Sunday, October 9, 2011

Simple tips to a healthier you!


How many times have your eyes wandered to articles in newspapers or magazines telling you how to lose weight? And how many times have you actually followed any of the advice? I don't know about you, but whenever I read articles which suggest that I count calories, keep a food journal, eat 5-6 small meals a day or avoid fried food, I just roll my eyes and think "yeah that's going to happen!".  It just seems so impractical to me. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, managing to eat atleast one healthy meal a day seems like  big achievement. But that said, I do realize how important it is to eat right and exercise on a regular basis. Everybody knows that a balanced diet and regular physical activity are the building blocks of good health. But even though it sounds like a no-brainer, in the context of real life and its demands, it can be difficult to implement. It is much easier to fall prey to unhealthy habits, such as leading an sedentary lifestyle, having infrequent meals and eating junk food. These habits, when consistently reinforced, can become hard to break free. Diet and exercise go hand in hand and are like the two oars of a boat. You ignore either one of them and reaching your destination takes much longer. Sometimes, making healthy food choices may seems less intimidating than exercise but without the exercise, weight loss results are largely underwhelming. Even though the couch does seem the most comfortable place on earth, it is important to get off it once in a while and get your heart pumping. A lot of people do not like working out in the gym (me included). The idea of putting your body through a series of repetitions on a limited range of gym equipment in a claustrophobic environment may be unappealing. I really envy those people who actually look forward to going to the gym! But there are a lot of activities that you can do without having to hit the gym. Running, jogging, swimming, cycling and trekking are great ways to get exercise and can be fun too. It is how you manage to squeeze these activities into your schedule and the consistency with which you practice it is what is important.

Everyday new research comes out in the field of nutrition with contradicting points of view. Sometimes chocolate is good and other times it is bad. The same can be said about a million other things! Its tough to decide what to believe. The same holds true when it comes to exercise. In this blog article I thought I'd compile a few weight loss tips that I have researched, adopted and found beneficial. These are tips that are simple, easy, with no frills and which do not require a fitness trainer, dietician or support group! My thought process is that if I can follow them despite a fast and jam-packed schedule, then you might be able to do so as well. I hope you find them helpful...

1. Never skip breakfast
Yes....I know....everyone says the same thing but it wouldn't be parroted if it weren't true. It is pretty simple actually. If you do not have breakfast, then you end up overeating at lunch or else having unhealthy mid-morning or evening snack. Just make sure you don't have junk food for breakfast!

2. Cook meals at home regularly
This is not as hard as it sounds. It is healthier and lighter on the pocket. Not only you will know that only good fresh ingredients were used to prepare the meal, you will also know that there were no unhealthy substances like MSG, other food additives or food coloring added to your food. Yes it does involve a little more work but it is definitely worth it. Ask your husband/wife to take care of the dishes if you have done the cooking! And once you have made the decision to prepare dinner at home, go the extra mile and cook extra so you can pack some for lunch the next day.

3. Limit sugary beverages, sweetened fruit juices & carbonated drinks
I am a hard-core coffee addict. I cannot get through the day without my coffee fix. Earlier I used to drink 2 cups of coffee everyday but off late, I have started to drink only half a cup in the morning and another half a cup in the evening. Alternatively, you could get yourself a smaller mug! It is a kind of compromise. That way you don't have to give up your coffee and you know that you are not going overboard. Drinking black coffee is probably even better. With juices and carbonated drinks, I try to replace them with plain water or green tea as much as possible.

4. Drink water
I don't know about this 8 glass rule but I do know that it is very important to stay hydrated. Sipping water before a meal can even make you feel full faster. I personally do not have the habit of drinking water and on some days I discover much to my surprise that I would have drank barely 1 or 2 glasses. Those are the days when I usually have terrible headaches. So what I do now is that I fill my flask with about 4-5 glasses of water and keep it right in front of my desk at work. The objective is to finish it before heading home. I have discovered that it has helped me a lot and my headaches are becoming more and more infrequent.

5. Take the stairs
To be completely honest, I do cheat a little bit on this one (if I'm running late or in a hurry) but as far as possible, I try to follow it. Taking the stairs is a great way to get in shape, improve cardiovascular function and strengthen and tone the legs muscles. Modern conveniences like elevators and escalators are very tempting but if you want to 'step' up your health, this is one convenience you could sacrifice!

6. Take the public transport/ Park your car further away
This also doesn't take much effort. Taking the public transport increases physical activity by way of walking. It is also more eco-friendly and cheaper. If you are driving, park further away from your destination and walk!

7. Make a shopping list before making a trip to the grocery store
I always do this and I find it particularly useful. I plan out the weekly menu in advance, make a list of all the items I need  and then go to the grocery store. This way, I avoid buying unnecessary items and thereby save time and money. While planning the menu, I make sure that the meals are well balanced (with a little bit of leeway for weekend binge eating!) so my shopping cart always has a lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts and dairy in it.  Although I find it impossible to completely steer clear of processed foods, I do find that minimizing them is easier if you plan ahead.

8.Make the weekends count
Generally weekends are when you try to stay in bed for as late as possible, unwind and recover from the hustle and bustle of the week gone by. It is also when you are most likely to have friends over or go out to enjoy good food and drink. That is understandable of course. But try to incorporate some outdoor fun activities in your weekend as well so you not only get some fresh air but also manage to get in some exercise. Swimming, cycling and trekking are fun activities that the whole family can enjoy on weekends. 
If you find yourself cooped up at home over the weekend, a boring alternative would be to do some housework! Chores are a very productive way of burning calories :)

9. Use the substitution method
This one can be slightly tricky but you can find a way around it. Some choices are harder than others...
  • Instead of eating ice cream, opt for a low fat frozen yogurt. It tastes delicious believe me!
  • Use skim milk (fat-free milk) instead of whole milk
  • Trade in white sauce pasta for a tomato-sauce based pasta
  • Dark chocolate is rich in anti-oxidants and is a better alternative to milk chocolate
  • Whole grain bread/rice/pasta is rich in fiber and a much healthier option than their white alternatives
  • If you love french fries, try opting for baked potato instead
Note to self and to others: Just because it is a healthier alternative doesn't mean you go crazy with the portion size. Moderation is key!

10. Have a light & early dinner 
Although the occasional slip up does occur, I do try to stick with this rule as much as possible. Eating an early dinner every day is one of the easiest ways to drop weight and lose inches on your waistline. Towards the latter part of the day, your body does not exert as much as it does during the day, so few calories are burnt towards the evening. You should try to keep at least a three hour gap between the time that you finish dinner and the time that you go to sleep. This gives the calories ample time to burn. For me, an ideal dinner would consist of either a salad, soup, mixed fruit platter, hummus with carrot sticks or whole wheat pita bread wrap with salad filling.

11. Snack wisely
This is easier said than done and I think this is what I struggle with the most. It is the evening coffee-break snacking that I just can't seem to get control over. After a bit of research, I found these healthy snacking options. With respect to this tip, I will certainly try to practice what I preach!
  • Frozen grapes
  • Non fat or low fat yoghurt
  • Nuts (walnuts/ almonds/ hazelnuts/ macadamia nuts/ pistachios)
  • Watermelon
  • Baked potato or apple chips
  • Soy chips
  • Baked tortilla chips
  • PopChips
  • Pretzels
  • Marie biscuits
  • Sliced apples
  • Granola bars
  • Trail mix
  • Whole wheat crackers or graham crackers with peanut butter
  • Fat free popcorn
  • Kiwis
  • Mini pitas with hummus

12. Select an exercise pattern to suit your life style
All of us have different life styles and professions so there is no sense in trying to follow the book strictly. Try and follow an exercise routine that is suitable for you. You have to understand that even more important than the exercise it is sticking to it. So unless you choose something that can suit your life style, you are not going to stick to it. Also, if your exercise routine starts to get repetitive or boring, try switching it around a little bit After all, variety is the spice of life!

When it comes to your health, it’s important to be your own biggest advocate. This means not only taking the important steps to promote wellness in your life – but it also means listening to your body. And when your body starts telling you that you are going down an unhealthy path, you need to act on it immediately. There is no reason why you can't lose weight, that is, other than procrastination or misinformation. I do have the bad habit of making up excuses when I don't feel like making healthy food choices or exercising. So, starting today, I am going to make a fresh start and pay more attention to what I eat and consciously try to increase my activity levels on a daily basis. I hope to stay on track and achieve my weight loss goals and in the process come across many more tips to share with you!


  1. ive started drinking 2 glasses of water every morning on empty stomach b4 going to the gym... n ya, eating small increments of food with greater frequency is said to help

  2. Very well written straight from the heart article Meghs, nailed all the points, loved it :) Super practical and easy to implement. I dont need to wish you all the best for your weight loss goals because when a person feels that something is good for them and finds simple ways to rolling it into their lifestyle they will always succeed.

    For the part where you mention contradicting points of view in nutrition, I would add the generic advice of doing/eating even the good stuff in moderatiom, too much of anything is bad :) I think me/rosh follow 1-11 but 12 is a bitch when winter comes (no hikes/outdoor walks)! You have me pumped up to find an alternative now :)

    One thing which has helped us in eating healthy is trying to cook different cuisines and experimenting this way you dont get bored and things are more spontaneous. On a similar note, we should not lose sight of all tasty healthy food options when you have guests at home or when you go out in a group.

  3. Moderation point noted :) I don't really abide by it so maybe that's why I forgot to include it...LOL!


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