Being healthy is way more than just what we eat and how much exercise we do. For years I was obsessed (quite literally) with counting calories and exercising daily. I thought that health was about limiting the ‘bad’ foods, eating moderate amounts of ‘good’ foods and making sure that I exercised enough so that I didn’t gain weight. It took me years of working on myself and my body to realise that being healthy was way more than that – it’s about looking at your life as a whole and making sure that all areas of your life are balanced and fulfilled.
With that in mind, I wanted to share 12 tips to better your health and steps that you can implement into your life. Getting caught up in ‘diet culture’ and the SHOULDs and SHOULDN’Ts surrounding the topic of health can be all to easy and quite honestly, it can get a bit confusing. HEALTH ISN’T COMPLICATED and living a healthy life doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can be as easy as cooking more from home, indulging every now and again and harnessing satisfying relationships. So let’s get into my 12 steps to better health from a holistic perspective:
I LOVE eating out and enjoying good food with my friends and loved ones. But here’s the thing – do you know exactly what goes into the food you order in a restaurant? Do you know how they cook it? What oils they use? Where they source the ingredients from? How fresh the ingredients are? Or even how lovingly the food was prepared?
I’m guessing most likely not, right?
Although it can be convenient to order take-out, go out for food or even buy quick lunches in your work break, it’s not always the healthiest option. So many restaurants (especially fast food chains) tend to use the ‘unhealthier’ cooking oils such as canola, corn or any vegetable oil because they are cheaper. I say that these are unhealthy as if you consume them too often, they can lead to increased inflammation in the body and inhibit the proper absorption of the Omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for optimum health. However, besides the oils, you don’t have the control over how much salt is used or even where the ingredients come from.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t eat out – I love it! – just be mindful about where you get your food from and remember it’s about moderation and balance. Prioritise cooking from home. Not only do you then have more control over the ingredients you use, but you can personalise your meals to what you enjoy, you can cook with more love, use it as time to practise self-care and make sure that you’re always getting a balanced meal. Plus, it’s a great way to bond with your family and loved ones, whether you cook together or just share a meal at the table. Cooking for my friends and family is one of my absolute favourite things to do.
I know that time isn’t always on your side, but this first step to better health is to try and prioritise that time so that you’re really getting the most out of your food.
I have spoken hundreds of times on the importance of drinking water. For starters, our bodies are made mostly of water so getting substantial amounts in every day is extremely important for our health. Let me put it this way – we could survive for days without eating, but only a significantly shorter amount of time if we don’t drink water.
Think about drinking 2-3 litres of water daily and take into account where you live and how much exercise you do. For example, if you live in a hot country or if it’s the summer, then you will need to drink more water than someone living in a colder climate or during the winter months. If you exercise and sweat a lot, then it’s important to match your water intake to balance that out. Also consider the quality of your water as well and whether or not you need to invest in a water filter so that your body is getting the best water quality possible.
Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat for example, are full of fibre and nutrients that not only support a healthy gut and microbiome, but that also fuel our bodies and provide those essential carbohydrates. Whole grains provide our bodies with slow releasing sugars that help maintain stable blood sugar levels and prevent those spikes and sudden drops in blood sugar that lead to things like fatigue and cravings. They also keep us fuller for longer which contributes to maintaining a healthy weight.
Our brains preferred fuel source comes from carbohydrates and they are needed to prevent brain fog and to keep our energy levels optimum throughout the day – they are nothing to be feared, but remember moderation is key and think about the quality.
I have such a massive sweet tooth and know how difficult it can be to avoid that chocolate isle in the supermarket, or even turn down a good dessert when you go out for dinner. That’s why one of my steps to better health is to increase your consumption of sweet vegetables.
If you have a sweet tooth like me, then this is the tip for you. Humans naturally crave sweet foods and restricting yourself of them not only can create an unhealthy relationship with food but it can also deprive you of one of the yummiest flavours out there. If you notice that you reach for the biscuit tin or crave sweet foods then increase your intake of sweet vegetables like carrots, sweet potato or beetroot. These will not only satisfy those taste buds, but they may reduce your sweet cravings while providing your body with all those essential micronutrients that help your body to thrive. Plus, the added fibre of these vegetables will again keep your blood sugar levels more stable and keep you fuller for longer than if you were to eat a couple of biscuits or crackers.
Leafy green vegetables are packed full of essential vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients that support a healthy body. They help fight inflammation, promote a healthy gut microbiome, give us more energy and can help our digestive system run smoothly (just to name a few of the amazing things they do).
If you struggle with portion sizing or over-eating then this is a great tip for you because you can pad out your meals will all of these amazing greens. Rather than focussing on restricting your portion sizes, fill half of your plate with those leafy greens so that you naturally crowd out the foods your want to start eliminating or reducing in your diet. It can be tricky to get your greens in but I love eating them whenever I can and even put them in my oats (my favourite breakfast is courgette oats), in my smoothies, stir-fry’s, curries and salads.
Switch up your protein game and start looking for other protein sources to make sure that you’re getting all of those essential amino acids. This is especially important if you’re vegan or vegetarian but it’s also a great tip so that you avoid getting bored of eating the same thing over and over again.
Hummus, beans, quinoa, chickpeas, tofu and tempeh are all great examples of vegan and vegetarian based protein sources and are a great way of introducing a plant based meal into your diet.
If you choose to eat meat, then look for grass-fed, sustainable options and ask your local butcher if you’re unsure.
Fish is another great protein source and eating oily fish regularly is recommended to make sure that you’re getting adequate amounts of those essential fatty acids that include Omega-3 and Omega-6.
Very similar to the first tip, these foods contain a lot of harmful oils, preservatives and additives that promote inflammation in the body and can negatively impact our health.
These are just not good for you, yet we eat them in large amounts way too often. Crisps, sweets, fizzy drinks and frozen meals are just a few examples of processed foods and it puts a great strain on our digestive system every time we eat them.
If you find yourself wondering down the biscuit isle or reaching for those freezer waffles, then now’s the time to really look at your diet and assess where you can make those small improvements.
Establishing a self-care practice is so important for a healthy body as well as a healthy mind and it’s not as selfish as you might think. It prevents that dreaded burn-out, strengthens the relationship you have with yourself and allows you to recharge so that you can really be present with your loved ones.
As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so work out what fills your cup up and turn it into a regular practice so that you can show up for yourself every day in the best way possible.
Your tribe and the people you choose to have around you are one of the most important factors when it comes to your health, happiness and even longevity. One noticeable trait of the blue zones, is that they all have strong tribes and relationships, which just goes to show how important relationships are for our health.
Consider the relationships in your life and choose how you want to share your love and your energy. Fill your life with people that lift you up and make you feel amazing. They say that you become like the people you spend the most time with, so pick those amazing people wisely and learn when you need to conserve your energy and when you need to share it with others. Establish those healthy and meaningful relationships so that you are filled with love and purpose.
Move, move, move!
I can’t stress the importance of movement enough. The internal environment in our bodies is constantly in movement, so it only makes sense that to be healthy we need to practice daily movement with our external bodies as well.
Daily movement doesn’t have to mean spending hours at the gym or running on the treadmill – it can do if that’s what you enjoy – but find what works for you and remember bio-individuality. If you don’t know what you enjoy, then just start experimenting and having fun.
We all need purpose in our lives.
We all need something meaningful to get us out of bed in the mornings and give structure to our days. Again, this is one of the elements that all the blue zones have in common.
Finding work you love doesn’t have to mean the work that gives you a pay cheque at the end of the month – it could be finding your passion, something that stimulates you creatively, that makes you feel alive or anything that inspires you. In short – it’s finding something that gives you purpose so that you feel driven and the start of the day and fulfilled at the end of the day. This is so important for a healthy mind-set and looking after our mental health.
We all need some sort of spiritual practice as it allows us chance to connect to ourselves and gives us the opportunity to check in with ourselves and make sure that we are getting the most out of life.
It’s grounding, centring and needed when we live in such a fast-paced world.
A spiritual practice can be anything from a religious practice, to meditation, to yoga. For me, it’s practicing yoga and meditation every day even if that just means 5 or 10 minutes of sitting and monitoring my breathing.
The majority of us are constantly living in that fight or flight state – it’s so exhausting and can lead to that dreaded burn out. Taking that time out to ground yourself can be that small tonic that you need to maintain a healthy body and mind so that you can feel fulfilled and happy in every single way possible.
To listen to the podcast episode, click on the links below: