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So my first blog was about how I’ve fallen into my fitness journey and let me tell you it’s still ongoing and ever evolving. I still don’t enjoy it but I now feel like something is lacking if I can’t go out and exercise for an extended period due to my other health issues. Oh, and lock down.
The parallel journey to enjoying exercise is healthier eating habits. Now, I’ve never been the healthiest person nor the unhealthiest. I’m very lucky to be able to listen to my body when it’s saying I need to pay more attention to the food I’ve put it in. On the other hand, that same capacity justifies a LOT of bad eating habits. This ability, mind you, has come about at the cost of making several bad choices through my twenties in relation to alcohol abuse, smoking and other unmentionables. Now that I’ve made conscious choices not to engage in those behaviors, I find I can hear what my body is telling me and asking for, rather than having to cup my ear and lean in so to speak.
A large portion of my unhealthy eating habits can be categorized into the tired and lazy category and ease of access to a veritable smorgasbord of food via delivery partners has certainly made it harder. I’ve also fallen into the Depression and Uber cycle (where you’re so depressed you order Uber cos you can’t be bothered grocery shopping and you repeat that cycle because you are running out of energy and money to go and do grocery shopping and Uber is so easy. The thrill of receiving a naughty food parcel and the convenience wears off when you nap right after you wake up due to the first signs of malnutrition and fatigue). So as a (still) Rubenesque person who is trying very hard to make conscious healthy choices that are based in fact and semi-simple and effective to adhere to, here are six things you can start to do to make a difference to your health.
1. Water water (everywhere)
This one seems like a given because it’s DRILLED into us how important water is but we underestimate how many of our functions are impacted by dehydration; temperature regulation, muscle function, cognitive functions, gastrointestinal function, kidney, heart and blood function, causes headaches, delirium and confusion and can impact our skin and signs of aging (Popkin et al. 2010). There is also significant research suggesting that snacking and feeling hungry can be caused by dehydration (Brannigan et al 2015; McKeirnan et al. 2009). Making a conscious effort to drink water as soon as you wake rather than stumbling for the coffee pot also makes a massive difference. Drinking herbal teas instead of opting for more and more coffees has helped me a great deal and I am very fond of caffeine but never drink enough water to combat the amount of caffeine I consume. Drinking a big glass of water about 30 mins before a meal has also helped me to control portion sizes. If you’re one of those people who aren’t fond of drinking water, a soda stream or similar is a great way to trick yourself into enjoying water. Also, chucking some fresh fruit in your water to enhance the flavor is a great habit, too.
This one is a toughie to avoid and it’s hard to stick to in the long run if you’re fond of a soft drink or a cupcake. Try to wind down the sugar content in things you can control like tea, coffee, milks, pantry items where you can. You can of course opt for sugar alternatives like honey, maple syrup, agave or stevia where appropriate but by making a conscious choice to reduce and eliminate refined sugar where you can make a huge difference. Just make sure to have some Panadol handy if you’re prone to withdrawals. As mentioned before, a soda stream with some fresh fruit is a great way to opt out of sugary drinks but still gives you some natural pep!
3. More Greens!
Always more vegetables. For quite a while I’ve had a rule about the meals I eat; they at least must have something green in some capacity. Now not everyone wants to cut out meat completely from their diet and that’s okay! Just be conscious of where that meat is coming from and how much is on your plate in proportion to the meat (another blog for another day). Studies suggest that eating a multi-colored array of fruits and vegetables can assist in warding off chronic health issues such as heart disease, hypertension and cataracts (Van Duyn & Pivonka 2000) Opting for more vegetables on your plate and diet not only improve your overall nutritional intake but is better for the local environment. Studies also suggest that consuming more vegetables and naturally derived food products assist in boosting our water consumption (Altman 1961).
4. Plan to eat
This one seems straightforward but personally, this has been the hardest to master for me to incorporate (it’s still a work in progress). Working in kitchens for a long time, I like to experiment and having the same meals over and over (with the exception of left-overs of course!) goes against my meal prep habit which is “wake up and see what I feel like making that day” rather than planning ahead.
Making meals in advance is tough when you live in a share house and have limited fridge space, so work with what you can. Consider what you already have at home in your pantry, consider what you know you like to eat and make and go from there. Don’t get too tied up in recipes requiring a certain ingredient as you can swap in ingredients very easily and this is a good chance to experiment and work with what you have rather than buying excess spices and grains etc. and letting them sit in your pantry for the weevils to eat rather than you. Choose whole grains options (rice, pasta, quinoa etc), beans and veggies as the basis for most of your meals and you’re already off to a good start! Also don’t be a canned or frozen food snob! They are just as good as using fresh fruit and vegetables so opt for alternatives where you can to save time, space and save yourself from seasonal unavailability and rising costs of some veggies.
5. Talk to a professional
Everybody and every body is different so don’t be afraid to seek assistance and advice from health professionals where you can. Speak to your doctor about getting a blood test to see where you need to focus on in terms of your diet and for other tips. Looking into speaking to student naturopaths and dietitians can save you time and give you new insights into dietary requirements that are specifically tailored to you.
6. Forgive yourself
If you can’t maintain a constant healthy kick, don’t beat yourself up if you have a soft drink or a cake once every now and then. It’s not the end of the world and you are allowed! Just incorporating some of these is going a long way to set you up for healthier habits in the long run. Just remember to opt for healthier options when you can and forgive yourself regularly when forming new habits; it doesn’t happen overnight and nor should it. Give yourself time to adjust and adapt and you’ll be Elle McPherson in no time.
With Gratitude & Love
From Our Founder Caroline Mc Guinness