my list above and 2 days I indulge in whatever, which is the opposite of the 5:2 being advocated elsewhere. I found after a while,  that my tastes changes, so that I no longer craved the types of unhealthy things I'd been chomping on before, so that even my 2 days off weren't  as unhealthy as previously. I still  love choc though ;) The thing is not to be fanatical, not to be down on yourself if you fall  off the diet, you can always get back up and start again. And it means, when I do indulge, I really enjoy it, I don't guilt-trip about it.

So to sum up, healthy eating and gentle exercise will bring about a more permanent change than crash dieting and heavy exercise, so that you feel happier and healthier as a sustainable way of life, and yet can enjoy occasional  indulgences too.