Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013
Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

A new year, a new you

Aiming for a healthier lifestyle may have been one of your New Year’s resolutions, but is it attainable in the midst of today’s frantic pressures?
Nutritional therapist Dahlia Hammouda offers some seasonal tips

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Al-Ahram Weekly

A new year has crept up on us again. We’ve made our resolutions and are dearly hoping we can commit to them before the weeks fly by and they become a distant memory yet again. We’ve promised ourselves to lose those stubborn extra pounds, to exercise more, to leave worrying and stress behind and to enjoy a calmer, fitter, more healthful existence.
Resolutions for the future can motivate us to make changes, but if we’ve subconsciously pressed “pause” on happiness until we’ve reached a certain goal, our resolutions could actually be holding us back from enjoying the here and now. This is what psychologists call the “arrival fallacy” — the belief that only when you arrive at a certain destination will you be happy. The key is working towards the right goals, but at the same time not getting hung up on the end result.
It’s good to get on the right track for wellbeing, but even better to enjoy the journey.

ARE WE TOO BUSY TO BE HEALTHY? You get up, battle through the commute to work, maybe dropping the kids off on the way, and then do a full day in the office, probably working through lunch.
After work you run a few errands and meet some family commitments before falling into bed. Amid all that, you try to eat something reasonable and think about doing some exercise. If you do find the time to eat a decent meal, the chances are you will wolf it down while texting, e-mailing or catching up on your favourite TV show. Juggling work schedules with family life causes many of us to rush every meal, leaving us feeling stressed and, no doubt, with a hefty dose of indigestion.
These days, most people are under a permanent low level of stress due to the fast pace of modern life. If our minds are always on the go, it is very difficult to listen to our bodies’ needs, so we miss the calls for help and succumb to illnesses. Instead of taking proper care of our health, we choose a quick fix to mask the problem — a painkiller for a headache or a coffee for an energy boost, for example. Because life is so manic, we feel that we “deserve” to relax, smoke, have a drink, eat junk food that tastes good and sit down and rest rather than catch that gym class.
You might not feel like you have time to be healthy, but making it a priority could actually gain you time in the long run. Adults who make time to exercise, give up smoking, maintain a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet could add 15 years to their lives suggests research from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Even tiny lifestyle tweaks could raise your profile in the health stakes. Ultimately, being healthy is all about priorities. You make time for work, family and friends, so you need to make time for yourself.

SEASONAL IMMUNITY: Winter ushers in a potentially dangerous time of year. It’s the start of the cold and flu season and a time when we can be vulnerable to other infectious diseases. It’s particularly important to keep up our bodies’ defences.
Here are a few tips to boost your immunity: eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits that are in season, such as strawberries, leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes, carrots and red cabbage.
During the winter months, sunlight is in shorter supply, and everyone is bundled up, so vitamin D — which protects the immune system — is likely to be at its lowest level. Supplementing with extra vitamin D or getting more sun is recommended.
Getting a good night’s sleep is also key. According to recent studies, people who slept an average of less than seven hours per night were three times as likely to get sick as those who averaged eight hours or more. Avoid prolonged stress. Don’t take things too seriously. Laughter is the best medicine.
Stop the immune suppressors: cut down on smoking, coffee and black tea.
Take the following supplements: vitamin C, zinc and a multi-vitamin and mineral.
Swallow a clove or two of garlic a day. Try to escape the city pollution every now and then for a breath of fresh air. Exercise regularly.

KEEP STRESS AT BAY: We all face a multitude of stressful situations, from traffic jams to money woes, security threats to worries about the children. Stress causes raised cortisol levels in the body, which leads to weight gain among other ailments. While we can’t avoid stress altogether, we can learn to manage stressful situations in healthy ways.
Among healthy tips for combating stress are taking a walk every now and then. Even a short five-minute stroll gets your muscles moving and refreshes your mind. If you’re feeling stressed at work, simply getting away from your desk can be a de-stressing device.
A long soak in a warm, relaxing bath can also help relieve tired, aching muscles and soothe away the stresses of the day. For greater benefit, why not add alkalizing mineral salts, or perhaps some soft lighting and music that enable you to shift gears from “doing” to “being”?
Often, stress and fatigue can make a caffeine and sugar fix seem very tempting. Unfortunately this can disrupt the blood sugar balance so that following an initial burst of energy you may feel tired, irritable, anxious and hungry for another quick fix of sugar. Snack on nuts and a little dried fruit rather than cakes and biscuits, and instead of tea or coffee why not try a warming and invigorating, caffeine-free herbal tea, such as anise, ginger, cinnamon or peppermint? It may also be beneficial to supplement with chromium to help regulate blood sugar levels.
A B vitamin complex and a magnesium supplement are guaranteed stress busters.
Listen to music. This allows you to isolate yourself from all other demands, so that you can quiet your mind and simply allow the music to calm you. Prepare food. The quiet act of chopping vegetables or putting ingredients together and stirring them in a pot can be a meditative experience.
THREE-DAY DETOX MAGIC: The removal of waste material — detoxification — is essential to the healthy functioning of our bodies. What better way to start the New Year than by giving your body a clean, new slate?
In just 72 hours, you can jump-start your way to a healthier body. You will be giving your liver and digestive system a needed rest so they can start flushing out old toxins from the body. For three days, you may eat all you want of fruit, vegetables and rice and use olive and sunflower oils as condiments. It’s important to eat every two to three hours to keep your blood sugar levels normal.
After the three days, and for the next seven days, add whole, natural foods such as beans, fish, chicken, grains, nuts, seeds and yoghurt, while eliminating refined sugars and caffeine.

A DIET TO CURE ALL ILLS: Why do most diets not deliver on sustained weight loss? In a word: boredom.
We start well, but after too many meals that are too restrictive, we lose interest. A good diet should provide plenty of choices and relatively few restrictions. It should be as good for your heart, bones, brain, and colon as it is for your waistline. It should also be something you can maintain for years. Such a diet won’t give you a quick fix. But it can offer you something better — a lifetime of delicious, healthy choices that will be good for all of you, not just parts of you.


Eleven habits to help you lose weight, reduce stress and boost your immunity:

Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit at both lunch and dinner.
Choose brown over white bread to keep your insulin levels balanced. This means, for example, wholegrain brown bread and cereals instead of white bread and brown rice instead of white.
Have a protein each time you have a carbohydrate. Protein slows down carbohydrate digestion and builds up muscle mass for better fat burning. For example, chicken with vegetables, or nuts with fruits, or yoghurt with cereal.
Have fish two to three times per week, especially salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel and anchovies — they’re loaded with anti-inflammatory Omega 3s. Add metabolism-boosting spices and herbs to flavour foods, such as curcumin, cayenne, garlic and coriander.
Have a good breakfast every morning to boost your metabolism. Eat slowly and mindfully in a relaxed environment, chewing your food well. Drink plenty of water (two litres a day) and green and herbal teas during the day.
Set small, realistic weight-loss goals. A loss of one half to one kg of weight per week is optimal for long-term maintenance.
Being active for just 15 minutes a day is all you need to boost your metabolism. If you can’t get to the gym, work exercise into your daily routine: park your car farther from home or work and walk the distance; take the stairs instead of the elevator; play ball with the kids at the club; or even jump rope or pump dumbbells at home.
Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep to lower the body’s cortisol levels.

 

 

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