So I’m back after a bit of a blogging hiatus. Things got pretty busy for a while there, between work, redecorating and getting sick so something had to take a back seat. It wasn’t planned, just unavoidable, and I did let the busyness get to me. I forgot how important it is to take time out for myself. I’ve been down that road before and it didn’t end well. As a result, this post is a little note to myself, a reminder to take care of myself, that’s its just as important as any job or chore that’s on my to do list.
- Make time for myself. I know, I know, this sounds ridiculous. How can you ‘make time’ for anything, especially if you’ve got an ever increasing list of things to do, which is probably pretty much everyone I know. But it is important because it can make you feel better, give you a more positive outlook on what’s going on and help you feel more organized and in control, which for me, helps reduce my anxiety. For example, I like to do a diy manicure/pedicure once a week. Nothing fancy, I don’t even have to paint them, though that’s lovely to do too. I used to do this religiously when I was less busy and it was simply part of my routine, but a lot of the time, it’s something that gets pushed down the list and doesn’t get done. It’s not the end of the world, but not doing it often means I don’t feel as in control as I could and I often feel like I’ve myself down a bit. I therefore need to make sure I prioritise this kind of thing and do it on a Friday evening and not leave it until the last moment on a Sunday, when I’m too tired to do it. I need to make sure I’m higher up on my list of priorities.
- Do something I love. I usually try to leave school reasonably promptly on a Friday, just to avoid getting caught up in rush hour traffic, though it doesn’t always work out that I can. A few weeks ago, I managed to do this. There were lots of things that I could’ve done, lots of urgent things on my to do list, but instead, I ran a hot bath, dropped in a gorgeous Lush bath bomb and lounged about in the bath for over an hour, watching Scandal & Grey’s Anatomy on my iPad. It was bliss! It was the perfect antidote to everything that was going on and I felt sooooo much better for it. It didn’t cost much (I always try to have a selection of bath bombs on hand) and it meant that I could put the week behind me and be in my jammies and on the sofa when I was done. It was just what I needed and I must remember to do this more often. I need to get out in the fresh air and walk. I need to veg out in front of my favourite film and do nothing. I need to lay on the sofa reading a decent book. Anything that’s not work or jobs.
- Junk food is not my friend. When I get busy and tired, I want to cook less than normal. So instead of healthy home cooked meals from scratch, it’s oven chips and beans or takeaway. Instead of a healthy, vegetable packed lunch made at home, it’s a white bread sandwich with crisps that repeats on me all afternoon. All this means I run on empty, feeling crap, a little heaver and feeling all kinds of guilt. When will I learn? I’m not saying no junk food or takeaways ever, but toast and crisps for lunch for two weeks is not balanced. It’s lazy and a sure fire way to feeling worse. In order to have the energy to keep going and not feel like crap, a balanced diet is essential. Take the time to cook properly (as properly as I can!) and make sure there’s plenty of vegetables.
When I first thought about writing this post, I had no energy whatsoever and was coming down with my first cold in ages. It hit me pretty hard. I knew that I hadn’t been looking after myself properly and felt really guilty. I’m hoping that I learn from this and make sure that I do these things as best as I can, if for no other reason than being worth it.
My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach, but that’s never stopped me from overeating. In fact, when I’m tired, I crave that ever so slightly stuffed feeling. All of this has led me to trying a whole host of different diets, none of which have worked longterm. So when my partner showed me the Lifesum app, I knew I had to give it a go. It’s basically a calorie counting app, but it’s got a great database of foods and its very easy to use. I’ve tried calorie counting before, but apps and websites that I’ve used have been too awkward or just not slick enough. This isn’t. If you need to add a food or a meal you’ve made, it’s quick and easy.
I’ve been using mine since the end of February and I’ve met my first weight loss goal ahead of schedule. I’ve been able to manage my calorie intake and if the app suggests too few calories, you can always rejig your goal so that you don’t under eat. It’s easy to keep track of your weight and it’s really helped me to see the calorie content of different foods. There were a number of foods and meals that we ate that we thought ‘weren’t that bad’. But when we added them to Lifesum, it turned out that they were filled with hidden calories. It’s also helped me to plan treats and treat meals without ruining a good week. Using it also means we can see how many calories are in our treat meals and if we’re still trying to eat within our allotted calories, it shows how careful you need to be and some foods are just not worth going over your calories for. One thing I have learnt is how much food you can eat when you eat a plant based whole foods diet. And one thing I’m happy about is eating a lot, even if that means vegetables!
I have been ‘dieting’ for about half my life. Some work while you’re on them, some don’t even work while you’re doing them, but none have managed to get me to change my eating habits so I don’t have to ‘go on a diet’. I’ve written before about how much I dislike cooking. Not only that, but the planning and shopping before hand, as well as the prep and the washing up (we don’t have a dishwasher) make me, more often than not, really resent cooking from scratch. But, I’ve learnt, that if you want to eat healthily, whether you’re trying to lose weight, feel better or just stop eating crap, cooking from scratch is really the only way to go. I would say that 90% of the time, we now eat food that is cooked from scratch, healthy and good for us. It’s not easy, especially when you live a stones throw from some of the best takeaways in town, but here’s how we do it.
- Be realistic. Like most people, I’m busy. And there are a million other things I’d rather be doing than chopping veg, sauteing onions or washing up 3 different saucepans. So for us to eat well, our meals have to be quick, use ingredients that we use regularly and not require kitchen skills found only in michelin star restaurants. I also know that I can’t cook every single dish from scratch, so one of our regular meals is pasta with veggie sausages. It’s not the healthiest meal in the world, but it’s certainly not the worst and it’s definitely better than getting a takeaway. I usually plan it for when we know we’ll something super quick – 12 minutes in fact. I also make sure we have a huge salad with it, just to be on the safe side!
- Plan ahead. For me, this is the only way it works. I sit down once a week with my shopping list, Pinterest and meal planner. I don’t like eating the same things every week, because it’s boring and is a sure fire way of making me gravitate to the pile of takeaway menus. By keeping a record of all the meals that are quick, healthy and easy, it makes this whole process much quicker. It doesn’t always work, the best laid plans and all that, but on the whole we do eat what we plan.
- Include treats in your plan. In the past, I’ve tried diets and cut foods and treats out of my diet. All that happens is that I fall off the ‘good food’ wagon, usually landing on a pile of pizza, cake and wine! Plus I don’t want to live a life without cake! I make sure that we have one treat meal a week, whether it’s a take away, dinner out or something quick & easy like homemade pizza using shop bought spelt pizza base. I also plan in cake or other treats. It’s definitely worth researching the healthiest options available for your treat, but if there isn’t one, just make sure you enjoy it.
- Don’t overdo the fruits. I know what you’re thinking – but fruit’s healthy. Well, yes it is, but it contains sugar. Granted it’s natural, not processed, but when you’re thinking of your 5, 7 or 10 fruit & veg a day, you need to make sure you eat more veg than fruit. It’s frustrating because it’s easier to eat fruit on the go and way nicer than tucking into *another* salad. Obviously, fruit is going to better than a packet of biscuits or slab of chocolate, just make sure you hike up the veggies as often as you can.
- Get a slow cooker. This is one of humankind’s best inventions ever. Yep, I mean that. Why? You can chuck in a handful of wholesome ingredients in the morning and come tea time, your dinner is cooked! This is my kind of cooking. Minimal prep, minimal clean up, minimal time spent in the kitchen, more time playing with Poppy. Win win.
- Try tofu. Despite being a vegetarian for over a decade, I’ve only recently started making meals with tofu at home. It’s a great source of healthy protein that is very easy to cook, easy to handle and goes with almost anything. We use it in stir fry dishes, with plenty of added spice. My tip? If the recipe asks you to use sesame or peanut oil, do it. It makes all the difference.
- Learn how to cook quinoa. Not just quinoa, chia seeds, all kinds of beans and pulses. I’ve never eaten so many tins of chickpeas and I never thought I’d be eating chia seed porridge for breakfast, but there you go. Tinned legumes are essential for healthy eating. They can bulk up a salad, add some much needed protein to a meal and are just brilliant to have around. The same can said for quinoa. You can cook up a big batch and add it to salad, chilli, stew and in place of pasta. It’s saved my bacon on more than one occasion.
- Eat your greens. Whichever way you dress it up, vegetables are your best friend when it comes to healthy eating. If you aren’t a fan of them, you need to find a way to befriend them (though nothing on this earth will get me eating broccoli unless it’s well hidden). For me, its about adding spice to them and getting a variety. If I eat the same ol’ veg all the time, it becomes tedious. A good way to avoid this is to go for seasonal veg.
- Beware the overly processed. When you’re next doing your weekly shop, take a look at the ingredients of some of your favourite convenience foods. How many ingredients do you recognise? If it’s not many, that ain’t good. Natural wholefoods will be full of good stuff. Convenient foods, not so much. I know, I’m as disappointed as you are. I’m not saying never eat them, just eat them rarely. You’ll notice the difference, trust me!
- Be prepared to fail. Every now and then, life is going to be so busy that despite your best intentions, you just can’t face cooking. So when you’re standing in the ready meal section of the supermarket, find the healthiest meal you can, take a look at the ingredients. If there are things on there that you can’t pronounce, step away. Look for something that has recognisable ingredients. Make sure you eat some extra veg with it and don’t worry about it. In a perfect world, you’ll have made a ton of meals from scratch, frozen them and remembered to take them out of the freezer before you left for work. But it’s not a perfect world so enjoy a ready meal every now and then, just don’t beat yourself up over it.
Here are my favourite quick & easy meals. You can find all these and lots of others on my veggie board on Pinterest. Don’t just take my word for it though – Some of the best people to follow for more help, recipes and advice are Laura from Wholeheartedly Healthy, Natasha from Honestly Healthy and Ella from Deliciously Ella.
I’m not a nutritionist so all these tips are just things that work for me and I have years and years and years of experimenting, as I have been battling with my diet for ever! My hatred of cooking, combined with the ease of ordering pizza have made me need to eat better. I know that in order for me to be well, I have to eat well. But it doesn’t have to be a chore. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat cake, takeaway or enjoy the odd gin, of course I do, just not as often as I used to. It’s just all in balance. Eating this way has been the best change to my diet that I could possibly have made and it’s been easier than other ‘diet’.
What tips have you got for healthy eating? What’s your favourite healthy recipe?
Did you know that it takes about 6 weeks to create a good habit? Six whole weeks. That’s not long. At the start of the year, I started using Lift app to help me create some good habits that benefit me every day. One was to stretch every morning. Humans are the only animals that don’t routinely stretch out when they wake up. Every time Poppy gets up from one of her naps, she stretches herself out – front first by doing downward dog, then the back by dragging her paws across the ground. Cute! I need to do the same. I have to stretch out my back and do some strengthening moves for my knee. Neither exercise will correct the issue, but they definitely help.
The second habit I wanted to develop was to improve my dental hygiene by flossing everyday. I am terrified of the dentist so will do pretty much anything to avoid going or having any extra work done. Using the Lift app has got me into the habit of both stretching and flossing every morning. Now I’ve got those down, I’m working on others, like having fruit or vegetables with every meal and exercising because it’s good for me and doing something every day.
These habits are especially important coming up to winter, where looking after yourself and staying positive are so important. I’ve been building them up for six weeks now, so am hoping they’re officially here to stay!