Disclaimer: I am not a qualified nutritionalist nor beautician. The following is based on hundreds of books, articles and documentaries I have read/watched and assimilated, with all the bollocks extracted.
Hippocrates said “food is the best medicine”, and he was bang on. Sadly, what passes for food in this day and age tends to be so far removed from nature, you may as well be chowing down on a lightbulb.
Also, with TV shows such as Food Unwrapped telling us it makes no difference if we consume our calories in the form of a Snickers bar or an avocado (thanks channel 4, you should know better), it’s understandable that the general population have a bit of a skewed take on what’s healthy.
With that in mind, I’d like to share with you some practical, no nonsense advice that will help you to feel better and look better. And because, despite popular opinion, it needn’t cost more to be healthy you won’t be shelling out either. Healthy you, healthy wallet.
How to eat better
1. Eat fruit and vegetables with every single meal and snack
The best way to reverse any bad habit is not to try and stop it. Stopping a bad habit creates a void, which both makes it harder to stop and also gives the habit you’re trying to stop more significance.
The most effective way to rid yourself of an unhealthy habit is to introduce more healthy habits, leaving less space in your life for the bad ones. This can be applied to any unhelpful habit, but is especially effective with eating. If you make it a rule to have at least two portions of fruit and veg with every meal, you simply won’t have enough room for everything else you were planning to eat.
A further tip: try and make at least 75% of this intake from vegetables as they have a lower sugar content.
Add fruit and seeds to your cereal or have a breakfast smoothie. Eat carrot sticks and home made hummous as a snack. Try and cram as many different ingredients as possible into a salad (multicoloured salads look so pretty), add peppers, grated carrot, courgette and celery to your chili con carne, make fresh juices and stick some kale in them. It looks like snot, but with enough apple, you’ll never taste it.
Even if you don’t lose weight with this method, I promise you that you’ll look and feel a hell of a lot more vital than you did before. Potential weight loss should be looked upon as a bonus side effect of feeling awesome.
2. Don’t consume anything claiming to be low fat or sugar free
As a rule of thumb, any version of ready made food that has had it’s fat reduced will have added sugar and salt to make it taste good. Any food or drink labelled as no added sugar or sugar free that is meant to taste sweet will contain sweeteners.
Sugar is bad for your waistline and your skin (it gives you both spots and wrinkles – the worst skin combo move), but sweeteners are TERRIBLE for your health.
In the very best case scenario, sweeteners confuse the hell out of your body, because your clever brain releases certain hormones and enzymes when your tongue announces “sugar’s coming!!” When the sugar fails to arrive, the hormones left over have nothing to do so they go and gather in your fat cells. So you get fatter and your insulin levels get messed up. That’s the best case scenario.
The worst case scenario is fun symptoms such as blurred vision, hives, headaches, personality disorders, Alzheimer’s, fits, and mimicked symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Yes folks, I’m talking about aspartame, a chemical sweetener that is EVERYWHERE. It’s in diet drinks, soluble vitamins, sugar free jelly, even in your cold and flu medicines. If you think it’s not that bad and that those who warn about its side effects are paranoid hippies, please read this statement by the FDA.
This is all about checking the label, and curbing your sweet tooth. You don’t have to do it all at once, just do it in stages. Cut down. Over time I promise you your tastes will change and you’ll be shocked and repulsed by the three sugars you used to take in your coffee. And if you fancy something sweet, for goodness sake, eat something naturally sweet. But. Just. A. Little. Bit.
How to Feel Better
Human beings were not designed to sit slumped in a chair for eight hours of the day, then sit slumped in a car or train, followed by further sitting and slumping on a sofa.
I know that if you’re knackered it seems ludicrous to do more, however, perversely if you do more, you’ll actually have more energy. Maybe us humans are genetically similar to kinetic watches (if you were a teen in the nineties you’ll remember them). I don’t know how it works, it just does.
This is about little changes. You don’t have to splash out a load of money on some neon high tech sportswear nightmare before taking on the Insanity workout, at least not right away.
Just do more movement. Take the stairs, go for a brisk walk in your lunch break, do some squats while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, get up from your desk and walk around for a minute every hour. Even fidgeting works. Your shaky leg might annoy the hell out of your co-worker, but you’re burning calories and they’re not. Screw them.
The best form of movement is dancing (believe it or not, they’ve done studies and it’s brilliant for your mood). Stick your favourite tunes on nice and loud when you’re doing tedious tasks like cleaning or stirring a risotto, and shake your bum. I guarantee you’ll be in a better mood within a minute, plus you’re moving your body. And bodies love to move. It’s what they were made to do.
If are privileged enough to have movable body parts, feel grateful for your body and make the most of that movement every chance you get.
2. Take supplements
Which supplements you take is really up to you. You may have to experiment a bit here, but hey – when is experimenting with pills usually this good for you?
The thing with supplements is this:
YOU HAVE TO TAKE THEM EVERY SINGLE DAY OR THEY DON’T WORK.
When I shared a house at college, we used to keep our vitamin supplements in a spice rack so we didn’t forget to take them. These days, I take mine with a pint of water before I go to bed. This is health multitasking, as I not only remember to take my vitamins, but I also remember to drink a pint of water before bed. Clever, huh?
There are a lot of vitamin and mineral supplements available, so it’s a bit of a minefield. The best bet is to speak with your friendly, bearded health food shop worker about any health or lifestyle concerns, but generally speaking, you want to be taking an antioxidant supplement, a mineral supplement, and some sort of omega oils.
I’ve tried loads of supplements through the years, and the ones I can’t do without are Wassen brands ‘Zinc ACE’ (antioxidants), ‘Magnesium B (b vitamins and minerals), and Eye-q omega 3 capsules. The antioxidants make me feel more energetic and help me avoid colds, the b vitamins and minerals make my mood even and stop me becoming an actual dragon every three weeks, and the omega oils help to keep my brain from exploding when I have a deadline and someone asks me an important question.
Try some different types (but you’ll need to take them every day for a month before you see an initial difference), and see what works best for you.
How to Look Better
If the above is making you feel better, but the glow hasn’t quite kicked in yet, here are some natural, cheap and effective ways to give your outside as much love as you’ve been giving your insides.
1. The instant vitamin facelift
You will need:
Vitamin C crystals or powder (available from health food stores or online)
A small glass jar with a sealable lid
Vitamin E capsules
A natural microdermabrasion scrub (Boots Botanics range is great)
Firstly, you want to make a vitamin C serum. Add half a teaspoon of the vitamin c to half a cup of water in your jar. Replace the lid and give it a good shake. Leave to one side.
Now, dampen your freshly washed face with warm water and gently rub a conker sized blob of the scrub, in a circular motion all over your face and neck, avoiding your eye area. Do this for around three minutes, concentrating on areas of flakiness as well as areas with enlarged pores, pigmentation problems and fine lines. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
Now, grab your vitamin C solution and give it another swirl, ensuring it’s all dissolved. Using a cotton wool ball, dab plenty of the mixture all over your face and neck, concentrating on the areas mentioned above. Allow to dry.
Now, pierce two vitamin E capsules and squidge the oil into your hands. Warm the oil by rubbing your hands together and then pat all over your face. Once it’s warmed, give your whole face a good massage with the vitamin E oil, for about a minute.
Final step, look in the mirror. If you’ve done it right, you should look about ten years younger and like you’ve just returned from a fortnight in Bora Bora.
2. The beachy body scrub
You will need:
Dead Sea salt
A jar of coconut oil
Before your shower, combine three tablespoons of Dead Sea salt with six tablespoons of solid coconut oil in a small pot.
Once you’re suitably warm and wet from your shower, simply scoop out a small handful of your mixture at a time and scrub in a circular motion on your skin. Start with your right hand and arm, up to the shoulder then repeat on the left. Next, do the left hand and arm. Then scrub your right foot, working up your right leg, still working in a circular motion until you reach your bum. Repeat on the left. Next comes your bum, stomach, back, then chest and finally your neck. Don’t forget to be firm, but gentle (that’s what she said).
Once you’re all salty and oily, stand under the shower until all of the salt has been rinsed away (you’ll still be oily) and then finish with an icy blast of cold water all over for as long as you can stand it. It’s hardcore, but the Swedes swear by it, and they’re all quite easy on the eye, aren’t they?
Now towel off, to remove the worst of the coconut oil. You should now feel as smooth as a cup of hot chocolate prepared by Barry White and glowing like Rudolf on Christmas Eve.
As you can see, looking and feeling great isn’t hard, or expensive. That’s what the health and beauty industries want you to think because, after all, they wouldn’t be very good industries if they didn’t make a profit.
Many mainstream health fitness and beauty products are horribly toxic, and actually wind up making you feel and look terrible. You spend huge amounts of money and look worse than ever.
Being healthy is actually really easy. Eat naturally, move your body, and if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your face. Simple!