People often don’t think about how good health is viewed, it’s often seen as a crown on the head of a well person, which only a sick person will see. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of our health, not just our physical health but our mental wellbeing too.
That said, when people look to improve their health, they often turn to unsustainable diets, otherwise known as fad diets, from meal replacement shakes to eating as little as 800kcals a day (something which quite frankly resembles a toddler diet).
Over the past few years there has been an increase of experts from the nutrition and fitness industry highlighting the dangers of these fad diets which in the long term cause more harm than good. In most cases these fad diets do lead to issues relating to food such as eating disorders. So what steps can you take to amplify your health during lockdown? London based nutrition consultant Sharan Verma of Nutrition & You explains.
Make small changes
Small changes do lead to long term sustainable results. So rather than deciding to run 5k every day having never run before, why not aim to get outside and walk 30 mins a day?
Getting out of the house will help not only with your physical health but your mindset too. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and have a change of scenery.
Nourish your body
A good breakfast comprising of all the macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat) will keep you fuller for longer and give your body the energy it requires to perform at its optimum. An example of a nourishing breakfast would be: -toast topped with mashed avocado with an egg on top.
Eating all food groups is the key to a healthy diet. Have you ever experienced brain fog or felt lethargic when you have avoided carbohydrates? When carbohydrates are avoided side effects such as feeing lethargic is caused because you have taken away the main energy source. In fact we should aim to consume 50-55% of energy coming from carbohydrates alone.
The importance of sleep is often overlooked. With the current uncertainty and added pressures due to lockdown it’s having a negative impact on ones sleep quality. People should aim for 7-8 hours sleep per night, which may be difficult for some to achieve especially mothers.
Poor sleep has been strongly linked to weight gain. Being sleep deprived can play havoc with your appetite hormones and is believed to reduce levels of leptin (the hormone which suppresses our appetite) and increase ghrelin (the hormone which increases our appetite).
Poor quality sleep also negatively impacts various aspects of our brain function, which include; cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. Along with good nutrition and exercise, great sleep is one of the elements needed for good health.
People often view exercise as a way to expend energy (calories) but what is often overlooked is the total daily energy expenditure. Your NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) is just as important or could be viewed as more important in comparison to your EAT (Exercise activity thermogenesis).
This is because when you take part in a planned activity (be it a HIIT workout or a strength training exercise) you will expend energy for that period of time. However, most may do their exercise and then perhaps spend the rest of their day being sedentary.
Your NEAT makes up a larger percentage of your total daily energy expenditure where walking, climbing the stairs, housework, gardening etc are all ways to remain physically active whilst still expending energy.
Combining your planned exercise alongside an active lifestyle will aid in developing a healthier lifestyle.
Stress hormones are the same ones which trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response which is designed to protect your body in emergency. But, if these stress responses keep appearing day after day it can impact your health from experiencing irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches and even. Insomnia. For those situations which are outside of your control, let go of them and focus on what you can control. Research shows practising gratitude to meditating can significantly help lower stress levels and thus improve your mental health.
Focus on these five areas and you will thrive despite the current difficult circumstances.