7 Healthy Habits & New Resolutions That Last Longer Than January…

healthy-living

For most people, the New Year heralds new aspirations and goals in the form of New Year’s resolutions. As a nutritionist and personal trainer, the most common resolutions I’ve come across are to “lose weight” and “get fit”. In a world saturated with unhealthy body image must-haves (e.g. bikini bridge or hotdog legs), or have-nots (e.g. the thigh gap), our quest for looking good often overrides the need to actually gain health, be healthy and maintain healthiness. Unfortunately many strive for the TOFI look (thin on the outside, fat on the inside) without realizing the health implications of simply losing weight for the sake of thinness.

While nutritional and physical activity needs change throughout life, there are some constants that provide the basis to achieving and maintaining a healthy life. For young women, it is particularly important to develop these foundational healthy lifestyle principles. Whether married, parenting or single, by incorporating these principles into your lifestyle, they will become habits that make health not only achievable, but maintainable long after January.

1. Eat Whole Foods.
We eat food, not nutrients. Think about it – when you sit down to lunch, you don’t eat piles of vitamin C, vitamin B-complex, iron, magnesium and calcium. Rather we eat food, which is the source of these nutrients, plus many others. Therefore opting for whole-foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains (e.g. rolled oats, dark rye bread, brown/basmati rice, lentils, legumes), lean protein (e.g. dairy, tempeh, soy, lean meats, fish, lean poultry), healthy fats (e.g. monounsaturated fats found in olives, nuts, seeds, Omega-3 fats found in fish) instead of high fat, high sugar, high salt, low fibre highly processed foods not only provides vital nutrition but also makes you feel full for longer. This is important in weight management. Furthermore whole foods actually tastes good. Bonus!

2. Eat Color.
The bright colors of fruits and vegetables are due to different compounds called “phytonutrients”. For example the red color in tomatoes is due to lycopene, orange carrots are orange because of carotene and anthoycyanins make purple cabbage, well purple. Eating color = eating variety. And eating variety = consuming all the different groups of nutrients. Eat color. You’ve got all your bases covered.colorful-fruits-and-vegetables

3. Drink water most of the time, if not all the time.
The average adult female contains approximately 55% water. Water is important in regulating body temperature, eliminating toxins, is the bulk of blood plasma therefore affects blood volume, is a major constituent of amniotic fluid as well as many other important roles in the human body. Water makes up approx. 80% of the brain. Therefore by the time you actually experience a headache, you are most likely majorly dehydrated. Don’t wait until you experience the headache before you start drinking water.

4. Eat until you are 60% satisfied not until you are full.
Eating until you are satisfied instead of full will make you more aware of how much food you should consume. Listen to your body. It takes less than 15 seconds for the stomach to send a signal to the brain that it is satisfied. Too often as adults we over-ride this feedback signal to the point where we actually aren’t sensitive to it anymore and eat more food than we actually need to. Furthermore our stomach is like a balloon. It fills up with food and essentially “crushes” it. If it is “stuffed”, this does not allow the stomach to move freely, resulting in decreased digestion output. Overeating = not getting all the nutrients out of the food you eat.

5. Eat raw and cooked veggies. Boiled foods are dead.
Some nutrients are destroyed with heat (e.g. vitamin C, B-group). And therefore eating raw is very important. However the bioaccessibility (i.e. the amount of a nutrient that is release from the food available for uptake) of some nutrients is improved with heat treatment. For example, the lycopene (a polyphenol found in tomatoes and is associated with decreased risk of certain cancers) content of tomato paste is higher than raw tomato. Heat treatment enables the fat layer that surrounds individuals cells to melt therefore allowing greater nutrient bio-accessibility. Eat raw. Eat cooked (e.g. steamed, stir-fried, roasted, grilled, BBQ’d). Eat both. You’re bound to get all of your nutrients.

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6. Incorporate 30-45mins physical activity into your day, at least 5 days per week.
Any physical activity is better than nothing. As a whole, society is becoming more and more lazy. I can easily sit at my computer for 8 hours straight, with the occasional toilet break. I catch the bus to and from work. Sit at dinner. Then go to bed. Not much movement happening. Physical activity is very important in maintaining joint health, strengthening bones, improving cardio-respiratory function, mental health, emotional well-being and weight management.
Incorporating at least 30-45mins of medium intensity (i.e. you feel a bit puffed, slightly sweaty, breathing heavy, but can still talk) at least 5 days per week has been shown to help maintain health. If you want to improve your health, increasing intensity and duration is vital. However exercise performed incorrectly will result in injury. Seek professional advice from a qualified personal trainer, exercise physiologist or physiotherapist.

7. Sleep for at least 8 hours.
Sleep is possibly the most under-rated healthy lifestyle habit. Food, nutrition, exercise rank high, but sleep seems to drop of the list. When we sleep, our cells actually regenerate themselves. Essentially our body is repairing and building itself. Excessive sleep deprivation can cause cognitive dysfunction similar to excessive alcohol intake. Furthermore sleep deprivation can lead to sleepy-eating. You eat because you’re tired, not because you’re hungry. Sleep is so valuable that certain companies in Japan actually have “SleepPods” for their employees to utilize during their lunch break. Prioritize sleep into your day. Even if it means catch-up naps in the afternoon or weekends, do it. Your body, brain, emotions will love you for it.

Print this list out and stick it on your fridge. It’s a lifestyle. Not a diet. Not a fad. Not a New Year’s resolution.

Anneline_Padayachee

Dr. Anneline Padayachee (PhD) is a nutritional food scientist working at The University of Melbourne, Australia. Previously Anneline has worked in the food industry as a food scientist through to new product development researcher. In 2012, Anneline was named the National Top-Performing Fresh Scientist in Australia and was a recipient of the 2013 Nutrition Society of Australia’s Excellence in Nutrition and Dietary Fiber Research Award. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook for more healthy living tips.

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