As December draws to a close, we kiss goodbye to yet another year! Traditionally, many of us make a new year resolution – whether we keep it or not is another thing! But there are some simple health tips that can really kick off your health promise!
I know that we’re increasingly becoming cynical about making new year’s resolutions, largely because we know that we generally fail them by week two!
Your local gym will be heaving in the first week of January and empty again by March.
It’s just how we are! We take on challenges that have no simple steps with short term targets!
I think that’s the key – just make small changes that you can do in a short period of time, and then make new ones once you’ve achieved them.
Here are 5 simple health tips that aren’t ground-breaking, but are simple! There’s nothing here that will win a Nobel peace prize for innovation – but surprising how we can forget or ignore.
My sixth one is super obvious, but I have to mention it: keep simple sugars low! That is: biscuits, sweets, pastries, cakes, chocolate and even fruit juices and smoothies made from blended fruits.
Sugars cause insulin spikes in the blood and that can itself make you feel just crappy!
More Colour, Less Beige
The single best thing anyone can do is eat less meat. Veganism has become massively popular, with hundreds of famous people leaping onto this train weekly!
But you don’t have to be vegan to be healthy, just eat less brown food and aim for as broad a variety of vegetables and fruits as you can.
It’s not important whether you eat 5-a-day – it’s important that you eat a variety of different plants.
So when you next order a burger, swap the bacon or cheese for tomato, lettuce, pickles or any plant you want! You could have a slice of avocado – but that will jettison straight out after you bite it – it’s a slippery little trickster!
People who eat more vegetables and less animals are generally healthier and experience sickness less.
Even if your health is already compromised! We know that people with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, skin diseases among others experience less symptoms and require less medication on a plant-based diet.
Exercise is that dirty e-word for many people – the thought of doing anything strenuous is tedious and probably too difficult.
But that could be because many of us think that exercise means going for a run, or joining a gym.
It doesn’t! It simply means being more active – whatever active means to you. We are all much better going for a brisk walk for 30 minutes every day than we are watching EastEnders.
Small changes add up, even if that means taking the stairs to the office on the third floor rather than the lift; or getting off the bus one stop early.
Bit by bit, you can build this up to a life that is far less sedentary, that breaks new habits we’ve acquired from modern effort-saving devices.
People forget that sleep is as important to our health as nutrition, exercise, hydration and stress avoidance.
Getting a daily 7-9 hours of restful and restorative sleep is essential for a fully functioning and happy human body.
There are so many things in life that can interfere with our sleep, and so scientists have developed a field of research that looks at sleep hygiene. An area of sleep medicine that looks at the factors that aid or prevent good restful sleep.
Stress is state of body and mind that many of us think only occurs when something frustrates us or causes anxiety – even if low level.
For example, getting ready for exams, or achieving a work deadline or even meeting your partner’s parents for the first time.
But stress isn’t that simple. It affects all of us most of the time. It’s healthy, it’s natural and it’s normal.
However, when stress gets a little out of control, it can affect our blood pressure, our hormonal state, our mood and much more.
If you find yourself battling with stress every day, then managing it should be a priority. It could be the morning commute causes you stress, or dealing with difficult customer or even difficult member of your family.
This pent-up feeling you get on a regular basis keeps your body on full alert causing you to tense up muscles, feel exhausted and even lose interest in things you previously loved.
If this sounds like you – slam on the brakes! It’s time to stop and re-assess this. Change whatever it is that perpetually adds to this stress. And if you can’t, then think of ways to manage it.
If it’s the commute, take to listening to music that calms you, and filter out the craziness around you. Maybe you can kill two birds with one stone, move more (exercise) by cycling or running to work.
Stress could be one reason why some of us struggle with our weight – so dealing with it can help on many levels.
Download Headspace onto your phone – a great way to release stress and learn new techniques to deal with it.
When you lead a busy life, rushing from meeting to meeting, job to job or juggling family life with work life – it’s easy to forget to drink!
And I don’t mean cracking open the sauv blanc when you get home.
Carry a refillable water bottle with you and keep drinking small amounts right throughout the day.
There’s no magical formula to keeping hydrated, and no particular water is any better than any other.
Nor is there really a correct amount of water you should drink. The advice for the average person – whoever that is, is about 8 glasses or 1.5L of water.
However, the best measure is your urine! Try and always drink enough water so that when you pee, the colour is a light straw colour.
The darker it is, the more dehydrated you are and an indicator that you need to drink more.
Man doing Yoga revolved crescent lunge pose- Artem Bali
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat. He writes for www.veggieandspice.com and www.itsaboutnutrition.com