General recommendations for good health
By Matthew Chircop, 11/13/2016
Statistically, more than 64.6% of Australians are overweight or obese – and at risk of premature death, reduced functional capacity, and impacting on their quality of life. Much of the evidence points to lifestyle as the underlying cause:
To fix the problem, you can’t just focus on one or two of these issues. That would be like replacing the worn brakes on only one wheel of your car, and leaving the others worn and ineffective. You need to make lasting change in all of those areas. However, you don’t have to do it all at once. After all, people don’t become overweight or obese overnight.
Let’s start with sleep. Adults need 7-8 hours per night. Consistently getting more or less than that is associated with increased risk of chronic disease and death (especially from accidents). In relation to obesity, stress and sleep-deprivation each aggravate the other, and both result in increased hunger and snacking (particularly calorie-rich foods). So it is vital that you perform some form of stress-reduction techniques or activities on a regular basis. Even better if you can reduce unnecessary exposure to avoidable stressful situations.
Make sure you "unplug" at least a couple of hours before you intend to go to sleep – that means no smart phones or computers. If you must watch TV, make sure it’s not too stimulating, turn down the brightness level and backlight on your TV, and keep the ambient lights dim. Make sure your lights are "warm white" or yellow, rather than blue or bright white. When you go to bed, make sure you are comfortable (not too hot, not too cold, bedding and clothing not too loose or tight). You might need to reduce or cut out stimulants in the evening (tea, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, etc). Physical activity activity can help with stress reduction, by depleting your stores of adrenaline, as well as acting as a distraction. Try some of our suggestions for at home workouts. Yoga is a great pre-bed workout option.
It is recommended that the average adult get at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exertion per day to maintain health. It is possible to do this just by minimising the use of your car and walking whenever possible. Use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Distract you children for half an hour by taking them outside and kicking or throwing a ball. Go with your friends to make it a social catch-up whilst benefiting your health and well-being. If you have a pedometer (either on your wrist, belt or phone) you will notice that you quickly clock up the steps, and it can be a great motivator. You can turn it into a competition by setting goals, e.g. daily best score, monthly best score, yearly best score, etc, at home or at work.
Having said that, some people enjoy the endorphine-rush of a run or swim (and really appreciate the time to either let their mind wander or else watch the world go by). Some people prefer to have organised exercise sessions, and others like to participate in team sports – in both cases, there is a sense of belonging, shared experience, social interaction, support and encouragement, and commitment. I would argue that you need to have a balance of different types of physical activity, each of which promotes different aspect of physical performance – you need to develop endurance, power, speed, strength, flexibility, good posture, balance and coordination.
Apart from performance improvement and stress reduction, physical activity can help with managing hunger (as a form of distraction), and maintaining current levels of body fat by expending modest amounts of energy. Unfortunately, many people fall into the trap of thinking that if they do a bit of extra exercise that they can practically eat whatever they like without consequence. If you don’t address your diet you will hit a weight loss plateau well-short of your target, and risk getting disheartened by a lack of progress. Once you have reached your goals, you can afford to be slightly more lax from time to time. Until then, you have to make room in your meal plan for lighter versions of the foods you like, and schedule regular breaks from calorie restriction. Eventually, your taste will adjust to the new diet, and you’ll probably find that, after a while, you prefer the lighter recipes because they are just as tasty, just as filling/satisfying (if not more so), and cause less gut discomfort.
Address each of these areas (sleep, stress-reduction/management, activity, and diet) a little a time, gradually moving yourself toward your ideal lifestyle. Your body will follow. You will start to notice the difference. Your everyday life will improve on many levels, and your chances of a healthy life as well as be able to age gracefully, will improve with each decision that you make to look after you.
Revised from original posting on 8/4/2016
If you find this process confusing, and need some help achieving your goals, then ask about our personalised meal planning service.