This time of year sees all of us peering down at the scales in a haze of post-Christmas regret. During my gap year last year, I was lucky enough to meet lots of inspirational people (personal trainers, nutritionists, yoga fanatics, health enthusiasts), all of whom passed on great advice that contributes to living the healthiest, happiest lifestyle possible. I’m Healthy Hannah, and here are my tips on how to stay healthy in the new year.
Eat three meals a day. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Factually, people who eat breakfast are slimmer than those who don’t. And breakfast is a great thing: it starts up the metabolism, gets us fuelled for the day ahead, and will stop those awful hunger pangs at ten o’clock and the Kit Kat we seek thereafter.
Think 80/20. I’ve noticed that many people decide they are going to start a “diet” or to “eat healthily”, only to fall off the wagon a week later because life without crisps and chocolate was gloomy, dark and depressing. And fair enough – everyone loves a bit of chocolate now and then; healthy eating need not be boring, and it’s not all lettuce leaves. The key is to make it a lifestyle, and one you can stick to. Healthy eating is not about deprivation. It does NOT limit carbohydrates (good ones, anyway), and a little bit of junk food is allowed. Think 80% healthy and 20% rubbish.
Nourish yourself. For most of us, a drink or two (or more) is part of university life. It’s social, it’s fun, and it might help to loosen you up before you head to the dance floor. Yes, alcohol has calories, but they’re empty calories, void of goodness. Restricting food calories in favour of alcoholic ones is a nasty thing to do to your body. Doing this can have a negative mental impact, as you will most likely feel like you are restricting yourself (which you are), and suffer mood swings and poor energy levels. Nutrition and wellbeing are not based simply on calorific intake: where those calories come from is so important.
Snack if you’re hungry. The key to eating healthily is to be intuitive. Listen to your body: if your tummy tells you you’re hungry, or if you haven’t eaten in a while and you can feel your mood dropping, then you need to eat – even if dinner is only an hour away. Not a lot, just something small to keep you going – a banana; a cereal bar; a handful of nuts and raisins, or some wholegrain toast with peanut butter. Food is Friend, not Foe.
Exercise. Exercise is great: it clears the mind, releases feel-good endorphins and helps us live longer, age better and reduces the risk of heart problems. Aim to exercise at least three times a week, but preferably more if possible (not necessary). Exercise should include a mixture of cardio sessions and strength training to build a strong and lean physique that you can be proud of working on.
LOVE YOUR BODY. It’s cheesy, but I don’t care. I’ve struggled with this; I think many girls struggle with this. In a world where so much focus is on the ideal body shape (there isn’t one, I’ve realised), it can be hard to embrace what we have. That’s where all the above comes in. If we start to love ourselves on the inside, then we’ll slowly learn to cherish ourselves. How many times have you had a bar of chocolate and felt “naughty”, considering it a “guilty pleasure” as if you’re doing something wrong? We aren’t. Because if your body is really craving chocolate, then go ahead and indulge it – just make sure it’s a single serving bar and that you don’t do it every day.
A nutritionist told me to imagine our bodies as cars. Food is fuel. If you feed your body porridge with yogurt, nuts and raisins in the morning it’s going to be very happy, working steadily through the fuel (the perfect mix of carbohydrates, proteins and good fats) throughout the morning and giving you stable, long-lasting energy. If, however, you have two slices of white toast with jam, then zoom: your body goes through it in an instant, and you’re hungry again by ten o’clock. Try and consider your body in this way, and fuel it as well as you can. If you do that, and truly listen to what your body wants, then you’ll start to live a truly healthy, maintainable lifestyle.
Article: Hannah Pisani
Photographs: commons.wikimedia.org (Main); pixabay.com (Featured).