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

Christmas: Food, Training, Alcohol – what to do before, during and after.

Just two more days until the big day!

Christmas is such a lovely time of the year. People travel within the country or fly overseas to spend time with their loved ones; others fly in from abroad to visit family and friends. However, when it comes to food and drink, Christmas has a big problem: there’s just too much of everything. This is where we tend to trip up since the majority of dishes are only consumed once w year, it’s like going to a new all-you-can-eat restaurant: you’re going to want to try a bit of everything.

Over the last two weeks I have been asked for healthy eating tips for the festive period. Without telling you exactly what to eat, I will give you a few handy pointers on how to make better food choices over the next few days.

Most importantly, I would like to say please do not stress yourself out too much about how many calories you’re going to be consuming. We don’t want it to take the joy out of Christmas. Enjoy the time with your family and friends and make the most of it.

However, here are a few tried and tested methods.

My advice for clients before big dinners or events is to prepare by leaving “calories in the bank”. This means increasing the intake of healthy, highly nutritious food beforehand to be able to enjoy the time off without overly worrying about calories and the ratio of macros. By consuming highly satiating, low calorie foods, which provide quality nutrients, you can improve your digestion. Plus, should you have time for a workout or two beforehand, you will also boost your metabolism and increase your body’s ability to process the energy consumed.

Here’s what to do today and tomorrow:

FOOD:

In the run up to Christmas Dinner, eat an abundance of green vegetables and lean protein. Per meal, I recommend at least 2 servings (160g) of vegetables and 125g of lean protein such as chicken or turkey or about 200g of white fish or seafood such as prawns, scallops, mussels etc. Out of green vegetables I recommend broccoli, asparagus, all types of green beans, courgette and cauliflower (although not green, it acts like a green vegetable when it comes to satiety and fat loss) and of course Brussels sprouts are ideal on Christmas Day. If you like kale and spinach, aim for up to 200-300g in the same meal. On top of that, add some rainbow coloured vegetables for a variety of vitamins and minerals.

TRAINING:

I highly recommend at least one whole body resistance training session: one exercise per muscle group with 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions each. This workout could include lunges, squats, press-ups, tricep dips, bent-over or seated rows, shoulder press and some abdominal work followed by a lovely stretch. Should you have time for two sessions, do upper body and core today and leave lower body training for tomorrow.

Either option will increase your body’s insulin sensitivity and uptake of glycogen (carbohydrates). This way you’ll ensure the energy consumed on Christmas Day goes to good use.

On Christmas Day:

ALCOHOL:

Refer to my previous blog post or YouTube/IGTV video on alcohol and all facts on its consumption.

FOOD:

First and foremost, enjoy yourself and remember that no food is inherently bad or good. The problem is the quantity, so go by “everything in moderation”. If you are a healthy eater who trains regularly throughout the year then a single meal will not tip the scales. It’s been scientifically proven that the amount of body fat stored from a single overindulgent meal is negligible and following a phase of dieting and training can actually boost your weight loss and improve performance in the gym the next day. Still, I would encourage you to listen to your body and not to force yourself to eat more should you feel stuffed up to the eyebrows. 🙂

TRAINING:

Maybe grab a smaller relative and do a couple of squats if that makes you feel better. Otherwise, don’t worry about it.

From Boxing Day onwards:

FOOD:

Reverse dieting – repeat what you did before Christmas Day. Lots of greens, lean protein and an increased water intake. Do not restrict your food intake to “balance out” the calories – our bodies don’t work like that. If you feel a bit heavy, reduce your starchy carbohydrate intake for a couple of days or until you start to feel lighter again. Allow yourself to feel hungry before eating and savour your meals. Do not weigh yourself as it’s pointless. The scales will simply reflect the total of your bodyweight plus gross weight of all foods and drinks consumed. It’s helpful to remember that your body will store 3 grams of water per every gram of carbohydrate consumed, which can lead to bloating and water retention. If you must, please allow yourself 2-4 days before weighing. If you had been following a calorie controlled diet beforehand, you’ll still stand a good chance at having lost some weight by your next weigh in.

TRAINING:

Do not punish yourself with exercise. However, to improve both mental and physical wellbeing, you have two options. Either opt for a light cardio session (cycling, running, swimming) or go to the sauna to sweat out the toxins from alcohol. Or do another whole body session to utilise the excess energy from carbs and fats. As a bonus you will feel a lot stronger, so I do encourage you to put that to good use.

I hope this handy little guide will have given you some peace of mind before the festivities and you feel better prepared.

Once more, please don’t forget to have a great time!

Merry Christmas!

Rahel x