Increased health and wellbeing are things that most people would love to have. I have yet to meet someone who says “feel full of energy and life and burst vitality from every pore? Ooh, no thanks, I think I’ll stick to feeling sluggish, lethargic, and not quite at my best”. If increased health and wellbeing were handed to us on a plate, I am pretty certain most people would not turn them down. However because living a healthful lifestyle requires some action by whomever is hoping to feel healthy and vital, it seems people often put barriers up that prevent them from taking said action. I’ve listed below some of the most common ones I hear, and am out to make the point that these barriers are not as sturdy as they might seem…
- I’m simply too busy
- All you need to find is one or two mornings/evenings in the week when you know you can fit in some cooking, and then batch cook and freeze and voila’! Your healthy ready home made meals are there for those evenings you come home late from work, or have to help the kids with their homework, or need to catch up on that paperwork!
- Not eating healthy home-made meals is a false economy of time in a way, as when you start to feel more energetic from a healthy lifestyle, it is likely you will be more productive and possibly more efficient, hence allowing you more time… might be worth testing it out for a month!
- Exercise is one of the elements of healthy living that people struggle to find the time for. But there is always some way you can incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Could you cycle to work? If not, could you get off one or two tube stops before the office and work the remaining distance? Could you make that quality time with the children a game of “catch” in the park?
- Some changes don’t have to be so drastic as to require any extra time. For example, if you eat lots of rice and pasta, just replace these with their wholegrain versions and make sure you stick some protein in there, like a few anchovies or sardines, and slice up some avocado in a spinach side salad. That’s gain with no pain!
- It’s not just me I need to think about when cooking, it’s my whole family.
- Often we just make assumptions about what someone would or wouldn’t like. So every dish is always worth a try with every person. I remember as a child staring in shock at my 8 year old cousin who wolfed down steamed spinach with the same satisfaction as when he ate a chocolate bar. That prompted me to try the limp green leafy stuff and to my surprise, I really quite liked it myself!! So you never know…
- Don’t give up straight away. Studies have shown that one of the factors influencing how varied and healthy a child’s diet will be is “exposure” to varied and healthy foods. So whilst they might not devour the broccoli on the first trial, if they keep seeing it and watching you eat it, they may well eventually come round to the idea and be more open to it.
- Even if you don’t all eat the same food, you can sometimes get around this without having to cook 3 separate meals. Cook the same main part of the meal (for example stick some salmon fillets in the oven) and then make a couple of different sauces for it, so even if other family members want something rich and creamy, or want it wrapped in slices of parma ham, you can stick with your tamari, ginger, chilli, garlic raw sauce that takes but minutes to make).
- Investigate some of the simple changes that could make a meal healthier and that even your kids would like. For example, substitute the potato mash for sweet potato mash. This small difference alone will make for a richer intake of vitamins and minerals, a more alkaline option, and a lower glycemic load meal. And voila’, they can still have chips! (cooked in coconut oil of course ;))
- I can’t afford it
- Big batches of lentils and beans and brown rice are as cheap as they come, and don’t tell me that big fresh vegetable boxes are more expensive than ready made meals.
- For everything you feel you are spending more money on, you are probably saving on unhealthy stuff, like cigarettes, alcohol, coffee, chocolate bars, taking the bus instead of walking a couple of stops… that would all be money saved!
- You don’t have to spend money joining a gym to exercise. Half year round you can spend outdoors, walking, running, (is fast pace window shopping pushing it?), and if you’re lucky enough to live near any lakes or cities with clean ponds, you can even get some swimming in! The other half of the year you can exercise at home if needed. Especially when it comes to strength training and working your core. Your own body weight and some dumbbells serve as great tools. Just make sure you know what you are doing to avoid injury, perhaps seek a one-off training session with a personal trainer for guidance on home based exercise. You could also buy a trampette! Those small trampolines that you can unscrew when not in use and take up no space at all. This will do wonders for your lymphatic system, and not only, it will help you get back into your playful childlike mode which is healthy for the soul!
- I’ll have to give up everything I love
- For everything you feel you are “giving up”, there will be something new you learn to love or, indeed, it might be love at first sight! I remember the first time I tried a romanesco cauliflower, not only did I think it was one of the most beautiful veggies I’d ever seen, with its dinosaur-like bright green spikes, but when I then tasted it, roasted with lemon wedges and paprika, I did indeed fall in love. I now have to have it at least once a week or I feel deprived. You see, that’s my new parameter for deprivation!
- Focus on all the beautiful colourful varied foods you can include rather than the things you feel deprived of. Feeling deprived is never the aim. It is not about sacrifice, it’s about learning to appreciate new things and keep in mind the benefits that those new things can bring to your body.
- If you are really struggling, remember the 80/20 rule, 80% healthy and well behaved, 20% treat yourself and be a little decadent. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Unless you are following a very specific program recommended for a specific health condition, occasionally treat yourself to something you love, but on one condition: that you do it mindfully, really cherishing every bite and enjoying it with all your senses!
- I’d have to give up my social life! Well heaven forbid! Definitely do not give up your leisure or social time, as this is as much an ingredient for wellbeing as eating healthy foods. However, bear in mind the following:
- Spending time with friends when you are sober might make for much better quality times! Plus you will be able to remember the good times a whole lot better…
- A drink at the bar can be an occasional pleasure still, just make the healthier choices. For example, have olives instead of the peanuts, 1 small glass of red wine rather than 2 sugar-filled cocktails.
- Dining out always offers different choices. Just choose places where you know there will be something you like that doesn’t include things you are avoiding, and does include lots of different vegetables!
- Socialising doesn’t necessarily have to include temptation. Walks in the park, a chinwag over a herbal tea or two, brown rice sushi parties, or you could choose to host dinners so that you can be in charge of what goes in the food (and still make it yummy!)
Wether just one or five of the above barriers resonates with you, I hope this helps you come round to the idea that where there is a will to be healthy, there is a way to be healthful! Your desire and motivation are the only real things you need to work on if you find you are making excuses to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle. Always keep your eye on the goal, remember that nothing needs to be extreme and one step at a time is better than no steps. Work from where you are at now. That’s always the perfect place to start 🙂
In health and harmony,
The 14th November of every year is World Diabetes Day. There is a lot of talk about diabetes in the media, and this is of no surprise if we stop to look at some figures showing the prevalence and rapid growth of this disease across the country.
In 2013, there were 3.2 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK alone, as reported by Diabetes UK. It is estimated that by 2025, this number will rise to 5 million. This is significant, both in terms of the extent to which it will impact the lives of people affected and their relatives, and in terms of the weight it will place on our precious health system.
For the purpose of today’s blog, I would like to concentrate on type 2 diabetes, the one traditionally called “late onset” but more recently increasingly referred to simply as “type 2” in light of the rising number of younger people, such as children and adolescents, being affected by it. This type of diabetes constitutes the larger majority of cases that make up the above statistics. The really great news is… it is largely preventable!!
So let’s focus on the positives and talk about what we can do to increase our chances of improving and maintaining our bodies’ ability to metabolise sugar. It is important to understand that type 2 diabetes does not happen overnight! Rather, it is the result of unhealthy eating patterns involving excess sugars, inflammatory foods/lifestyle factors and the wrong types of fat, over a number of years. This can lead to glucose no longer being allowed into the cells where it can be utilised as fuel, but rather being locked out of the cell and left in circulation, causing all sorts of trouble around the body and leaving us tired and fatigued.
So what are some of the healthful choices we can make to drastically reduce the risk of insulin resistance leading to diabetes?
Avoid excess high glycemic load foods
These are foods that cause our blood sugar to spike quickly and then crash. Examples would be refined white carbs (e.g. white bread/rice/pasta), potatoes, sugary foods, fruit juices, and alcohol. The idea is to opt for foods that naturally release glucose over a longer period of time, thus maintaining a more level balance of sugar in the blood during and between meals.
Eliminate artificial sweeteners!
Do not be fooled! Just because aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin are not technically sugars, it doesn’t mean they do not have an effect on your sugar metabolism. In fact, there is increasing evidence to suggest that consumption of these over time can lead to disturbed metabolic processes which could increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Furthermore, as artificial sweeteners are actually much sweeter than sugar, it will cause you to have an even sweeter tooth, and make cutting down on sugar much harder overall. Who needs that extra challenge?? Not me thanks!
Eat fibre and protein
The fibre in foods has multiple beneficial roles, one of which is to slow down the release of glucose of a particular food. That is why, for example, I would never recommend drinking fruit juice, but rather eat the entire fruit, because its fibre content will drastically reduce the fruit’s glycemic load. Protein will have a similar positive influence. The other benefit of fibre is that by supporting healthy bowel function and elimination, it will promote clearance of cholesterol. So start munching on those wholegrains, yummy colourful veggies, nuts and seeds, and the occasional piece of fruit. Nom nom!
Keep your stress levels in check
Although it may seem unrelated, stress has a close link with insulin resistance and therefore diabetes risk. There is an interaction between the stress-related hormone cortisol and levels of sugar in the blood. When blood sugar levels are too low (such as the crash after a high glycemic load food), more cortisol is released, and cortisol in turn increases blood sugar levels through a couple of different mechanisms. Therefore, reducing stress, or finding ways to manage stress efficiently, will help maintain greater balance in blood sugar. Equally, controlling blood sugar through healthful choices will prevent unnecessary stress responses from the body. It’s a win-win situation!
Pump up some muscle!
Exercise is one of the most efficient ways to improve the body’s ability to transport sugar into the cells to be used as energy. Specifically, increasing muscle mass through some strength training will be beneficial to this end, as muscle cells have the highest potential for glucose intake. There is, of course, no need to become a body builder!! Just tone up what you’ve got, enough to reduce the amount of fat cells, and increase the amount of muscle cells.
Choose nutrient-rich foods
Another reason to eat plenty of veggies (as if you needed one!). Lots of different coloured ones at that, from dark green and leafy, to bright yellow, orange and purple! These have high levels of all the nutrients you need to help increase glucose uptake by the cells and help keep inflammation at bay, such as magnesium, alpha lipoic acid, chromium and many antioxidants.
Does this sound achievable to you? If you are not convinced, these are some of the benefits you can look forward to when choosing to embrace a blood sugar balancing lifestyle:
- Greater stability in your mood
- Fewer peaks and troughs in energy levels throughout the day
- Increased overall energy
- Weight loss/maintenance (according to your need)
- Reduced risk of other inflammatory and hormonal imbalances
If that all sounds appealing to you, check in on my Twitter and Facebook for blood sugar balancing tips over the next few days, in honour of World Diabetes Day!
In health and harmony,
Check in soon for thoughts, ramblings and musings on natural remedies and food for a healthy mind and body!