Making positive changes to our lifestyle can be difficult. We get into bad habits and changing these takes time. Here’s some tips which helped me change my diet to improve not only my physical health but also my mental health.
I love my treats and cutting things out completely and quickly just doesn’t work for me. I soon end up craving sugar, carbs and eventually giving up and bingeing. I’ve slowly phased out things like gluten, dairy and processed sugars. I also haven’t completely cut them out, that’s because I believe a little of what we love isn’t a bad thing – it’s about balance.
Try to plan your meals. I find it much easier if I plan what I’m going to have over the coming week, that’s including snacks. If I can I batch cook, so for example if I make Spaghetti Bolognese I make a big batch and then portion and freeze it. This helps save so much time, especially for busy parents – and it’s cheaper! Some of my meals I know the kids won’t like, so I may end up making two different meals but keep it simple as you can so it’s not a huge task (laughing at ‘naive before kids Sarah’ who swore her kids would always eat what we did)
I’m currently a big fan of the easy, season chicken in a bag meals such as ‘So Juicy’. My kids love it, we have it with vegetables, or salad, some gluten free pasta etc it’s so easy and quick.
I’m clearly not a professional but personally I think a little of what you like isn’t a bad thing. If you’ve had a tough/good week and you want to destress/celebrate with your favourite food then why not? It’s about balance, we can’t live on sugar, fat and carbs for every meal of the day but now and again it’s not a bad thing. Don’t feel guilty for having some of what you love.
Fruit and Veg
Try to eat as much fruit and veggies as you can. I try to have half of my plate filled with fresh fruit or veg. As a busy mum sometimes I get the frozen mixed veg, carrots, peas, sweet corn, runner beans – you can even get some which you put in the microwave for 2 minutes – so even if time is a pressure you can still eat vegetables. I always made excuses and things like this can help. Salad doesn’t really take that long to cut, even if I can’t be bothered, I’m always glad I have done it after.
Drink plenty of water, this is so important. Summer is coming so be sure to increase your water intake. Being dehydrated can make you lethargic and affect concentration, also it gives me terrible headaches if I don’t drink enough, so be sure to keep yourself hydrated.
The only two exercises I ever truly enjoyed growing up were swimming and belly dancing. I gave up my swimming sessions when I became a teenager and I gave up my passion for belly dance when I fell pregnant and had a scare during my pregnancy. I never took it back up due to my anxiety (although I’m determined to start again!) I was on the netball and hockey teams in school which were fun but I wasn’t in love with them.
Exercise always seemed a bit boring to me. Last year I started attending the gym, I don’t know if it was the hour of peace away from the kids or the gym I enjoyed but it was great. I always came out feeling amazing – well mentally amazing, physically I was like jelly! Exercise can be simple though, walking is easy and free and the fresh air can do wonders. Join a class with some friends, or do something like a DVD at home. There’s lots of different things we can do and fit into our day, it’s just making the time to do it.
As much as it pains me to say it, sitting around eating cheesecake isn’t great for mental health. It’s ok to do it now and again but not every day. Being active, staying hydrated and eating well really does help us both physically and mentally. Remember though it’s all about balance, find a healthy balance which works for you.
If you need medical, professional advice contact your local GP or nurse. You can read an informative, professional article on diet here on the Mind Website.
What do you find helps? Share your tips below
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