Wow, have you seen all the information available on how a healthy diet and simple lifestyle changes can help you to be healthier? The message isn’t subtle…it’s plastered everywhere. In fact, it’s hard to pick up a popular magazine and not be bombarded by health slogans such as “eat right for life,” or “the daily dozen for health.”
The takeaway message is so simple: in order to live a long, healthy life and reduce your risk of disease, eat real foods (fruits, vegetables and whole-grains) and exercise. It sounds like a doable no-brainer, doesn’t it? It is…..until you look around, that is. That’s when you see the Golden Arches, the A&W Bear, Domino’s Pizza, Subway Sandwich or a Bratwurst sausage & sauerkraut cart parked on the corner. These are not the “real” foods the takeaway message references. Look around a little more, and you’ll likely see a heavy person. You might see many of them. Oh dear, the message suddenly seems a bit flawed.
It’s like there’s a glitch in the system because while it’s virtually impossible not to hear, see and read the “get healthy” message, the statistics speak for themselves. People are getting heavier, more sedentary and sicker.
I’m not here to be a downer, so let’s talk about ways in which we can prevent ourselves from joining the growing statistic of rising obesity, diabetes, metabolic disease and heart disease.
5 Ways to Stave off Being a Statistic
1. Transition from watching to doing. I’m talking exercise here folks. Sports are amazing for lifting your spirits and your energy levels. Exercise causes you to breath deeper and your heart to pump faster. A brisk walk will drain away your stress, distract your mind and get your metabolism moving. What happens when your metabolism gets moving? You burn more calories. How does reducing stress make you healthier? Well, for one thing, you’ll be less likely to succumb to emotional eating. Increased metabolism and decreased stress will help you stay on the right side of the no statistic ledger. I’m married to a sports-loving Aussie…..the type who loves to watch a game with a cold one in one hand and a sandwich in the other. If you can relate, don’t worry. I’m not about to tell you to give up your game, cold one or the sandwich. Just make sure that you get out there and do the real thing more often than you do the watching thing.
2. Move from reading to doing. I love cookbooks and food magazines. They have such lovely looking recipes. The more pictures the better. However, if all you ever do is look at the pictures, then it’s time to move from reading to doing. Virtually any food you cook using real ingredients, even if they come out of a can, will be healthier than a meal you get in a restaurant. When’s the last time you made a meal? It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t from scratch. Just think of the last time you got in the kitchen and had some fun. Maybe you don’t associate the kitchen with fun or Zen, but trust me when I say there is nothing like preparing a home-cooked meal. Meals need not be fancy. Try something like spaghetti bolognaises, chili, vegetable soup or a simple salad. Eating home-cooked food isn’t just healthier, but the process of creating will reduce your stress levels. When you’re less stressed, you tend to eat less.
3. Be prepared. When you’re eating on the run, those Golden Arches are so appealing. That’s why they stretch into the sky…..so that they can be seen from miles/kilometers away. Do yourself a favor and keep a stash of healthy snacks (nuts, seeds, fruits) in your bag or in the car. Before you give into your hunger and head to the arches, have a healthy snack. You may still eat a burger, but if you pass on the fries and the soda, you’ll feel so much better. This leads to the next way to stave off being a statistic.
4. Remember that you are what you eat….and what you drink. Oh yes, the drinks we pour down our throats all day long have a massive impact on our health. What’s the first thing you drink in the morning? Did you say water? What about in the afternoon when you’re feeling worn out, tired and possibly lethargic? What do you reach for then? Did you say water? If you didn’t, not to worry. This is an easy fix and one that may have an incredible impact on your energy levels and cravings. To increase the amount of water you drink, just put a glass on your nightstand. When you wake up, drink it down and then reach for your normal morning drink. At work, keep a one-liter bottle of water and a cup on your desk. Fill the cup from the bottle, and sip this throughout the day. Most importantly, when the afternoon munchies come along, drink down a glass of water before seeking out something to satisfy the craving. You may, in fact, just be thirsty. When you drink a healthy amount of water each day, you reduce caloric intake and hydrate your cells. These are both factors that will help keep you on the right side of the statistic ledger.
5. Remember that how you live your life has a massive impact on your health. This final tip is simple, but crucial to a healthy lifestyle. If you’re the energizer bunny who keeps on going and going, you may be doing as much damage to your body as the person who perpetually sits. What I mean here is that your body needs to rest, refresh and relax. Burning the candle from both ends leads to an increase in stress hormones, which is not a good thing. Ever heard the saying “stress kills?” It’s true. Stress is a silent killer.
Be kind to yourself and find a balance in life. Movement is positive, but so is relaxation, massage and meditation. Three minutes of sitting in silence and quieting the mind can have an amazingly powerful impact on reducing stress hormones and improving your health.
The message is true. We can have a better life by adopting a healthier diet and making healthy lifestyle changes. However, it is a choice. Just like a coin gives us the option of heads or tails, we have the option to be healthy or give in to unhealthy habits. The Golden Arches vs. home-cooking, watching sports events vs. physical activity, the crazy busy life vs. a well-balanced, more enjoyable life.
You might not cook and exercise every day. You might drink 5 glasses of water a day instead of 8 glasses. It’s all relevant. If you make the conscious effort each day to move towards healthier choices, you’ll ultimately be moving in the right direction. The direction of good health.
Allison Tuffs is a Nutritionist, Health and lifestyle Coach, blogger and mother with a passion for healthy living. She combines her passion for nutrition knowledge and daily motivation to balance life’s pressures and to live a life of health and happiness. In her blog, “Your Life, Your Choice” Allison openly discussed life’s challenges and provides motivation and nutrition education to help people make the choices that will take their lives where they most want them to go.