There is an overload of information on the web, in magazines, on television and from self-proclaimed health professionals out there that it is hard to know what to believe and what to follow. The mountain of contradictions frustrates me. One “health and fitness” (read diet nut) website will say don’t eat any carbohydrates or do any cardio exercise. Another will say fill up on wholegrains and run your little butt off. *sigh*
I am a student of the Keep-It-Simple and Everything-In-Moderation schools and that seems to work for me. The last six months of my life have been about finding a balance and focusing on what my body needs.
- Eat 4 different vegetables every day. Preferably different, rich colours too. Why not get the maximum nutrients you can every day? Mix up your vegetables throughout the week too.
- Move every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot or high impact, but make sure you move that body every day. Walk, bike, yoga, dance, skate, run, skip or row. Every day for at least 20 minutes.
- Only eat when hungry. It took me a while to get used to this. We tend to eat when it’s “lunch time” or when dinner is served, but if you’re not hungry, why eat? Don’t leave it until you’re famished, but wait to hear that little hungry signal before you eat something else. I tend to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with two snacks in between.
- Make the right choices 80% of the time. This really is about maintaining balance. I hate the word diet with a passion (as most people do). It’s about choosing healthy, fresh foods over the sugary, processed ones MOST of the time. I mean, if you never let yourself have that scoop of ice-cream, you’ll eventually end up going crazy and eating seven tubs of the stuff. Relax 10 – 20% of the time and allow yourself a few treats.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. I know, I know. A glass of vino or a coffee in the morning is fine (and lovely), but alcohol is empty calories and a lot of them. Both drinks dehydrate the crap out of you too, so make sure you substitute them for water every now and then.
- Include strength work into your exercise. Most women are scared of bulky, large muscles and therefore avoid weight training to focus on burning calories with cardio exercise. The truth is that you want to transform that fat into lean muscle to boost your metabolism and burn more fat more efficiently. Start off lightly and ask a trainer to assist you with exercises to try.
- Learn to love cooking. I used to be a very lazy cook. I would jut throw a chicken breast with a can of some kind of simmer sauce and a few vegies and call it dinner. Now I concentrate on making as many things from scratch as possible. This way I control the sugar and oil levels and start with a base of fresh food. When you have the time, investigate new healthy recipes and testing different herb and spice combinations. No time? Cook up a bunch of meals on the weekend and freeze them for weeknight dinners.
- Listen to your joints and muscles. My boyfriend is terrible at this (you know you are T!). He’ll have a sore back and keep pumping heavy weights, ignoring the pain until it becomes so bad that he can barely move without wincing. Stretch often. Yoga classes are great, but if that’s not your thing, stretch by yourself. Make sure you target all your main muscle groups to avoid any pain or cramping. Also regular visits to an osteopath, chiropractor and/or massage therapist do wonders.
- Stop eating when full. Self explanatory, no? I was always brought up to eat everything on my plate, it was considered rude if you didn’t (or, even worse, you wouldn’t get dessert). But servings at restaurants these days are enormous and a much larger serving than most of us need. My aunt throws her serviette over her plate when she is full so she doesn’t keep picking at the rest of her meal.
- Be grateful. When you are feeling healthy and energetic – be grateful for it. Every time I get sick I pine for the days when I felt healthy and realise that I always take it for granted. If your legs are okay – run. If you’re cold-free, take a walk and take big breaths of the fresh air. Don’t take your health for granted.