A new year is upon us. Promise yourself this year, you will take care of you a little bit more. Here are 16 practical ways how.
1. Make time for you
How often do you think “I wish I had more time”, “I need more hours in the day”, “who has time for that?” or, my personal favourite, “I need a day between Sunday and Monday”? Life is so busy that we almost never unplug. You are constantly doing more, achieving more, caring for more people. You try to get every done perfectly, everything apart from looking after yourself. Between partners, children, work, and social obligations, it’s so hard to take as little as 30 minutes just for you. In fact you might even feel guilty. Creating personal time needs to top your priorities list for the New Year. Know that when you take time for yourself to relax, unwind, do things you enjoy or do nothing at all, you end up happier, healthier and feeling better.
2. Taste the Rainbow
A 2014 survey found that only 14% of a diverse group of Americans eat three servings of fruit a day compared to 16% in 2013. The same study found that only 20% eat three servings of vegetables. Homemade smoothies are one of my favourite ways to pack in the goodness of raw fruit and veg. Smoothie making or juicing are excellent ways to experiment with new produce and increase your sources of minerals, vitamins and disease fighting agents.
3. Get checked out
The clock is ticking and the older we get, the more critical it is to check that all’s well in our bodies. Dr Deyo Famuboni , a Nigerian born London GP explains “Breast cancer affects one in eight women and so being breast aware is key to picking up early signs and seeking treatment”. She stresses the importance of having cervical smears every three years until the age of 49. Following this, having the smear every five years, unless otherwise indicated by your doctor, is sufficient.
If you are sexually active, Famuboni says that it is critical to get sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings done. Chlamydia, common in people between the ages of 18 and 24, is easily detected and treated. Hepatitis B has a higher infection rate in some African countries than HIV, but isn’t spoken of. It will leave you fatigued and jaundiced and if untreated, it can be passed down through childbirth and cause long-term liver problems.
4. Say Yes to Omega-3
I said it last year, and I’ll say it again. Eat more seafood. Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically the type found in salmon, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, seem to be helpful in people with severe depression according to a Columbia university study. They also promote fat burning, halt new fat cell creation, and stimulate the secretion of leptin. Leptin stabilises blood sugar, decreases appetite, and promotes the burning of body fat and belly fat in particular, according to the US National Institute of Health.
5. Eat the chocolate
Made from the seed of the cocoa tree and loaded with nutrients, quality dark chocolate contains even more antioxidant activity than blueberries and acai berries. Studies show that dark chocolate (not the sugary creamy kind) can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes and improve brain and skin health.
6. Stay energised
Many women struggle with energy issues, according to experts. Women are working harder, staying plugged in for longer and being everything to everyone, but struggling all the way. Switching off from social media as often as you can, increasing your intake of alkaline food such as fruits and leafy greens, doing more exercise are just a few of the ways you can get and stay energised.
7. Fuel your happiness
The burgeoning world of nutritional psychiatry is revealing that what you eat matters greatly to your mental health. Co-author of The Happiness Diet and clinical professor of psychiatry, Dr Drew Ramsey says, “Emotions begin in biology, with two nerve cells rubbing together, and those nerve cells are made of the nutrients in food.” In other words, your body cannot make mood regulating neuro-transmitter serotonin without iron and tryptophan, which you get from food. Or if fed refined sugars, growth factors of neurotrophins in the brain are reduced. Neurotrophins prompt the growth of new brain cells in the part of the brain that is key to forming and retaining memories. It has been noted that this part of the brain, the hippocampus, is smaller in people with depression. There are foods and eating habits that can lead to oxidative stress, but antioxidants like vitamins C, E and beta carotene, and flavonoids like quercetin, have been shown to repair and prevent oxidative stress. So eat good-mood food, which is a diet that focuses more on whole unprocessed foods, colourful fruit and veg, lean protein, and healthy fats.
8. Get moving
Shed the lazy you and increase your activity level. Take walks, do household chores like vacuuming, dusting, sweeping and washing your car. Not only will you feel more accomplished and have a tidy, organised home (and head), you will be burning extra calories too.
9. Treat yourself
You work so hard, reward yourself. Whether it is as little as a new pair of shoes, a manicure, a day at the spa, a night out with your favourite girls or as big as a holiday, treat yourself. Life is short. Enjoy it while you can.
10. Stand straight
Posture is up there in terms of things to look after. Along with eating right, exercising, and getting quality sleep, good posture will help you do things with more energy, and less stress and fatigue. The importance of good posture in an overall fitness program is often overlooked and in fact, the benefits of good posture may be among the best kept secrets of the current fitness movement. Without good posture, your overall health and total efficiency may be compromised. Because the long-term effects of poor posture can affect digestion, breathing, muscles, joints and ligaments. A person who has poor posture may often be tired or unable to work efficiently or move properly.
11. Sleep soundly
Adequate sleep is critical to physical and mental wellbeing. Research shows that lack of sleep is linked to everything from the common cold to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity to even mental health. Adequate and quality sleep improves mental focus, physical performance and cardiovascular health, curbs inflammation in the body, eases stress, and helps burn fat. So you see; the benefits of sleep go beyond banishing dark circles.
12. Nix the sugar
I can’t begin to explain how your brain, liver, waistline and immune system would benefit if you cut out processed sugars from your life. Insulin resistance, a by-product of overindulgence in the processed foods and sugars, is a stepping stone to diabetes, which, according to Dr Famuboni is one to watch out for African women. Read labels to be aware of added sugars; plan ahead, if going to a friend’s house for dinner, offer to bring a dessert and make it with no added sugar, quit emotional eating, and experiment with fruits of the world.
13. Relearn nutrition guidelines
One of the most challenging things for women is accepting that some of the things we know to be true are not true at all. There are all kinds of myths out there. Educate yourself about how and what to eat. Coffee is not breakfast, eggs are not bad for you, low fat and ‘diet’ options should not be options at all, and the list goes on. Be done with dieting. Starving all day and bingeing all night or 2 days later is not just pointless, it is bad for you. Dr Famuboni says, “The healthy lifestyle choices we make now, will sustain us for many years to come.”
14. Drink green tea
Green tea boosts metabolism, and has great antioxidants. The mood-enhancing and energy-producing benefits of green tea can also help you work a little harder during your fat-burning workout.
15. Try healthy swaps
This is one of my favourites. Getting more veggies and colour is something that we could all stand to make more of a priority. Try cauliflower mash for mashed potatoes, coconut cream for dairy creams and yogurt in sauces, spiralised carrots or courgettes for spaghetti, riced cauliflower or cabbage for rice—the possibilities are endless.
16. Be kind to yourself
Focus on what you are doing now rather than the number on the scale or the indulgence of yesterday. When tomorrow comes, right now will be yesterday. So just focus on today and don’t beat yourself up about the past. Also, if you adopt a no added sugar policy as much as possible, then you can truly enjoy that occasional piece of cake or banofee pie without guilt.
Words by NAW Health and Wellbeing Editor – Orjiugo Oguguo