No more excuses

Our natural health experts offer some tips for changing negative health habits

Let’s face it – living a perfect, healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy. When you are juggling a busy work and home life, the best intentions can sometimes slip a little and we find ourselves making excuses for why we are not meeting our health and fitness goals. Don’t be discouraged though! Here are some suggestions for how to banish the excuses and develop some new healthy habits.

Excuse no 1

“I’m so busy at work and looking after my family – I simply don’t have the time to exercise!”

Try this: “The first thing to work on is on changing your thinking from, ‘I don’t have time for exercise’, to ‘I have to make time for exercise’”, says Melinda Nicci, sport psychologist, professional fitness trainer and founder of www.baby2body.com. “Say those words to yourself 10 times in the morning and before bed, or leave motivating notes around your house – whatever it takes to embody that idea. That said, there will be days when you can’t squeeze in a 45-minute workout – but that’s okay because small efforts add up! Start by merging your daily activities with exercise, and it will become easier to fit fitness into your life – and you’ll want to stick with it because it will make you feel amazing! So, do squats while you brush your teeth, take the stairs wherever possible, catch up with friends at an exercise class after work, or take a walk around the neighbourhood with your family before dinner. It’s all about making exercise convenient, fun, and above all a priority for your own health and happiness!”

Excuse no 2

“I can’t give up my nightly glass of wine – it helps me to unwind after a stressful day.”

Try this: “It’s dangerously easy to fall into pre-programmed habits and associations such as stressful day at work equals a glass of wine,” says Suzy Glaskie, holistic health coach and founder of Peppermint Wellness (www.peppermintwellness.co.uk). “Like all habits, though, this can be changed – but it does take will and determination to do that. The first thing is just to stop for a minute when you feel that familiar pull to the bottle of wine. Then check in with how you are feeling (e.g. overwhelmed or under-appreciated or scared) and just ask yourself honestly: ‘what is it I really need right now?’ It might be that what you’re really craving is a hug, a hot bath or a chat with a friend – either way, it won’t be a glass of Merlot. Be mindful that it can take 30 days to lose that ingrained reaction to reach for the bottle, so make things easier for yourself by having something comforting and relaxing to hand that signals the end of the working day – maybe a luxurious scented candle, or some gorgeous new pyjamas.”

Excuse no 3

“I rely on my morning cup of coffee to feel awake and alert - I can't give it up!”

Try this: “Having a coffee in the morning, provided it’s not laden with sugar, syrups or creams, is actually a good way to wake up and make you feel alert,” says Alexis Poole a Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) with www.spoon.guru. “Moderate caffeine consumption has also been linked to improved cognition, reaction time and mood in adults. On the other hand, overdoing caffeine may result in negative effects on anxiety, sleeping and may promote headaches. The Food Standards Agency do not provide a limit on how much caffeine is too much, but advise that intakes should be limited to 300-400mg per day. This equates to around four to five cups of coffee, although children, pregnant women and those with heart conditions should be having much less. If you’re trying to reduce caffeine intake, try caffeinefree teas such as peppermint or chamomile.”

Excuse no 4

“It’s so hard to cook healthy meals at home when my children are such fussy eaters.”

Try this: “It’s easy to feel frustrated and powerless in a battle of wills but try to remember you are the adult and you never argue with a child,” says Kirsten Davies, nutritionist and founder of the Food Remedy (thefoodremedy.squarespace.com). “Try to hide your frustrations and give them lots of praise and encouragement when they eat well and/or try new things. Continue to offer your child a variety of healthy, colourful and nutritious foods, Never force your child to eat as this can create a difficult pattern where your child will use not eating as a way to gain power, which is never good. Be creative and involve your child in mealtime preparations. One of the most powerful things parents and carers of children who are fussy eaters can do is simply eat with the children. Children learn by imitation; they watch what you eat, how you eat and what you say about the food you’re eating. Eating with children also helps them learn good table manners and makes them feel included and part of the action.”

Excuse no 5

“I can’t give up sugar! I have a really sweet tooth.”

Try this: “It’s almost impossible to ‘give up’ sugar, and unhealthy as it is naturally present in fruit and vegetables,” says Claire White, author of two highly acclaimed SugarSnub guides (www.sugarsnub.co.uk). “However, for most of us it is possible to dramatically cut down. Many people use high sugar foods as treats, for example: ‘I’ve had a hard session in the gym, I’ll treat myself to a slice of cake’. But what’s the point in burning calories at the gym, just to top them back up with empty calories from sugary foods? Instead make yourself some popcorn if you want something to nibble on whilst watching TV or indulge in a relaxing bath. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that honey and agave syrup are good alternatives to sugar because these are in fact jam-packed with sugar. Instead try xylitol, a natural sugar alternative which looks and tastes just like granulated sugar and can be used to replace it like-for-like in cooking.”

Excuse no 6

“I’d love to go vegan but I don’t know where to begin.”

Try this: “Making the move to a vegan diet can seem a little daunting but it doesn’t have to be,” says Kirsten Davies. “Vegan diets can fall short of many nutrients so it’s important that you understand what the body needs and where you can find the nutrients normally found in animal products. Quinoa is a complete source of protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids. This makes it particularly beneficial for vegans. One of the easiest swaps to make is switching from cow’s milk to plant milks. There is such a great range of almond, coconut, oat and rice milks now these days. Nuts, seeds and pulses, such as beans, chickpeas, hummus and lentils, are about to become your go-to foods! Add them in meals where you would normally have meat. Think lentil and vegetable soup, cashew nuts in your stir fry, adding chickpeas to salads, falafels as snacks and topping everything from porridge to soups and salads with seeds. It’s also important to remember that lots of vegetables contain protein too; avocados, peas and broccoli all contain protein. So if you eat a wide range of vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, healthy oils and fruits you can’t go far wrong.”

Excuse no 7

“I’ve got IBS so I’m too embarrassed to use a public toilet”

Try this: “Many women with bowel issues are too embarrassed to use toilets at work or when out, so they ignore the urge to go, without realising this can deepen their problems,” explains Caroline Harmer, Education Director at leading digestive care and cleansing company Renew Life (www.renewlife.com). “If you consistently ignore the urge to have a bowel movement, eventually you may stop feeling the urge, which then leads to constipation, or deepens existing constipation. If you suffer from chronic digestive issues and your bowel movements are difficult, erratic, smelly or excessively windy, you would really benefit from using a probiotic. When treating chronic digestive issues the potency of the formula matters – therapeutic dose probiotic formulas deliver therapeutic results. So look for a 10-strain, 50 billion a day probiotic that delivers high potencies of 20 billion Lactobacilli and most especially 30 billion Bifidobacteria live bacteria to restore digestive balance – so if the urge to go comes when out and about, you will not feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.”

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