The most common reason people come to me is not to be healthy, but to lose weight. Now I get this, because back before I embarked on my journey (which I still to this day call my weight loss journey) how to be healthy was not my primary concern, how to lose weight was. The wonderful thing is when you ask yourself the question “how can I lose weight?” on a regular basis then you come up with all sorts of wonderful ideas, the down side of this is that not all of these weight loss ideas are what I would consider healthy choices.
One of the biggest and most empowering lessons I have learned since the start of my journey is that if we put health first, if the goal is to make more healthy choices then losing weight comes as part of the process. If your mantra is “I want to lose weight” then you may lose it, then you may find it again, and then you may lose it again and so on. But if your mantra becomes “I want to make more healthy choices” then you will find these choices are everywhere for you to take.
You may also find that as a result of making more healthy choices that you sleep better, your fitness improves, you have a more clear mind, your concentration improves, your energy levels are higher and more consistent, you feel more relaxed and a whole host of other benefits. So as my challenge for you as you sit here reading this blog is to ask yourself the question “how can I make more healthy choices?” and see what answers present themselves. And to help get you started, here’s a list of 10 of my favourite healthy choices.
1. Drink more water – Now the benefits available to you if you drink more water are so numerous that I have already written an entire blog on them which you can find here. But if you want the quick version then here it is. If you stay properly hydrated you will improve alertness, improve the digestion of food, improve athletic performance, improve the quality of your skin, help your bodies natural detoxification abilities and many more benefits. If you’re not sure what I mean by “stay properly hydrated” then the rule of thumb is 6-8 glasses of water per day for a sedentary individual and more if you are taking part in exercise or sport.
2. Think of 5 a day as a minimum – Most of my readers are from England, but if you’re not then 5 a day is our country’s wholly inadequate idea on eating more fruit and veg. Eating more fruit and veg (with the emphasis on eating a lot more veg) has countless benefits. Every fruit and every vegetable contain it’s own unique blend of vitamins and minerals. The things that support your body on a cellular level. To list them all here would turn this blog post into an encyclopedia so again the best rule of thumb when it comes to eating more veg is to get a rainbow of colours on your plate, different colours tend to mean different vitamins. With fruit this would be a smaller part of your diet than veg in an ideal world as fruit can contain a lot of sugar, the rule of thumb when eating more fruit is that the thinner the skin the chances are the more antioxidants the fruit has, so think blueberries over bananas. 5 a day is a good start, but maybe up it to 5 portions of veg and 2 portions of fruit.
3. Get up off your bum! – Now there’s been all sorts of articles recently saying things like “sitting is the new smoking” but I’m not going to go that far. It is however extremely beneficial to spend more time up on your feet and moving about. Research has shown that if you stand up more there are a huge amount of health benefits. Standing up more improves posture, improves circulation of blood, relieves pressure on the digestive system allowing it to function more effectively, increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain and many more potential health benefits. And if that doesn’t convince you then how about this: if you stand up more you will burn more calories than if you didn’t – simple!
4. Find an exercise that is fun – I could have just said take part in exercise and yes that would work. If you do start to take part in exercise then you immediately gain access to many health benefits that were previously unavailable to you. But if we are after long term healthy choices and not just weight loss then we want the exercise to be sustainable, we want it to be fun. There are a million personal trainers all claiming that their way is the “key to fat loss”, well my approach is different, I say YOUR WAY is the key to not only fat loss but also the key to better health, more enjoyment and increased happiness. There are many benefits to almost every kind of exercise, my personal preference would have you doing some form of resistance training using either weights or your own own body weight as a tool for building muscle. However if you find you have a higher affinity to martial arts, or swimming, or playing squash with a friend, or rock climbing, then your success will be that much greater in a sport that you enjoy.
5. Relax – The irony of relaxing is that for many people the ability to relax more is the hardest thing to do, even though it requires doing very little at all. If you relax more again the list of health benefits could be an entire blog or even an entire book. Relaxing more has been linked to reduced stress, reduced anxiety, lower incidence of type II diabetes, lower incidence of certain cancers and so much more. Our stress response hasn’t received all of the upgrades that our phones have and is still stuck in the dark ages. One of the many things that stress does to us is prepare us for flight or fight – both of which require a whole load of energy – but nowadays our stress isn’t something that we need to fight or to run from, so instead of using that energy we sit there unable to relax more, not attempting to move more and just allowing that increase in energy to be floating around in our blood. The knock on effects of this are to increase fat storage and to lower insulin sensitivity. As with exercise find a way to relax that fits with you, for some people it will be to do yoga, for others it will be to practice meditation or to simply take time out with a book.
6. Be present with your food – I was just going to give this tip the name “chew more” but there is much more to it than this. We think of digestion as something that is all about the stomach and intestines, but digestion actually starts in the brain. The sights and smells of food have a big impact on digestion, have you ever smelled a delicious food and then almost immediately had a hunger response in your stomach? That’s the power of your senses at work. So what do I mean by be present with your food? Well it’s about taking the time to really appreciate what you are eating. So many of us nowadays just inhale our food, more often than not whilst watching TV or looking at our phones. This shuts down a lot of the processes necessary for good digestion of food. Before you take a bite of a meal really take the time to look at the food and give it a good sniff too! Then make sure you chew your food thoroughly. Improperly digested food can play havoc with your body on a systemic level. Give this a try, not only will you gain more enjoyment from eating your food, but you’ll also give your digestive system so much needed relief.
7. Write a list before you go shopping – Our brains love to trick us, when we are hungry or tired we crave sugary foods because on some level our brains know this will give us rapid energy. The problem is in most circumstances we don’t need rapid energy, but rather sustained energy throughout the day and this only comes from giving our body nutritious food. Supermarkets know all of this and that’s why you will find many of those same sugary calorie dense foods in prime locations. They know full well that a lot of us will turn up hungry or tired and then grab the nearest sugary treat. If we go in with a list then we are much more resilient to this. It gives us the opportunity to say “it’s not on the list so I’m not getting it”. For bonus results here eat before you go shopping, if you are full and satisfied then these impulse purchases will have much less power over you.
8. Sneak in extra activity – This is another one you can do when you do your shopping. Park a little further away from the entrance, take a few extra steps. If you work where there is an elevator take the stairs. Take multiple trips to empty your car rather than laden yourself up with everything you need to take in. There are so many opportunities to fit these extra activities in (I call it stealth health!). If you’re the type of person who loves gadgets then why not grab a FitBit or something similar so you can track the steps you are doing and then look for extra opportunities to get them in.
9. Find a group of like minded individuals – This is one that can have a huge impact on your health but also a great impact on your social life. Meeting up with people who are on a similar journey can be a massive boost in morale, it can help keep you motivated and even help you to be a motivation to other people – which is an absolutely fantastic feeling. Studies have shown that people who engage in group activities not only lose more weight but are more likely to keep it off. It creates a sense of camaraderie and accountability, which helps make your goals about something bigger than yourself. If you are taking up a sport then group sports are a fantastic opportunity for this. Here at CoFit we encourage community in a few ways, we have a group circuit class once a week, we have an online community page and we also regularly enter into team events and charity days. I put this community spirit down as one of the key ways in which we build success.
10. Change your inner voice – This one should probably have been number 1 on the list! Our inner voice, the things we tell ourselves regularly become our beliefs and our beliefs then drive our actions. If you constantly tell yourself “I’m fat” then that is the only reality you will ever know. Even if you manage to lose weight you will probably not see yourself as anything other than fat, it sets you up for having a body image that is not in touch with what is real. There are many ways to change your inner voice. The first one I would suggest is to pick a more positive mantra that you constantly tell yourself. “I am getting healthy”, “I am dedicated to progress” or “It is important to me to make healthy choices” are all a good start but I’d recommend something even more powerful “I am beautiful”, “I am strong”, “I am a champion” or my personal favourite “I’m invincible”. If the negative voice still overpowers things then a cool trick is to change it to the voice of Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse or something equally ridiculous. Trust me if it was Mickey Mouse’s voice talking crap to you then you would rather laugh than believe it!
So there you go, plenty of healthy choices for you to get stuck in with. Give it a go and see how you get on!