There is nothing like a hint of a balmy breeze and days spent by the water after the cold winter months to inspire us to start thinking about getting healthy. The Summer months are definitely a time where we are more conscious of what we are eating and how we are feeling. You would be forgiven for being confused about what are the best foods to eat and the right type of exercise to participate in, for you to feel your best.
There is a proliferation of information out there especially on the internet, advertising the latest diets and exercise plans. This combined with ‘fitspo’ influencers spruiking the latest and greatest supplements and training gadgets can cause an overwhelming information overload for anyone researching these topics.
The old adage ‘if it sounds to good to be true it generally is’ a good philosophy to adopt when you are reading about the latest Celebrity weight loss plan and wondering whether it is for you. Unfortunately, there is no ‘quick fix’ to losing weight or getting fit! It takes time, consistency and is often one step forward and two steps back!
In order to cut thru the white noise of the health industry the best approach for looking and feeling your best is a ‘Balanced Lifestyle Approach’. This process looks into all areas of your lifestyle from nutrition, movement, hydration, stress management , sleep and mental health. The philosophy around the balanced lifestyle approach is, if any of the above lifestyle factors are being neglected, then you have a problem with this health equilibrium.
Lets address some of these lifestyle factors that could be inhibiting you from getting the results that you desire.
The best part about the warmer temperatures is our food persuasions move away from stodgy heavier meals to lighter foods such as salads and fruit. Berries, melons, mangoes and kiwi fruits come into season allowing us to make up some delicious fruit salads as snacks or a healthy dessert option.
When it comes to eating healthy, it’s important break the overnight fast of a morning with an energy fuelled breakfast that helps set us up for the rest of the day. Try to include a protein, carbohydrate and good fat source in your breakfast so that your body feels fuller for longer and you are getting all of your essential nutrients and vitamins.
Proteins could be anything from lean cuts of meat, eggs, dairy or a range of vegan options such as beans, tempeh, edamame, lentils, chickpeas or beans.
Healthy carbohydrates include vegetables, healthy grains such as quinoa, brown rice or pearl barley. Good fats can include olive oils, avocados, butter, nuts and seeds.
Some healthy vegan options for breakfast include coconut yoghurt with granola and berries with a hint of honey. A non-vegan option would be scrambled eggs with roast tomatoes, mushrooms and a slice of spelt toast with butter.
Picking the perfect snack is where a lot of us fall down as we are unprepared and often opt for snacks made of convenience rather than what is necessarily good for us. Coffee and a sweet laden muffin or biscuit tend to be our ‘Go To’s’ which give us an initial surge in blood sugar and energy only to come crashing down some time later. All of this processed sugar and caffeine send us on a viscous cycle of peaks and troughs of energy and concentration throughout the day that can be disastrous when we are trying to lose weight. You can find yourself caught in a mouse wheel of chasing energy throughout the whole day and craving empty carbohydrates.
More optimal snacks to keep your energy on an even keel include a piece of fruit combined with a small handful of activated nuts a tub of coconut with berries or some vegetable sticks with some homemade hummus.
Remember ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ and preparation is the key to success when trying to lose body fat. Pack a lunchbox the night before that includes a healthy lunch and snacks so you have everything you need to support your healthy eating plan.
In terms of lunch and dinner selections, you cant go past a lean source of protein such as chicken, fish or for a vegan option of tofu, lentils or beans. Combine this with a fresh salad of walnuts, feta cheese or pomegranates for a refreshing take on a plain salad.
Supporting your healthy eating should be a solid hydration plan that involves drinking 2-3 litres of good quality water per day. Drinking enough water allows our body to get rid of excess toxins and promotes healthy digestion. Excreting toxins regularly enables us to lose weight and diminishes bad cells that can cause cellulite.
The right type of exercise for you is the one that you are most likely to stick with whether it be Pilates, weights or Zumba. Obviously training variety is the key to obtaining the bodies most effective result’s.
Your body is uncannily smart and will adapt to the same type of training very quickly. Adaptation generally occurs after 6-8 weeks of performing the same type of exercise so it is important to mix up some component of the weights you are lifting or the type of cardio exercise you are participating in.
In today’s world we are restricted with the amount of time we have to dedicate to exercise so there has been an explosion in popularity of 20-30 minute options such as HIIT or class style circuit workouts. Both of these type of workouts combine both cardio and strength training elements whilst getting the heart rate up, a popular choice for many time poor people. These formats tend to offer ‘bang for buck’ for people looking to burn a lot of energy and get a good sweat on.
In order to change the shape of your body you cant go past some form of resistance training. Resistance training can be in the form of weights, body weight or using more functional equipment pieces like cables or resistance bands to name a few. Resistance training increases our lean muscle tissue that in turn assists us in burning energy even when we are inactive. This is very useful when we are tying to lose weight as lean muscle tissue will help us burn off excess body fat whilst also giving our muscles the appearance of looking firm and toned.
It is also hard to go past Mind/Body classes like Pilates or Yoga for their holistic health benefits and stress management techniques. Ten minutes a day should be spent practicing some ‘quite time’ such as meditation, journaling or listening to music to recalibrate your spirit and your mind.
Balancing Your Lifestyle:
Did you know on average that most of us spend 10 hours a day at working including commuting to work?
This is a pretty scary statistic when you combine that with 7- 8 hours sleep that only leaves us with approximately 6 hours a day for leisure and relaxation.
The quality of your time off makes all of the difference to balancing your lifestyle. Invest time into activities that are good for your mental health such as exercise, meditation, reading, or spending time with friends and family.
Balancing our lifestyle helps reduce our stress levels which in turn reduces our levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that can cause excess amounts of sugar production and in turn increased blood sugar levels. Carrying excess weight particularly around the mid section is a sign of excessive amounts of cortisol and long term stress.
Long terms stress can cause mental health problems like anxiety and depression and physical problems like high blood pressure, muscle weakness and fatigue.
In summary, the right weight loss program for you is one that is sustainable and fits into your lifestyle. Sustainability is the key here, if it involves too much deprivation or sacrifice the body will feel overwhelmed and it will only end up being a short-term weight loss solution.
If you want to transform your health then all of the 5 key lifestyle factors need to be addressed from mental health, movement, nutrition, water, sleep and stress management.
Small changes over time is the best approach as trying to change too many things at once will be overwhelming and again you may abandon all of your efforts before you have even started.
There has been much hype in the health industry recently about the merits of ‘cleansing’ or ‘fasting’. If you care to research this topic further there is alot of literature supporting the merits of both to achieve optimal health. Results range from greater mental clarity/focus to decreased blood pressure and possibly even slowing down the ageing process. Fasting for even 8 hours, causes the body to dip into glucose stored in the liver and muscles as a source of energy. As well as aiding weight loss, Dr. Razeen Mahroof, of the University of Oxford in the UK, explains that the use of fat for energy can help preserve muscle and reduce cholesterol levels. “A detoxification process also occurs, because any toxins stored in the body’s fat are dissolved and removed from the body,” he adds, noting that after a few days of fasting, higher levels of endorphins – “feel-good” hormones – are produced in the blood, which can have a positive impact on mental well-being.
What is a detox:
- Endongenous – (made from inside of you) hormones, brain chemicals, cellular waste from fatigue exercise. Or chemicals from the good/bad bugs that live inside your stomach and membranes.
- Exogoneous – (comes from outside) hormones, pollution, natural or synthetic food chemicals, poisons, venoms. Not to mention synthetic or natural drugs, inhalants, cosmetics, dental fillings, vaccinations, pesticides, electromagnetic radiation and fertilisers to name a few.
When should you detox:
How to Detox:
- Starting each day with apple cider vinegar or lemon in warm water
- Drinking fresh vegetable juice daily full of super greens
- Eliminating alcohol and caffeine
- Eating more raw foods such as vegetables and fruit
- Reducing your intake of red meat or meat products
- Using only natural cleaning, bathing and hygiene products
- Eliminating white sugar and processed foods
- Eliminating toxic people out of your life
- Drink more green tea or herbal teas like dandelion and ginger
- Exercising more and stressing less
Exercise Recommendations whilst on a Detox/Cleanse:
Your goal, whilst on a detox is to let your body do what it needs to do, that is rid itself of toxins. The right type of exercise can actually facilitate this process, but the wrong type, or too much exercise can detract from it. Exercising provides a great pathway for detoxification to naturally occur simply by sweating and breathing. Sweat increases our blood flow to our working muscles and carries away damaged cells which make us less sore after a workout. It also dials up heat-shock proteins (a special set of responders that safeguard other proteins from damage) repair any damaged ones and produce new ones. Exercise also stimulates our digestive and lymphatic systems so we expel toxins quicker and more efficiently. The key whilst detoxing/cleansing is to pick the right cleanse and pair it with the right type of exercise.
Here are my recommendations around certain exercises and cleansing:
- Yoga (Hatha or Gentle Yoga): The purpose of Hatha yoga is to stretch and restore energy due to it’s relaxing nature. The more intense cleanses can be completed whilst still practicising Hatha. These include 3-5 day juice or aw food cleanses. Opt for juices full of vital greens to restore iron levels or juices full of red beets, oranges and carrots to stimulate and sustain you.
- Power/Hot Yoga: The more dynamic Yoga’s do need more energy to perform and usually more sweat to be expelled. For these types of mind/body classes opt for a more protein rich drink to aid in recovery, especially taken after the workout itself. Add ingredients such as almond or any other nut milk, coconut water for hydration or a pea protein to assist with any breakdown in muscle.
- Weight/Strength Training: Similarly to Power Yoga, heavy strength work can cause tiny tears in the muscle fibres which require protein rich foods to repair them. Include a higher level of protein in your detox/cleanse if you would still like to weight train. Some of these foods include green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, sprouts, brussel sprouts. Fruits to include are avocados, guavas, apricots, peaches, kiwi fruit, blackberries, oranges, bananas, rock melon and raspberries. Ensure you supplement your shakes with a good quality pea protein powder.
- Walking/Low Impact Exercise: Even low intensity exercise still requires energy, ensure walks and low impact exercise are no more than 45-60 minutes in duration. You may want to add metabolism boosting spices such as cinammon or jalapenos to kick start your weight loss . Citrus fruits like limes, oranges, grapefruits also have chemical properties that help decrease insulin levels and promote weight loss. Not to mention, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower and bok choys being cruciferous vegetables that help jump start your metabolism and assist with weight loss.
- Running/High Intensity/Cycling/Endurance: For endurance or high intensity activities such as running or cycling an intensive 3-5 day juice only cleanse is probably not optimal for replenshment and repair. Food is required for these type of activities especially to sustain energy and to repair muscle and cells. Alongside food, green juices are good because they are high in potassium which helps with muscle contraction and prevents cramps. Ensure you get plenty of raw solids too—like avocados, nut butters, nut milks, whole fruits, and vegetables. Aim for a minimum of 1500 calories a day and add some pea protein for muscle repair. Coconut water will help for added hydration and maintaining your electrolyte balance.
- Swimming/Pilates: Toning exercises like swimming and pilates still get the cardiovascular system going. Try adding ‘super foods’ such as goji berries, acai berries and spirulina to a vegetable mix for extra vitamins and minerals. Lastly, throw in a blend of almonds, plant protein, dates and omega-rich flax to boost tissue repair.