I saw this quote the other day on the Women’s Health Instagram account. For such a small word count, it spoke volumes. Most of us immediately associate fitness and weight loss with health – but why? Health is actually so much more than a six pack.
Health and healthy are such buzz words in today’s world. You only have to search the hashtags #health #fitfam #fitspiration to see that health and a healthy lifestyle have now become measures of success in life. There are pages and pages of cyberspace dedicated to fitness, working out and nutrition. Get those sculpted abs, that reverse V shape with defined shoulders and those peachy glutes and there you have HEALTH. Right?
Actually, no. And that’s where that quote comes in. IS that slim fit body really what health is about? Let’s delve a bit deeper. Do you feel good? Are you happy in your own body? Those fitness models may look great- but behind those sculpted abs, are they happy and emotionally balanced? Do they have a healthy relationship with food and life? Health is so much more than a six pack.
Health for me is holistic health. It means making time and space in your fitness regime to work on your mental well being and balance. And it pays off. If you’re looking after yourself properly, putting effort into your nutrition, energy and exercise, but also committing some time to mental wellbeing and balance, you’ll feel great AND you’re also more likely to stay focussed on the traditional health drive areas of nutrition and exercise. It’s easy to stray off-track when you’re feeling a little down, pushing yourself too hard or submitting to negative self-talk. And then that becomes a vicious circle of negativity, often with emotional eating.We hold ourselves up to such high standards that when we fail to achieve perfection (impossible!) we talk ourselves back into bad habits and the cycle continues.
Why not ditch the guilt, the negative self-talk, the all or nothing ‘give up’ attitude and instead talk about what we’re taking up and the good foods we’ve started eating? Recognise when your body needs good fuel and make time to enjoy things you love, without feeling guilty. Reward yourself for good behaviours, like nailing a workout. compassionate to yourself and aim for an 80/20 balance of health/indulgence.
Here are a few tips for holistic health:
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to resort to eating only salads or starving yourself. Include some protein, as many vegetables as you can and some (not too many- they are high in sugar!) fruits, as well as healthy fats. There is SO much information online and it only takes a few minutes of googling to find a handful of easy and delicious recipes to trial.
Ditch the diet and stop worrying about carbs, dairy or gluten. If you have no medical reasons to cut anything out, then don’t. Enjoy some- that 20%! – treats and be conscious about what you’re eating if you’re not putting in the hard yards.
OR- if doing that research and taking things forward on your own sounds too daunting and you’d like some help,why not try the programme I’ve been doing over the last few weeks- My28daychallenge. It promotes a healthy balanced attitude to food, it offers daily videos (refreshingly easy to understand) to explain how to organise your nutrition, it offers effective and not too time consuming exercise options and has a huge repertoire of easy recipes to try. There is a Facebook group for members, offering support and advice if you have questions or are struggling with any aspect of the programme.
Whichever way you do it, don’t over-complicate your life or your happiness. Take it back to basics and enjoy a well-rounded diet- yes, enjoy!
Reboot your Energy
To ensure your mind and body are both in top condition, focus on keeping your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. Avoid foods and drinks that cause sugar swings, which in turn cause mood swings and pull you towards destructive eating patterns. Make sure you have healthy snacks planned and with you. Having followed the My28daychallenge programme for the first two months of 2017, I can confidently say that your energy levels CAN be managed and almost certainly improved – but it does take time and commitment (eg in my case, a fairly drastic cut down of my coffee consumption!).
Eating a diet with plenty of good quality protein, fresh veggies and good fats, with regular healthy meals and snacks, and ditching the alcohol, caffeine and sugar will do wonders for your energy. You will give your body a real break and allow it to re-adjust to its natural energy rhythms.
That said, I am all about balance and that 80/20 rule….if you enjoy alcohol, have it once a week and enjoy it…it will likely take the edge of cravings and help you stay off it for the rest of the week..same with cake or coffee (a subject close to my heart…!).
While we relate goals to weight loss, goals can be useful for other aspects of health. Set certain targets for obvious things like how many workouts you want to achieve this week and what you plan to eat to fuel your energy, but also set goals for your mental health- things like time to be spent on your hobbies, with family or friends, or away from your phone / computer. It’s much easier to quit when you don’t have set goals, convincing yourself you will get back to it next week. Why next week? Why not now? Why put off until next week what you could already have achieved in the time you’ve spent making excuses?
Make sure you reward yourself and make time to reward yourself and praise yourself. Rewards don’t have to involve food or drink. A facial, a massage, a trip to the theatre, a day out of town. Something you enjoy.
And if what you really want does involve food which isn’t on the plan, then why not? Enjoy it. But stick to that 80/20 rule. I suspect anyway that in a fairly short space of time you will start to enjoy the way you feel when you eat healthily…and the VIRTUOUS circle will then start turning, meaning that you will WANT to follow the healthy diet.
Some may say this is called a “cheat day” or “cheat meal”. Personally I dislike the term “cheat”. I think it’s a misnomer. There is no cheating. No guilt. It’s all about that 80/20 rule.
Take some “me time”
Even with all your responsibilities and trying to balance work and family, always make some time for yourself. Doing something you enjoy like reading your child a story, doing a crossword puzzle, writing a letter (who doesn’t love actual mail!?) or simply a slow soak in the bathtub.
Some of the best “time for yourself” can be spent alone resting.
Exercise The Right Way
Depending on what your primary goal is, you should tailor your workout to suit your objectives but also to suit your happiness. Is there any point spending hours running if you don’t enjoy it, or weight lifting if it bores you. If you tend to lose interest in exercise, do classes or group workouts – either at the gym or via some great websites now available (try Daily Burn). Class Pass is a wonderful way to get creative with your workouts, by paying a monthly fee like you would at the gym but having access to a fantastic range of bespoke studios. How can you get bored when your week contains a combination of reformer pilates, boxing and dance!?
OK – yes, obvious one. But seriously, how much water are you actually drinking? The majority of people are often dehydrated and don’t even realise, having big effects on your energy, health and food choices. You’d be surprised how much water will also curb your snack attacks!
Meeting with people and having a good time is hugely important. Regular social interaction ensures your mind stays healthy and laughter really is the best medicine. Check out my hygge article that talks more about the importance of being social for happiness.
Get off your phone!
How much of your time spent on your phone is actually related to calling people? What happened to the days where you actual connected with people using your voice!? I’m all for a quick & efficient text but urge you to consider less time typing and more time invested in reconnecting by giving friends or family a call.
So much of our time is now spent trawling our social media feeds and we’ve quite literally become addicted to them. Studies have found that social media contributes to feelings of depression and stress. Disconnecting, even for a short period every day, will ensure you are happier.
Breathing has been used as a relaxation technique for a long time. Learning how to control your breathing can help reduce stress and relieve anxiety. Stress and anxiety can put undue pressure on the cardiovascular system. There are a number of breathing techniques that one can use to encourage healthier breathing and reduce daily anxieties. A simple one: Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs. Hold your breath to the count of “three.” Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach.
Get the Headspace app for some structured meditation, even if you find it difficult to switch off. You’d be surprised how quickly you get good at it!
This isn’t a full list but just a few ways you could consider being more “holistically happy” this coming week. I’m off to the gym and then will be happily rewarding myself with some me time (not on my phone)!
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