Karl Henry: Join our five-week plan to get Christmas-party ready

Week one to-do list:

Welcome to my new five-week plan to get you into the shape of your life – in time to let your hair down for Christmas-party season.

After the success of the recent back-to-school challenge here in Health & Living, I now bring you a plan that is built for everyone. I will be starting right from the very basics, teaching you everything you need to know about food, exercise and motivation.

Dry November has just kicked off, with many people giving up alcohol for the month, ahead of Christmas – so why not use this month as the perfect kickstart to health and fitness?

What you need to do each week:

l Take some simple measurements and fill in a measurement sheet

l Move more, with the simple exercises I give you each week

l Cook more – but don’t worry, it won’t be anything too scary and complicated

l Set some targets and check in each week to see if you are on track

l Get a friend involved – you will always work better when you have someone to help you

That doesn’t sound too scary now, does it? My goal for this plan is to make health and fitness friendly, easy and doable, by each week giving you information that you can understand, that will help you get results and improve your life at the same time. Over the course of these five weeks , you will

l Get fitter

l Lose inches

l Lose weight

l Gain health tips

l Lower your body fat/increase muscle mass

l Improve your mood and your sleep

OK, so no pressure for me to deliver! Today, on day one, make two worksheets. Place them on the fridge or on your desk, somewhere visible, as they will give you direction and keep your focused when times get tough.

The first worksheet should contain your goal list for the next five weeks and should include these sections: personal, work, family & relationships. The other sheet is your measurements list (see below).

Today is really about thinking about what you want to achieve, setting those targets and working towards them.

That is what the first worksheet is for. I want you to take 10 minutes out of your day, before you start anything else, and use this time to develop five simple goals for you, for your work and for your family or relationships that you want to improve over the coming five weeks.

I want to get you in shape for Christmas physically, but also emotionally and mentally, so let’s take a look at these three areas of your life.

Make the goals small but realistic, so that with a little bit of effort you will be able to achieve them.

Once you’ve set your goals, its time to measure your body. The three measurements below will provide a simple, yet important track record for how you are doing. I want you to measure at the same time on the same day each week – Monday is always a good one – and jot the results down on a sheet.

You are measuring three simple things:

l Waistline: This is actually really important for health. Waistlines over 40 inches mean you are at a higher risk of health-related diseases. Simple. Take a tape measure, place it around the body, meet it at your bellybutton and take down the number.

l Weight can be a good guide – to a point. Yes, the ratio of muscle to fat is important, but still a general number is a good thing. Ideally weigh yourself in the morning.

l Resting heart rate: This tells us about your fitness. Generally the lower the number the better, but between 60-80 beats is a good guide. To get the number, take your pulse at the base of your wrist or your neck – if you have a smartwatch, you can also use it for this purpose. Ideally take this in the morning as well.

So that was a mind workout all in itself. Now for the food and exercise part. Let’s make this just as simple – it’s a five-week plan, so this week I want to give you five crucial exercise and food tips (see above right).

l Every week, Independent.ie features The Real Health podcast with Karl Henry, in association with Laya Healthcare. In this week’s podcast, Karl answers listeners’ top five questions and it’s available at www.independent.ie/realhealthpodcast

1 Intensity : So you need to work a little harder to get the benefits. Get slightly out of breath and get results, it’s really that simple.

2Resistance is key:Resistance is lifting any form of weight. It is so important for everything to do with health. Standing up and then sitting is a form of resistance, its basically a squat.

3Sleep: Yes sleep is exercise. You should be getting at least eight hours a night, in a tech free bedroom.

4Stand more, walk more, use the stairs more: Get exercise into your day in any way that you can,it all helps

515 minute mile: You should be able to walk a mile in 15 minutes, as a good gauge of your fitness , can you ?

Your food plan…

1Eat more colour: Yes colourful unprocessed foods are super healthy and will make you healthy too

2Drink more water: Water is crucial for health. 2Litres a day is a good guide and aim for clear urine when going to the toilet

3Cook more from scratch: Cooking isn’t really putting a ready meal in the over, its chopping, dicing and cooking foods from scratch.

4Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner: Want a healthy daily guideline? There you do. Ideally eating every three hours. Make those snacks healthy though.

5 No food after 8pm: Aim to eat within twelve hours and give your body 12 hours to process and digest your food.

Your exercise plan…

1 Do a kitchen spring clean and get rid of any junk food, or anything that will tempt you. Instead, fill your kitchen cupboards with healthy food – food that you have to cook yourself and with lots of colour.

2 Cook our recipe of the week: Each week I will bring you a simple recipe that is easy to cook, good for you and delicious.

3 Do five 30-minute walks – remember to work hard enough to get the benefits. If you find this is too hard, then simply break up the walks throughout the day into 10-minute segments.

4 In bed by 10pm: Sleep is a crucial part of health, so this week I want you to sleep more and sleep better. That starts with getting to bed early!

5 20 squats per day: Each week I will be adding exercises to this plan and for this week it’s the classic squat.

Remember anyone can squat and the movement can be as much or as little as you like. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, push all the power through your heels and bend at the knees, ensuring your knees never go over your toes.

Bend the knees as much as you feel comfortable and then stand up again. If you feel any back pain or knee pain, stop straight away.

If this really scares you, then try a sit/stand. Stand in front of your favourite chair, now sit down and stand back up – it’s the very same thing.

Start in the kitchen…


⬤ 1 tbsp rapeseed oil

⬤ 1 bunch of spring onions,

thinly sliced

⬤ 1 large clove of garlic,

peeled and finely chopped

⬤ 2cm piece of fresh ginger,

peeled and finely chopped

⬤ 2 carrots, peeled and

finely chopped

⬤ 1 red chilli, deseeded (if

you prefer less heat)

⬤ 1 tbsp Thai green curry paste

⬤ 650ml chicken stock

⬤ 1 stick of lemongrass, crushed

⬤ 1 tbsp fish sauce

⬤ 1 red pepper

⬤ 50g wholewheat noodles

⬤ 1 cooked chicken breast,

shredded or finely diced

⬤ 1 tbsp lime juice

⬤ Handful of fresh coriander


1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the spring onions, garlic and ginger and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened.

2. Add the carrots and chilli and cook for a further 2 minutes.

3. Add the curry paste, stock, lemongrass and a tablespoon of fish sauce and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the red pepper and noodles, then reduce the heat and simmer for a further 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Add the chicken and simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the noodles are fully cooked (they should still have a tiny bite to them and not be soggy) and the chicken is heated through.

5. Add a tablespoon of lime juice and the chopped coriander and taste. Add more lime juice (for a more fragrant flavour) and/or more fish sauce (for a deeper, saltier flavour) if you like.

⬤ Prep time – 10 mins ⬤ Cook time – 15 minutes ⬤ Serves 2

Recipe – Thai chicken soup

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