Healthy eating is one of the keys to boosting your boost your energy levels and keeping them high for years to come. And who doesn’t want more energy?
I’m not talking about changing your diet totally overnight. I’m talking about taking baby steps that start to compound and give you the energy you need to enjoy life to the full.
Do you feel as if you are running on empty most of the time? That you aren’t enjoying life as you should? Eating healthily can make a massive difference to how to feel. It’s time for you to start living the life you want to!
One of the biggest aha moments most of my nutrition clients have is when I tell them they don’t have to change everything overnight. That, and when I tell them they don’t have to eat kale if they don’t want to!
CHANGING YOUR WHOLE DIET IN ONE DAY DOESN’T WORK
Making drastic changes to what you eat in a short space of time doesn’t work for most people. This is because we have got used to our eating habits as they are. Breaking unhealthy habits is uncomfortable. It can be really hard.
You may have heard that new habits can take 21 or even 30 days to stick. Sadly, that’s not backed by any real science. New habits take on average 66 days to become our new normal. That might be a shock to you as it’s not a very well-known fact. But it might help you to understand why you’ve struggled in the past with getting your diet right.
So, my first tip is - take changes really slowly. I mean, slower than you’ve taken them before.
I’ll give you a real-life example. In my early twenties I had sugar in my tea and coffee. One sugar in tea and two in coffee. Now I’d just completed a degree in nutrition and food science, so I should have known better. In my defence, at that time we didn’t fully understand how addictive sugar was. I had tried to stop adding sugar to my drinks, but just couldn’t. This is how I did it – I cut back just a very tiny amount. When I was used to that, then I reduced the sugar a little bit more. And I mean a tiny bit. The changes were so small I hardly noticed. From a heaped spoonful, to a slightly less heaped teaspoon, just slightly rounded, then a flat spoon. I’m sure you get the picture. I remember being laughed for how slowly I was taking it. But now it’s been 30 years since I had sugar in tea or coffee!!
Think about the long-term picture. Ignore anyone who thinks you’re crazy. They are probably secretly admiring you for sticking to your plan.
I highly recommend a book by BJ Fogg called Tiny Habits if you want to learn more about this topic. You might also want to check out his website https://tinyhabits.com/.
WHEN YOU ARE SHORT OF ENERGY - CHEAT!
Preparing healthy meals can be really hard, especially at the end of a long day. It’s so much easier to pop a ready meal in the microwave or get a pizza delivered in 20 minutes. A bit of planning and using some shortcuts makes it much easier to get something healthy on the table.
Here are some of my favourite healthy eating cheats
Tinned beans – making a three-bean chilli using kidney beans, chickpeas and sweetcorn. Add a tin of tomatoes and some spices. It’s much quicker, and cheaper than frying mince.
Instead of rice, pasta or potatoes as your carbs have wholemeal bread, rolls or wraps. Really simple and my kids used to think it was a real treat when they were young.
It doesn’t get much easier that having fruit for dessert or snacks.
Nuts also make a healthy snack. Opening a packet of nuts is just as easy as opening a packet of crips.
Frozen veg used to have a bad reputation, but it’s got a lot going for it. As it’s frozen very quickly after picking it contains more vitamins than fresh veg that’s been transported and then sat on a supermarket shelf for a while. It’s easy to use the right amount, no waste keeps your shopping bill down. It’s also not going to get forgotten about in the back of the fridge and go mouldy.
Some veg can just been eaten raw without any chopping or cooking. Cherry tomatoes are a great example and check out bags of baby spinach, watercress and other greens. Bonus health tip – the darker the green the more antioxidants they contain.
FIND THE REASONS WHY YOU ARE SHORT OF ENERGY
Too often we think we have to live with low energy levels. If that’s you a can totally relate. I can remember a few years ago when I was so tired that climbing the stairs at home seemed like to big an effort. Turns out I was peri-menopausal and there was lots I could (and did) do to improve my energy. Now I feel like I’m in my twenties again!
A good nutritionist can help you delve into the root causes of your tiredness and low energy levels. Here are some of the reasons why my clients have come to me with low energy levels:
Not getting enough sleep or good quality sleep. Although I’m a nutritionist, my training was holistic so I have been able to help a number of women improve their sleep significantly.
An underlying health condition. You might have a condition you already know about and just need some advice on how to best look after yourself. Or you might have a condition that has yet to be diagnosed. It’s always worth booking a doctor's appointment to get any changes in energy levels checked out.
You might be short of some vitamins and/or minerals (micronutrients). Modern processed foods make it really easy to eat too many calories and not enough of the micronutrients your body needs. Sometimes it’s easy to see just from looking at what you eat and sometimes you might need test to see if this is what is causing your lack of energy.
Doing too much. We live in a society that values being busy. How many times have you asked a friend how they are doing and they reply “really busy”. Take time to rest, relax and enjoy some of your favourite pastimes and hobbies. Spend an evening watching a film without checking your phone. I’ll give you extra points if your snack with the film is popcorn without salt or sugar. Add some cinnamon for flavour instead. It’s really easy to make in a pan at home.
Perimenopause creeps up on women sooner than they think. You might be like I was and expecting hot flushes or irregular periods to be the first symptoms, but often sleeplessness and low energy levels can show up much sooner.
You’re not as young as you were. Perhaps I should have broken that to you more gently. The fact is once you stop growing in your early twenties, your body starts to slow down. We don’t notice straight away because the changes are very gradual. First signs are usually in your thirties when you go for a big night out and your recovery takes longer than it used to. Fortunately, as a nutritionist I have a number of natural products that help slow ageing. I’ve already mentioned I now feel like I’m in my twenties again, even though I’m in my mid-fifties.
A poor diet generally will make you feel tired. The biggest problem is sugar. Sugar gives a quick hit of energy but then you spiral quickly downwards and end up feeling worse than you did before. Have you ever had a chocolate bar in the afternoon to keep you going at work, but then felt absolutely exhausted on your journey home? Other foods that lower your energy are white carbs like white bread and pasta and highly processed foods. These highly processed foods such as ready meals are now sometimes called ultra-processed foods. You don’t have to be a registered nutritionist like me to know that can’t be good!
Not drinking enough water. Not very exciting I know, but so important to body and brain energy levels.
A long list I know! These are just some of the ways I help women to eat healthily and increase their energy levels. Not a complete list or I would be typing for a whole week!
I hope these tips are helpful to you in your journey to eating more healthily and improving your energy. Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions for me.
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Healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard. Start slowly and build your new habits one at a time. Adding in nutritious food will soon mean your body doesn’t want junk food anymore. You’ll also have some extra energy and might see other improvements like weight loss and better skin. Enjoy your journey and let me know how you get on.