For many improving health and fitness can be become a cycle of all or nothing. When there is a routine of exercise and activity and consistent nutrition then it is going well. Difficulties occur when an event or night out, a tough day at work or other life stress becomes more than a little bump in the plan. A few days later it can seem all the previous progress is gone and it is back to square one.
This is where embedding small, but significant, habits to fall back on will help feel like you can get back on track. This is also true if you are starting out in being more mindful of your health.
Whilst there are many factors we can change around health and fitness there are some that are simple and effective. Starting with a new habit that we can have success with helps create layers of success to tackle bigger changes in the long term.
To be successful change one thing at a time, for example drink 2 litres of a water a day, to keep hydrated and ensure we aren’t thirsty when we think we are hungry. Plan and prepare to do this. Get a new water bottle to keep with you through the day, this sets up your environment to maintain the habit. Next build consistency as you implement your new habit. This might mean setting a reminder in your phone to drink every 2 hours throughout the day. Tick off the days done to remind you of your progress. Finally it is easier to create a new habit if you do it with others. Encourage a colleague or family member to do it too and you are much more likely to build the new habit into being something you do consistently.
These principles can be applied to many changes to improve health and fitness. Set an alarm to go to bed early. Join a daily steps challenge through an activity tracker and set a reminder part way through the day to see your progress and plan to get the steps in. Plan weekend walks with friends to increase weekly activity.
One successful new habit can lead to another until a few add up to a significant change in lifestyle. Then, when things do go awry, the habits are there to fall back on and get you back on track without too much effort.
This article was originally published in the October Issue of Idle Talk Magazine.
We all need to eat and fairly regularly to function well. Miss a meal and tiredness and a negative mood can quickly follow. But what are we eating in terms of nutrients and what do they do in the body?
There are three main nutrients - known as macronutrients or macros. They are protein, carbohydrates and fats. Each are essential nutrients - a prolonged deficiency in one can lead to health issues.
Protein is responsible for maintaining and building tissue in the body. These include muscle, hair and nails. The amino acids found in protein are the building blocks of tissue, some of which cannot be manufactured by your body, so we must get them from your food. It is also the slowest digested of the nutrients so can help with feeling satiated, particularly when controlling calorie intake with the goal of fat and weight loss. Good sources are meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. For vegetarians a range of meat free products, beans, nuts and cheeses can increase protein - you just have to be creative to get a good range of sources.
Carbohydrates are an energy source. They are broken down into glucose for respiration, the process that releases energy in our cells. The excess is stored - either as glycogen in muscles, liver and brain for times of physical exertion or as fat. There are many sources of carbohydrates as these dominate the food choices available. These range from potatoes, pasta and rice, through vegetables and fruit to cereals, bread and sweet, sugary food.
Fats are also an energy source and help the body carry out essential functions such as transport of vitamins and hormone production. In excess they are also stored by the body. Fats are often thought of as being bad but a range of sources contain good fats, including nuts, fish and olive oil.
We need then to balance our macros to function well, particularly if you have goals around body composition. Most people will benefit from increasing protein in their daily nutrition. 3 to 4 good portions works well. Look at each meal and aim for a portion of protein such as yoghurt or eggs at breakfast, meat or fish with other main meals and eat good whole food sources of carbohydrates and fats. Doing this the majority of the time and adding a good selection of fruit and vegetables will keep a healthy balance and make up for when we do choose to indulge from time to time.
This article was originally published in the September issue of Idle Talk Magazine.
The term diet usually describes the restrictions we put on our eating in order to fit into a new dress, get beach ready or lose that holiday weight. Diet ‘wisdom’ is offered by friends and the media, ‘no carbs before Marbs’, ‘five small meals a day’, ‘never miss breakfast’ and a whole host of other plans. However short term success is often followed by slipping back to the original starting point.
One thing these strategies have in common is that they all reduce the amount of calories we consume. Everything we eat and drink contains calories which our bodies need to function properly. We have an energy balance of calories in and calories out. In simple terms, if we use more energy than we consume then we will use the energy already stored in the body and weight decreases over time. Conversely if we use less energy than we are consuming the excess is stored and body weight increases. At the end of the day, no matter what diet plan you choose, the reason it will work is if you are using more energy than you are consuming.
Most people have heard about calories in vs calories out but here’s where it can get tricky. If all you do is dramatically restrict your calories your body will not have the energy it needs to perform well. Over time, this will have a negative impact on your weight loss and overall health. As with many things in life the key is balance. Your body needs calories to function so let’s look at how you can start making changes that will bring you long term results.
Small changes have a big impact… over time. Start by substituting sugary cereal and pastry for scrambled eggs or a green smoothie, swap that lunchtime sandwich and crisps for a tuna salad (skip the creamy dressing!) and enjoy a delicious chicken stir fry in place of fried chicken and chips for your evening meal. Remember, no crazy plans are needed, just consistent healthy choices will start you on the road to diet success.
This article was originally published in the August issue of Idle Talk Magazine.
It is easy to think that to get fit you need to buy some fancy gear and sign up to the nearest gym, but with rows of treadmills, complex looking machines and a foreboding free weights area your ambitious plans to go every day can quickly disappear! Depending on your goals and personality a gym may be perfect for you, but it is not the only option.
Being active has many more benefits than just weight loss - increased cardiovascular health, improved mobility and flexibility and healthier emotional well being and although your choice of activities may change and develop over time, ultimately the activities you choose should be:
Dust off the Wii Fit and get moving that way. If you enjoy running go for it. Play with the kids in the park or even make Pokemon Go a family activity! I have seen people get great results from increasing the distance of their daily dog walks and many Idle businesses are supporting the Idle and Thackley Rock walks so get painting and join in. If activities include other people you are more likely to make the time and everyone benefits.
As a Personal Trainer I often get asked what is the best programme or exercises to achieve a given goal. For fitness and health the best advice is to choose something you enjoy and will keep doing often enough to see the benefits. Joining a gym may be your best option, especially with the great British weather! They have brilliant facilities and classes as well as knowledgeable instructors and Personal Trainers that can aid your journey and potentially help you make progress much quicker. With my clients I always emphasize that all activity adds up and will benefit fitness and health.
So think about what you enjoy doing and will be able to keep doing and Move It!
This article was originally published in the July issue of Idle Talk Magazine.
A few months ago many people set themselves New Year’s resolutions, often only keeping them until the end of January! If you are still persevering well done - you are in a small minority that keep any resolutions, especially those involving food and exercise.
As with many goals, starting out is the easy bit, continuing through the inevitable difficulties is where the struggle really is. A big night out, cold mornings that trap us under duvet and the scales not moving are just some of the reasons that cause us to slow down or give up entirely.
These are, though, legitimate things affecting anyone with health and fitness goals. It is how we respond to the bumps in the journey that is the difference between reaching the goal or being back to square one.
That is where keeping it simple is important. Try adopting these simple principles and take steps to a healthier and fitter you!
There is so much health and fitness advice (good and bad) readily available through all media channels we should be the healthiest generation ever. Yet the opposite is true! Find an activity you enjoy - walk, cycle, play in the park with your kids, use a fitness app - just do something you enjoy and you will be able to keep going.
When it comes to eating habits the key is sustainability and simple swaps. It will be a lifelong
struggle to eat a certain “healthy” diet if it is time consuming to prepare and unenjoyable. Swop sugary cereal for oats and fruit, the lunch time sandwich for a salad option, forgo a pudding a couple of evenings and drink a little less each weekend and the changes are more sustainable and realistic.
So keep it simple… seriously - you can enjoy getting healthier and fitter if it is enjoyable and sustainable.
This article was originally published in the June issue of Idle Talk Magazine.