Winter wellbeing

HEALTH:

Had enough of grey skies and cold weather? Lack of sunlight lowers the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, meaning your enthusiasm to get fit can seem lower than ever at this time of year.

But don’t be tempted to hibernate; it is particularly important to keep active if you want to stay feeling your best and help fend off those winter germs and viruses.

EXERCISE:

Exercise is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle and you should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week, whatever the weather.

492649930158102_do6Vso4s_cWinter is a great time to try out something new that you can do indoors, so why not give badminton or squash a go? A burst of activity will make you feel far better (and warmer!) than just sitting around at home.

NUTRITION:

The secret to fighting off infections is to keep the immune system strong. To enhance your immune function this winter try eating plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables and increasing your intake of foods containing zinc (such sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, beans, poultry, yogurt and wholegrains).

Try to avoid too much refined sugar, as this has been shown to reduce energy levels and suppress immune function.

© Sarah West Nutrition

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Get equipped

HEALTH:

On average only about 20% of us keep our New Year’s resolutions, with some of the biggest failures often found in fitness resolutions. But don’t let the statistics get you down: by following these tips you’ll be better equipped to succeed.

EXERCISE:

Rather than focusing on one ultimate end goal, try dissecting it into smaller pieces to make it seem less intimidating.

199213983487253074_XwUYjumA_cFor example, if your main objective is to complete a 10K race, your smaller goals could involve running a 5K in less than 30 minutes, adding upper and lower body strength training to increase your muscular endurance, or running 2 miles with a personal best completion time.

NUTRITION:

By keeping a well-stocked kitchen, you’ll be better equipped to keep up your healthy eating plans long term.

Cheap and easily available, beans (kidney, aduki, flageolet, mung, canellini, broad, haricot) and pulses (such as lentils) are high in protein and fibre but low in fat.  Keep a few cans in your cupboard, rinse thoroughly then add to salads, soups, casseroles and stir-fries for a nutritious boost.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Make the effort

HEALTH:

It was Woody Allen who famously commented that “90% of success is just showing up”. Well the same applies for the gym;  the hardest part is often just making the effort to get there.

You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you need to run or the amount you can bench press later; make your first priority simply packing your gym kit and getting through the door.

EXERCISE:

Once you have an exercise habit, it quickly becomes automatic. But after a week, a month or even a year off, it can be hard to get started again. The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop: avoid taking long breaks from the gym or you’ll find rebuilding the habit will take a lot more effort.

To keep the momentum going, try jotting down how great you feel after a really good workout and use it as a reference the next time you’re tempted to take a break.

NUTRITION:

Often the first area to be compromised when we are busy and feeling stressed is our diet; hectic lifestyles can lead to a reliance on convenience foods, which lack essential vitamins and minerals.

In turn, feeling stressed makes it more difficult for our bodies to absorb vital nutrients from food, particularly the B vitamins and vitamin C (which support our bodies in times of stress). It’s therefore very important to make an effort with your diet, however stressed out you feel.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Reward yourself

HEALTH:

Losing weight is a task that requires plenty of perseverance; and one way to ensure that you will not give up hope is to reward yourself.

Granting yourself regular rewards (i.e. for every 5lbs lost) will make your weight loss journey more interesting, and help provide the motivation you need to reach your ultimate goal. And if you keep it up for long enough you’ll reap the ultimate reward; a fit and healthy body to be proud of.

EXERCISE:

When it comes to weight loss, the rewards along the way should help you work toward your goals, not against it.

Fitness-related treats such as smart new gym clothes, comfier trainers, a fitness magazine subscription, a personal training session or a new piece of equipment (such as a fitness ball, resistance bands or even an mp3 player to listen to while you exercise) are not only great incentives but will help spur you on even further.

NUTRITION:

One of the hardest struggles can be breaking the habit of rewarding yourself with unhealthy food. Whilst you do deserve a treat; you do not deserve to punish your poor body by plying it with junk and empty calories.

Rather than celebrating your achievements with cake or wine, be kind to yourself and treat yourself to a massage or pampering session instead. By granting yourself non-food rewards, you will find that there are many things that bring greater excitement and fulfillment than unhealthy food.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Do what you love

HEALTH:

‘If you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work’.

You’ve probably heard this saying before and it also applies to exercise and nutrition; by choosing ways to be healthy that fill you with joy rather than dread, you will find your journey to wellbeing feels more effortless.

EXERCISE:

Exercise should be about more than just a way to get in shape; it should be a break from the stresses of life and something you can really look forward to.

Don’t just hammer away on the treadmill; try a variety of different routines and machines and discover what your favourites are. You’ll be amazed by the extra lift you get from loving the exercise you do as well as the benefits it provides.

NUTRITION:

To eat well without feeling deprived, try making some healthier versions of your favourite foods.

If you love a fry up, grill some bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms and serve with scrambled eggs and wholemeal toast. If chips are your favourite, try chopping some sweet potato or celeriac into wedges and roasting with a light spray of olive oil. Delicious and nutritious!

© Sarah West Nutrition

Retrain your brain

HEALTH:

In order for any weight loss regime to succeed, you need to start looking at healthy food in a different way.

Instead of resenting the changes to your lifestyle, try thinking of the food you eat as high quality fuel that will help you to look and feel better with every mouthful. The positive association could make all the difference.

EXERCISE:

Instead of fixating on the negative aspects of exercise, try making a list of all the benefits; such as  looking leaner, having more energy, receiving compliments on your appearance and being able to wear clothes you don’t currently feel comfortable in.

Imagine being your goal weight and how it would make you look and feel. Surely that’s worth going to the gym for?

NUTRITION:

A common dieting pitfall is the belief that you can eat as much as you like as long as you exercise. However, the truth is that your portion sizes and food choices are an important part of the plan.

However long you spend in the gym, you won’t see results if you consistently consume more additional calories than you burn off. You can’t out run your fork!

© Sarah West Nutrition

Too much of a good thing

HEALTH:

There are so many physical and psychological benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle that it might seem paradoxical that excessive exercise or dieting may produce negative effects. But it’s true; you really can have too much of a good thing.

EXERCISE:

While healthy levels of exercise has an anabolic (tissue-building) effect on the body, excessive exercise can have a catabolic (tissue-destroying) effect and will prevent you from seeing positive results.

Speaking with a qualified personal trainer can help you plan a programme that will sufficiently challenge you but also includes adequate recovery intervals to enable you to really see – and feel- the benefits.

NUTRITION:

Health food addicts will often choose a diet they think is optimal to achieve better health (such as very low fat or low carb) and stick to it rigidly. However, despite the very best intentions, they may be doing more harm than good.

Strict avoidance of certain foods or food groups can lead to deficits in essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body needs to function properly, making a diet that involves everything in moderation a far healthier (and not to mention tastier) approach.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Hearty reasons to get fit

HEALTH:

If you’re lacking enthusiasm, try making a mental list of all the ways that keeping fit can help improve your quality of life and increase your life-span.

Just thinking about all the amazing things you’ll be doing for yourself can be incredibly motivating; no matter what might be on your list of cons, they’re sure to be outnumbered by the pros.

EXERCISE:

According to research, physical fitness might be even more important than weight loss when it comes to protecting your heart.

54645Experts say that regardless of your Body Mass Index, if you’re physically fit you’re at reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.  So never let your weight make you feel self conscious about visiting the gym- every trip you could be increasing your life span.

NUTRITION:

One of the most commonly used vegetables is iceberg lettuce, which doesn’t provide many nutrients due to its high water content.

To get more benefit from your lunch, try replacing lettuce with salad leaves that really pack a punch – such as baby spinach, kale or watercress. These taste delicious and also provide valuable vitamin A and folate, the heart-healthy B vitamin.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Sleep tight

HEALTH:

How well you feel during your waking hours can depend entirely on how you sleep each night. A good night’s rest allows the body to repair and rejuvenate and is necessary to feel energised, mentally sharp and emotionally balanced.

EXERCISE:

Research shows that you sleep more deeply if you exercise regularly: as little 20-30 minutes per day can help you to enjoy a more restful slumber.

However, since exercise raises your body temperature and causes you to feel more alert, the timing of your workout is very important. A cooler body temperature and relaxed mind is associated with sleep onset so you should always finish your exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime.

NUTRITION:

If you have trouble sleeping it is a good idea to keep your evening meal light, with no strong flavours. Fatty foods is a lot of work for your stomach to digest and spicy or acidic foods can cause heartburn: both of which may keep you up at night.

It may also be helpful to limit how much you drink before bed. Caffeinated and alcoholic drinks – which act as both stimulants and diuretics – are particularly likely to have a disruptive effect.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Stay positive

HEALTH

What are your goals? If you don’t know why you want to achieve something, it won’t be as important for you to get it.

By focusing on positive goals (such as “I want to look great in my bikini on holiday” rather than “I don’t want to be this big and fat”) it will be easier to visualise them and you’ll be more inclined to work towards them.

EXERCISE

The ultimate cure for lack of motivation is results. If you can maintain a positive attitude and keep up your exercise programme on a regular basis, you will soon be spurred on by the changes you see and feel.

Leading a happier, healthier life and watching the body you have always wanted develop right before your eyes can be incredibly motivational and empowering.

NUTRITION

When a lot of the foods you love are prohibited, you are likely to feel unhappy and deprived. This is a diet disaster as it’s by far the easiest way to fall off the wagon.

To help avoid this trap, allow yourself a little of what you fancy each day but do so in moderation. Savour each bite and feel good about it; you are then better equipped to get back to your healthy eating plan without feeling guilty or resentful about it.

© Sarah West Nutrition