Every year we all set intentions or resolutions starting off the year with an optimistic attitude of this year it will be different. This year I will finally sort out my health, lose that weight or get fit. But what happens to all those gym memberships and good intentions? What if there was an easier way. Well there is.
Here are my top 5 tips to optimise your health in 2022:
- Eat a more plant based diet. Studies have shown that those eating a whole food plant based diet reduce their risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, metabolic disease and many other degenerative diseases. If you are doing Veganuary, don't let it stop at the end of January! An added bonus to eating a more plant based diet is that we have found is it also makes losing excess weight much easier. If you follow a completely vegan diet you should take a vitamin B12 supplement as this vitamin is deficient in a purely vegan diet. A great resource I have found is Dr Michael Greger's website Nutrition Facts https://nutritionfacts.org/ and his podcasts are great to listen to on the move. If you need a bit of extra motivation ( as I did initailly ) to eat more plant based watch the film on Netflix called The Game Changers.
- Reduce your intake of fast release sugars and carbohydrates. This means the sugars that are mainly found in many processed foods, fizzy drinks etc. Studies have shown that the sucrose and fructose that are added to foods during the manufacturing process to make them more palatable greatly increase your risk of developing obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Start reading the ingredients on food packets, you will be shocked by how much sugar is in there, particularly in many processed foods labelled as low fat. If you crave something sweet eat a piece of fruit instead, although fruits contain sugars, nature has packaged it perfectly with fibre and vitamins making it a much healthier food choice, that also feeds you gut microbes. Avoid fruit juices as the sugar is released very fast into your bloodstream, and instead opt for the whole fruit.
- Take a vitamin D supplement between October and April if you are living in the UK. The levels of vitamin d that we obtain from the sun during these months in the UK are inadequate, and a large number of people in the UK are vitamin D deficient as a result. Vitamin d plays a very important role in many functions in our body including bone health, and more recently we have become painfully aware how important it is to the correct functioning of the immune system, in fighting off infections.
- Increase the interval between eating. Where did we get the idea that it was healthy to be constantly snacking! Time restricted eating is a very effective way of reducing the amount of food you consume.It is also known as intermittent fasting. It is best to introduce it gradually to begin with, if you have not done it before. Try stopping eating a little earlier in the evening to begin with or having your first meal of the day a little later. I have been amazed by how effective this method has been for me. I used to be constantly snacking, and I was constantly hungry and struggling to keep my weight down. There is lots of great information out there on time restricted eating. Dr Michael Mosely has written several books about intermittent fasting (all of which I have read and enjoyed) which you may find helpful if you are trying to lose weight. If you are a diabetic on tablets or insulin this method is probably not going to be suitable for you, and you would need to talk to your doctor if you are considering it because of the risk of hypos.
- Get outside in nature and exercise daily if you can. Being outside in nature and daylight has many health benefits including those on our mental and physical health, and helps to regulate our sleep patterns through our circadian rhythm. Walking costs nothing, no gym membership is required or special equipment apart from a comfortable supportive pair of shoes. Try and build walking into your daily routine, starting maybe with just 15 minutes a day, so that it becomes a habit. Walk to work if you can or get off the bus a stop earlier. If you want to become more active, I definitely recommend getting a wearable fitness tracker like a Fitbit. These are incredibly motivating and fun to use, and give you lots of useful information about your health.
Oh and one last tip. I know we said 5 but this one is just too important
6. Go to bed at a decent hour and practice good sleep hygiene. What is good sleep hygiene you ask? Well that is so important, that is the subject of a whole other blog post.