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.
What health rules do you try to live by?
I have grown to love exercise. In the ‘drag me kicking and screaming to the gym but after the workout I feel fabulous’ kind of way. We all wish that there was some quick fix for having to get sweaty and exhausted, but unfortunately it is still proven time and time again to be one of the best ways to keep fit, healthy and happy.
Okay, so we know we have to do it, but is there a way to motivate ourselves to peel off the couch or roll out of bed at some ungodly hour to slave away at the gym? Here are some of the tricks I use:
- Write it into your schedule. You must make time for it and make it at a time that suits you. If you are not a morning person then why schedule it for 5am when you know that 8 times out of 10 you won’t make it past the snooze button? Factor it into your schedule and make it convenient.
- Look incredible – kit yourself out. Buy yourself a new workout outfit, one that is bright and flattering. Looking great helps us feel more confident which in turn helps us push ourselves more in our workouts.
- Try 10 minutes. If you’re feeling lethargic and unmotivated, simply force yourself to exercise for 10 minutes. Just 10 minutes. Come on, anyone can do some exercise for 10 minutes. Once you’ve started, you’ll usually find that you can get through an entire workout (but don’t beat yourself up if you have one of those days where the 10 minutes is all you can manage).
- A little help from my friends. Enlist the help of a friend to help motivate you. You’re always more likely to do something when someone is holding you accountable. They don’t need to necessarily train with you, just check in with each other to make sure that the other person is on track.
- Challenge yourself in your workouts. I am competitive and stubborn as a mule, so when I have decided I am going to do something I bloody well do it, dying or not. Tell yourself that you can finish if you just get through the next 100m, once you hit that see if you can go just another 10 seconds and so on. It really is a case of mind over matter sometimes. When you smash your own challenges, you walk away feeling pretty good about yourself with your head held high. In turn, you’re more likely to come back tomorrow to see what you can achieve then.
How do you force yourself to get through a workout session?
Do you workout at all or have other priorities?
I don’t know about you, but my life seems to rely on online connectivity more and more. Or I seem to think that it does. Sometimes being “connected” in the way of social media and constant email messages starts to stress me out a little. There’s too much information being thrown my way and it seems to sap so much of my time and energy trying to wade through it.
But how do we gain back some control over our “real lives” while staying involved in our online ones?
Here’s what I’ll be trialling over the next few weeks:
- Don’t check social media/email first thing in the morning. I always wake up, roll over and immediately check my email. I’m barely awake, yet already need my fix of connectedness. Now I am going to wait until I have gotten up and done something else first – make a cup of tea, have a shower, have breakfast. Something. Anything.
- Schedule specific sites into your daily routine. I find it hard to stay on top of my Google Reader. I follow (too) many blogs, but I’d hate to miss out on a really fabulous post by skipping it altogether. Now I’ll schedule blog reading and commenting time into my day to start getting on top of the backlog without anxiety. Set a timer to ensure that you don’t lose hours of your day to hilarious animal videos on YouTube.
- Block time waster website from yourself for a few hours a day. LeechBlock can do this for you if you find exercising self-control difficult (pfft, who doesn’t?). Having a program block certain websites between times you have specified will allow you to get on with being productive.
- Turn off the computer 30 minutes before bed. I am horribly guilty of watching a DVD in bed with my boyfriend and checking Twitter/Facebook/email all the way through. Terrible I know. In order to let yourself relax, unplug yourself from the Internet half an hour before bed time (and ideally, the television and computer too). Use this time to unwind or prepare yourself for the day ahead.
Do you worry about how much time you spend online?
How do you force yourself to unplug?
Firstly I must point out that I am not in any way a health expert – I am just sharing what has worked for me over the last few months. People’s bodies respond differently to certain foods, exercise and activities.
Breakfast. Eat it. I start my day with wholegrains – porridge and muesli being my favourites. Usually they keep me full until lunchtime, as the energy gradually releases into your body instead of just a wham bam thank you ma’am initial glucose hit.
Green tea. Well, any kind of herbal tea really. Particularly while Melbourne is enduring one of the coldest winters on record, the need for a warm drink is at its peak. I LOVE me a good coffee, but try not to have more than 2 a day (one is more common) due to the caffeine making me into a shaky, jittery mess. Green tea boosts the immune system and your metabolism, two big pluses in my books.
Vegetables. Ingest as many of these little vitamin packed suckers as you can. I find a vegie/fruit juice combo is one of the easiest ways to incorporate them into your diet, but fresh is always best. I quite like carrot sticks with hummus as a snack, stir frys (with plenty of garlic, chilli and ginger thrown in for good measure), adding spinach and mushrooms to an omelette or scrambled eggs, or vegetable pizza.
Vitamin C. The immune system certainly takes a beating in the winter, so load up on Vit C. Kiwifruit, oranges, broccoli and strawberries are my favourite sources.
Listen to your body. Feeling achy and lethargic? Then stretch, do some yoga or go for a walk. Don’t try to push your body into something it’s not ready for.
Sweat it out. Challenge yourself with high intensity cardio every few days. It keeps both you and your heart in shape, produces endorphins and can help deal with stress and negative energy.
Stretch. I am consistently nagging my boyfriend about how important stretching is. Be kind to your muscles, especially after a vigorous workout. Stretching not only helps to prevent injuries but also reduces muscle tension and increases mobility and flexibility. Plus it feels good.
Vitamin D. I get very cranky if I haven’t had a slice of sunshine in a few days. Get out in the fresh air and soak up some rays (wearing sunscreen with a suitable SPF of course)!
Destressing. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Little aggravating things drive me crazy. Someone driving 10 – 20kms slower than the speed limit, being hounded by telemarketers, people bumping into me along the footpath and not apologising… *sigh* it all gets to me. Recently I’ve been trying to take a deep breath when anything small irritates me and remind myself that it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
Check ups. I have become an adult. It’s frightening to say but I realised that the true mark of an adult is having private health insurance and using it for preventative check ups. I went to the dentist the other day, not because anything was wrong but because it was 6 months since I had been. Bizarre, I know. Peace of mind is fairly priceless though when in comes to health.
Reading. Letting myself get lost in a book, disconnecting from all the chaos in the real world, just for a moment = bliss.
Yoga and osteopathy. My posture is not unlike the Hunchback of Notre Dame at the worst of times, but after a little yoga and a manipulation or two by my osteopath, I resemble something slightly more human.
What activities, foods or rituals belong on your Health 101 list at the moment?