How To Get Healthy – Part One
Chances are, if you’re reading this, then you’ve just had your *ding* moment – which means you’re sick of thinking about how the clothes will fit every time you go shopping, focusing only on what you consider your worst bits when you step out of the shower, recoiling whenever someone takes a picture and feeling the need to cover up your stomach/arms/legs for fear of the dreaded tagging on Facebook. Breathe. It’s OK. If you’re genuinely unhappy with your weight and would like to gain control over it/eating habits and generally just want to get healthy, then I’m here for you. I’ve been there. It sucks! But the good news is that it is something you can change at any time- it’s never too late to start getting healthy, but the best time to start is now. Below are some basic guidelines I have put together to help you out with your own journey, based on my experience. Enjoy, and I wish you the best of luck!
Before I get into the facts, I’d like to point out that these are all plans that have worked for me and a few, trusted partners. While I can wholeheartedly approve, it’s important that you don’t make yourself ill! If you have any dietary commitments (coeliac disease, lactose intolerance etc) or health problems (for example, I take beta-blockers, which slow down my heart rate, so I take extra care when working out to make sure my body gets enough oxygen) then be sensible with your lifestyle. Basically, get savvy (by reading very interesting and brilliant posts like this), stay healthy and when in doubt talk to your doctor. Glad we got that sorted- now onto the good stuff!
First thing’s first: diet is key to becoming healthy. Yup. I’m sorry. The good thing is that when I say diet, I don’t mean rabbit food and a borderline eating disorder (despite what every other magazine will tell you, it is NOT healthy to yo-yo diet and eat a huge deficit of calories).
Why Calories Are Important
Calories are bounced about all over the show these days- we’re told that lower is better and we therefore assume that eating as few as possible must be the healthiest way to live. Not so! Calories are essentially the energy we need to keep ourselves fully-functioning, able-bodied people and your body burns these even if you are doing nothing.
Now, each person has their own resting metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns these calories) which is personal to yourself and as a result of a whole range of environmental and natural causes (genetics, lifestyle, diet etc.). This rate can go up or down depending on how active you are- with the most active people having the highest metabolic rate, which is one of the reasons why those who exercise burn more calories and become leaner/gain less fat. Those who are not active will continue to have a resting metabolic rate.. do you see where I’m going with this? Less exercise-> lower rate-> less calories burned -> more calories stored as fat.
No matter which diet you use, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on how many calories you eat- they add up pretty easily and, as we now know, excess energy is stored as fat. Essentially, being aware of how much you need to survive (which you can find on a variety of sites, such as this one) and how much you are- or aren’t- eating is the good foundation to any healthy lifestyle.
But, unfortunately, in order to be the healthiest you can be, just counting them isn’t quite that simple. You also need to be aware of how much protein, fat and carbohydrates you need/are eating, as well. This is because you could easily eat all of your calories in one sitting, without going over, but still not give your body the nourishment it truly needs. Which would leave you hungry- or worse, over a longer period- very unwell (here’s where I drop words like diabetes, heart problems etc.).
Diet? What Diet?
Personally, I use macros to keep an eye on what I’m putting in to my body. So, as an example, for my body height, weight, type and the amount of energy (calories) I use just to exist (which currently stands at 2273 calories per day), I need 202g of carbs, 150g of protein and 48g of fat to make up the 1773 calories I eat per day. I currently keep a 500 calorie a day deficit in order to make sure I keep losing weight- if you want to gain weight you ADD 500 calories and figure out your macros from there. Simple, eh? The reason I like this method so much is because, as long as I hit- or at least stay very close to- those targets every day, I can eat whatever I like!
There are two things I should point out with my lifestyle: I prefer to eat clean, as it means I’m not left hungry (this means no processed crap- and I think you know exactly what I mean by that) and that I work out with full-body strength training, cardio and flexibility at least three times a week (when I’m not working, ill or moving house, I head to the gym or workout at home even more). The above is just an example for you- but you can work out your own very easily!
If it sounds complicated to work out your own needs, don’t worry- there’s an app for that!
For those with a smartphone, you can use a variety of apps to help you figure out your own macronutrional (the long, fancy word for macros) needs- I would say the most popular and trusted out there at the moment is My Fitness Pal. This is an excellent site (and app) for beginners, as you can also input your meals and work out how many calories etc. are in each meal- brilliant! If you want to try your hand at any others feel free to browse through your options (Android, Apple)
If you would like to know about other diets (LCHF, Paleo etc.) I’m happy to talk through my opinions on the matter, but I don’t want to overload you with too much information on one post, so the above is just my preference/opinion. If you want to read more about how to burn off calories and make the most out of your workouts, check out Part Two, here.