Do you have a long history of unhealthy eating? Have you over consumed the wrong types of foods, been drinking too much alcohol or smoking? Is it time to put your life and health back on track?
What happens when we live an unhealthy lifestyle?
Unhealthy lifestyles and poor nutrition are linked to many disease states. Heart disease, diabetes and cancer are the leading causes of death, and these are often associated with poor diet and being overweight.
High-fat foods clog the arteries, leading to heart disease, while foods high in sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes. A deficiency of vitamins A and C can suppress the immune system and leave you more vulnerable to a suppressed immune system. A lack of calcium and Vitamin D weakens the bones and can lead to osteoporosis.
A healthy lifestyle and diet is one that provides adequate levels of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats from a variety of foods, as well as regular exercise, quality rest and balance.
An unhealthy diet, in contrast, is one that contains too much saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, added sugars, low or no fibre and processed ingredients, or contains very little nutrients. Unhealthy diets result in a poor nutrient-to-calorie ratio, which can lead to weight gain and malnutrition as well as related health problems.
How to begin healing your body
Important rule: Start slowly! People who jump in and expect overnight miracles set themselves up for failure. Choose one or two suggestions at a time, wait until the new habit is well entrenched and then move on to the next step.
Here are the things you can do.
1. Stop snacking after meals and reduce the size of your food portions. Wait at least 20 minutes after each meal before deciding if you are still hungry because that’s how long it takes for the brain to receive the message that you are full. If you’re still hungry after this time make healthy snack choices.
2. Take you time to each slowly and enjoy your meal. Chew your food well, count each mouthful of food and chew it at least 15 times. It may seem monotonous but it slows down your eating and makes you feel fuller.
3. Cut down the unhealthy carbs, eliminate or drastically reduce refined flour, sugar and other similar foods. Increase your intake of whole grains and fibre.
4. Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Most of us know about the two fruits and five vegetables a day rule. If you’re not eating that much then now is the time to introduce it! Avoid frozen, tinned or dried fruit and vegetables – it’s really important to have them fresh and eating them raw is even better.
5. Reduce your intake of unhealthy fats such as margarine, deep fried foods and products high in saturated fats such as red meat, poultry with the skin on, cream, cheese, ice cream and so on.
6. Increase your intake of monounsaturated oils (the good oils) such as extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts and flaxseed oil. Studies show that a diet rich in monounsaturated oils can lower cholesterol levels, lower the risk of heart disease and stroke and can reduce pain and stiffness in joints.
7. Add spices and herbs such as garlic, onions, turmeric, ginger and cayenne to your meals because these are anti-inflammatory and will boost the immune system.
8. Reduce your salt intake. Diets high in sodium can raise your blood pressure which increases your risk of heart attack and strokes. There are also links to osteoporosis, dementia, cancer and weight gain. High salt diets boost the production of insulin telling your body to store excess sugar as fat and the more fat you store the more weight you gain. The more salt you eat the thirstier you become and most people turn to soft drinks which are full of sodium – stick to water instead. Carry a water bottle around with you so you can track how much water you drink each day. Aim to drink about two litres of water (six to eight glasses) every day.
9. Reduce your stress because it can make us crave energy dense carb-rich comfort foods.
10. Start exercising, begin with small amounts each day and build up gradually until you are including at least half an hour in your daily routine.