How many calories should I eat? Make your calories count

We have been obsessed with calorie counting for years. It’s all based on the calories in vs. calories out method of weight loss. As long as you eat less than you burn off, you will lose weight and everything will be fine. Right? Wrong. It’s not quite as straightforward as that.

Why?

It’s difficult to know how many calories (more correctly known as kilocalories or kcals) we actually need. There are rough guidelines out there of around 2000kcals per day for women and 2,500 per day for men but everyone is so different. Things like your muscle:fat ratio, height, activity etc can all impact on your calorie needs so it’s really difficult to know your own requirements without complicated medical measurements. It’s much better to tune into your body. If your weight is stable, you are eating the right amount of calories for you. If you want to lose weight from there, just up the activity or slightly reduce intake. Bear in mind, though, that muscle weighs more than fat so if you take up a lot of resistance exercises to increase muscle (a good way to help weight loss as muscle burns more energy than fat) then your weight may not decrease… but your fat levels will, which is the ultimate aim.

Also, remember that all calories are not equal

woman in the food market
Calorie-counting has led to a focus on calories alone which aren’t always easy to calculate. People then gravitate to the low-cal labelled food in the supermarket which can mean low-fat processed foods that are nutritionally deplete, at the expense of real, healthy food. Fat contains more calories per gram than other food groups so tends to be removed and other bulking agents added to make the food more palatable. Or sugar is taken out and replaced with artificial sweeteners which may do us no good either and doesn’t help weight-loss in some studies. It’s about quality as much, if not more, than quantity when it comes to calories. Focusing on real food and cooking from scratch is a much healthier option.

So, should I ditch calorie counting completely?

No, I think it is helpful as many of us have lost touch with normal eating – even down to knowing what an appropriate portion-size looks like. Also, having an idea of the calorie count can steer us away from those ridiculously calorie-packed mega lattes and over-sized muffins, or other irresponsible offerings from high-street coffee-chains and the like. Luckily for us they are being encouraged to calorie-label their products so we can avoid wasting a third of an entire day’s calories on a coffee and snack. And avoid the excessive sugar load they contain too!

However, obsessive calorie-counting is boring and often inconvenient or difficult – when we are out for dinner, for example. So, it’s much better to use calorie-counting to help you get control over normal, healthy portions initially, and from time-to-time thereafter to make sure that those portion sizes aren’t creeping up.

Make sure too, that those calories come from proper, nutritious food. It’s easier than ever to find out how many calories are in every different foodstuff – from Apples to Zucchini (that’s courgette for us in UK!). I use the MyFitnessPal app to keep an occasional record of my nutritional and energy intake. Putting in your age, weight and height will give you a rough idea of how many calories you should aim to eat per day to achieve a healthy weight for you. But remember, this is not an exact science – your weight will vary with the amount of muscle you have, the amount of good healthy fibre you ate the day before and is still in the system, and much more! So, use this figure as a rough guide and tune into your body to see what is right for you.

So, counting calories should not be an obsession. By all means, count calories from time to time as a rough check on what you are eating and to help control portions. Importantly, though, make sure your calories come from real, nutritious and delicious food.

Don’t just calorie count. Make your calories count!

How to keep your heart healthy

When it comes to keeping your heart as healthy as possible, there are some factors such as genetics that you can’t change. If you have a family history of heart disease, then you are at increased risk yourself. However, there is plenty you can do to decrease your risk whether you have a family tendency or not.

Here are some proven changes you can start making today to reduce your risk of heart problems in the future:

Bin the fags

The obvious one is to stop smoking. Smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers as shown in a study of a million UK women published last year. If you can stop smoking before you are 40, you are 10 times less likely to have health problems than if you continue. As well as benefiting your heart, you will see rapid improvements in your breathing, mood and reduce your risk of stroke, diabetes, cancer, circulation problems and numerous other problems.

Watch your weight

The association between heart disease and being overweight is extremely strong – not least because obesity puts you at risk of type 2 diabetes which, in itself, increases the risk of heart disease and multiple other conditions.
If you carry more weight around your waist than your hips you are even more at risk. To calculate your waist to hip ratio, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. A high ratio (over 0.85 for women or 1 for men) means increased risk of health problems such as heart attacks, high blood pressure or diabetes….even if you aren’t that overweight.

Fat-free?

You have probably been advised to cut out saturated fats and replace butter with unsaturated fat spreads. This is because a diet high in saturated fats is thought to be one factor that leads to high levels of bad cholesterol in the blood… which in turn may cause narrowing of the arteries and heart attacks. However, there is now some controversy as to whether these dietary changes make much difference to your risk of heart disease.

A recent overview of multiple studies found no evidence that restricting saturated fat and increasing polyunsaturated fat consumption lowered the risk of developing heart disease. The jury is still out on this one, and it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to eat high fat doughnuts, pastries, chips and other sources of processed, saturated fat. However, healthy fats such as those found in oily fish, nuts, avocados and more are good – and even butter, cheese and cream in small quantities may not be the complete villains they were thought to be.

Bye-bye bacon

Reducing the amount of red meat is recommended as studies have shown that eating a large amount can increase heart failure by up to 24%. However, recent evidence suggests that this is linked more to red meat that is processed (we’re talking ham, salami, sausages, bacon etc) – with no definite association shown with the consumption of unprocessed red meat. The researchers calculated that for each 50 g of processed meat eaten per day (about one or two extra slices of ham) the risk of heart failure increased by 8% and the risk of death by 38%.

These results require confirmation with further studies but as processing can increase the risk of stomach disease too, it seems sensible to limit processed red meat wherever possible.

Less salt

The British Heart Foundation is clear that too much salt can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease later in life. Adults should have less than 6 grams (1 teaspoon) a day. Cutting back on salt doesn’t just mean keeping your hands away from the saltcellar when you are eating…there is also a lot of hidden salt in processed food. Check the labels and cook from scratch wherever possible – then you are in control.

Say no to sugar

A large population study in the States showed that people who consumed over 25% of their daily calories from added sugar had almost 3 x risk of dying from heart disease than those who had less than 10%, independent of other risk factors including weight. More and more evidence suggests that too much sugar is contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemic too….and as it offers no nutrients whatsoever, it is time to cut back. Gradually reduce the sugar you add to your food or drinks, avoid fizzy drinks and look carefully at labels – you will be amazed at how much sugar is added to all sorts of food, both sweet and savoury.

Keep active

Don’t despair if you are a couch potato – it’s never too late to start. As well as helping with that weight loss, a recent study showed that you could get the same heart health benefits if starting exercise such as running or cycling after 40, as you would have done if you had started before the age of 30.

There are numerous other benefits from exercise too…what are you waiting for?!

Stress less

And finally, whilst you should be aware of keeping your heart healthy, don’t let it stress you out as stress doesn’t help your heart either! The stress hormone ‘cortisol’ can increase unhealthy fat around the middle, raising your risk of heart problems, as well as leading to cravings for high fat and sugar foods, which only make things worse!

So, for a healthy and happy heart, start making a few small changes today – your heart will love you forever!

Weight or waist… Which is the best indicator of health?

As a doctor, I have known for some time that carrying excess fat around your middle is bad for your health. However, in recent years, science has shown a worrying extra bit of research that suggests you don’t have to be overweight for your waist size to affect your health!

So, what is it about belly fat that makes it so intrinsically linked with our health?

You can probably tell just by looking around that there are two main types of fat distribution. Some people (usually women) carry their fat around their bottom and thighs but their upper body is relatively slim – the classic pear shape. Others – we call them apples – carry their fat around the middle and often have fairly slim legs. It’s the classic ‘beer gut’ shape that many overweight men have.

Although any excess weight can cause health problems for your joints, your breathing, your risk of developing some forms of cancer and many other issues, the so-called ‘belly fat’ is associated with a particular pattern of health problems that we call the ‘metabolic syndrome’. That includes type-2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure and heart disease. In this situation, the fat isn’t so much laid down beneath the skin, but is found in increased amounts inside your body cavities – in and around your vital organs. Whilst it’s still not clear why fat accumulates in different ways and places around the body – we do know that the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ can increase central fat deposits. Another reasons to try and combat those stress levels!

Is weight as a measurement useful in itself?

Many people, doctors included, focus on weight as an indicator of health. However, weight obviously varies with height. Therefore, we often use a measure called Body Mass Index or BMI, which takes into account your height by providing a ratio of weight to height. To work out your BMI you need to divide your weight in kg by your height in metres. Then divide the answer by your height in metres again.

So, for example, a 100kg woman with a height of 1.6m will have a BMI of 100 /1.6/1.6 = 39kg/m2.

Depending on your BMI, you will then fit into one of the following categories, which reflect the potential health risk. Any BMI over 35 is a serious risk to health, so much so that people may be eligible for surgery to reduce that risk.

However, before you get hung up on the BMI scale – it has its limitations. It is not as useful for children for instance, nor for athletes who may have a high BMI but very little fat… all their weight is muscle!

Waist measurement is better

So, a lot more focus is now placed on waist measurement as an accurate measure that correlates better with health risk. The study I mentioned earlier assessed data from over 650,000 people and found that the risk of disease increased consistently with every 5cm increase in waist measurement – to the point where they predicted that those people with the largest waist measurement would die 3-5 years earlier than those with the lowest! It was worrying to see from this and another review, that even people with normal BMI but increased waist measurement had a 20% increased risk of dying early than people with normal BMI and normal waist circumference. So it seems our waist measurement really is the one to keep an eye on. Being a ‘healthy weight’ is not enough anymore!

The waist-to-hip ratio is an even more useful indicator that someone has an “apple” shape. If your hip measurement is a lot smaller than your waist measurement, you are in trouble! Another study of 32,000 women found that women with the highest BMI and waist:hip ratio were 29 x more likely to have diabetes than the women with lowest BMI and waist:hip ratio.

So what can we do?

First of all, be aware – waist measurement may be a more useful measure of your health and well-being than weight alone. To see if you have a potential problem, work out your waist : hip ratio as your waist size can vary considerably depending on your sex, height and build.

If your waist : hip ratio is over 0.85 for women or 1 for men, you need to try to reduce your waist circumference. Overall weight reduction will obviously help. Also, studies have shown that aerobic exercise is effective at reducing central obesity and liver fat…so no excuses! On your bike! (or whatever exercise you fancy!).

So, the message is clear – if you are struggling to do up the button on your trousers, your health is at risk. Don’t buy a bigger size – lose the waist instead!

A step-by-step guide to measuring your waist and calculating your waist to hip ratio

It’s not as easy as it sounds – particularly if you don’t have a clear waist!

1. To find the right place to measure, feel for your hip bone on one side then feel for your bottom rib.
2. Halfway between is where your waist should be – it may be level with your tummy button – unless your tummy is heading towards the floor!
3. Ideally, your waist should measure less than 32” (80cm). 32-35” (80-88cm) is high – anything over that is very high.
4. Then measure your hips. This is the widest point, incorporating your buttocks, which may be a bit below your actual hip bones!
5. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement to get your waist-to-hip ratio.


References:

Cerhan JR, Moore SC, Jacobs EJ, Kitahara CM, Rosenberg PS, Adami HO, Ebbert JO, English DR, Gapstur SM, Giles GG, Horn-Ross PL, Park Y, Patel AV, Robien K, Weiderpass E, Willett WC, Wolk A, Zeleniuch-Jacquotte A, Hartge P, Bernstein L, Berrington de Gonzalez A. A pooled analysis of waist circumference and mortality  in 650,000 adults. Mayo Clin Proc. 2014 Mar

Lee S, Deldin AR, White D, Kim Y, Libman I, Rivera-Vega M, Kuk JL, Sandoval S, Boesch C, Arslanian S. Aerobic exercise but not resistance exercise reduces intrahepatic lipid content and visceral fat and improves insulin sensitivity in obese adolescent girls: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2013

Koster A, Leitzmann MF, Schatzkin A, Mouw T, Adams KF, van Eijk JT, Hollenbeck AR, Harris TB. Waist circumference and mortality. Am J Epidemiol. 2008 Jun

Björntorp P. Do stress reactions cause abdominal obesity and comorbidities? Obes Rev. 2001 May

Folsom AR, Kushi LH, Anderson KE, Mink PJ, Olson JE, Hong CP, Sellers TA, Lazovich D, Prineas RJ. Associations of general and abdominal obesity with multiple health outcomes in older women: the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 2000 Jul

How to reduce high blood pressure

Oh, how nice it is to have a few days, or even just a weekend, away from work. You can just feel the stresses melting away, the head clearing and you start to appreciate the simple pleasures in life again.

But when you return to work, the mere sound of the alarm clock reminding you that you are no longer free to do whatever you want when you want, is enough to send your blood pressure back up as the adrenalin kicks in again. Can you feel the pressure? Could the stresses of work – or life in general – be raising your blood pressure to dangerous levels? Do you even know what your blood pressure is? Read on…..

Is pressure productive? Or could it be doing us some serious harm?

A healthy blood pressure has two measurements. The top measurement, or systolic, should be less than 120. This is the pressure in your circulation when your heart pumps. The lower measurement or diastolic pressure, should be less than 80 and represents the pressure in the system as your heart rests between beats.

Problem is, around 1:4 adults have a high blood pressure (known as hypertension) – but may not know about it. And as high blood pressure increases your risk of stroke, heart attack and even premature death, that’s not a good thing to be in the dark about. Especially when we can remedy it.

So, hot-foot it along to your GP’s, health-centre or local chemist to get a pressure check now, because if your blood pressure is 140/90 or over, you may well need treatment. Or invest in a home monitor – as sometimes the mere visit to the doctor can falsely put up your blood-pressure. We call it white-coat hypertension. A home monitor gives you a range of readings at different times and in different situations, which will give a better overall picture. It also helps you see the results of your pressure-lowering efforts, keeping you motivated, so may well be a good investment.

What’s more, a one-off blood pressure reading by your doctor may not show the intermittent episodes of high blood pressure that can be an early warning of you developing full-blown hypertension in the future.

And what is the best way to help a high blood pressure?

Most importantly, keep to a healthy weight.

A good way to do this is to move more, as activity helps your blood pressure independently too. And cut out processed foods which are often high in salt – another enemy of a healthy blood pressure.

Of course, it’s also really important to stop smoking and reduce alcohol as much as possible.

And the stress and strain of work doesn’t help your blood pressure one bit. Meditation is a great way to help reduce the effect that stress has on your body – find out more in one of our previous articles. Or, at the very least, spend the odd 5 minute break in the day closing your eyes, taking a few deep breaths and imagining yourself on the beach, or out on a bracing walk with not a care in the world. It can take the pressure off in more ways than one.

 

Medication or Meditation?

It seems as though we are all over-stressed, chronically tired, ever-anxious….and these mental miseries can spill over into physical ailments too. Whether it’s heart trouble, gut disturbances or weight gain, our mental wellbeing and our physical wellbeing are intertwined. And, increasingly often, we end up reaching for medicines to help us out. Anti-depressant use has increased by over 100% in 10 years, more than 1 in 10 of us take sleeping tablets….and blood pressure medication, indigestion remedies and weight loss drugs are being swallowed in bulk.

But could there be an alternative?

Apps such as Headspace and Calm have over 70 million subscribers – proof that we are over-coming the aversion that many of us may have felt in the past to the idea of meditation. Why the change in mind-set?

Scientific studies now abound in the power of mindfulness and meditation to help mental and even physical ailments. Meditation has been shown to reduce blood pressure, perceived stress, weight, depression and improve sleep, wellbeing and perhaps even immune function. And the practice of meditation was once regarded as alternative (and frankly just a bit ‘weird’!). But it’s now being adopted by big, forward-thinking corporates who see the benefits on their employee happiness, productivity and creativity. If these big companies encourage their employees to spend part of their working day in quiet contemplation and relaxation…and paying them whilst they do so….then there must be something valuable in it!

Meditation has been practised for hundreds of years by many different cultures and religions. It needs no special equipment or financial outlay and can be done anywhere. But it can be frustratingly hard to quell the noise of decades of mental frenzy that many of us now regard as normal. So, a bit of help in calming the chaos is worth having. Consider downloading one of the many apps out there (of which Headspace and Calm are just the start) to help you in your meditation training. Remember to practice regularly and make it a habit though – simply having the app on your phone won’t do much!

If you are feeling flush and need extra help, consider the Muse2 – a high-tech headband that can measure your brainwaves and provide real-time feedback on how your meditation attempts are going. When you’re in the zone you may hear birds tweeting. If your mind is distracted and wandering, you’ll hear a rainstorm or other similarly jarring noises, nudging you back to mindfulness and relaxation.

Some studies show that you can reap benefits from as little as 10 minutes of meditation a day. But, once you have learned to switch off from the stresses of the day and manage your mood more effectively, you may well find it addictive.

And, unlike a medication addiction, a meditation addiction could be a life-change for the better!!

 

What are the benefits of yoga

Yoga may not be the first thing many of us think of when we want to improve our health, weight or wellbeing. It has a reputation for being a bit alternative, perhaps a bit too gentle to have any significant impact on the problems we want to address. But think again. More and more science is showing that it can offer numerous benefits.

Improves core strength

By strengthening your core muscles you are supporting the bones and ligaments of your spine and improving posture. It makes sense, therefore, that yoga is considered a valuable tool in helping lower back pain Of course, if you have back trouble, ensure that your yoga teacher is aware and qualified to tailor your yoga regime accordingly.

Helps depression

Whether it’s the mindfulness associated with yoga, the moves themselves or the group activity, who knows. But studies have shown a benefit to yoga in managing depressive symptoms. Interestingly, though, the same benefit was not seen in those suffering mainly from anxiety.

Better breathing

A large component of yoga is a focus on good breathing techniques. This may be helpful in improving quality of life and reducing need for medication in people with asthma, as well as helping any of us to slow down and relax.

Reduces heart disease risk

High blood pressure and unfavorable blood cholesterol are both associated with an increased risk of heart disease and yoga can positively influence both of those according to some studies.

Stabilises cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone related with chronic stress. Too much can make you more at risk of piling on the pounds around the middle, developing diabetes and adds to the risk of heart disease. Several studies have shown that yoga can reduce stress levels, and with it the cortisol that may be doing us harm. Interestingly though, other research has shown it may bring cortisol levels back up towards normal in those with fibromyalgia who seem to have abnormally low levels.

But why would I waste time with yoga when I can do more vigorous exercise with loads more benefits?

You may think that the more high intensity exercise you do, the better, when it comes to getting fit, losing weight and improving health. But actually, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that a mix of exercise is best. Resistance and strength exercises like yoga help preserve muscle – a valuable weight loss ally as it burns more calories even when we are sitting still. In contrast, excessive punishing aerobic regimes can overly stress the body, increasing cortisol with negative rather than positive results.

So, whether you are starting exercise from scratch or already hitting the gym for an hour a day, maybe it’s worth giving yoga a try after all.

Check out this link for a list of yoga lessons you can do from the safety of your own home! But for the social benefits, nothing beats a real-life class with a great instructor.

How important is breakfast?

Despite all the advice to the contrary, I’ve long been of the belief that breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day for everyone. We are told time and time again (pushed by cereal manufacturers and health advisors alike) that we should have a hearty breakfast if we want to keep hunger at bay and lose weight…but I don’t think it always holds true.  I believe it’s a personal thing. I can happily go until lunchtime with no more than a banana or even just a cup of good black coffee, stocking up on food later in the day, whereas others I know are unable to even hold a conversation until they have had their fill of cereal!

 

 

 

 

It’s therefore very interesting to read a review of all the available research on breakfast in our leading British Medical Journal. The bottom line is that people who eat breakfast usually eat around 260kcals a day more than non-breakfast eaters and weigh a little bit more, not less. Of course, many nutrition studies are poor quality as they rely on people remembering and accurately recording what they ate and, just because eating breakfast is associated with eating more overall, doesn’t mean that breakfast causes over-eating – other related factors may be at play.

But, what we can say is that there is actually no good evidence that eating breakfast is good for weight-loss. And, in fact, there are more and more studies showing that eating fewer meals in the day with periods of hunger in-between may be better for weight and health – even if we eat the same number of calories overall.

What does that mean for those of us who are trying to work out the best way of eating?

I think you should listen to your body – we all have a natural ‘circadian’ rhythm that may vary from person to person, with some people being morning larks, others being night owls. Our eating pattern may reflect that. So, if you need breakfast, have it. If you are happy eating later in the day, then that’s fine too.

But, if you are having breakfast, avoid the big bowls of cereal and glasses of fruit juice – the high sugar content will have you hungry again by mid-morning. Instead, opt for a higher protein meal. The protein, especially if paired with healthy fats and perhaps some wholegrain carbs too, will keep you fuller and satisfied until lunchtime or beyond!

 

How to increase your metabolism

It’s a well recognised fact that our metabolism slows as we age.

Our metabolism is the rate at which we burn energy simply by existing (basal metabolic rate).  As well as by other factors like exercise and digesting food which together only account for about 30% of our total energy output.

So, why does our metabolism drop as we get older? We want to know because it doesn’t help our weight control.  Plus 2/3ds of us need a bit of help in that regard!

Well, as with anything related to the weight-loss field, it’s not totally understood (or we wouldn’t have the weight problem that we do!). But a large component is probably due to the loss in muscle which occurs as we age (known as sarcopaenia).

Why does this happen?

We lose about 8% of our muscle per decade over the age of 40. This is an issue as muscle burns more energy than fat. That means that women tend to be more affected than men as they naturally have lower muscle percentage to start with. Wonder why men seem to lose weight more quickly when they put their mind to it? This is part of the reason.

There is also some evidence that repeated fad-dieting can contribute. Some studies show that fad-diets can lead to muscle as well as fat loss. Exacerbating sarcopenia. But, it also seems that changes in gut bacteria with dieting may have effects on metabolism too. That can be long-lasting.

In addition, hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid such as Hashimoto’s disease) is most commonly seen in middle-aged women (10 x more than men). This leads to a lowered metabolism as well as dry hair and skin, weight gain and cold intolerance amongst other things. Whilst officially only affecting around 2 in 100, some doctors feel it’s more common than that, but it can be treated with tablets helping you feel a whole lot better.

So, what can we do about it?

It’s hard to regain the metabolism of a 20 year old for many reasons.  Though excluding an under-active thyroid, if you have the symptoms mentioned above, is worth doing.  It’s a simple blood test. For everyone else, strength and resistance exercises as well as cardio will help preserve or even increase muscle, meaning you can keep your metabolism higher even when you aren’t exercising! That’s a win!  Lower metabolism makes it much easier to pile on the pounds . Especially if we keep eating the same as we did in our teens and twenties when we were growing rapidly or working hard, having babies or running around after boisterous toddlers! Remember, we need around 300 fewer calories per day now than we did then. So watch portion size and keep the snacking down to avoid weight gain.

Also, remember that if you lose weight your metabolic rate will fall, as you will need less energy to keep your body functioning. So, you may need to reduce your intake a little to avoid regaining the pounds you have worked hard to lose.

vavista boost your metabolism

 

3 habits you absolutely need for summer

It’s easier to be out of shape in winter, with all those layers to hide under. But once the warmer weather is here, being in less-than-peak form gets harder to ignore – particularly if we’re carrying a few (or more) extra pounds. Just the wakeup call we need for a mind and body turn-around.

Now is the perfect time to let go of those bad habits that are sabotaging your health and waistline – and replace them with healthy new ones to take you through to the holiday season and beyond.

The more bad habits you swap for good ones, the closer you’ll come to the healthier, more energetic and ideal weight person you want to be. And in a way that gives lasting change – not just for a few weeks of summer.

What’s more, start now and you can consign to the waste bin all those summer promotions for fad diets and unrealistic workout regimes that bombard us, and set us up for failure, every year. “Your best summer body in just 7 days.” Really?!

Here are three new habits you can learn right away for a long-term slimmer, healthier and happier you.

1. Time for a fridge makeover

It’s tempting to rely on convenience foods or ready meals especially when we’re busy. But while few of us have the time or inclination to spend our lives slaving over a hot stove, remember there is such a thing as ‘real, fast food’ (look no further than our Vavista recipes).

And what a perfect time for a fridge makeover when the shelves are bursting with all that lovely fresh spring and summer produce. So if you want to take control of your health and your weight – and avoid those hidden nasties such as sugar, taste-enhancers and unhealthy fats which sneak their way into a whole range of processed foods and ready meals – ditch the junk and fill your fridge with goodness. We promise you will never look back once you’ve developed a taste for real, fast food.

What’s more, eating food that is packed full of nutrients can help your body to get slimmer and healthier without the addictive cravings that conventional dieting can produce.

And by taking advantage of those seasonal offers – and developing a liking for misshapen veg (check out those supermarket bargain bags!) – it can be easy on your purse too.

2. Take the quick route to body confidence

OK, so you probably know all about the health and weight benefits of exercise. You may also know that exercise boosts mood by releasing your ‘happy hormones’ (endorphins). But did you know that exercise can improve your body image even before the physical benefits have kicked in?

A review of evidence by US researchers at the University of Florida showed that even after just one exercise session, men and women felt better about themselves even though their bodies hadn’t changed at all. And the more they exercised, the more body confident they became, regardless of how hard or long the workout.

And if you consider you’re more likely to make healthy choices when you’re feeling good about yourself, it’s even more reason to start exercising today. So take advantage of the warmer weather to get outside and walk, run or cycle your way to a better place. You may even want to sign up for one of our 10kAnyWay challenges and give yourself an even bigger health and confidence boost.

3. Discover the joys of H2O

It’s easy to forget about liquid calories. But our love of fizzy sugary drinks is a major contributor to soaring levels of obesity, and all the health problems that go with it. Not to mention the trend for specialist coffees found in most high street coffee bars, and laden with calories, sugar and fat.

Ditch these calorie-rich, nutrient-poor drinks and you’ll not only feel the benefit, your waistline should too. Switch, instead to H2O – not fruit juices or smoothies, which although natural are still high on sugar.

Water has zero calories (compared with 150 in a standard can of coke, 340 in a large café latte and a whopping 500 in some other specialist coffees). It is also a natural pick-me-up and one of the best health and beauty products around. So make H2O your number one beverage of choice and you’ll be amazed at the calories you save. What’s more, the body easily mistakes thirst for hunger – so having a bottle of water to hand can mean you eat less too.

For a burst of flavour without the calories, try infusing your water with berries, herbs or a citrus slice.

The perfect time to start

Studies suggest it can take anywhere between 2 to 8 months of practising a healthier behaviour to make it a habit. And changing habits can lead to long term change. So when it comes to getting summer-ready, don’t leave it until the last minute. Start now, and you’ll not only be fitter, healthier and slimmer when the summer arrives – you’ll still see the results long after your sun tan has faded.

 


References

Campbell A, Hausenblas HA. Effects of exercise interventions on body image: a meta-analysis. J Health Psychology. Sept 2009.

Phillippa Lally et al. How are habits formed: modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology. October 2010.