With advice and tips on how to eat healthy filling our social media feeds in a constant stream, it is easy to become despondent. Even more so for those struggling with weight issues and low self-esteem due to body shaming and harassment from family, friends or co-workers.
While there are health risks associated with a high body fat percentage and lack of physical activity, the mental stress of trying to conform with other people’s weight expectations can be so much more traumatic. It does not help when we are constantly bombarded by images of skinny ‘influencers’ touting unhealthy weight loss products and regimens.
Both late my parents became Type 2 diabetics in their forties and many of their siblings were diabetic too. Although they received treatment for the diabetes it affected their health, their quality of life and personalities throughout the remainder of their lives. Alhamdulillah, thus far my brother and I have managed to avoid this scourge.
Over the years I have gained and lost weight on more diets than I care to remember; from diet pills to the Atkins diet, to very very low carb and calorie restriction. What I learned from all these diets is that the results are temporary, and the constant gnawing hunger and restriction is probably why dieters always look miserable. The very restrictive nature of a diet causes disordered eating and cravings that sooner or later, result in binge eating.
A few years ago I came upon a facebook group that was strictly non-diet, non-shaming and encouraged intuitive eating, enjoyable movement and being healthy at every size. Nothing is restricted and members are encouraged to exercise balance in every aspect of life and to listen to the messages from their bodies. Whether it needs feeding, watering, exercising or sleep.
Not all bodies and metabolisms are the same. Remember that when you feel discouraged and stick to what suits your lifestyle.
10 Tips to eat healthy and have a healthy lifestyle
- Know your body metabolic type
- A DNA test a few years ago indicated that my body was better at processing proteins than carbs. I suspect that is why I gained weight on a diet delivery plan that included carbs in every form at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Since my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis I have become intolerant to many foods including lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, commercial wheat flour, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes.
- If you are intolerant to certain foods, try to avoid them as they will cause unnecessary inflammation.
- Embrace a Mediterranean diet
- This includes copious amounts of fresh vegetables, heart healthy fats, nuts, fruits and proteins like fish, chicken and meats in moderation.
- Keep hydrated throughout the day
- Drink herb and fruit infused water if you don’t like the flavor of plain water. The added minerals and vitamins won’t hurt.
- Herbal teas or infused teas with ginger, turmeric or lemon are not as dehydrating as drinking than coffee all day. They also provide anti-oxidants and vitamins.
- Maintaining adequate hydration throughout the day ensures that the body is able to get rid of toxins, keeping us alert and awake.
- Eat your meal or a snack before you go grocery shopping
- Shopping while hungry is a recipe for disaster, as you may end up buying much more than you actually need.
- If necessary make a shopping list so that you don’t add unnecessary food items or junk food.
- The shopping activity burns some calories 🙂
- Eat unprocessed whole foods
- Try to minimise the use of processed foods as they contain too many additives and preservatives.
- Frozen or canned produce can be substituted if fresh produce is not available or out of season.
- Frozen berries and fruits are especially good in breakfast smoothies but too much of a good thing is bad, and too much fruit can result in a blood sugar spike.
- Check the nutrition labels on packaged foods
- Since I started checking the labels of everything I buy, I realised how much I was exposing myself to unnecessary levels of sugar, preservatives and additives in every day foodstuffs. Whether it is the box ‘healthy’ granola or the packet of spices.
- I started making many of my own products for exactly this reason. These include Homemade Toasted Luxury Berry Nut Muesli, Easy Homemade Granola and Home made Fish Masala spice blend.
- Keep healthy snacks handy
- Try celery or carrot sticks with Homemade labneh, low carb nut bars or toasted nuts instead. The crunchy foods that take longer to chew are also more satisfying and keep you full for longer.
- Very often when we feel hungry between meals the first thing we reach for is a chocolate bar or a bag of crisps. They have their place but the sugar and salt are addictive and become habit very quickly.
- A square or two of chocolate bar with 60% or more cocoa content will help with the cravings, while also providing soluble fibre and nutrients.
- Buy full fat dairy products like yogurt, cheese and ice cream.
- A read of the nutrition labels surprisingly shows higher levels of carbohydrates and sodium in low fat and fat free products. This is because the sugars, sodium and fillers have to compensate for the loss of flavor and texture when the fat is removed.
- Avoid anything fruit flavored as the flavoring is artificially created in a lab. Add in your own fruit pieces to flavor your favorite yogurt.
- Ensure that you are not vitamin D deficient
- Many of us, especially those in the Northern hemisphere or desert regions spend much of the time indoors and don’t get enough sunlight for our bodies to produce Vitamin D. This can result in seasonal affective disorder that can result in moodiness or depression.
- Adequate Vitamin D levels aids in calcium absorption and is said to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and result in improved immune system function.
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and seafood like shrimp are excellent sources of Vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids.
- Other food sources are mushrooms, eggs and fortified milk.
- Make a every meal count
- Taste the food, the texture and the flavor while chewing.
- Whether you have meals with family and friends or alone, make an effort. Sit and eat at the dinner table and focus on the food instead of having a tray on your lap in front of the television.
- Use the time to catch up with family, friends or roommates about their day and tell them about yours.
- If you dine alone, then use this time to reflect and relax from the stresses of the day.
Eating healthy does not cost a fortune and it is possible to eat healthy on a budget. It requires planning and meal preparation to ensure the minimum of food wastage and maximum benefits from the fresh produce.
Worldwide there is an increased awareness and positive actions to fight the increasing incidence of Diabetes. It has reached near epidemic proportions in the 20th and 21st centuries, with the overconsumption of high carb processed food and sugary snacks and beverages.
In the UAE the fight against Diabetes is led by the Beat Diabetes initiative of the Landmark group. Beat Diabetes organises events in different locations within the GCC during November of each year. In South Africa there are events held around the country for World Diabetes day on 14 November. For other events check out the website of Diabetes South Africa.
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