Positive Changes: Two small words that have the ability to change our lives forever.
I use this phrase with every single one of my clients for both Nutrition and Personal Training. I also use it in everyday conversation with friends and family, or strangers with whom I may be discussing health and well-being.
Why are these words so important and what do they really mean?
Positive changes are a powerful way to change your current lifestyle and eating habits. These kind of changes are generally small ones, adopted continuously over time until they form a new habit, just like brushing your hair or cleaning your teeth. Positive changes will involve things such as swapping high fat cooking methods (deep fat fryer) for lower fat and heart-healthy ones such as steaming or baking; or swapping half an hour of daily television or computer time for a brisk walk from your house.
It occurred to me the other day that I’ve now been microwave-free for well over a year, something I’m incredibly pleased to have achieved. Regardless of the fact that microwaved food may not be the healthiest or the tastiest, I have found that it inhibits culinary creativity. By having to reheat food in the more traditional saucepan manner means you might actually turn what would have just been eaten as yesterday’s shepherd’s pie into a thick meaty stew, with the addition of extra veg and stock. Leftovers are a popular topic for discussion at the moment with the launch of Jamie Oliver’s latest programme Save with Jamie (UK, Channel 4); other chefs such as Nigel Slater also include plenty of ways to make new meals from daily leftovers in their TV shows.
Are there any Positive Changes you realise that you’ve managed to achieve over the last few months?
Maybe you decided to make no more trips to the corner shop or petrol station after school when your kids are grumpy and tired; those moments when it’s just far easier to give in than to listen to them bicker and whine for the remainder of the car journey?
Maybe you chose to get off the bus a stop earlier for work every day, or started an exercise class with a friend during your lunch-hour?
Whatever you’ve successfully added into or cut from your life, chances are there is still room for improvement.
Here are my Top Ten Positive Changes for a healthier life:
If your vegetable intake is low (0-2 portions a day), try adding a raw salad or vegetable soup to your lunch every day. Homemade vegetable soup is completely fat free and low in calories if you stick to the basic premise of vegetables boiled in water and a stock cube, then blitzed in a blender. Great combinations include sweet potato, carrot and squash, or tomatoes, courgette, celery and red pepper.
Swap two regular cups of tea and coffee for plain water every day. This will boost hydration and reduce your reliance on caffeine. If you’re currently a milk and sugar tea/coffee drinker then you’ll also make a saving of around 100 calories a day!
Keep alcohol to a maximum of two nights a week. If you presently drink a glass or two of wine or a couple of beers every night (this one is for the dads too!) then cutting back will reduce calorie intake and also the stress that alcohol places on the hormonal system and the liver. Women should see an improvement in PMT symptoms and everyone should see a boost in energy levels and better sleep patterns.
Start eating a regular mid-afternoon snack of nuts or seeds with fresh fruit. This will give you a well needed nutritious boost between lunch and dinner and will gradually reduce afternoon sugar and caffeine cravings. There is much discussion between the options of eating either three meals a day and no snacks versus four to six smaller snacks. Personally, I believe that younger people, women of child bearing age and athletes all need to eat more frequently than other population groups. If you’re currently overweight or suffering from disordered eating then starting a structured plan that involves healthy meals and snacks every 3-4 hours will ensure that blood sugar levels will respond favourably and weight loss, increased energy and positivity will follow.
Smile more often and at more people! Many people trudge through daily life being grumpy with shop assistants, aggressive with other drivers and snappy at their children or partner. Take a few extra moments each day to smile at, and possibly talk to, strangers you encounter every day: the cashier at the petrol station or supermarket, parents at the school playground, the bus driver, the filing team at the office, the policeman on the beat in your town centre. Happiness and positivity definitely rub off onto other people so the more you give out, the more you’ll receive back!
Take a daily walk of at least 20 minutes. All of us have time to fit in a twenty minute walk, no excuses! Twenty minutes is a mere 1/72 of the day! It doesn’t matter what you wear or where you walk, just put on foot in front of the other and let your head and body release the stresses and strains of everyday life.
Swap 2-3 meals every week from meat dishes to vegetarian alternatives. The easiest way to do this is to create a dish based around vegetables: Stir fries, ratatouille, vegetable and bean casseroles, curry, risotto or roasted winter vegetables with goat’s cheese – delicious!
Tell yourself how amazing you are…because you are! If we don’t love ourselves then we appear less loveable to others. If you’re guilty of complaining frequently about your thighs/hair/nails/teeth/stomach/stretch marks/boobs (delete as applicable) then start with one attribute, either physical or emotional and compliment yourself either verbally or in writing, together with a justification. E.g. I love my tummy because it has been home to my three beautiful babies; I am a kind person because I help at school with my child’s class reading sessions. You could also try asking friends, family or children to describe you in three words, you may be surprised how wonderful they all think you are.
Have a little de-clutter session at home. Start small with a bedside drawer or a kitchen cupboard, or maybe a pile of paperwork you’ve been putting off for a while or bills you’ve neglected to pay. Just clearing these things will take a weight off your shoulders, even if you didn’t realise it existed!
Try to go to bed at a regular time every evening. A regular bedtime will help create a healthier environment for sleep. Try to reduce use of mobile devices, video games or DVDs just before bed as these all stimulate the brain instead of helping it relax. Keep a bottle or glass of water by your bed to sip through the night. Reducing caffeine, chocolate, alcohol and sugar in the two hours prior to bed will also assist with deeper sleep. Keep your bedroom uncluttered and not too warm, ideally leaving a small window slightly ajar.
As always, I’d love to hear your comments, feedback or success stories!
Until next time,