Here at Sadie’s Kitchen we believe that true wellness encompasses all areas of your life. That’s why we have reached out to other industry experts in Ireland’s Wellness industry, to bring you all the tips and tricks you need for a happy body and mind.
First up in our guest blog series is the lovely Ciara from The Irish Balance. Ciara loves all things health and fitness and blends this into her busy schedule as a doctor. Battling long hours and shift work can take its toll, so Ciara makes sure to prioritise her health so that she can continue to help everyone else with theirs!
Read on for her top five tips for keeping your mind and body in perfect balance.
Food – Eat Colour, in Balance and in Time
I truly believe that nutrition and finding ‘the right diet’ is being over-complicated. We’ve seen so many trends and fads in recent years; Atkins, ‘Keto’, ‘low-carb’, and ‘the 5:2’, and now veganism in 2018. I’m not bashing any single one of these – if you find the way to eat that works for you, your body and your mind, then peace out, go for it! And I think the vegan trend in particular, has the positive effect of encouraging people to eat more vegetables and plant protein, which can only be a good thing! But overall, my gut instinct is that ‘eating well’ boils down to some simple principles.
First, eat in balance: Create meals composed of sources of complex carbohydrates, protein (animal or plant), ‘good fats’ (e.g. raw nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil), fibre (a really important one!) and of course, vegetables galore!
Second, eat colourfully: Leafy green veg, red and yellow peppers, orange carrots – you can even find purple broccoli nowadays! I aim for 3 different colours on my plate, always. And of course, delicious fruit.
Third, eat in time: And in company where possible. Sit down at a table (not your desk!), put the phone away, and concentrate on the delicious meal you’ve created, ideally over conversation with friends, colleagues or family.
Remember, black and white thinking about food (‘healthy’ versus ‘unhealthy’) removes the fundamental excitement and pleasure that cooking and eating should bring you, so always think in colour!
Activity – Walk the Walk, and Snack on Movement
Movement snacking is a concept I have become a bit obsessed with. It’s a little gem from one of my lifestyle medicine role models Dr. Ranjan Chatterjee, author of the ‘Four Pillar Plan’ book. The idea behind it is that we ‘snack’ on snippets of movement regularly throughout our day. Think walking to the bus stop or work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or getting off the tram a stop early. Dr. Chatterjee even suggests doing bodyweight squats or push ups while you wait for the kettle to boil! Movement snacks make exercise an achievable part of our day. Give it a try, and see what you think!
I’ll be honest, I’m personally obsessed with walking. As a nation, we are simply not active enough. In fact, physical inactivity levels are at a record high. Improving that really is as simple as starting with a daily walk. It can be anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes – wherever you need to start, that’s okay! Why not go with a friend? Or use an audiobook, or a Podcast? I download new Podcast episodes every week for my walks, and it’s one of the activities I look forward to the most.
Sleep – The Hygiene Hypothesis
Sleep quality and quantity is emerging in recent years as being a BIG player in our overall health. With the ever increasing use of technology, more information is available at our fingertips than ever before. As a result, it can be hard for us to switch off, particularly at night time. The recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults is not being met by the majority of us, and emerging evidence shows that in the long-term, this can contribute towards our risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, dementia, heart and lung disease. Sleep hygiene (i.e. good sleep habits) is a big goal of mine for 2018, and I urge you to join me! I keep my ‘good sleep’ habits simple:
Aim to get to bed at the same time each night (exceptions for nights out of course!)
Set your alarm for roughly the same time each day (but no judgement for a weekend lie in!)
Avoid building up a ‘sleep debt’ – i.e. living on 4 hours a night Monday to Friday and bingeing over the weekend to make up for it
Minimise screen time (TV, phone, iPad, you name it!) 30-60 minutes before bed
If you need your phone by the bed (e.g. for an alarm or to meditate, like me) try to be really strict on using it ONLY for that purpose. Avoid scrolling at midnight!
Meditation – Be Present, and Breath
Mindfulness is really having a moment, with many apps now available such as Headspace and Calm to help us give it a go. I started 10 minutes of daily meditation in January using the Calm app, and I’m over 100 days in! I find just before bed is the perfect time for me to do it – yes, it involves me having my phone in the room, but I simply play the guided meditation, and always fall asleep just before it ends!
I’ve noticed major changes in stress management, sleep quality, and overall gratitude for the little things in life too. It’s made me really tune into my breathing, and I regularly adopt what I’ve learnt in day to day life at work and at home! If the thought of meditation is a little daunting to you, why not start off with a simple breathing technique like Box Breathing when you are feeling a little stressed?
Here how it works. Picture a square box in your mind, and imagine your breaths following the box outline. Inhale, and count 2-3-4, hold and count 2-3-4, and exhale and count 2-3-4. It works WONDERS, trust me.
Perfectly Imperfect: Take The Pressure Off Yourself
All of the above said, it is equally important to remember that no one is perfect. In fact, I’m darn proud of being perfectly imperfect! Even with the best intentions for these healthy habits, we are only human, and my life and blog ethos is always one of balance. If you have a meal out with friends, and eat or drink a little more than you planned, don’t beat yourself up! If you missed a workout because you slept it in, that is A-okay. It does NOT mean you ‘fell off the bandwagon’, nor does it mean that you should give up any good habits you’ve created. It means you’re doing your best for you, in a very real and busy world, and that’s awesome!
Moderation, not deprivation – that’s the key to maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle in my book.
* Ciara’s blog is a hub of all things wellness, including tasty and healthy recipes. Try this delicious Spinach & Chickpea Coconut Dahl on for size!