A Guide to Healthy Eating and Exercise
The beginning of a new year often sees the beginning of many new diet and exercise regimes. Sadly, a lot of these go abandoned by the time we hit February, and it’s easy to understand why: unrealistic expectations, rigid rules and the wrong kind of mindset can all be our downfall.
Don’t worry though, it’s never too late to start thinking about improving your health through the food you eat and by incorporating more exercise into your routine, especially if you lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle.
A healthy diet and exercise routine doesn’t need to be difficult and definitely shouldn’t be seen as a chore: if you’re not enjoying it, you’re never going to stick to it. The best approach is to think about your new habits as a change in lifestyle instead of a “diet”: if you treat them as short-term changes you’re much less likely to stick to them, so it’s important to look at your eating and exercise as an ongoing commitment. For this reason, it’s important to stick to realistic goals, choose meals and exercises that you will actually enjoy, and, most importantly, not to completely deny yourself the odd guilty pleasure!
We’re going to look at the basic principles of healthy eating and exercise to help you build a routine that you can stick to.
The key to healthy eating is balance: that means a good mixture of all the food groups to ensure you’re getting the right amount of nutrients. If your body becomes deficient in certain minerals and vitamins you will start craving specific foods, which means you’re more likely to end up snacking on processed foods full of salt, sugar and saturated fats.
A balanced diet consists of the following:
- Starchy carbohydrates (particularly whole grains like brown rice cereals)
- Fresh fruit and vegetables (aim for five portions a day)
- Lean meats (especially fish)
- Unsaturated fats (e.g. from oily fish and nuts)
Try eating small meals frequently through the day. Fruit, veg and nuts make excellent snacks and should keep you satisfied, preventing cravings for sugary and salty foods.
Portion control is also an important part of healthy eating. It’s easy to overestimate how much we need to eat when we dish up our food...but it’s also easy to keep eating when there’s still food on our plate, even though we’re satisfied. Try cutting down your portion sizes and waiting half an hour after finishing your meal: if you’re still hungry then have some more food, but chances are you will be satisfied once your food has started to digest.
Another big player in a healthy diet is water. Did you know that 80% of Australians don’t drink enough water every day? Thirst can also be confused for hunger, so a lot of snacking can be prevented simply by making sure you’re adequately hydrated. You can also help stave off headaches and improve concentration by drinking the recommended amount of water every day - not to mention it’s great for your skin!
Many people find keeping active the hardest part of leading a healthy lifestyle - and it’s understandable, given that many of us work jobs which require a lot of sitting down.
But 30 minutes of gentle exercise every day can be enough just to get you moving around more - this can be something as simple as walking a dog, doing yoga at home or even by cleaning the house.
Here’s a breakdown of simple but effective exercises:
- Arm and leg raises with or without weights
- Aqua aerobics
These exercises (apart from running) are also low-impact, which means they will do less damage to your joints than more strenuous exercises.
If you have very recently had a mastectomy, then exercise is not a priority, however there are some exercises you can do to help keep your muscles moving - although these must be very gentle and taken with care. Please also consult your doctor to determine when it's okay to undertake more intense physical activity.Here are some simple, gentle post-mastectomy exercises:
- Try slowly lifting and stretching your arms behind your back.
- Gently roll your shoulders in a circular motion, holding them in place when you raise them up.
- Hold your hands out in front of you and link your fingers, then slowly raise both arms above your heads.
These exercises should help keep the blood circulating while you are recovering.
We hope this guide has helped you. It’s important to stay healthy, especially post-mastectomy, but it’s also important to feel good, so don’t completely deny yourself the foods you enjoy - remember, moderation is key!