A healthy diet is a sign of maturity

“If you had to choose, would you rather be unhealthy but look healthy or look unhealthy and be healthy?”

In a world where there is so much pressure to be slim, fad diets are all the rage for they promise great weight loss and that’s all that seems to matter. Weight loss teas, shakes, pills, gadgets and procedures are available to help one achieve their desired look.

But what about our health?

My offer to analyse food diaries for free over the month of January was at first met with a big hurrah yet the novelty of it must have worn off quite quickly because, based on the popularity of my giveaways on the previous years, I expected the turnout to be far greater than it actually was. Of course, I must take into consideration the small size of my account and inability to reach the masses, but I can’t help but worry that we just don’t seem to care about our micronutrient intake as much as we should.

From time to time, Silver likes to ask me profound questions, which I immediately write down. This question he asked me about three years ago. He said: “Mummy, if you had to choose, would you rather be unhealthy but look healthy or look unhealthy and be healthy? I’d be healthy because that’s what’s important.”

I’m sure we all understand what was meant by this and before you contest what an 8 year old once said, remember: one really can look “unhealthy” by society’s standards even if they are eating the healthiest diet. There are many health conditions that can affect one’s body composition, e.g. thyroid problems. But that’s a whole other matter.

Where’s the motivation?

Despite discussions about being “fit and healthy”, general focus seems to be more on the ‘looking fit’ rather than ‘being’ healthy on the inside. Perfect proof of this is in the popularity of weight loss companies, which have points systems in place. These points systems allow their dieters to consume any foods as long as their intake fits in the allocated ratio of points/calories daily. This leads to the consumption of highly palatable “beige” food, which is usually white flour based carbohydrates and sweet and savoury snacks with low nutritional value. Because those companies don’t really push to increase people’s vegetable consumption, nobody really bothers as long as the pounds are dropping.

A sad fact: Our government is aware that the current “5 a day” guidelines are not enough to reach optimal health through diet. Although, as a nation, we could do with a far higher daily vegetable intake, the government has announced there is “no point” in increasing the minimum requirements at present simply because no age group in the UK is reaching the current targets.

But who’s to blame?

If dried fruit and fruit juices are encouraged as “1 of your 5 a day” then there’s no incentive to buy fresh fruit. Consuming the former two comes with a higher than recommended sugar intake. Yet another problem arises from misleading marketing slogans, which have people believing they are being far kinder to their bodies than they really are. For the record, 1 serving is 80g of fresh fruit or vegetables OR a 150ml glass of juice/smoothie. Even if you drink 500ml of the same juice, it is still considered as one serving simply for the lack of variety of micronutrients and the high sugar content in said drink.

So why is it so hard to appreciate fresh fruit and vegetables?

Before we can find interest in fruit and vegetables, we need to see the value in micronutrients. Before we can appreciate micronutrients, we must truly care about our health. In the nowadays world, everyone’s first question is: “How is this beneficial to me?” and by that we mean: “How can I see immediate rewards rising from this?”

A healthy diet is a sign of maturity. Maturity means swapping quick fixes for long term rewards. Maturity is choosing to change our food intake to lengthen our years on this earth instead of trying the next faddy weight loss product to simply lose a couple of inches. Maturity is choosing resistance training to build muscle and improve our physical strength instead of getting implants, which look ridiculous anyway.

Muscles aren’t a status symbol, they are a sign of dedication to our long term health and will help us remain independent in old age. Dieting and weight loss aren’t as important as is eating a healthy diet full of colourful fruit and vegetables and as much fresh and natural food as possible. All these measures help us ensure a healthy mind and body, which will contribute to our longevity and to being independent and sharp even in your later days.

For years, I have been advocating an increased green vegetable intake and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I know my message is spreading as I have met a bunch of wonderful people who now have green vegetables in every meal. Cruciferous vegetables have always been the most underutilised fat loss tool, which is a shame since they come with a variety of vital vitamins and minerals. I myself aim for 150-300g of vegetables per meal on average but I want you to know that I too miss vegetables in meals and there are days when I barely have any. The goal is to have a variety of different vitamins and minerals in every meal, so that over the course of a week you get the full spectrum of micronutrients.

Fight the system

Let’s stop thinking in terms of “I need to lose N kg by next week” and let’s start making small but long lasting changes to our diets that will both allow us to lose weight and be the healthiest we can be. Let’s introduce resistance training to improve muscle mass and metabolism rate. Although our bodies can still become run down when we experience stress, at least eating a healthy diet will allow your heart and vital organs to function the best they can for decades to come.

It’s time to open up the discussion on micronutrients and therefore I’m going to be bringing you more information on vitamins and minerals over the following weeks. We will talk about the vital roles of micronutrients and where we can find them. We will discuss the quantities, which we need to consume and how and what to cook with the ingredients that contain these elemental substances.

 

First video of the Mmicronutrient series will be up on all my channels in just a few days’ time! Follow @raheltheamazon on YouTube and Instagram and @rahelptnutrition on Facebook.

 

Have a healthy week!

Rahel x

ALCOHOL: THE LOW-DOWN

As the holiday season is upon us and we are all taking part of Christmas parties with friends, family and colleagues, we are more than likely to overindulge on food and drinks. And if you’ve been “nice” all year then why not let your hair down? I have compiled a list of information for you to help better informed decisions over dinner and drinks when out celebrating this festive season.

WHAT IS ALCOHOL?

Alcohol is a compound made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It is produced when yeast ferments sugars. The amount of alcoholic content in a drink is determined by the amount of yeast and the length of fermentation. Wine and cider are made from fruit, while rye and barley form the basis of beers and spirits. Alcohol affects our body and mind immediately it is consumed. Some of its effects can be short-lasting but others can stay a lot longer or become permanent.

 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DRINK?

 It has never been about the sugar alcohol contains – it’s another myth. The real problem is with alcohol being the “worst offender” when it comes to any food or drink that enters your body. The moment you start drinking, fat burning stops and your digestion slows. Therefore, drinking with our meals could potentially be the worst decision as the more we drink the longer it takes to burn off the alcohol. Normally your body would use the energy from protein, carbs and fat to help build muscle and ensure you have healthy skin, nails and hair; to send into the bloodstream for use as immediate energy and the remains get stored as bodyfat. The more we drink, the longer the food “sits there” and the higher the chances of all this energy being stored as fat. To avoid accumulation of alcohol over a short space of time, we should drink slowly and enjoy a glass of water between each glass of alcohol.

 

HOW DO WE KEEP TRACK?

Alcohol is measured in units. 1 unit of alcohol is either 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. 1 gram of pure alcohol is 7kcal. 1 unit = 56kcal.  The liver’s average alcohol clearance rate is 1 unit per hour from the moment we start our first alcoholic drink.

This means our bodies can burn off alcohol at a rate of 56kcal/hour. Your liver can’t process alcohol faster than that and accumulation of alcohol puts a strain on the liver. Having increased muscle mass helps your body burn alcohol off quicker as does an intense gym session prior to a big evening, so I highly recommend training on the day. My preference is a relatively heavy lower body resistance session. The best approach for the day after is to do some light cardio to get a good sweat on and drink lots of water to detox and rehydrate.

 

SAFE LIMITS? 

The new government guidelines were set in 2016 and state a maximum of 14 units per week (for both men and women) spread over at least three days. It is more harmful to one’s health in the long term to have binge drinking weekends where all the week’s “allowance” is consumed in one go. If one likes to have alcohol daily to relax and unwind then a good idea is to have no more than 2 units per day.

 

CALORIES?

A couple of glasses of wine can have the calories of a slice of cake and a whole bottle of wine has the calories of a meal or takeaway.

With a bottle of wine being around 10 units, you can have just under 1 ½ bottles of wine a week. Drink a whole bottle, it’s about 600kcal and it will take 10 hours to clear. Bear in mind that many restaurants now serve large glasses of wine as their standard serving, in which case the kcal content could be double or treble.

Prosecco is about 8 units per bottle, meaning you can consume about a bottle and ¾ a week. A bottle of prosecco is around 500kcal and takes around 8 hours to clear.

*The reason you might still feel a bit shaky and unwell the next day is because your body might still be processing the alcohol.

 

HEALTH RISKS?

Long term excessive alcohol use (constantly exceeding safe limits and binge drinking weekly) can result in cancer, liver disease, hypotension, reduced bone density, fertility problems, strokes, mental health problems, dementia, coronary heart disease and drinking when pregnant can result in retarded foetal development.

 

HOW TO CUT DOWN?

If alcohol is being drunk socially and the consumption is likely to be high, it’s wise to choose lower strength drinks. If alcohol is drunk to simply relax or get merry, a single stiff drinks might do the trick – a shot of rum, vodka, tequila is 1 unit but can be made to last over the hour with a low-calorie mixer or as part of a cocktail and then followed up by a glass of water. My clients who enjoy gin, have a method of “tricking” their brain into believing they’re having a G&T by pouring a glass of tonic water and then running a finger dipped in gin around the rim of the glass.

Other ways to cut down are: setting a budget, reducing daily intake, having smaller drinks, taking breaks to avoid drinking daily and ensuring you drink plenty of water between drinks. Cardiovascular exercise and drinking water can help you sweat out the toxins the next day. A swim, run or a cycling session would work great.

READ MORE:

https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/new-alcohol-advice-issued/ for more advice on drinking for different age groups and pregnant women;

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calculating-alcohol-units/ for help on how to determine the amount of pure alcohol and units in your drink.

 

As always, I really hope you have found this post useful and that it will help you make more informed choices at your events. If I didn’t cover a certain aspect on alcohol that you might have had a question about, please do get in touch. I have also filmed a video on this same topic so if you would rather watch than read, do head over to my Instagram or YouTube and watch the 6 minute video there. You’ll find me under @raheltheamazon.

 

Rahel x