Happy, healthy holidays

HEALTH:

The festive season is traditionally a calorific extravaganza. With party food all around and alcohol flowing freely it can be a real challenge to keep up with good nutrition and exercise habits during the month of December.

However, there’s no need to throw in the towel: these tips will help you to enjoy yourself over the Christmas period whilst still remaining fit and healthy throughout.

EXERCISE:

An increase in social events can make it hard to keep to your gym routine as regularly as you might the rest of the year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep fit and healthy.

1Take every opportunity to dance at parties or invite your partner/friends to go dancing over the holidays. You’ll have fun and it’ll still be great exercise; dancing uses up between 270 and 540 calories an hour depending on the speed.

NUTRITION:

If you’re invited to a friend or family member’s house for a pre-Christmas meal, ask if you can bring one of your own healthy dishes (such as oven roasted broccoli with garlic or braised red cabbage) to help out.

Filling up on delicious fresh vegetables will provide you with a rainbow of nutrients whilst ensuring that you are less likely to go overboard on everything else.

© Sarah West Nutrition

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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

Comfort eating

HEALTH:

Psychological studies have shown that food is the single most powerful emotional stimulus in our lives. We use it as much to cheer us up, to fight depression, to reward ourselves and to indulge ourselves as we do to satisfy hunger.

However, this is not always a particularly healthy response and can lead to poor food choices and overeating. So how can you break the cycle?

EXERCISE:

It may not seem such an obvious connection, but exercise can play a large role in providing comfort and making you feel good.

Not only will getting physically active help you lose weight in a healthy way but it also lifts depression, improves overall health and reduces stress. The natural mood-boosting effects of exercise can therefore help put a stop to emotional eating.

NUTRITION:

The deprivation and hunger involved in strict dieting can trigger comfort eating and the urge to overeat. Instead of dieting, try to focus on eating in moderation.

Find nutritious foods that you enjoy and will benefit your health and eat only until you feel content, not uncomfortably stuffed. This will help you get real pleasure from your food.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Sugar hit

HEALTH:

The more sugar you consume, the greater the rise in blood sugar and consequently in insulin levels within the body.

Insulin not only converts sugar into an instant energy source, it also encourages the storage of fat. Keeping your blood sugar levels stable is therefore one of the most important factors in sustaining your energy levels and maintaining a healthy weight.

EXERCISE:

Research has shown that long-term, regular exercise can significantly improve the body’s ability to control fluctuating blood sugar levels.

During strenuous activity your body transports any available sugar directly to your muscles, thus helping to reduce excess sugar within the bloodstream (and preventing it from being stored as fat).

NUTRITION:

Try swapping white bread, white rice, white pasta and sugary cereals for nutrient-dense wholegrain alternatives which take longer to digest.

These foods release their sugar more slowly into your bloodstream, helping to reduce rapid insulin release and keep your energy levels and hunger under control.

 

© Sarah West Nutrition

Fantastic fish oils

HEALTH:

When the words oil and fat are mentioned, dieters tend to run for cover. However, what many fail to realise is that the essential fatty acids found in oily fish produce hormones that regulate digestion and insulin production.

Insulin reduces fat used for fuel instead promoting fat storage, so by choosing the right fats, you can actually boost weight loss.

EXERCISE:

Studies indicate that a combination of moderate exercise and regular consumption of oily
fish can help to significantly reduce the total proportion of fat in the body, particularly in
the abdominal region.

It is believed that omega-3 fatty acids increase the elasticity of blood vessel walls and flow of nutrients to muscles during each workout. Exercise equivalent to taking a 45-minutes three times a week appears sufficient to produce this benefit.

NUTRITION:

For a healthy, omega 3-rich snack, try blending one 125g can of mackerel fillets (in olive oil), 1 tbsp cooked chickpeas, 1tbsp tahini, 1 tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp chilli flakes, 3 tbsp chopped parsley and the juice of 1 lemon in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and black pepper and serve as a pâté on ryvita or oatcakes.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Good health on a budget

HEALTH:

Budget living is on everyone’s mind these days. The good news is that losing weight doesn’t have to mean spending more money. In fact, the main ingredient for lasting results – sheer determination – doesn’t cost a penny.

EXERCISE:

No amount of expensive equipment or specialist diet foods will achieve results without the will to keep at it and achieve your goals. So if you want a cheap way to top up the benefits you get from the gym, why not get walking?

A 30 minute brisk walk will raise your heart-rate and can burn an impressive 170 calories. Better yet, it’s free and accessible to anyone, no matter how fit you are or how much money you have in the bank.

NUTRITION:

Eating out is not only costly to our waistlines but also to out wallets; so try eating at home more often. When you prepare your own food you are in complete control of the ingredients, preparation method and portion sizes.

You also won’t be tempted to get your money’s worth by eating too much just because it’s there on your plate… put any leftovers in the fridge and save them for tomorrow for lunch instead!

© Sarah West Nutrition

Feel fuller for longer

HEALTH:

Do you have days when you experience ongoing hunger, even when eating at the top of your calorie range? It can be so distracting and depriving that you feel ready to throw in the towel.

However, don’t be tempted to give up before you’ve added what could be the missing ingredient back into your weight loss programme: satiety.

EXERCISE:

Research suggests that paring aerobic and resistance training may increase satiety hormones and boost the body’s ability to stabilize blood sugar, meaning you feel fuller for longer (compared to cardio exercise alone).

By swapping aerobic exercise for weights several times a week you may find you are consuming up to 500 fewer calories per day; equating to up to 12.5 pounds in a year.

NUTRITION:

Studies suggest that protein appears to help prolong satiety more than carbohydrates or fat can.

Consuming even a small amount of protein (found in lean meat, seafood, low-fat dairy, legumes, lentils and soy products) with each of your meals and snacks will help you stay full whilst still keeping you within your daily calorie allowance.

© 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

Beat the plateau

HEALTH:

Feel like you’ve hit a wall with your progress? A plateau can be a common – and very frustrating – occurrence in a weight loss programme.

However, it is important not to become discouraged if you feel you’re not dropping the pounds quickly enough; you can soon get back on track by making some minor alterations to your routine. Whatever you do, don’t give up!

EXERCISE:

One of the best ways to overcome a weight loss plateau is through regular changes to your exercise routine.

By alternating your physical activities (being sure to include both aerobic exercises and weight lifting in your plan) you will both burn calories and build muscle. This can help compensate for any decrease in metabolism associated with your weight loss so far.

NUTRITION:

Try to eat smaller portions more frequently and never skip meals: taking the little and often approach can lead to a temporary boost in metabolism, whereas going without food only slows things down.

It can also help keep your blood sugar levels constant and prevent sugar cravings from creeping in and stalling your progress even further.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Good fat, bad fat

HEALTH:

We’re bombarded with supposedly guilt-free, low fat options in the snack aisle at the supermarket. But how healthy are they really?

When fat is removed, more sugar is generally added to improve taste and appeal to consumer’s taste buds. An excess of sugar in the diet triggers the over-secretion of our fat storage hormone, insulin; so while our low-fat options have steadily increased, so have obesity rates.

EXERCISE:

High intensity interval training – involving a mix of intense effort followed by bouts of recovery – is one of the most effective ways to burn excess body fat in the gym.

To get the most out of an interval session you must ensure that you really push yourself, then ease right off during the recovery periods. Try a 2:2 work/rest ratio to start with and then gradually decrease the length of your rest periods as your stamina improves. You will soon see the benefits.

NUTRITION:

Are you fat-phobic? Essential fatty acids actually help to balance the key hormones that exert control over your weight and should never be avoided.

To increase your essential fatty acid intake, up your intake of oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herring and sardines. If you’re vegetarian or not keen on fish, take a good quality essential fatty acid supplement (such as Eskimo 3 stable fish oil or Solgar’s fish oil concentrate) or try adding a tablespoon of flaxseed oil to your morning smoothie or mixed into dips and salad dressings.

© Sarah West Nutrition