5 Bitesize steps for a healthier 2021
BY JENNY TSCHIESCHE BSc(Hons) Dip (ION) FdSc BANT
5 Bitesize steps for a healthier 2021
Introducing changes to your health is something many of us start to think about at this time of the year. It’s a time of new beginnings and fresh starts, especially after the annus horribilis that was 2020. Whilst a lot of focus tends to be on losing weight it’s been shown that focusing on health reaps greater rewards in terms of reaching optimal weight than a direct focus on calories in versus calories out. Some of the most beneficial approaches to improving your health are as follows:
Introduce fermented foods
Our ancestors really did know best. All over the world and dating back as far as the 6000 B.C. food has been fermented as a method of preservation. The bacteria that is generated when foods are allowed to safely ferment is known to increase the diversity and therefore health of the microbiome (our fine balance of bacteria in our digestive tract). The more diverse the range the better. Diversity of gut bacteria is linked to better mental health and being lighter in weight amongst other benefits.
Try sauerkraut, kimchi, miso (not with boiling water but hot water instead) and kombucha in 2021.
Eat only when you are stomach hungry
There are two classes of hunger – stomach hunger and mouth hunger. Stomach hunger, as the name suggests, is when our stomach is growling or when we know that we could eat anything, and it would satisfy our need for food. Mouth hunger is tied more to our emotions and is not about the physical need for food. It tends to be linked to cravings for specific foods which we must eat immediately and will feel guilty about eating afterwards. Tuning into and satisfying only stomach hunger is tough but it’s a worthwhile exploration. It reaps great rewards.
Try to eat only when truly hungry.
Match your meals to your circadian rhythm
It’s been the age-old dilemma - should we take breakfast or not? It really comes down to your circadian rhythm. People tend to fall into two camps - they’re either an owl or a lark. Larks tend to be ‘up with the birds’ i.e. early in the morning and therefore they tend to be breakfast people. Those who tend to burn the midnight oil and stay up later into the evening/night tend not to be breakfast people. It’s not just breakfast that this applies to of course. However, if you’ve started the day with breakfast i.e. if you’re a lark then you’re probably going to want lunch about 5-6 hours later. Likewise, if you’ve not breakfasted i.e. you’re an owl you may want an early lunch or a brunch. These mealtime decisions can really help to normalise your bodies circadian rhythm and that of your microbiome too believe it or not and this has been shown to help optimise health and weight.
Try eating breakfast if you’re a lark but brunch if you’re an owl.
Don’t follow the crowd
Whatever you decide to work towards health-wise should be specific to you and your health goals. There will be lots of diets and programmes on offer at this time of year and tempting though it may be you should work on something that suits you. Whilst your friend may be going fully plant-based that might not suit you. Your partner may be quitting alcohol but that all or nothing approach might not suit you either. Try and work on achieving a health goal or goals that suit your own objectives and your way of eating and drinking.
Try and set your own personal health goals not those of your friend or partner.
Cook your own
Making your own food from scratch means you’re in control of what’s going in. It’s nice to know that you can actually pronounce the names of the ingredients you’re using and that really you don’t need any added artificial flavours, preservatives and colours to create great-tasting and looking dishes. Cooking can also become a mindful activity and mindfulness is something that helps you tune into stomach hunger. In fact, when you cook your own food you start to get digestive secretions flowing before you have even taken a bite which means you break the food down more efficiently, when you do start eating it, into nutrients your body can use not only for fuel but also to achieve optimal health.
Try and cook your own evening meals from scratch 4 nights per week.