The Starter’s Guide To Living Healthy

A lot of people aim to live a healthier life, especially with a new year ahead of us. In this blogpost I’ll share my experiences with getting healthy and losing weight. For me, balance is key. Don’t be too hard on yourself in your journey to become healthier. Don’t deny yourself everything on some crazy diet, but rather create healthy habits you can stick with in the long run. Those will eventually bring you lasting results. Isn’t that what we all want?

Disclaimer

Let me start this post by saying that I am in no way a dietary or fitness expert. This post is just me sharing my own experiences with getting healthy and losing weight and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. That said, here’s what I did to get healthy!

What prompted me to get healthy?

I used to be – well, how do I put this gently – not so healthy. As you may have read in one of my previous posts, I had to take medication for my mental health. This in combination with the fact that I tend to overeat when I’m down, ensured that I gained a total of 27 kilograms rather quickly. I struggled with an eating disorder when I was younger and seeing my body change that quickly wasn’t exactly helping my recovery. If anything, I was getting more and more depressed because of it.

I also used to smoke a lot of cigarettes during this time in my life. I was basically sitting around all day feeling sad and fat and smoking cigarettes for seventeen hours a day. Not a very appealing image, is it? 😉

Change

That’s when I decided it was time for a change. To put it bluntly, I decided that I would either end things or make the most of my life. The fact that you’re reading a blog by me sharing tips on how to be happy should tell you which option I chose!

I started my ambitious plan to get happy and healthy by losing weight, because I knew feeling more comfortable in my own skin would also make me more confident that I could actually do this.

Research

I started by doing a lot of research. I would spend hours and hours reading about diets and looking up healthy recipes. I was on Pinterest fulltime and had enough boards of inspiration, recipes, workouts and information to last me a lifetime. I didn’t wait to start eating healthy, I started the same day. I was very motivated to turn things around for myself.

Exercise

Walking it off

I started walking at least five kilometers everyday and I eventually got myself a Fitbit. Walking not only helped me get some exercise, but it also helped tremendously with getting the right headspace. I had so much time to think things over and reflect on my life and how I wanted things to be. It was relaxing and rewarding.

I am also a huge fan of the Quantified Self trend (measuring data about yourself and tracking your progress), so the Fitbit was great for me. I could literally see every step I took and it became a game for me to get everything in the green. Even to the extent where I would walk up and down the stairs at the end of the day to reach that goal. In my defense, I used to be diagnosed with traits of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, which basically means I was a huge perfectionist.

Working out

I’m not a particular fan of exercise and sports. Given the option between working out and chilling on the couch, nine out of ten times I’ll go with the latter. However, we all know that it’s important to work out if you want to be healthy. It has so many benefits for your health besides getting in shape. It will reduce stress, anxiety and depression, it will help you sleep better, it improves your confidence and will minimize your risk of getting a lot of diseases.

I started working out because I started to value my body again and wanted to take good care of it. Work out because you love your body, not because you hate it.

Finding something you like doing

The key to keeping yourself motivated to work out is by finding something you like doing. Join a sports club together with a friend, join a team, go cycling or swimming with a family member or make yourself an awesome playlist and hit the gym. Find something that you actually like doing or reward yourself in some other way. That way you’ll keep coming back for more.

Food

When it comes to eating healthy, there’s a lot of things that can make your diet healthier. There’s a million different diets out there and I got a little lost in all the information. I didn’t know what to believe. So I decided to just try some things out and see what worked for me and what didn’t.

No carbs

When I first started changing my diet to be more healthy and lose weight, I cut out all carbs. That meant no pasta, bread, potatoes or rice. This was very hard for me because I love bread a lot. However, I did see some quick results. I lost my first seven kilograms by eating like this. It wasn’t a diet I wanted or could keep doing though, as I simply missed eating carbs too much.

No sugar

Eventually I started eating carbs again, but cut out sugar. This worked pretty well for me. After a few days I didn’t crave sugar anymore and it was pretty easy to keep doing. However, it required spending quite some time in the kitchen and going to different grocery stores to get all the things I needed. I didn’t keep up with this one for very long either because of that. If you like cooking and baking a lot, then this could actually be a great option for you.

No soda and more water

The first thing I cut out of my diet when I started eating healthy is soda. I drank a lot of it and those are truly unnecessary calories and sugar. Not only will drinking high sugar sodas make you gain weight, it will also increase your chances of having heart or kidney problems.

Light sodas are no better as most of them contain the artificial sweetener aspartame that has been linked to depression and anxiety. Plus, don’t be fooled, artificially sweetened drinks will trigger insulin and make your body go into fat storage mode. It will also make it far more easy to justify having that large pizza, because you didn’t drink any calories.

Drinking water on the other hand has a lot of benefits for your health. For example, your skin will be better, it will boost your immune system and it will also raise your metabolism and promote weight loss.

No alcohol

I’m not going to lie, I like my wine. I don’t drink too much, but I definitely like to have a few glasses over the weekend. When I was trying to be more healthy I skipped all alcohol, except for two glasses of red wine per week. It’s said that red wine has some health benefits and isn’t as bad as other alcoholic drinks, but truth of the matter is that I just really enjoyed those two glasses of wine a week. I would really look forward to it and it would keep me from ‘cheating’ with other alcoholic drinks. It’s all about balance.

No animals

I started reading and informing myself a lot about food, such as where it comes from and what it does to our bodies. I started to be confronted by everything going on in animal agriculture and the negative effects it has on our planet and our health. After seeing a couple of documentaries on veganism, I went vegan for 1.5 years.

Nowadays I’m “just” a vegetarian, adding dairy products and eggs back into my diet. I made the change because I missed being able to eat at a friend’s house or out in restaurants. That became a lot more difficult with so many restrictions to your diet. However, vegan food is delicious and diverse. I still eat a lot of great vegan meals.

Not eating animal products has a lot of health benefits that include reducing your cholesterol, alleviating arthritis symptoms, losing weight, giving you more energy and living a longer and healthier life. When done correctly of course. As with any diet, you should keep track of your macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat).

Portion control

Sometimes all it takes is keeping your portions small and eating six times a day instead of three bigger meals. It will keep you full throughout the day and keep your metabolism working.

If you want to lose weight, it is mostly about portion control. Eating fewer calories than you burn will make you lose weight down the line. By no means am I saying that losing weight is always healthy, but if there’s a few extra grams that you would like to get rid of, all you have to do is eat less than you burn. You can use tracking apps to see how many calories you should eat per day to reach your goal weight within your desired period of time.

Balance

I believe the key to a healthy life is balance. Find something that works for you and that makes it easy for you to keep doing it. You don’t have to constantly deny yourself everything. You can eat that bar of chocolate or have that glass of wine if you eat healthy 80 percent of the time. If you’re too hard on yourself, you’re probably not going to last very long.

Listen to your body

You should always do what feels right for you. Your body gives you clear signals letting you know if what you’re doing is good for you. If you’re hungry, eat. If you feel tired, you’re probably missing some nutrients. Don’t force yourself to keep up with a diet you struggle with. There’s so many ways to get healthier, there’s no one magic solution that will work for everyone.

 

Recipes

I teamed up with some other lovely bloggers to provide some great recipes for you to help you get started.

The first recipe is by the lovely Tash from www.happyhealthytash.com who was kind enough to let me feature her here! How cute are those avocado hearts?

Spinach, Feta & Turmeric Veggie Omelette

Ingredients – per person

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. Olive oil / coconut oil / any other type of oil you like to cook with
  • Handful frozen peas
  • Handful frozen spinach
  • Handful frozen sweetcorn
  • Handful mixed chopped peppers
  • Handful crumbled feta
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 avocado to serve with it…making avocado hearts is optional 😉

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan
  2. Pop the frozen spinach in a microwaveable dish and in the microwave for 2-3 mins or until softened
  3. Pop the remaining veggies into the pan to defrost and cook
  4. Break the eggs into a glass bowl and whisk with a fork
  5. Add the spices and salt and pepper
  6. Add the spinach to the pan with the other veggies and ensure they are all cooked through and then spread them out evenly in the pan
  7. Pour the egg mixture over the veggies and leave on a low heat to cook through
  8. Once the edges of the omelette start to cook, pop the pan under a warm grill for a couple of minutes on a low heat to cook the top
  9. Shake the pan gently to see if it’s cooked and if not, pop it back on the grill to finish cooking
  10. Once cooked, slide it onto a plate
  11. Sprinkle the feta
  12. Add the avocado

The second recipe is courtesy of the wonderful Sophie from www.glowsteady.co.uk. I always enjoy reading her blog and drooling over her recipes!

Loaded Massaged Kale Salad

“I know, we’re talking about health foods and I’m presenting you with a salad, how cliché? When I was set the task of coming up with a healthy dish this was the last thing I expected to make but when I was thinking about my favourite healthy meals, I kept coming back to this.

Salads have a bad reputation for being bland or ‘rabbit food’, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  For me, healthy means balanced. Something you can maintain and something that isn’t going to get boring after two weeks. There’s no low fat, low carb fad. With that in mind, that’s the base of this dish; a good mixture of carbs, fat and protein to make it both filling and satiating.”

Ingredients – serves two

  • 150g kale
  • Handful rocket leaves
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (approx. 240g)
  • 50g sundried tomatoes
  • 50g mixed seeds
  • 1 tbsp ‘free from’ basil pesto
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees
  2. Chop the red pepper in half and place on a baking tray with the insides facing downwards. Place the chickpeas on the same tray. Use a light drizzle of olive oil over both the chickpeas and the pepper. Lightly sprinkle the smoked paprika over the chickpeas and place tray in the oven for 25-30 minutes. When you remove the tray, the chickpeas should be crisp, and the peppers should be turning slightly black around the edges.
  3. Meanwhile, chop the kale (unless already chopped) then in a large bowl lightly massage the kale with your fingers until you can feel it getting slightly softer.
  4. Once kale is massaged, combine with the rocket leaves and stir in the pesto and lemon juice.
  5. Chop the sundried tomatoes and add to the bowl.
  6. Now it’s time to lightly toast the seeds. Place them in a small saucepan on a low- medium heat for a few minutes, stirring them every few minutes. Once they start to pop, reduce the heat and add the chilli powder to the pan, continue stirring. After the seeds have been evenly covered in the chilli powder, add the tamari.
  7. When the chickpeas and pepper are ready, remove from oven. Leave to cool slightly for 5 minutes, then chop the pepper into thick slices.
  8. Finally, add all remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir.

What works best for me

For me, eating balanced, nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits and legumes combined with carbs such as bread and pasta works best. I do eat sweets and other unhealthy foods, I just don’t overeat (anymore). It has become more of an exception and a treat now.

I make sure to work out regularly and to be active for at least half an hour every day. I joined a gym and I like working out in the morning so I start my day fresh and energized. I always feel really good after working out.

Good Luck!

I hope you feel like you have the tools you need to get started and that you find something that works for you. Getting healthy is a beautiful journey that has brought me so much. I feel comfortable and even confident sometimes. My body looks and feels better now. It won’t always be easy, but if you really want to make the change to a healthier lifestyle, you will get there! You can do it.

With much love,

Maud