I am by no means a health and fitness guru, I dislike feeling out of breath, love eating and am partial to a glass (or 3) of wine and so it was no surprise that after a summer of pure indulgence I found myself feeling lethargic, unhappy and the most out of shape that I had ever been. I was moving back to London and decided that something desperately needed to change, I felt myself to be on a very slippery slope and the more I allowed myself to fall, the harder I knew it would be to get back up. Sitting here now and looking back on the last 5 months I am proud of the changes that I have made, I am proud of the progress in my fitness and the transformation of my body and I wanted to share the five easy things that I began to do that kick started me into a healthier lifestyle. Although these five tips are not going to magic you a leaner body they will, without doubt, be an improvement to your lifestyle.
1. Watch What You Drink
We tend to focus on the food that we eat when thinking about a healthy diet, but for me, some of my biggest calorie intakes actually came from the things that I was drinking and some I didn’t even consider.
Alcohol – Now don’t judge me here but I used to like a drink, an alcoholic drink, on a daily basis. It was a routine, come in from work, sit down, open a bottle of wine and before I had noticed the wine would be gone. Alcohol is surprisingly calorific with nearly 700 calories in a bottle of wine and 150 in each can of beer. I might as well have been eating a Mc Donalds Big Mac and chips after my dinner each night! Alcohol also seriously hampers your metabolism and a slow metabolism means that your body is more likely to be storing fat. Moderation Moderation Moderation. Once I slowed down on the alcohol I found my tolerance also decreased meaning that now I can get the same relaxed feeling from a glass of wine as I did from a bottle and when I do allow myself to have one I also enjoy it a thousand times more.
Coffee – Another drink that was adding to my hidden calory intake was my large Starbucks latte with vanilla syrup. I used to have one of these every day as I walked to my lectures, and sometimes one on the way home again too. A large Starbucks latte WITHOUT the syrup made using soya milk is nearly 200 calories, with whole milk make that 300. Try swapping to a green tea or an Americano and be more mindful of the drinks that you are consuming, a full fat toffee nut latte with cream on top is fine as a treat but as a daily occurrence, maybe not.
2. Move More
Although people don’t like to hear it a healthier lifestyle does need to involve some sort of exercise but this doesn’t have to mean an hour of gruelling spin or a 10k run. We live in a society where every effort is being made to make daily life easier for us. We drive cars, take escalators or elevators, there are even conveyer belts to make sure that we walk as little as possible. Incorporating more movement into your life will not only help to balance out your food intake but is also great for a healthier mind, releasing endorphins to make you feel good. Try taking the stairs rather than the elevator, walk up the escalator on the tube, these little actions every day will build up over the week and your fitness will start to improve. Alongside these little daily changes I also started to do HIIT workouts, these bad boys are High-Intensity Interval Training and get your heart rate up so that you start to burn fat. I like to follow Joe Wicks tutorials on TouTube, he has great HIIT workouts that take just 15-20 minutes and he does them in real time alongside you, you don’t need equipment or space and you work as hard as YOU can so they’re tailored to everyone. The thing that I like most about these is that they’re an ON-OFF system so you get to rest regularly but you never let your heart rate fully drop. You get the sweat on whilst feeling though you’ve halved the effort.
3. Drink More Water
Have you ever tracked how much water you drink a day? No, not coffee and Coca Cola but water. You might be surprised at how little it is. Water is vital to bodily processes and when we drink more our body can work more helping us to burn fat and get lean. Don’t wait until your thirsty to get a drink, sip water steadily throughout the day. The easiest way I found to drink more water was to keep a bottle on me at all times. I was then more likely to notice and take a sip. I started to keep 2litre bottles of water on my desk and found myself drinking nearly the entire thing! There are even refillable bottles out there designed to promote regular drinking such as HydrateM8 which has handy markings to prompt you to drink regularly.
4. Eat Whole Foods
I’ve got to say it, diet products do not work in the long run! Eating zero carb noodles and diet bars are not a sustainable way of living. Yes, you may lose weight initially but are you going to eat that way for the rest of your life? There’s a simpler solution, eat whole foods, that’s food with itself as the ingredient ie. Tomato, Chicken, Rice, Egg Etc. Processed foods such as ready meals and pre-made sauces are often full of added sugar, salt,and fat. Strip food back to the good old basics and start to cook again, once you have a good homemade curry recipe under your belt you won’t be diving straight for the takeaway menu when you get that Indian craving, and once the store cupboards are full of your basic herbs and spices this can also be a cheaper way to eat too.
I decided to purchase a couple of recipe books to get me started again in the kitchen and there are two that I use on a weekly basis, firstly Eat Smart, written by health conscious blogger Niomi Smart this book focuses on plant-based ingredients, now don’t be put off by the lack of meat here, this girl knows how to make vegetables taste good! The second book that really helped educate me when it came to food was Lean in 15 by Joe Wicks, the fitness instructor I mentioned earlier. Joe Wicks recipes (where possible) take only 15 minutes and are divided into low and high carb sections. Joe doesn’t believe in cutting out a food group for results and you can definitely carbohydrates and still get healthy. In his book, Joe explains that it’s WHEN we eat carbs that is often the problem. He advises you to focus high carb meals after exercise in order to refuel the body when it needs it most and use reduced carb meals on rest days when the body needs less energy.
5. Take Care of Your Mind
One of the biggest changes that had happened over the last five months was actually in my head. A healthy mind and a healthy body go hand in hand and we sometimes forget to take time out and give the mind some much-needed attention. Now this could be different for everyone but for me, I found great comfort from meditation. Now if you’re anything like me then you might have just rolled your eyes and imagined a hippy cross-legged and making strange noises but meditation is nothing like that at all unless you want it to be, and that’s what’s so amazing about it, it can be adapted to suit anyone. I found using a mobile app called Headspace suits me best but I know that my mum likes to use guided YouTube tutorials. Meditation is about training the mind and finding some extra calm and clarity in day-to-day situations and taking just 10 minutes to free the mind has really helped me focus when I need to. Completely not sponsored you can try headspace for FREE with their ‘Take 10 programme’ with no subscription required.
I hope you maybe found some inspiration from these 5 tips, they’re nothing revolutionary but sometimes we need reminding of the simple things that we can do to improve our lifestyle.
What are your top tips for a healthy lifestyle? Comment them below!