The new year is a great time to review different aspects of your life. From relationships, to your career, intentions for the next 12 months, and your health and wellbeing.
Like every January, we’re hit by an overwhelming avalanche of marketing campaigns for detox diets, weight-loss hacks and “body blitzes”. The focus is on choosing (and sticking to) healthy new year resolutions. Unfortunately, the majority of these campaigns have us spend our money on products or services that, in the best case, have no benefit, and, in the worst case, lead to yoyo-dieting. This, in turn, can have significant health consequences, such as an increased risk of inflammation, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.
Instead, we should focus on longterm and attainable habits. Making better lifestyle and health choices, staying motivated and feeling good in ourselves. This is not achieved with excessively strict diets or wildly difficult fitness plans. Rather with small and consistent habits we can build into our daily routine.
Here are 5 tips that can help us feel our best in 2019.
1. Embrace fibre.
UK guidelines recommend 30g of fibre a day. Most of us actually consume only just over half of that. In healthy people, the additional fibre will enhance gut health, help regulate blood sugar levels, and contribute to healthy blood pressure.
Vegetables are a great source of fibre, plus have the additional benefit of providing an array of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Aim for making half your plate vegetables of all sorts. Leafy greens (spinach, chard, kale), cruciferous veg (cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccoli), bell peppers, mushrooms and root vegetables all work.
Other sources include fruit, beans, pulses, nuts and whole grains. In whole-wheat pasta, total fibre content per 100g of pasta is 13g, while in white pasta it is only 1g. Swapping your bread, pasta and rice to wholegrain can therefore bump up your fibre intake significantly. Easy!
2. Eat without distractions.
So many of us eat while reading emails, watching TV or scrolling through social media. Not paying attention to the food while eating has been shown to impair sensory cues, such as taste and feelings of fullness. This leads to increased desire for sugar, salt and fat, as well as increased calorie consumption. Take your time and focus on the food that’s on your plate. It won’t only make you eat more mindfully, it will also make the meal feel more satisfying.
3. Don’t forget to drink enough water.
Whilst your body’s thirst mechanisms are excellent, feelings of thirst occur at a mild dehydration level of 1-2%. Even such mild dehydration levels can trigger fatigue, disturb mood and limit concentration. We often forget to drink water, so a good way to remind ourselves is to fill up a large bottle, leave it somewhere in sight, and make sure you drink it all during the day.
4. Aim for macro and micro nutrient balanced meals.
Particularly in a period of short-term restriction. At this time of the year, it’s popular to restrict certain foods; be it starchy carbohydrates, meat or sugar. This is no problem, as long as it is done with awareness and prior research.
Veganuary, for instance, is increasingly popular and can be a healthy change. However, a vegan diet also provides less of certain nutrients, such as complete sources of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamin B12. While this is no immediate health threat in the short term, it can result in deficiencies and further health consequences if it’s continued for a longer period of time.
Therefore, if embarking on a new way of eating, it’s important to inform ourselves in order to ensure that all our nutrient needs are met.
5. Incorporate movement into your daily life.
At the beginning of the year many of us are committed to going to the gym every day. However, this commitment soon dwindles because it’s simply not practical for everyone. Life gets in the way. We’re too tired after work, or simply lack the motivation.
If we can’t exercise as often as we’d like, incorporating smaller bursts of movement can make us feel energised and good in ourselves.
Take the stairs instead of the lift, get off a stop early on the bus or tube and walk the rest of the way. Get away from your desk and take a brisk 15-minute walk during lunch. Complete a 20-minute workout at home.
Using a fitness app is a great way to do that, as it takes away the effort of deciding what to do in your workout or how to do it, keeps you going by reminding you to exercise, and motivates you through good music, encouragement and support.
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