That 'Back to School' feeling
New shoes, stiff white shirts and the anticipation of new teachers, subjects and classmates….
Although it’s been a good few years since I started a new term at school, September always brings me a feeling of a fresh start and a time to reset. It seems more natural than the often forced feeling at New Year. Perhaps the crisp mornings remind me to make the most of the last warm days of summer before we’re huddled into our chunky jumpers and hot chocolates again! It’s the boost of motivation I need to reset my habits after some down-time over the summer.
If, like me, your usual healthy habits have slipped just a little (or a lot?!), whilst you gave yourself a break in recent weeks, perhaps you feel ready to get back on track. Perhaps you feel ready to build up to some simple, achievable steps that might have a big impact on how you feel and benefit your long-term health. How does feeling more in control, energised and self-confident sound to you when you have taken action to make some changes to your diet and lifestyle?
This is what I am focussing on right now, and perhaps you might take on one or two of these too.
1. A fruit and veg boost. Aim for 5-7 a day to provide much needed fibre for digestive health, carbohydrates for energy, and vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients essential for efficient metabolism, disease prevention and antioxidant properties. Variety is the key to get a range of nutrients, so mix it up and choose different varieties when you shop. Add some fruit to your breakfast, a salad to lunch and an extra portion or two of veg to dinner, and you’re nearly there! I was lucky enough to be given some homegrown produce over the summer, and it was a treat for my tastebuds! I’ll be looking for more locally grown vegetables while I can.
2. The power of water. Water makes up 66% of our body and is essential to keep us healthy. It helps in the delivery of nutrients and oxygen in the blood, removes toxins and waste products out of the body, and helps to avoid feeling tired and sluggish. Although the temperature, how much we exercise and any medications we take will impact how much we need to drink, aim for 1.5-2 litres of water a day. Some simple ideas to make this easier are to try adding fruit or herbs to make plain water more interesting, sip on herbal teas and drink a glass of water as soon as you get up. I’ve found it helpful to track what I’m drinking every so often, by noting down each time I fill my glass to check I’m drinking enough.
3. Stock up on healthy snacks - so that you’re prepared when you need an afternoon pick me up. Nutritious snacks can give us a boost of essential nutrients and health promoting foods, so plan ahead and prepare your snacks to avoid panic eating when you are ravenous! Try apple slices and peanut butter, oatcakes and cream cheese, nuts and seeds or carrot and other veggie sticks with hummus. For some more 'snack-spiration', download my free guide '10 simple and healthy snacks to boost your mood' here.
4. Prioritise sleep. I know how easy it is to get sucked into scrolling Instagram, another episode on Netflix, or that job we’ve been putting off doing all day, rather than winding down for bedtime. But sleep is important! It’s the time when our bodies and brain can restore and regenerate. Everyone is different, but 7-8 hours each night is seen as optimal. So aim to ‘power down’ an hour before you go to bed with a relaxing sleep routine to maximise the quality of your sleep. Shut down electrical devices, try a relaxing activity that you enjoy – reading, listening to music, or gentle yoga, and create a decluttered, cool and dark bedroom to help promote a great night’s sleep.
5. Stretch! It feels so good at any time of the day. Stretching keeps your muscles flexible and strong and helps to keep the range of motion in your joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight and weak. It’s an important part of your fitness plan and can help delay the reduced mobility that comes with aging. It can improve your posture, muscle imbalances and circulation though increased blood flow to your muscles. Start with just 5 minutes and take it easy if you’re not a regular stretcher! Here is a guide from Bupa to some basic stretches if you’re new to it.
So that’s my list. Yours might look very different depending on your own priorities. But if you don’t know where to start, try not to feel overwhelmed by all the things we know we ‘should’ be doing. Start small. Choose one thing. Find something about it that you will enjoy. Write it down and put it somewhere visible to help keep you focused.
Try it once. Then try it again and aim to build consistency by linking it into something you already routinely do. It might be that you drink a glass of water every time you have a coffee, or you stretch for 5 mins when you get out of bed, or you add some berries to your breakfast.
If you feel you would benefit from some additional support in making healthy food choices and building healthier habits, get in touch here. I provide personalised nutrition and lifestyle analysis and recommendations, and the support you need to take control of your health. Why settle for average health when your best health is possible?