Saturday, 6 June 2015

Nutrition & Weight Management

OK, so I've just found this post that I wrote absolutely ages ago, like last October straight out of Uni. Not sure why I didn't publish it straight away, but this subject has become even more relevant now, considering my job - I work as a Nutritionist Advisor with one of my roles involving producing healthy lifestyle content for a blog, which means I come across what I talk about below every single day on other sites/social media. Bit of a ramble though, but a topic that I'm really passionate about, so I hope you enjoy reading...

I've noticed recently just how much misinformation there is out there concerning nutrition and weight loss - it's pretty scary to be honest. I've just finished my Nutritional Sciences masters and now want to work in improving the knowledge and ability of individuals who want to change their lifestyle. It's a tough job anyway, and the constant barrage of 'eat this!' or 'don't eat that!' certainly don't make it any easier for the professionals to be heard, and the majority of us to know who to listen to.

I thought I'd put a post together about ways to help you make sense of the never-ending onslaught of diet and exercise tips and re-focus your viewpoint so you find out what's best for you and work towards that healthier lifestyle. Eating well and getting enough exercise isn't easy, but with a bit of the right information and a positive outlook, it's not that hard either. 

Forget the numbers - focus on health!

Yes, weight is important - being overweight or obese leads to a greater chance of suffering from cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and a number of other conditions. However, getting hung up on what the scales say isn't likely to get you that far (or not in a healthy way at least). All those quick fixes that promise you'll be however many stones lighter in a month are just that: quick fixes and will probably end up being just as quickly reversed when you stop. 

Look at the bigger picture - aim for a healthy lifestyle that you can maintain. Weight loss/gain may be part of this, but there's no point getting to a goal weight just to think that's it, I can stop now. It just doesn't work like that. Small, realistic changes that add up to an overall healthier diet should be the aim. They're more likely to stick and one is likely is lead to another when you feel a positive difference.

So, to improve your diet, you could try eating one extra piece of fruit or veg a day. Incorporate it into something you already eat: I try and add a handful of frozen veg to pasta or rice a few minutes before it's finished cooking to add an extra bit of healthiness to a meal. 

The same principle works with exercise - forget the marathon for now and focus on walking an extra 15-30 minutes a day. Are there any journeys you'd use the car/bus for which you could probably walk? 

Trustworthy source or not?

Not everyone can be an expert in everything, that's perfectly understandable - we rely on others to get all the info we need. Nutrition is no different, yet we all need to know what we can eat to get the best out of our bodies. 

First tip is, if something sounds to good to be true it probably is. There was a recent headline suggesting that 'sunlight can make you thin'. Ummm what?? The fact that whoever wrote this is paid to be a journalist is a whole other issue I won't go into, but yeah, don't take everything at face value basically. This relates to the quick fixes that I mentioned earlier.

The main point I want to get across is to think about who is giving you the information. Do they have evidence-based nutritional knowledge? Could they have an ulterior motive as to why they're telling you something (e.g. so you'll buy whatever they're selling)? 

Those articles in newspapers, magazines etc. may have just been written by someone with no background knowledge who is trying to fill space. Check out someone's credentials or better still read the evidence for yourself. I get that that isn't possible for everyone, but if you are interested in the facts behind the headlines, NHS choices do some great posts that break down recent research into manageable chunks that help in understanding those confusing headlines.

Relationship advice

Our relationship with food and our bodies seems to have taken an ugly turn. I notice this particularly as a young woman but it applies to men as well of course - we're all aiming to be leaner/more muscular/curvier or whatever the current fashion is. This is a huge area and it encompasses so many areas, particularly psychology and the influence of others. 

So I thought I'd just finish this post off with what I try and live by, and how I manage to enjoy good food and exercise as part of my normal routine.

Because I do enjoy it. I absolutely love food, and from the stories I've been told by my family I've loved food pretty much since I could eat. Before I got into the science of Nutrition I wanted to be a Chef or something like that. I love exercising too - I danced growing up and now try and make sure I get a decent amount of time at the gym each week, doing aerobics and pilates classes. 

My general rule is only eat the food I like, and only do the exercise I enjoy. What's the point in wasting time on stuff that doesn't make you feel good?

A healthy lifestyle means balance, and moderation. These terms can mean different things to different people. I take it to mean having a diet predominantly composed of fruit, veg, good sources of protein like chicken and eggs, healthy fats and an amount of starchy carbs that gives me the energy I need without feeling overly full and uncomfortable. Plus I still enjoy foods considered less healthy alongside that. Just not too much, and not too often. Eating sweet food isn't terrible - I think it's pretty obvious from this blog that cake is one of my faves! Feeling guilty because you've eaten something is silly.

At the end of the day, food is fuel. It provides us with the nutrients we need to stay fit, energetic and able to do all the fantastic things we're capable of. So enjoy it, and embrace all the amazing things your body can do.
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