Aliza Marogy, nutritionist and founder of clinical supplements Inessa, reveals her best health tips for working on your wellbeing this new year.
1. Ditch the Diet
Dieting is big business, but for most people diets don’t actually work. In the short term they may lead to desired weight loss, but the restrictive nature of a regimented and limited diet inevitably lead to failure, and many people regain the weight they lost only to go on to try the next slimming fad.
Dieting can also be detrimental to physical and mental health, and may encourage a disordered relationship with food.
I prefer to encourage clients to make healthier food choices for themselves and avoid calorie counting, something which eventually becomes habit. The goal is to not deprive yourself of anything – as this can lead to binging – but to focus instead on healthy, mindful eating.
There’s no need to give up ‘bad’ foods or abstain totally from alcohol. Instead, try consuming them occasionally rather than every day and while the weight may not melt away as quickly as it could do if you were following a restrictive diet, over time you will see results – and, crucially, keep them.
- Balance your diet
Focus on freshly prepared whole foods combining lots of vegetables, pulses, and whole grains, with some oily fish, lean meat and eggs if you’re not a plant-based eater.
- Go for grilled
When dining out, opt for grilled food rather than fried, and choose cuisines which are naturally light and healthy – Vietnamese and Japanese meals, for example, are good options.
- Practise ‘mindful’ eating
Take time to enjoy and concentrate on eating your meal rather than eating at your desk or on the run. Mindful eating helps reduce overeating and binging, encourages a healthy relationship with food, and can aid digestion.
- Don’t skip meals
Allowing yourself to get very hungry can lead to poor, high-sugar food choices, overeating and binging.
2. Get Moving
Exercise is more than just about physical appearance, and given that studies show those of us who are sedentary are at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental health problems, we should all be moving as much as we can.
With many of us spending much of our working life deskbound, it can be difficult to get much movement in during the day, but making small habit changes to boost your activity levels can go a long way to helping boost general wellbeing and maintain a healthy weight.
Most modern mobile phones now have step counters, so if you’ve never used yours before, now is the time to get familar with it.
3. Take Care of your Gut
The state of our gut has an impact on our whole body health. The GI tract does more than just break down our food, absorb nutrients and evacuate waste products: it is home to trillions of bacteria and fungi – known collectively as the microbiome – which are thought to modulate everything including chronic illnesses, immunity, mental health and even our weight.
We all have a unique microbiome and many factors influence it’s balance and health: the way we were born, where we grew up, the germs and bacteria we were exposed to in our youth, medications, alcohol intake, diet and even stress are just some of the factors which dictate the makeup of our gut flora.
Eat plenty of fibre
Including plenty of fibre-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains is one of the best ways to encourage a healthy and diverse microbiome.
Incorporate fermented foods and drinks
These contain probiotics or ‘friendly bacteria’. Fermented products include live yogurt, pickles, saurkraut, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha – the latter makes a good swap for your 3pm coffee.
Supplement your diet
Consider using a quality probiotic product, particularly if you suffer from IBS.
4. Think Before you Drink
When it comes to healthy weight management, our heart health, or even diabetes prevention, food is usually the first thing that comes to mind.
But we know that excess alcohol consumption contributes excess ‘empty’ calories and can be detrimental to our health in many ways, and consider also that juices and smoothies – often promoted as healthy products – can be high in sugar, thus sabotaging your efforts to maintain or shift weight.
Flavouring water with slices of fruit, cucumber or mint leaves instead of fruit juice cuts sugar and calories considerably.
One for one
Alternate each alcoholic drink you have with a water or low-calorie soda water. Not only is it better for your health, but you’ll feel better for it the next morning.
Seedlip, an alcohol-free spirit mixer, is a great alternative to gin or vodka, contains no sugar, sweeteners or calories (you read that correctly), and won’t give you a hangover.
5. Prioritise Sleep
Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining our long-term health and day-to-day wellbeing. Not getting enough quality sleep has been associated with increased risk of many illnesses, from decreased immunity and Type 2 diabetes, to heart disease, mental health problems and obesity.
If those aren’t a current concern, perhaps the fact that quality sleep helps skin look better, eyes brighter, assists with weight management (studies show that people who sleep less than seven hours per night tend to gain more) and of course make the brain function more sharply, will be enough of an incentive to get more shut eye.
Avoid screens for one hour before going to bed – read a book instead of watching Netflix or scrolling through your Instagram feed. If the latter is difficult to give up, try moving social media apps off your home screen to avoid using them out of habit.
Avoid caffeinated drinks and food after 1pm.
Sip a herbal infusion tea containing herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm or lavender 45 minutes before bed to help promote relaxation.