After one heck of a year, 2021 is hopefully a less chaotic one than last year. Time to shed those COVID kilos and get kick started on a new health regime, right?

But what’s the best way to create a realistic set of goals you know you can stick to? Just stick to these three simple tweaks and you can set yourself up for long term health and wellbeing, without dedicating your entire day to fretting about diet and exercise.

First things first, a simple tweak such as eating at the right time is one way to ensure you are setting yourself up for the day.

One way to do this is to fast for at least 12-16 hours between meals.

Intermittent Fasting is typically associated with weight loss, but there are many other benefits too, including greater wellbeing and improved gut health.

Gut health is important for weight loss as depending on how your gut bugs act, this can determine how well you process your food and even tell your brain when you are hungry or full.

As such, a healthy gut is important for weight loss and overall health and fasting can help improve the gut flora.

So how does Intermittent Fasting work? IF is an eating pattern that involves consuming food during specific hours. For example, you might start eating at 6am and end your last meal at 4pm meaning your body has a 14-hour break from meals.

Researchers have found that IF actually improves your gut ecology as weight loss reduces inflammation giving your gut the reboot it needs.

If you think about it simply, your gut microbes need rest to in order to function effectively. If you give your body a large meal to digest late at night, your gut is going to have to work very hard and it will have a negative effect on your overall gut health.

Next, check your portion sizes. Understanding food portions can be confusing and tricky, but it’s all about a balanced plate and once you get your head round this, eating the right amount can become second nature.

Firstly, a balanced plate as recommended by Australian Dietary Guidelines should include 50 per cent veggies and salad, 25 % of lean protein and 25% of complex carbs.

So, if you look at your plate you simply need to say half of it should be veggies or salad, a quarter should be complex carbs and another quarter should be lean protein.

To understand what this means, you can simply use a cup. So, your plate should consist of one cup of veggies and salad, half a cup of complex carbs such as low GI grain such as brown rice or quinoa, brown or pulse pasta or sweet potato and half a cup of lean protein such as lean meat, fish, eggs or tofu.

Ideally, when choosing your veggies or salad you should aim to eat a rainbow, so as many different colours as possible so this might mean leafy greens, with grated carrots, yellow capsicum, purple cabbage, red tomatoes and brown mushrooms.

Buddha bowls work particularly well in this case and can be easily made to create a simple yet nourishing meal by adding half a cup of rice or quinoa then another half a cup of tofu or lean chicken breast to your rainbow plate of veggies.

Then, ensure you dedicate at least 20 minutes to your day to exercise. Yes, you only need at least 20 minutes of high intensity exercise to reap the benefits.

A HIIT workout lasting up to 20 minutes can also give you more bang for your buck in terms of calorie burn.

A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that those who did just 13 minutes of HIIT burned more calories than those who did a steady rate of cardio for 40 minutes.

So now you know you need just 20 minutes in your day to exercise, when exactly should you fit this in?

According to research, just before breakfast is ideal, allowing you to start your day on a good note.

Research shows that exercisers can burn up to 20 percent more body fat when starting the day with a HIIT workout on an empty stomach.

An additional study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that people were less distracted by food when working out beforehand.

Another reason is that studies have shown that exercise in the evening could affect your ability to get good quality shut-eye.

If you simply can’t find time to squeeze 20 minutes of HIIT into your day before breakfast then another optimum time would be between 2-6pm when your body temperature is at its highest.

study found that if you exercise when your body temperature is at its highest, it can optimise muscle function, enzyme activity and endurance for performance.

Committing to just 20 minutes daily to exercise will not only help you burn calories, but you will also feel better mentally too.

So, remember these three simple tweaks. One, fast for at least 12 hours. Two, check your portions and three, exercise for just 20 minutes a day. Easy peasy!