I want to address a topic that I’m asked about all the time by people interested in my diet and lifestyle advice. It’s whether or not I eat or drink things like coffee, alcohol and sugar, or ever have cravings for ‘naughty’ foods. And the answer is YES! I do all of these things, which are generally considered to be not very healthy.
But I’m only human and I do break the rules from time to time (and enjoy it immensely too!).
I want to explain about how I cheat those health rules, what they are and how I find a good balance in my life.
I’ve gone through phases in my 20s of being obsessed with the latest fad, with trying to live my life ‘perfectly’ and be the absolute healthiest version of myself. And you know what? I wasn’t very happy OR healthy doing it, because I would feel immense guilt for missing workouts or eating something I had told myself I shouldn’t. That is no way to live! The older I get, the more I realise that life is for living to the full, for enjoying fun times with friends and treating yourself every so often. It would be bonkers to go through life without treats!
For me, enjoying full and vibrant health is essential to life. It’s about enjoying the best quality of life you can, to be able to give all of yourself to your family, friends, work and hobbies. I will never compromise my health, but I will always seek to achieve that fine balance between good health and good fun 🙂
The world seems to be built on two extremes at the moment – those who are obsessive about their health and fitness, and those who are the exact opposite. The rates of obesity and chronic lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are growing at a frightening rate, as are the number of juice bars, gyms and health and fitness websites.
It’s not about being perfect all the time. It’s about balance. So how can we achieve a healthy balance?
Here are my top 5 health cheats:
1. I drink coffee
I love the taste and smell of coffee, and there are times when only a coffee will do. A coffee can give you a great boost on early mornings, before exams and when you need a burst of energy to get you through a workout. But I don’t have caffeine everyday. When I do drink it, I drink extra water to balance any any dehydration caused. Like alcohol, caffeine is a diuretic that pulls water and some vitamins and nutrients from your system, so it’s important to rehydrate well if you’re a frequent coffee drinker. Coconut water or a few wedges of lime and mint in a chilled jug of water are good alternatives if you find plain water a little boring!
2. I drink alcoholA few social drinks with friends out at a bar or over dinner or a few cocktails on holiday are some of life’s great pleasures, and I grew up in a home where bottles of wine were frequently cracked open as my dad is a wine collector and knows a lot about it. Growing up, I was always allowed a sip from his glass, and then he would tell me all about the wine’s grapes and origin. This taught me a respect for alcohol from a young age and as something to enjoy rather than a means to an end.
As with everything, it’s all about balance. I rarely drink on weeknights and will look forward to a few drinks if I’m going out at the weekend. if I’m not going out, then I won’t have any! I’m also careful to drink plenty of water on a night out, eat something beforehand and I tend to drink vodka with soda water and fresh lime juice these days, as at least you’re getting a full glass of water with each measure and it’s a low-sugar option. Again, it’s about moderation and the day after a night out, I’ll give my body the nutrients and fluids it needs to balance itself out again. Bananas and ice-cold Green Goddess Smoothies work well!
3. I skip workouts
I aim to work out 6 days a week, and the majority of the time I achieve this. But there are inevitably days when I’m too busy or else feel too tired. I allow myself the day off without feeling guilty, because it’s so important to listen to your body. If you need rest, then obey those signals and never push yourself to a point where you risk getting sick or injured. Health and fitness aren’t built or destroyed in 24 hours, and a day or two off won’t hurt. It’s just as important to rest muscles as it is to train them, which is why I always enjoy a full rest day once a week.
4. I eat sugar
As much as I strongly dislike refined sugar and the effects that it has on the body – from prematurely ageing your skin to raising insulin levels, disrupting your mood and storing as stubborn belly fat – there are times when I do eat it. Though I must admit that I only have sugar a few times a year because I also dislike how jittery and sick it makes me feel, but sometimes a dessert or a slice of birthday cake is the answer! My mum made our wedding cake last year, and although the top layer was vegan, it was still packed with sugar and I enjoyed every last little crumb of it!
5. I get cravings
I’m a woman! We have slightly crazy hormones! Just like most others, I get cravings for sugary or salty foods. Most of the time I’m able to recognise the signals and manage them easily enough. When I crave sugar, I make one of my sweet treats – my healthy ‘Mars Bars’ are especially satisfying! And for salty cravings, I often reach for miso soup. But there are times when only a bar of chocolate will do, and I’ll thoroughly enjoy eating a bar of (dark) chocolate or a packet of salted nuts.
So there you go! The main message of this piece is to be kind to yourself, stay away from silly crash diets, eat sensibly as much as possible and never ever feel guilty for enjoying your life and treating yourself.
But for the best quality of life, I believe that it’s important to practise moderation when you can and to strike a good balance in health and fitness to make you feel your very best. Be good 80% of the time and enjoy yourself for the remaining 20%. Cheers to that! 🙂