SPRING CLEAN YOUR LIFE
Traditionally, New Year’s Day is the time of year to mark new beginnings – whether it’s starting a daily exercise regime, launching a business or quitting a bad habit. But why don’t we follow nature’s lead and start our new beginnings in the spring?
For many people, the only springtime change they initiate involves mops, sponges, buckets and bleach; but this year, we’re taking spring cleaning to a whole new level. The turn of the season from winter to spring is our new January 1st, and we’re focusing on cleaning up our health, wardrobe and home.
SPRING CLEAN YOUR HEALTH
Somehow spring seems a good opportunity to make changes to our lives. It’s a time for review and renewal and once the sun starts to warm us up, we are no longer able to hide any excess we may have gained over the winter months.
Texan-born fitness expert Jessie Pavelka suggests a variety of ways for us to look at sharpening and shaping up for summer.
I believe that we should be looking after ourselves all year round, but I also feel that spring is a good time for a well-being audit on our health and that undoubtedly leads to the need to make a few changes, so I hope these few words will give you some ideas on how to step up and shape up – not just for yourself but for those around you too.
Changing your body is also about changing your mind. There are many different ways to get results in a mirror or on the scales, but the key to living well over the long term is developing the ability to love and take care of yourself no matter what else is happening in your life.
Review your lifestyle:
- Give yourself time to think back over the last four weeks. Have you been giving your body the food it needs to create fuel for energy and vitality?
- Have you been moving every day? I’m not suggesting you need to do a daily 10-mile run, but I do believe that you should move each day.
- How much good quality down time or ‘you’ time have you been gifting yourself? Have you had any time at all to just ‘be’?
- Who have you been connecting with in the past month? Are they the sort of people who would encourage and support your wellbeing journey?
If the answer to any of these is in the negative, then make the changes you need to rectify it.
I base my philosophy of true health around four simple elements or actions. EAT, SWEAT, THINK, CONNECT.
If you take the time to bring these into your life you will be amazed at how different you will feel. By eating more nutritious food, moving each day, controlling your thoughts and mixing with people who energise you, your life can become pretty special, and the cool thing is that these four actions can be absorbed into your everyday life – but you need to be aware of where you are and the changes you need to make. Today I’m going to be focusing on the first two: Eat and Sweat, the perfect recipe for spring cleaning your body.
I encourage people to see food as fuel. Many people attach food to emotions, eating when they are happy, sad, excited, stressed, instead of eating to feed the body with what it needs to perform its best each day. Some people seek solace in ice cream and sweets, while others seek comfort from takeaways. Unhealthy eating doesn’t only affect your waistline; it can also affect your energy levels and other areas of your body, including oral health and even contribute to conditions such as diabetes. If you find your unhealthy eating has caused issues such as dental problems, take the time to ensure you address these problems and take steps to fix them. An Exeter dentist, for example, will be able to help tackle cavities and toothache; a psychologist will be able to help you understand why certain foods trigger happiness and comfort.
A good way to start is to just start. Sometimes that can be the hardest part, but once you do it can become exciting, especially as you start to realise how much better making small changes can make you feel.
For those who want a kick start, you could try a short-term detox. We give our bodies a hard task every day; your liver, kidneys, colon and other systems are removing toxins from your organs, tissues and fat all the time. Everyone’s experience is different, but some of my clients report that after detoxing for a few days they notice an improvement in their energy levels, concentration and skin condition, with less bloating, indigestion, sluggishness and headaches. Many of them experience weight loss.
I would suggest that for four days you give your body a rest from coffee, sugar, alcohol and dairy foods, and eliminate all processed food and animal protein. You can go cold turkey or reduce more slowly – it’s up to you. I recommend a variety of smoothies and soups for those four days.
I’m a big fan of the breakfast smoothie – it sets you up for the day and gives your body the boost it needs; it’s also quick and convenient to prepare. For the detox, the smoothies should contain four elements:
- Fit fats (unsaturated – for example: avocado, nuts, seeds, nut butters).
- Polyphenols (found in a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, spices and herbs).
- Leafy greens (try spinach, kale, cabbage or broccoli).
- Power proteins (e.g. protein powder and yogurt and/or kefir (a fermented milk drink, similar to yogurt).
Try this one!
Green Tea Smoothie
240ml (9fl oz) brewed green tea, cooled
1 scoop protein powder
1/2 medium banana
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp ground flaxseed (linseed)
30g (1oz) fresh spinach leaves
Put all the ingredients into a blender, add ice to taste and blend until smooth.
During the detox days you should eat three soups a day; at least one of them should be vegetable based and one bean based.
Whichever soups you choose to make, they should include a combination of three of the following core elements:
- Spices and herbs (sage, thyme, ginger, rosemary, marjoram and oregano, chilli pepper, black pepper and cinnamon). They taste great and add flavour and depth without adding fat or calories.
- Cruciferous vegetables (these are the good guys – kale, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy (pak choi), broccoli, rocket, swede, watercress). They are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
- Allium family (onions, garlic, shallots, spring onions, chives and leeks have been used for centuries for their health benefits). These plants provide a rich flavour base for your soups (and many other meals) without added calories and fat.
- Pulses (legumes such as kidney beans, black beans, white beans, chickpeas, lentils). You name it, they’re all good!
Here’s one to get you started!
Carrot and Ginger Soup
Serves 8; approximately 350ml (12fl oz) per serving
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
85g (3oz) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1.3kg (3lb) carrots, chopped
1.7 litres (3 pints) vegetable stock
Sea salt and ground white pepper
100g (3½oz) broccoli florets, broken into very small florets
3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and sweat the onion, garlic, ginger and cumin for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Pour in the stock and simmer until the carrots are tender. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth, adding salt and pepper to taste, then, if you wish, pass through a fine mesh strainer. Blanche the broccoli in boiling water for 5 minutes until bright green and stir into the soup. Serve sprinkled with chopped chives.
If you are going through a four-day detox, I would suggest that the best exercise for you is light cardio. Walking or light jogging or maybe swimming. You want to avoid long distances and remember that your body is dealing with a lot as you cleanse through this period. Food and exercise go hand in hand and you have to adapt one to suit the other depending on your ultimate aim. Keeping the body moving is the best way to assist the cleansing process.
After the four-day cleanse you can start to build up on your food and your exercise. Add plenty of protein into your diets and try to get in five meals a day (three main meals and two healthy snacks). Also, find an exercise that you enjoy and see how you can challenge yourself each day. Cardio is key when it comes to weight loss. I am also a huge fan of resistance training which doesn’t necessarily take off the pounds, but rather adds lean muscle mass to make the body more efficient in its BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate – the rate at which we burn calories at rest). For all the female exercisers out there – don’t be afraid to pick up a weight.
Overall, once you get yourself into routine, exercise or movement holds you accountable and you’re more likely to make better decisions with your food and in life in general if you give yourself the gift of movement.
Finally, here are an additional three bite-size tips that can be incorporated into your daily routine:
- Eat more fish. Fish is a great protein source that is low in saturated fat and high in Omega 3. It’s good for brain and heart health and overall fitness.
- Add variety and colour to your plate.
- Consistency with your exercise and your food is key, but remember to rest.