By expert Nutritional Therapist, Maxine Sheils
We are so excited to share with you these easy and simple tips for Optimal:Health by Maxine Sheils, a registered Nutritional Therapist empowering clients every day to regain control of their health. Here at Lifebox, we aim to achieve optimal health through healthy, gluten free snacks!
Maxine is the founder of Optimal:Health, and takes great pride in championing clients; allowing them to flourish with education and support to achieve their health goals.
The Quest for Optimal:Health
We’re all in search for the quick fix that will take away those niggling health concerns we feel on a day to day basis; from wanting to lose those extra few pounds, feel more energised, be able to run up the stairs without feeling out of breath, to wanting to feel truly happy and as though you’re getting the most out of life. Add to this that we’re faced with conflicting views on a day-to-day basis from ‘specialists’ on TV, over-night experts on social media, and of course, the extremely opinionated views of those around you, it’s not hard to get lost in what really is the best way to be healthy. Whilst unfortunately there is no quick-fix to transform you from feeling sluggish to taking on the world, there are many things that you can do that will all work together to support the body in achieving Optimal:Health.
1. Stay hydrated
It’s astonishing the amount of clients I see that simply do not drink enough water throughout the day. We need water to help keep the cells of the body hydrated, to keep bowel movements regular, for the blood to carry nutrients and oxygen to the body, to regulate the body’s temperature, and so much more. Remember, the body is made up of roughly 60% water, so we need to ensure that we’re providing an adequate and regular supply to support these functions.
Tip: I like to keep a large glass of mineral water next to my bed to consume on rising. The body will not have received any fluids for many hours, but will have lost fluids through sweating, and simply breathing, so now is the optimal time to rehydrate the body.
2. Eat a rainbow
I often get asked which foods are the most nutritious, but the truth is, all natural foods are nutritious, containing a wide range of nutrients to varying degrees, from vitamins and minerals, to phytonutrients and orthomolecular nutrients. It is therefore really important to vary your diet as much as you can so that you can benefit from a wide range of these nutrients. I see far too often that many people get stuck in a rut with their diet and often eat the same two or three options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even if these meals are highly nutritious, you’re still limiting the amount of nutrients in your diet by not providing enough variety. Healthy, vegan snacks are an excellent way to diversify your daily nutrients. Aim for maximum variation.
Tip: I recommend clients print out a rainbow chart of foods and try to eat at least one food from each colour on a daily basis.
3. Get your essential sleep
No good diet will ever undo poor sleep habits. Sleep is required to support so many different aspects of health, I think we can all agree that after a bad night’s sleep, we simply do not feel our best. Sleep is the essential time for the mind and body to repair from both the mental and physical stressors of the day, leaving us feeling refreshed and ready for a new day. Aim for an average of 8 hours sleep per night which can be made easier by having a routine bedtime and wake time.
Tip: If you struggle to fall asleep easily as your mind is still active, try listening to a bedtime story, available on the apps like Calm.
4. Love your macros
Those ‘diet’ recommendations are changing all the time, leaving us a nation scared to eat fats because they make us fat, carbs because they make us fat, and protein because the protein and gym industry will have you believe this is all you need. Fear not, they are called ‘macro’-nutrients for a reason, they are each an important source of nutrition, and energy, for the body.
Contrary to popular belief, fats do not make you fat, in fact, they’re required to help produce our hormones, protect the vital organs of the body, keep you skin and hair healthy, and even support cell function and structure. I know I’d quite like my cells to be able to function thank you!
Protein is required to build and repair tissue, make neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that can make us feel good) and to build bone, muscle, skin and blood. It can be confusing working out how much, or how little, you need but so many of my clients don’t even reach the minimum requirements required to sustain the bodies most basic needs. You can work out your minimum requirement for protein by multiplying your ideal body weight in kilograms by 0.8 to give you your minimumprotein requirements in grams.
Tip: Start reading labels and noting how much protein you are eating on a daily basis. I’ll be surprised if many of you are reaching the minimum requirement. Lifebox energy is the perfect subscription gift for those looking for a protein boost.
Carbs get a bad wrap but let me assure you, they are the bodies preferred source of energy. The difference you need to be aware of is between simple carbs (cakes, biscuits and white bread) which provide a quick burst of energy but then leave you craving more to boost your energy again; and complex carbs (starchy vegetables, legumes and whole grains) which provide a slower release of energy to the body to help sustain energy levels for longer. Don’t fear carbs, simply make wiser choices.
5. Stay curious
We are by nature, creatures of habit, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what happened to that inner child who used to question everything. As a nation, we learn to silence that inner child and accept the things we do not understand. However, it’s ok to ask ‘why’ and ‘how’,especiallywhen it comes to health. We become so used to feeling mediocre that we just learn to accept it rather than asking ourselves, our GP, or a healthcare practitioner, ‘whydo I feel like this?’. Many people often also accept what they’re told rather than applying the same principle of being curious. I have seen many clients who have been to see their GP and told that their results are all clear, but this doesn’t mean that your GP is your only option. Stay curious, ask questions, do some research, ask others. You never know what you might discover.
Tip: The curious inner child can be applied to all areas of your life. If you’re not happy about something, ask yourself why, and think about ways in which you can change your situation for the better.
6. Look after yourself, you deserve it!
You really do! I often see in clinic that clients know exactly what they need to do to change their health for the better because they practice it on a daily basis, cooking up extremely nutritious meals for their children, only to grab a quick bite to eat with not much nutritional value for themselves. Or the client that’s too busy dealing with everyone else’s problems, and doesn’t have time to deal with their own. Don’t forget, you can’t pour from an empty cup, you must take care of yourself first.
Tip: Do one thing for you each day, whether it’s taking time to make the dentist appointment you’ve been putting off, or simply having twenty minutes to read your favourite book and enjoy a cup of tea, you really do deserve it!
7. Move more
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that we were not born to stay still. You only need to look at a baby to understand that, from kicking their legs, to stretching their fingers, they even wriggle away in their sleep. And yet, many of us have become so still, but leading a sedentary lifestyle can have multiple implications on your health. You don’t have to be running marathons or at the gym every day to move, you can do it wherever you are, you can do it right now, no equipment required. Dance around the kitchen, run around the park, squat whilst you’re brushing your teeth. It doesn’t need to be arduous, you just need to move.
Tip: Think about times in your day when you could move more, from a quick run up and down the stairs, to a walk around the block, or even starting to cycle to and from work.
8. Find calm
We do not switch off. From the moment the alarm wakes us up in the morning, to the moment we fall asleep, the mind is constantly receiving data. Whether it’s from social media accounts, emails, the TV, radio, checking banking, paying bills, organising your weekend, planning when you’re next going to visit your Mum, and that’s before we even step into the office. No wonder we have become a nation in the grip of a stress epidemic. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when we’re constantly doing something, but just for a moment, do nothing, absolutely nothing. I imagine most of you have forgotten how to simply do nothing, and the thought of trying is enough to send you to the notes section of your phone to write another ‘to do’ list. Seek out ways to find calm, a relaxing bath or even a foot soak, being in nature, having a massage, play soothing music, and most importantly, learn to breathe properly.
Tip: There are so many apps available now to help you calm the mind, mediate, or even teach you breathing techniques. My favourites are Calm, Breethe and Headspace.
9. Keep your glass half full
The mind is the most powerful tool you have, and you have the power to change the way you view everything. This is so important when it comes to health. How many of you indulge in a piece of cake/glass of wine/a whole pizza, and then simply feel awful about yourself afterwards? Is this you? Don’t be surprised, most people are guilty of this, but it’s important to focus on the positive aspects of your health, and not the bad. Yes maybe you did have a pizza on Friday night, but if your meals for the rest of the week were healthy, then focus on how much you have nourished your body at these times. With everything, it’s simply about balance, and I like to keep that balance at 80:20 so if 17 out of 21 meals in a given week are healthy, of course you can have 4 meals that are slightly less healthy. I also prefer to not call these meals ‘cheats’ or ‘treats’, they’re simply meals that form a well-balanced diet when put into perspective.
Tip: Allow yourself a moment of pride for the times you have nourished your body.
10. Learn to love yourself
Ok, this might sound a little crazy but being able to take a more positive view applies to all areas of life. Again, how many of you focus on the one part of your body that you dislike rather than appreciating the other parts of your body that you’re quite proud of? We spend far too much time comparing ourselves to others, who are also comparing themselves to others and so on and so forth. In doing so, we’re all striving to become something that doesn’t exist.
When we start to take a new view on things, we start to feel better about ourselves and life becomes more enjoyable.
Tip: When you are ready for your day, look and the mirror and tell yourself something positive. This can seem daunting to begin with so start by simply smiling at yourself and wishing your reflection a good day. You’ll soon get the hang of it and be stepping out the door feeling good about yourself rather.
As previously mentioned, there is no quick-fix to achieving Optimal:Health as being healthy simply doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build healthy and sustainable habits, but a few tips will definitely get you heading in the right direction.