Over the last few years, you have, most likely, been bombarded by social media personalities promoting some form of obscure yoga or diet plan that comes with the promise of a toned body, boosted mental health and inner zen in little to no time. Why has good health become so complicated and stressful when it doesn’t need to be. I’ve peeled back the ostentatious layers of new age diet, exercise, and wellbeing plans, to give you the simple truth behind a healthier 2022.
Atkins, keto, paleo, flexitarian, volumetric, intermittent fasting…..the list goes on and on becoming increasingly elaborate. Even going vegan seems to have its pitfalls. The key is to keep it simple.
Increase your vegetable ratio and in particular, your leafy vegetable content. Choose fresh green leafy salads. As a rule of thumb, the darker green, the higher the vitamin content. Try to make at least half of your plate leafy salads with a light dressing. I quite like some olive oil or a little fresh lemon juice. A good addition to this is to eat your salad first. This way you start your meal with high water and fibre content, whilst keeping calories low. This will help to control your blood sugar and insulin spikes during and following the meal.
Reduce the size of your portions. An easy trick is to use smaller dinner plates. This fools the eye into believing you have a mountain of food in front of you. By following the 50% salad rule you can reduce the amount of meat or root vegetables that you consume as well. Instead of larger portions of meat and root vegetables, you can eat pulses and legumes (beans, lentils and peas) which are packed with vitamins and protein. This would give you a plate that’s roughly 50% leafy salad, 25% meat or root vegetables and 25% beans, lentils and peas. Season your meal as you prefer according to your palate and your meal becomes the equivalent of a plain dress paired with killer heels and sparkly jewellery.
Check the ingredients list on the side of food packets, and avoid anything that lists sugar in the first four ingredients. Watch out for sneaky sugars like glucose and fructose. If you do want something sweet with a sugary content, have it straight after a meal which will help reduce the sugar spikes which cause food cravings when the sugar rush crashes.
Keep a photographic food diary. Take pictures of everything you eat and drink, then reflect on what you ate and how it made you feel that day. Can you improve on eating healthier, or drinking less alcohol?
January is historically the month of mammoth gym membership sign ups. It is a terrific way to start the year. Exercise stimulates your body’s metabolism which helps to burn calories, tone muscles, and reduce the spread around the midriff from any overindulgences during December. Do make sure you receive a proper induction at the gym to ensure you do not cause injury to yourself, especially when using new machines and weights. Personal trainers are adept at helping you with your personal fitness goals, so it is worth investing the time to find a good one.
If a personal trainer, or gym membership, doesn’t fulfil your requirements or meet your time constraints, it is a clever idea to plan days of ‘movement’. This can mean getting your steps in for the day, or an hour of exercise that leaves you slightly out of breath but comfortable. Try to stretch all your muscle groups before exercise to prevent pulling or damaging your body. Do not overdo it on your first attempts and slowly work up to your goals over a period that is suited to you.
Take pictures of yourself in front of the mirror to check your progress on getting into the shape you want. Getting into shape is a slow process, and often, progress can be difficult to track or visualise without having ‘before’ pictures as a reference. It is better to find contentment in your shape opposed to your actual weight. Healthy muscle weighs more than unhealthy fat.
Sleeping should be easy. You have been doing it since birth, and you should be an expert by now! Not quite. Your daily routine outside of bedtime plays an especially significant role on the quality of your 40 winks.
Let’s start with the basics. Alcohol may help you fall asleep but puts you in a state of uncomfortable and restless slumber. Similarly, coffees, hot chocolates, and malted drinks within 4-6 hours of bedtime often result in poor sleep. A small glass of water or some herbal tea like chamomile or valerian are much better suited to help you into a happy sleep.
Normal sleep patterns are made up of 90-minute chunks, and ideally you want to time sleeping in multiples of 90 minutes. Many people are happiest with 7.5 hours of sleep or 9 hours of sleep. Waking after 8 hours and breaking the one and a half hour sleep cycles can leave you feeling grumpy and conversely more tired.
Switch off your devices and avoid watching television whilst in bed. If you can train your mind to avoid certain stimulus in bed, then subconsciously your brain is not active waiting for the next instalment of selling sunsets or watching more Tik-Tok videos.
How comfortable is your bed? When was the last time you changed your mattress or pillows? Do you wake up feeling achy? An older mattress may no longer be up to the job and your pillow may have become flat that now no longer keeps your neck and head at a comfortable angle. Improving your sleep posture may be the key to improving your sleep. Take your time to choose a new mattress and there are even some manufacturers that offer many months of sleep trial with a money back guarantee.
Use a sunrise alarm clock. With dark winter mornings, a noisy alarm clock to rudely wake you up will leave you repeatedly reaching for the snooze button. A sunrise alarm clock uses gentle light to mimic a natural sun rise. This in turn fools your body into believing you woke up on your own and happy.
Just remember to not to laze around in bed and get moving. This will help you to start the day with high energy levels and continue as you wish to go on.
Written By: Bhavash Padhiar | Wellness Blogger