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Celebrity Health - Dr Ranj Singh

Image of Dr Ranj Singh © Colin Bell

Former Strictly star and TV medic Dr Ranj Singh talks to Liz Parry about his new healthy eating book

Dr Ranj Singh is well known for his warm and friendly disposition as one of the resident doctors on ITV’s This Morning, as well as the co-presenter of Save Money: Good Health. And, last year, the 39-year-old NHS clinician won further fans when he appeared as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing. Here, he talks to Your Healthy Living about his new book which aims to help readers eat healthily and lose weight without spending a fortune.

Healthy weight management and healthier lifestyles are very important issues that I have been speaking about for many years. I advise all my patients to eat healthily and maintain a healthy weight particularly now that we are seeing growing numbers of people who are overweight, obese or who have issues such as diabetes and heart conditions.

I think it is important to educate people and show them that they can be healthier without having to spend lots of money or without it being very difficult or inaccessible. That’s what my new book, Save Money: Lose Weight, is all about. Part of it involves me talking about my own journey and my struggles with trying to maintain a healthy weight. So it comes very much from a personal place.

I grew up in a busy working class family. Both my parents were working and they had three small children. We weren’t the most affluent family so, sometimes, we ended up making food choices that weren’t the healthiest, whether that was for economic reasons or convenience reasons or time reasons. So, this meant that I developed lots of habits such as not watching my portions, having a bit of a sweet tooth and not getting enough exercise, and these are things that I carried through into adulthood. But, when I was an adult and I was much more in control of my own lifestyle, that’s when I thought, “Right, I’ve got to do something about this.” And this book is there to show other people how they can do this too.

Cost is a massive factor when it comes to people’s food choices because finances are at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. People aren’t aware of what’s out there and that healthy eating doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. It’s all about education. We have 80 recipes in the book spanning breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks and puddings, and I want people to look at them and realise that they are affordable to make as well as tasty and healthy.

One of the core principles in the book is that the lessons, tips and tricks can apply to the whole family and the recipes can be enjoyed by everyone too. What we do know is that your diet is likely to be a lot more successful if you do it with someone else. So, if you’re eating the same food as your family, albeit you might be eating different portion sizes, you can still do that without it feeling like a huge effort.

Often we find that obesity and overweight tends to run in families. Part of that may be genetic but it can also be lifestyle-related as we learn our habits from each other. Often you can transform an entire family and their eating habits and their health through some basic interventions and education.

When it comes to doing more exercise, it’s about building stuff into your day-to-day life that is exercise but doesn’t feel like it. For example, there are things like walking meetings, standing meetings, using the stairs instead of the lift, getting off the bus a stop earlier and walking to work or taking part in free activities like Parkrun. Also, I think a lot of people would like to do an exercise class or go to a gym but they don’t have the confidence. What you can start out doing is looking up one of the many free exercise classes that are available online. People can do these at home just to build up their confidence.

It’s all about finding the types of exercise that you enjoy. For example, I found that I really enjoy dancing. When I was doing Strictly I became a lot fitter than I had been previously. I also toned up and lost some weight. Now, dancing is my main form of exercise. I recently did my first ever Zumba class and I loved it. I’m also just about to join a dance school so that I can do more Latin dance lessons.

I’m one of those people who definitely likes to have breakfast. I tend to go for a more protein-heavy breakfast, for example something like eggs as they help to keep you feeling full. It also means that I’m less likely to snack, especially around the 11am slump. If I do find that I want to have something, I might have a cup of tea to tide me by. Drinking something makes you less likely to snack because sometimes when you feel hungry you’re actually thirsty.

For lunch I will try to go for something like a soup or a salad, again making sure that I’ve got a good amount of protein in there. I like bread but I don’t eat a lot of it. In the afternoon, if I start feeling hungry, then I might have some fruit or a protein-based snack. I’ll finish the day with a healthy dinner and sometimes I might reward myself with a pudding but I try not to eat too many of those because I have a sweet tooth. I just try to keep my diet as balanced as possible.

I try to eat healthily. I don’t always get it right but that’s fine as I don’t think anyone gets it completely right. I don’t deny myself anything. It’s all about having the right amount of things and eating in moderation rather than saying “I can’t have chocolate” or “I can’t have that drink”. For me, you are much more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan if you allow yourself a few things that you might crave.

I think it’s important to take a holistic approach to health; you can’t take anything in isolation. Physical and mental wellbeing go hand in hand – you can’t really look after one without looking after the other. Physical activity releases endorphins that make us feel good. Inactivity can make us feel groggy and tired and that can affect our mental wellbeing.

My day job in the NHS is all about helping people to live better and healthier lives and my job in the media is exactly the same – it’s an extension of that. So, I use my media platform to try to spread healthier living messages out to families and children and young people. I’m very lucky to be able to do that and it’s a very important job.

Save Money Lose Weight by Dr Ranj Singh is published by Bantam Press, priced at £14.99.

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