Wellness and Longevity Part 1
Maintaining good health is essential to general wellness and longevity of life. In today’s sedentary society inactivity is at an all-time high and at the same time the levels of clinical obesity continue to rise. Poor health, including obesity can lead to a range of health issues. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased risks of cardiovascular diseases, arthritis and diabetes have all been link to poor health and obesity. As a result, adopting a healthy lifestyle is vital for anyone who wishes to remain fit and well throughout their lives.
When looking to maintain or build a healthy lifestyle for an individual, two main factors come into play: firstly, their diet, secondly the amount of activity or exercise they do. In the first part of this blog we are going to look at diet.
When we think about what our diet is like, the first thing we must consider is what our mindset is like towards food and the food we eat.
When it comes to food, a healthy mindset leads to healthy choices. Food is fuel. Just like a car needs fuel to function, we as humans need food to live and all that ‘living’ encompasses for us. As we think on this area for a moment what is your mindset towards food?
Do you consider some foods good or bad? Do you refer to yourself as being ‘naughty’ if you eat something like cake or chocolate? Do you use food as a source of comfort if you’ve had a stressful day? Or do you see certain foods as a reward, like you would reward a child if they have been good? Our attitudes towards food will very much shape the choices we make towards what we eat.
Athletes Train and Eat. Athletes Eat and Train. If you have a sporting focus whether you are a professional athlete, semi-professional or weekend warrior, what you eat will very much shape your performance, in training and in competition. The quality of what you are eating will massively play a role in your recovery session to session and in your athletic performance.
The average person who doesn’t have a sporting focus should be conscious of their diet and exercise regularly. Its not one or the other, it’s both. Eating a strict calorie-controlled diet may well help you maintain or lose weight, but it will not help to improve your cardiovascular fitness or muscular strength. Exercising will help improve your levels of muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness but if you are not conscious of what you eat, it is still possible to put on body fat whilst exercising. Adopting the mindset that you can eat what you want because you can burn it off through exercise is not a healthy or advisable one. The best way to achieve optimal health is through diet and exercise, not one or the other, it’s both.
Bodyweight management is also another key factor in maintaining good health. Our bodyweight will naturally fluctuate day to day depending on the time of day (morning/evening), how hydrated we are etc. Excessive fluctuations in bodyweight are not advisable and can have a detrimental effect on a person’s health, with medical conditions such as gall stones being linked to dramatic yo-yo-ing in weight loss and weight gain.
When we consider our bodyweight and how to manage it, we first need to consider what our goals are? Do you want to maintain weight, lose weight, build muscle/put weight on? (It must be said at this point that just as we need to have healthy mindset attitudes towards food we must also have healthy attitudes towards body image as well).
Depending on what your goals are there are three simple formulas that can be used to help you achieve your goal:
Want to maintain your body weight? Then multiply body weight in pounds (lbs) by 15 and stick to daily calorie allowance
Want to lose weight? Then multiply your body weight in pounds (lbs) by 12 to give your daily calorie allowance and then stick to that calorie allowance
Want to put on weight/muscle? Then multiply body weight in pounds (lbs) by 18 and stick to calorie allowance
Food nutrients and quality
Now that we’ve considered our mindset and bodyweight management, next we need to consider the type of foods we are eating, their nutritional value, and the quality of that food. Foods can be split into Macronutrients and Micronutrients.
Macronutrients are the nutrients that provide calories or energy for our bodies to function daily. Macronutrients can be split into Carbohydrates, Fat, and Protein.
Carbohydrates are made up of either starches (complex carbohydrates) or sugars (simple carbohydrates). These provide the body with the energy it needs to function.
Fats are made up of saturates (animal-based fats), unsaturated fats including monosaturated fats (olive oil, brazil nuts etc) and polyunsaturated fats (fish oils and some vegetable oils); finally we have trans fats (hydronated vegetable oil). Fat is a source of essential fatty acid, which the body can’t produce. It also helps absorb vitamins A, D and E. Fat is also high in calorific value and can be used by the body as energy.
Protein provides the building blocks for the body to grow and repair. Protein is either found as a primary source (in foods like meat or fish) or as a secondary source (in foods like beans, lentils, pulses)
Micronutrients are different from macronutrients because they are necessary only in very tiny amounts. Micronutrients are commonly referred to as vitamins and minerals. Micronutrients are essential to the proper functioning of all your bodies systems.
Quality of the fuel
Having thought a little bit about the nutritional value of the foods we eat its important at this point to consider the quality of that food. For example, the more processed the food (pies, sausages, croissants) the less the nutritional value tends to be. Some general basic guidance would be to stick to naturally occurring colourful foods. One simple tip to remember would be the brighter the colour of fruit and vegetables, the higher their national value. It must also be said at this point that bright colourful takeaways such as Indian or Chinese don’t count!!
One of the main factors in a person increasing their body fat is usually down to portion sizes and how often they eat. As a guide, try to eat five times a day, breaking your meals down into three main meals and two snack type meals. If possible try not to go longer than 3 hours between eating, 4 hours at an absolute maximum. The longer you go between eating, the more chance there is of you over eating at the next meal. Its better to keep your digestive system ticking over every three hours rather than deplete it and then over eat because of how hungry you have become.
Portion size is very much dependent on the body size of the person. A 6-foot male weighing 85kg is going to need a larger portion size than a 5-foot 8 female weighing 60kg. Obviously, that goes without saying but what size should your food portions be? This is where the size of your hands come into play.
Carbohydrates (starches) – should be about ¼ of your plate with the amount being around the size of your fist close.
Protein – should again be ¼ of your plate and be roughly the size of your palm.
Vegetables (not potatoes) – should make the other ½ of your plate with your portion size being the size of what you can hold in both of your hands.
Following this simple guide will help make sure you are not over eating or under eating at each meal. Some other helpful bits of guidance on portion size would be:
A portion of fruit is the size of your fist.
The amount of fat (for example butter) should be the size of the final tarsal of the top of your tallest finger.
Finally, for those desperate to know how much peanut butter they can have… roughly the size of your thumb is the recommended amount.
If you are wanting to improve you health, which will in turn improve your wellness and longevity, it’s important to be structured. As the saying goes fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Don’t just try and wing it. Have a plan, be strict, be disciplined, but also be flexible. If you eat out or have a day where your diet isn’t great, don’t beat yourself up, brush it off and keep going!
If you are looking to lose weight don’t just use the scales as guide, use how clothes fit and feel. Take measurements (chest/waist/hips) so you have a better gauge of which areas are losing body fat.
Healthy eating is a lifestyle, not a crash diet. It’s a lifestyle that leads to improved wellness and longevity of life.