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Healthy Eating

What are the challenges to improving your diet ?  

We live in a world now where it is much easier to consume an unhealthy diet with fast and convenient food on our doorstep at a low cost. An un-healthy diet and obesity are major risk factor for chronic diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A recent study conducted across 16 different counties highlighted that the prevalence of obesity ranged from 74-86% in women and 69-77% in men. 

Obesity is not an individual problem it is spread across a societal level and requires a multi-disciplinary approach to improving dietary habits 

Its not as easy as saying eat heathier as there can be multiple deep -rooted factors that need to be addressed holistically prior to changing someone’s eating behaviour for example knowledge, cooking skills, eating habits growing up, cultural differences, budget, location, time, the influence of family and friends and pre- conceived beliefs.

Why should you improve your diet ?

Providing your body with the good quality nutrients and adequate energy provides multiple benefits 

  • reduce risk of disease
  • longer life expectancy 
  • more energy and less fatigue 
  • greater muscle function 
  • Strengthens bone and tissue’s 
  • Improved digestive system function 
  • supports health pregnancies and breastfeeding 
  • key to supporting you maintaining a healthy weight.
Diet

A high-quality diet is one that contains minimally processed, unrefined foods like fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, health fats and protein sources. You can see what foods encompasses a healthy diet in the Eat Well Guide below.

Lower quality foods are ones that are refined sugar and grains, highly processed snack foods, high sugar beverages, foods high in saturated and transfats.

Understanding Portion Sizes

Below are some useful resources created by the British Heart Foundation to help you see what one portion looks like. You can use these to compare to your current portion sizes to see where you might be similar or might want to improve on.

Setting up your plate

How-To-Plate-Up

Top tips to help you start your diet strategy. 

Understanding what a nutritious diet looks like is the first step, here are some tips to start building the foundations. 

  1. Establish a daily eating structure that can work for you on the majority of days across the week. This might be separated into larger main meals and snacks or small frequent meals 
  2. Write a food log for yourself and start to become aware of what trends occur in your weekly eating. You can feedback to yourself on what you might be doing well and where you might be slipping up 
  3. Start to then become familiar with what high quality protein sources, carbohydrate and fat sources look like using resources like the eatwell guide 
  4. Start to become aware of your portion sizes and how you are setting your plate up 
  5. Map out your day to decide which of these foods you are going to enjoy at each meal/ snack and vary across the day. 
  6. Become familiar with being prepared especially if you work during the day. Being prepared is essential to staying on track to making progress. The main reason why might be falling short with your nutrition is failing to plan the best you can for your week ahead 
  7. Focus on improving your quality prior to worrying about your quantity 
Top tips Diet

Sustainable Diet vs FAD 

  • FAD is an abbreviation of fast acting diet. Examples of FAD which you have probably heard are zero or low carb, liquid diet, keto, paleo, etc.  These are all dietary approaches that promise quick and faster results, commonly undertaken as the first line of reaction when an individual decided they want to lose weight. 
  • While you will see an initial sharp drop in weight, the majority of this will be water and not fat mass. Carbohydrates hold water and many of these diets will favour a low carbohydrate approach, meaning your body will be holding onto less water. 
  • Sustainability is the greatest downfall of the FAD’s. How realistic is it to maintain a long-term healthy lifestyle of shakes or zero carbohydrates? The answer is its not, the biggest problem with these aggressive approaches is the weight regain.
  • FAD’s can be restrictive meaning the chance of weight regain is significantly higher with recent research showing individuals regaining double the weight they lost ! So you’re not one but two steps behind where you started, making it even harder to bounce back. 
  • Choosing a more sustainable approach will enable you to create a better relationship with the food you eat for a long term healthy lifestyle and avoid yo yo ballooning and crash dieting 
  • A more sustainable approach to improving your diet may include a longer timeframe, starting by increasing the quality of your meals and snacks whilst still choosing foods you enjoy, managing your portion sizes and being consistent to a structure you can adhere too long term 
FAD

Hydration 

Dehydration can occur without even being noticed. This term is used to describe when the body lacks enough water to function properly. 

You may be feeling tired, dizzy, weak, have a headache or dry mouth these are common signs of dehydration. 

More serious signs can lead to cognitive impairment, fainting, rapid heartbeat or unable to urinate. 

How can you increase your water intake? 

  • Have 500ml upon wake and 500ml alongside each meal 
  • Carry a large water bottle
  • Set reminders on your phone 
  • Eat hydrating foods such as cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon 
  • You can add zero sugar cordial to your water to make it more enjoyable to drink.
Hydration

Staying motivated 

Getting started is the most difficult part and requires quite a few stages of behaviour change.  Here are some top tips to keep you on track. 

  • Pick a goal that is strong enough to keep you on track. Eg you might want to get healthier so you can be more active with your kids rather than ‘I want to drop this weight for a holiday’
  • Take each day as it comes don’t think too far ahead as it can be overwhelming. Just focus on what you have Infront of you in that day and the boxes you need to tick to take one step closer to the person you aspire to be 
  • Reward yourself. Try to use the majority of your week (80/85%) staying on track with your targets and use the other 15/20% to enjoy your time away from targets eg going out for a meal, ordering some food, socialising with friends
  • Discipline is your strongest weapon over motivation. The first 4 weeks are the hardest and where you are building your level of discipline without realising. This is going to be essential when you get to the days you won’t want to be on track with your targets and your body will start to automatically turn to discipline to pull you through rather than motivation 
  • You aren’t going to be 100% every single day its not possible, the idea is to not be 0%. This meaning if something goes wrong and you had a bet start to the day, don’t let it throw your day or week off you can still pick the rest of the day up
  • Remember your feelings of your actions. So if you are having major cravings or want to miss a day of activity, remember the cycle that happens when you do this. For example, you might feel guilty and upset with yourself for that 5 seconds of temporary happiness or worse you might start building up days of being off the ball making it harder to get back on the horse 
Motivated