There is SO much information about healthy lifestyles – it’s in just about every newspaper, magazine, on TV and social media all the time. The diet industry is big business and, in my humble opinion, preys on our emotions. Often the information we are exposed to is contradictory – for example:
Meat is the best source of protein vs. meat is harmful
Vitamin and mineral supplements are a rip-off vs. Our soil is so depleted that our food has little or no nutritional value so we must supplement
Eat multiple small portions throughout the day vs. Eat three meals a day and no snacking
So what is the right thing to do? I’ve put together seven healthy eating tips. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it gives you some helpful insights, get you inspired and, as always, I invite you to share your own thoughts, ideas and experiences in the comments.
A healthy lifestyle starts with you developing awareness and trust in your own body. You are the only one who is responsible for your own health and wellbeing, not a chemist, a computer or a doctor. “Listening” means to be aware of the signals your body gives you. So if you find yourself craving sweets, is this because you are deficient in nutrients or because you’re addicted to them because you’ve always used them as a reward? If you listen only to the craving, and set about satisfying it in every circumstance, you and I both know that this will end badly.
Our bodies give us many signals. Our job is to heed those signals rather than muffle them with drugs. Typical warnings signals are: frequent cavities and bleeding gums; a sour taste in the mouth, bad breath, a discoloured and coated tongue; weak fingernails and dull-looking skin; recurring chronic headaches.
Recognising these physical signs as warnings, trusting our inner intuition and making appropriate adjustments to our lifestyle will reverse the symptoms and pay dividends over time. After all, it’s not rocket science to connect overeating, indulging in rich, spicy food and excessive alcohol with indigestion, acid reflux and an upset stomach! Listening to your body on “the morning after” can provide you with valuable insights into what doesn’t work for you. It’s up to you to make the changes.
In our modern fast-paced society, mealtimes are no longer the social experience they used to be. A big part of the eating ritual began in the preparation stage, with the smell of the food cooking, the anticipation of what was to come building before the food was even set on the plate. Food has aroma, texture, colour, form, temperature and weight – both on the plate and in your mouth – yet how often to do allow these characteristics to enter our awareness? To do so, we simply have to slow down.
When we allow time for the food to reach our stomach and for the digestive juices to begin the breakdown process, hunger sensations diminish and, as a result, we eat less – and that’s a great help to maintaining an ideal weight.
The healthiest way to slow down speed-eating is to eat mindfully. Start by looking at the food – take in the colours, the presentation, the smell. Feel the texture of the food in the mouth, notice the flavours, and chew each mouthful 25-30 times. Take time to reflect on the amount of love and care that went into the preparation of the meal, the nourishment it offers our body and the richness of life in general. Eating mindfully is not only important to help digestion, it also helps reduce stress and enhances our level of wellbeing.
Our need for water is critical. Our bodies are 70% water – we rely upon it for digestion, cooling the body, elimination and, of course, the circulation of nutrients to every cell. The exact amount of water required daily varies depending upon the foods we eat, the temperature and humidity of the air and how much exercise we do.
As a general guideline, drinking six to eight glasses of water a day is a good habit to acquire, recognising that many of us don’t drink enough water, relying instead on other liquids – especially coffee, tea and soft drinks, many of which contain sugar and caffeine, which actually have a dehydrating effect. After drinking these beverages, the body requires more water to aid in their metabolism. Many common health problems would be eased or remedied if we kept ourselves hydrated – headaches, constipation and irritability to name just a few.
It’s also worth remembering that hunger is often confused with dehydration, so the next time you feel like having a snack, have a glass of water first and wait twenty minutes before reaching for something to eat – you may discover you are no longer hungry after all.
Many of us have too many of the wrong kinds of fats and oils in our diet – the heavy salad dressings, the fatty hamburgers, the cheese sauces. A diet of natural whole foods would ideally contain sufficient natural fats to meet the nutrition needs of healthy individuals (from fruits and vegetables, like the oil-rich avocados and olives; grains, nuts and seeds; and for some, fish from unpolluted waters).
Our bodies use dietary fat for energy, healthy hair, skin, nails, vitamin absorption and normal everyday functions. Good fats promote several health benefits such as protection against heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression as well as reduced blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
Get a good night’s sleep
More and more research is suggesting that those who sleep five hours or less weight more than those getting at least seven hours of sleep per night. The reason for this is that sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make us feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When we don’t get enough sleep, our level of ghrelin goes up and our level of leptin goes down. This makes us feel hungrier than when we are well-rested.
Sleep also plays an important role in our physical health, with ongoing sleep deficiency linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. And of course, getting enough sleep helps us function well throughout the day.
Exercise has enormous benefits for our mind and body – it helps keep our weight under control, reduces our blood pressure and boosts our mood. It doesn’t need to be an expensive activity, either – playing with your children in the park, doing the gardening or going for a walk will keep your body active.
The secret is to do something you enjoy for 30 minutes every day to help keep your body strong and lean. Some ideas to get you started: get off the bus one stop earlier; take the stairs instead of the lift; go for a walk with a friend.
Take good quality supplements every day
There is much debate about whether nutritional supplements are necessary or if we can get all the nutrients we need from our food. Sadly, modern farming methods have stripped our soils of nutrients; an increased use of chemicals has polluted our water supply; more cars on the road and the damage to the ozone layer means our air supply has deteriorated and we microwave and over-process our food. Add to that the stressful lives we lead today, which strips our body of precious vitamins and minerals – we really have no choice but to compensate for the empty calories, missing nutrients and toxic residues of most commercial foods.
I can’t stress enough the importance of ensuring that you select your supplement carefully to ensure they are made to the highest standard, using only quality ingredients that can be best absorbed and utilised by the body. I know it’s confusing, so if you would like help choosing the right solution for your needs, please reach out to me.
Has something here piqued your interest? Perhaps something you’ve heard before and just haven’t been able to successfully implement? The secret to making lasting change is to introduce it slowly. So pick one tip and work towards making it permanent before you move on to the next. And please share your successes with me!