By DR SALLY NORTON
Eating fat is bad for you. Eating fat is good for you. It can seem so complicated when we get a different health message every week in the media. How on earth are we supposed to know what will really make us healthier and reduce our chances of all manner of problems in the future!
I believe it doesn’t have to be that difficult – it can even be as easy as counting to 1-10…
1 – keeping healthy is not just about staying at an ideal weight – a waist to hip ratio of less than 1 (men) and 0.85 (women) lowers your risk of liver disease, type 2 diabetes and more. So if you are carrying a lot of weight around your middle, you could be storing up problems for yourself. Even more reason to make some lifestyle changes that shift it for good.
2 – research suggests it can take anywhere between 2 to 8 months of practising a healthier behaviour to make it a habit – depending on the person, the circumstances and the behaviour itself. But the occasional lapse won’t hold back your progress. The message is, good habits take time to form. So stick with it – it will get easier.
3 – apparently it takes 3 positives to counteract a negative. A positive outlook makes a huge difference to your mental health and ability to cope with stress. So at the end of each day, instead of seizing on what when wrong, list 3 good things that happened in your day. That way you will not only sleep more restfully but will train yourself to take a brighter view of things.
4 – did you know that every extra pound of weight you carry puts 4 times the amount of stress on your poor knees? The resulting wear and tear increases your chance of knee replacements and arthritis – another good reason to shed any extra pounds.
5 – this is an easy one. We should all know by now that we need to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg per day (or 7-10 in some studies) to reduce our risk of cancer, heart disease and other health problems. What’s more the fibre in fruit and veg (but not juices) also keeps us feeling full for longer and improves our bowel health in the short term, as well as the long term.
6 – is the recommended limit of teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the World Health Organisation. Any more and you increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay and more. Sobering reading when you consider many fizzy drinks – and some of the more upmarket ones can be the worst – contain as much as 9-13 teaspoons per 330 ml serving (that’s one large glass).
7 – too much time on the internet, late night working or partying – in our 24/7 society we can be tempted to skimp on our sleep. But the truth is most of us need at least 7 hours to perform well and make healthier choices the next day, such as resisting those cravings for high fat, high sugar foods.
8 – once you’re over 40 you lose muscle at a rate of 8% a decade – it’s called sarcopenia. But just 10 minutes of strength exercises a day helps preserve it, protects joints and keeps middle-age spread at bay. A gym isn’t essential – you can do strength / resistance exercises at home without any special equipment.
9 – Don’t think you can forget your health between 9am and 5pm. Studies show that 40% of work-related illness is due to stress, and our office-based sedentary work-patterns aren’t helping us either. This means taking care of your health at work, as well as out of work is so important – so move more, stress less.
10 – aim to walk 10,000 steps a day and you’ll live longer, sleep better and cut your risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. The same applies if you do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise like brisk walking or cycling at least five days a week. What’s more, exercise releases our ‘happy pills’ – endorphins – so it can be a great mood booster.
That’s just enough to count on both hands. And remember, small numbers add up – you don’t have to make all the changes you want in one go. In fact the evidence suggests that achieving lasting change is all about building up gradually – instant solutions just don’t work. If you’re having a hard time making the numbers stack up on one day, don’t give up. Tick off the ones you can, and work on a few more the next day.
- Cerhan J R et al. A pooled analysis of waist circumference and mortality in 650,000 adults. Mayo Clin Proc, March 2014.
- Oyebode O et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, March 2014.
- Phillippa Lally et al. How are habits formed: modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, October 2010.
- Scientific Advisory Board on Nutrition. Carbohydrates and Health, 2015.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Sally Norton is a Health Expert & NHS Weight Loss Consultant & Surgeon, and founder of www.vavistalife.com