Motivation Monday

The Hexagon of Health

You want to lose weight and be healthy? It’s not working for you? There’s more to it than diet and exercise. (Although they help!)  Our whole lives are pulling us to work and consume. The external world is begging us to spend money and time online. If you’re not getting the results you want, maybe you need to look wider?


We’ve already discussed the first 3:

#1 Nutrition

Nutrition really is number one.  Solid nutrition is the basis of a healthy lifestyle.  You’ve worked out your BMR and you’re eating the right amount of calories. But are you eating smart? Are you making the most out of every calorie?  A couple of reminders about nutrition, especially if you feel stuck:

eat nutritionally dense foods
If you’re sticking to 1200-1500 kCal/day eating plan, you do not have a single calorie to waste. You do not want to feel hungry, you do not want to be malnourished. Yes, you can eat what you want, but have you noticed how hungry you feel by 11 am if you have two slices of toast for breakfast, or if you have a bowl of cereal? Have you had a glass of wine at lunch and been stuck for what to eat for dinner? Eating smart means planning to eat your calories with as much nutritional value as possible – egg, tomato and spinach for breakfast, not special k and skimmed milk: check back to this theory Thursday.

always eat protein with carbs
There is a whole lot of stuff out there about carbs.  Another chap who has some sensible and practical things to say is John Berardi. Some sources feel carbohydrates are OK for some people and not for others. My perspective is that high GI carbs are a waste of calories because they make you feel hungry too soon afterwards. I lost weight by only eating low GI carbs, or those with added protein (staves off hunger longer) e.g. Quinoa instead of rice, no lunchtime sandwich, fruit for breakfast always paired with 0% fat Greek yoghurt (next time you are in the supermarket check out the protein per 100g of fage 0% fat Greek yoghurt vs your normal yoghurt!). Again, look back at macronutrients (protein carbs and fat) for more detail in this theory Thursday.

#2 Exercise

You’re following an exercise programme, getting your recommended 150 minutes a week getting slightly out of breath – are you over estimating how many calories you’ve burned? Calorie counting apps are great, they really work, but they aren’t accurate. It’s quite easy to do a “workout” without much effort. So be mindful of that when logging your calories burned on exercise. I would always err on the side of caution – especially at the extremes of weight and height.

#3 Strength training

Are you doing this? Gaining muscle will boost your BMR and help you lose weight.

#4 N.E.A.T.

New concept.  This is “Non-exercise activity thermogenesis” – or the calories you burn doing you “daily activity” in the hexagon above.  This could be an issue if you have a sedentary job.  Increasing “N.E.A.T.” is taking the stairs, jumping off the kerb, doing the gardening, the hoovering and not ignoring your fitbit when it vibrates at you to move every hour!

Increasing N.E.A.T. is incredibly good for your long term health.

#5 Sleep

Shouldn’t be number 5, should probably be number 2!  So often the first thing overlooked. We haven’t talked about sleep, yet. You need 7-9 hours. You may not be getting it on purpose. Margaret Thatcher famously didn’t get more than 4 hours per night. She lived to a ripe old age, but she had dementia and strokes. You may not be sleeping well despite your best efforts. Check out this guide to great sleep, but in essence the rules are

  • No blue screen before bed or anywhere in the bedroom – get that TV out! Charge your phone and tablet somewhere else
  • No caffeine after 5
  • Regular rising time even on days off
  • Cooler bedroom than rest of house (you can take a bath before bed to enhance the cooling effect afterwards)
  • Bedrooms are for sleep, nothing else.

#6 Stress management

Number 6 may be the final piece of the jigsaw for you.  We know we’re all stressed. Stress is physical and psychological. One great way of dealing with both stress and strength training is yoga. There are plenty of free YouTube resources, but if you need a teacher there are also many classes. The breathing techniques help relieve stress (& improve running!) and the poses give you amazing strength – especially upper body which for women is often difficult to achieve, and will help reduce your chance of wrist fractures in later life.

Meditation is gaining a big following and a deal of evidence and maybe you’ll find it enormously helpful – again plenty of YouTube resources to try. I hadn’t done any meditation, but trying it out for this article I found it soothed me off to sleep and was much harder than I anticipated!  You have to train for it, just like any other exercise 🙂

So there you have it, more things to think about!!  You don’t have to do it all right all of the time, but don’t ignore any one side of the hexagon consistently, or you’ll end up lopsided 😉

***If you are getting it all right, but it’s still going wrong, then you may need to consider a thyroid test…….

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A tiny hobbit dedicated to saving the world with a decent second breakfast. Also, available to make you feel good in triathlon when you overtake her.......

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