When your belt starts to feel as tight as your schedule it’s easy to blame a crippling workload, your demanding boss, or a lengthy commute for your decline in health. But it’s a universal truth that healthy habits are nearly always the first thing to be ditched when the daily grind snatches away at our precious time.
The stresses of a monotonous routine can trick us into justifying grabbing a last minute, fast food dinner or skipping a gym session, but the consequences of poor diet, lack of exercise and general dismissal of our health and wellbeing don’t just affect the physical body; they can seriously impact our mental and emotional wellbeing too.
To put it simply: You are what you put into your body.
The good news is that improving your health doesn’t require you to lose out on time. Being consistently mindful about the choices you make on a daily basis is all that you need in order to move further towards your optimum level of health and become your greatest version.
These 10 tips will help you to add a natural health-boost into your daily routine, empowering you with strength and vitality, without causing you to compromise on time.
1. Eat a Protein-Rich Breakfast
When you skip breakfast you start your day with low fuel supplies and when you eventually crash – probably sometime around mid-morning – you’ll immediately be reaching for a sugary snack to tide you over until lunch.
A quick, yet protein-rich breakfast, such as mashed avocado, or two free-range eggs on whole meal toast will keep you feeling full well into midday, so won’t be tempted to reach for a gratifyingly instant, yet waist-expanding sugar boost around elevenish.
This is beneficial, because protein satiates hunger far better than carbohydrates and fats, as it triggers the synthesis of the PYY hormone in the brain, as well as initiating the secretion of glucose in the small intestine; both of which leave us feeling fuller for longer.
2. Pack Powerful Nutrients into a Morning Smoothie
Throwing some superfoods such as spirulina, maca, berries, or cacao into a daily smoothie is a swift way to ingest a spectrum of vital nutrients and vitamins that will fortify you for the day ahead.
Spirulina is a blue-green freshwater algae, which is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and amino acids. It is known to also be the highest plant source of protein; around 60 to 70% of its dry weight is comprised of protein and just one tablespoon provides 4 grams of protein. Starting your day with a vitamin boost, combined with the filling-effect of protein means it’s far less likely that you’ll decide to sabotage yourself later.
3. Freeze Healthy Meals
A few hours spent preparing meals in advance can save you double the time during a busy week. When making a healthy one-pot dish at the weekend, try making the portion double the size and freeze a few single portions for the week ahead. Stews, casseroles and soups all freeze well and all you need is some Tupperware boxes to hand.
Having a pre-prepared, nutritious meal all ready to heat up when you get back from work means you’ll be far less tempted to grab an unhealthy, fast alternative when you’re on the go and the extra 20 minutes of preparation time you’ll save can be used for a pre-dinner workout.
4. Avoid ‘Diet’ Foods
Processed foods and soda drinks labeled with the word ‘diet’ cause far more harm than good! More often than not, they are laced with unhealthy additives and flavor enhancers, including Aspartame and Acesulfame K, or Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). Chemicals like this are not only neurotoxic, which means they cause damage to your brain, but the body can’t process them either, so what happens to them? They get stored as fat.
Do your best to ditch processed, chemical diet foods; when it comes to health, nature knows best.
5. Grab an Apple
Consider fruit to be nature’s fast food! As well as containing vital nutrients, fruits and vegetables are very high in fibre and water, which are both filling. Apples even trigger the body into producing a hormone called GLP-1 as they are digested, which causes us to feel full, as it releases a feeling of satiety in the brain.
One of the fundamental cornerstones of good health really is as simple as just adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
6. Understand the Fat Fallacy
Fat has been blacklisted as a baddie for decades, but at a time when fat free options are more widespread than ever, why are so many people fatter and unhealthier than ever?
Fat is a substance that is required by the body for healthy hormonal and neurological function and while trans fat – the sort that is typically found in processed foods – should be avoided at all costs, natural monounsaturated fats, such as those found in avocados, olives, nuts; and polyunsaturated fat found in seeds, tofu and some fish are essential for a number of biological functions; hence the term: essential fatty acids.
Even saturated fat has come under debate recently. A number of studies were conducted within certain populations in islands of the Pacific, where coconut oil (a saturated fat) comprised 30-60% of their complete calorie intake. Within these populations cardiovascular disease was virtually non-existent.
7. Drink More (Clean) Water
Water constitutes approximately 60% of your total body weight, so hydration with clean, mineral water is essential to maintain overall optimal biological function. Not only is being properly hydrated good for your body, it’s essential for a clear mind. Water also clears out toxins from your body, which would otherwise get stored as fat, as well as contributing to ‘dis-ease’ of the body and mind.
It is said that the majority of people are chronically dehydrated. Being in a state of dehydration creates feelings of fatigue, brain fog, irritability and can lead you to go for a sugary ‘pick-me-up’ that isn’t even required in the first place, as many feelings of hunger are actually just the body groaning from dehydration.
Although specific water requirements vary from person to person, depending upon an individual’s body mass level or level of health, the Institute of Medicine suggests a sufficient daily water intake for adult men is approximately 3 liters, or 13 cups of aggregate beverages. Caffeinated beverages, sugary drinks and alcohol don’t count here, as they are all dehydrating!
8. Add More Movement into Your Day
Are you familiar with the phrase: ‘Sitting is the new smoking?’ The effects of a sedentary lifestyle are disastrous for health and wellbeing. The human body is designed to move!
If your job has you cooped up in an office for best part of the day getting up every hour to stretch, touch your toes, make windmills with your arms, or walk around will get your circulation moving. Why not consider adapting your workspace to incorporate a standing desk, or at least work in some chair exercises while you’re sitting at the computer: think squats, tricep dips, or have some small weights to hand and you can work on your arms.
9. Remember to Breathe (Properly!)
Most of us don’t breathe properly. We take shallow breaths that don’t utilize our full lung capacity and that lack of oxygen means that our cells aren’t able to produce the optimum amount of energy that our body requires.
While driving to work, sitting at your desk, or even watching TV, be mindful of your posture – is your back straight? – and then check to see whether you’re breathing fully, down into your belly, rather than shallow breathing into your chest.
Here’s a quick exercise that will energize you on the spot: Take a slow, deep breath into your lower belly, hold for four seconds and release slowly for the count of eight. Repeat twice and you’ll immediately feel refreshed.
10. Schedule Time for Fitness
Do you actually make working out a priority? Rest is just as important as exercise in the fine balancing act of wellbeing, but it might alarm you to actually total the hours spent binge-watching Netflix, or time wasted surfing the web, or scrolling down your Facebook feed mindlessly – we’ve all done it!
Scheduling those gym sessions, a swim, or even a walk in the park on your calendar, as you would any other appointment, makes it far likelier that you will actually go out and do them.