Monday, 9 November 2015

Introducing: Healthy Starts & Healthy Lifestyle Tips

It's Monday morning and I think we are probably all struggling with the thought of a whole five days ahead of us before the weekend, the darker mornings and the upcoming drain on our wallets, sleep levels and immune systems that is the Christmas Party Season. But - despair not - help is at hand and I've enlisted my friend Laura to give us all some tips on how to live healthier, for good. 

I first met Laura...nine (!) years ago and given my penchant for making superstar friends I was not at all surprised to find out as well as studying economics, completing triathlons and training as a Pilates instruct she has now set up a holiday company called Healthy Starts promoting healthier lifestyles and offering week long breaks from the hectic lives we all lead with an underlying philosophy of making long-term positive changes. 

Healthy Starts Holidays

Healthy Starts Holidays

I asked Laura for her top tips - read on and be inspired (even if the person on the bus next to you is eating a rather tempting looking chocolate muffin for breakfast and you hit snooze three times this morning rather than going to the gym...):

Understand your body – in general

Before I trained as a Pilates instructor I had a pretty limited understanding of my own anatomy. Now when I’m teaching I enjoy sharing the journey with others as they learn about how we move, how to isolate muscle groups, and what exactly the core is. (It can be a surprise to quite a few people!) 

Similarly, as I learn more about nutritional health I am struck by my previous ignorance, or myths that have become common ‘truths’ and are hard to break away from – like carbohydrates make you fat, or the best source of protein is in meat. 

So, this tip is about informing yourself! Understanding how your body works will make looking after your health much easier. It will also help to remove the focus away from what you look like – as it seems to be portrayed so often – and towards what you feel like… which is what it’s really all about, right?

Understand your body – in the specific

Every one is different. So although we can have a general understanding of what makes us tick as humans, your body will respond to food and exercises differently to that of your friend. Your personal response to these things will also change, either in a big way as you go through hormonal changes or move from one place to the next, or in subtler ways from just having had a better night’s sleep than the one before.  

A diary can be really useful for understanding how you respond to what you are doing and eating. Mark down what you ate, how much energy it gave you a few hours after you’d digested it, and how you are feeling in general. Sugar highs and lows might be responsible for mood swings, or the reason you reach for the biscuit tin at 4pm. 

Do it for good

Goals are great motivators. Training for a marathon or an event is a fantastic way to keep up inspiration to exercise on a regular basis. The same goes for a healthy eating plan ahead of a beach holiday.

But then what? It can be hard to find your way back once you’ve slipped up in your training or meal plan.

Huge goals can be overwhelming in terms of the time commitment and pressure to perform, and we all know a diet is not a long-term solution. 

Instead, think about some lifestyle changes you could make.  Did you know that last year the average number of miles a person in England spent in a car (as either driver or passenger) was over 5000? Maybe you could invest in a bike with a basket on the front and do a few of those journeys by bike instead. 

Looking after our health has become a ‘task’, placed in a box alongside working, managing a social diary, and doing the housework. Instead, let’s think of these things as part of life: hop off the bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way, invite your friend over to cook a new healthy recipe, or take up dance classes with your partner.

Integrate healthy activities into your lifestyle and it’s suddenly a lot easier to keep them up. 

Include your mental health

In the last month I have read about the new eating disorder orthorexia and a teenage Instagram celebrity’s revelation on how unrealistic her online life really is. 

These articles highlight the impact on our mental health of the overwhelming media coverage about how to live the ‘perfect’ life. 

Life is complicated and messy. It’s hard for us to accept that in a world that feels like it has all the answers. 

If you ate the ‘right’ foods, swore off late nights, and spent your free time in the gym, would you consider yourself healthy?

Chill out ☺

Mix it up!

If you eat the same breakfast and lunch every day, and mix up your dinners on a weekly / fortnightly basis, you are not alone. 

Do you do the same things every day? No! So why eat the same things? Variety is the spice of life, and this is true for our muscles too. 

Go for a walk one day, buy some second-hand rollerblades and head to the park, find a swing class, have a smoothie one morning! Life is fun! 

We have loads of tips on making it easier to live by these ideas on our site, like: how to use your leftovers, how to switch from the car to a bicycle, and how to mix it up in the kitchen within your time and money budget. 

Thank you, Laura! I definitely agree with keeping fitness varied and not obsessing about being perfect. What are your top tips for making easy but effective healthy changes?
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