It seems implausible that in the 1930s and 40s, smoking was advertised as good for our health. Cigarettes were promoted as the fix for everything from calming nerves, keeping a ‘slender figure’ to even reducing coughs and asthma. It wasn’t until the 1950s that evidence confirmed smoking to be the cause of a range of serious, often deadly diseases.
The history of the health industry is littered with similar examples and in my time as a wellbeing writer I’ve seen more crazes come and go than I’ve eaten avocado salads. There’s been the Atkins diet, juice cleanses, cooking with coconut oil and plugging yourself into a vitamin drip, to name only a few.
This is why I’m so sceptical of trends that come my way. So how do we decipher the fads from the facts? In my opinion, wellbeing has become overcomplicated so, as this is my last column for YOU, I’d like to leave you with some simple wellbeing rules that have stood the test of time…
Top wellbeing tips
Eat fresh, nutritious food daily
Nutritional therapist Amelia Freer once told me, ‘Everything you ingest is information for your cells telling them how to function.’ Put the wrong fuel in a car and it will conk out – it’s the same for your body.
Calories do matter
Basic, I know, but most people eat too much. If you consume more calories than you need, you will put on weight – the end. Watch portion sizes and hidden calories such as those in alcohol.
You can’t out-train a bad diet
This is a personal trainer’s favourite saying for good reason. Getting fit, losing weight or getting the body shape you want is impossible with exercise alone.
Diets don’t work
Rationing your food is unsustainable, and most people who lose weight fast tend to put it back on. Not only that, but crash diets can mean if your body thinks it’s starving it holds on to calories. Choose healthy eating over dieting to lose weight.
You can’t shortcut your way to wellness
Instagram is awash with ‘fitfluencers’ who tell us how to ‘hack our health’. But there is no such thing as a wellbeing quick fix. Consistency is key for real, lasting change
Yoga is magic
There is a reason why yoga is still going strong after 5,000 years. It focuses the mind, empowers the body and brings us back to ourselves. It teaches us strength of mind and body, and helps improve mental health. We need it now more than ever.
Nothing is more healing than sleep
If you are in any doubt as to why we need to prioritise our shuteye, read Why We Sleep by Professor Matthew Walker. It delves into the science behind sleep, how a lack of it is linked to major diseases and how it safeguards our very existence.
It is proven that we need to do weight-bearing exercises as we age to help with maintaining bone density. But it’s a myth that we need to be lifting dumbbells: even holding your own body weight in yoga works.
Just keep moving
It is vital that we keep moving every day, if possible. If you don’t use it, you lose it, and once you have lost the ability to move, you lose your independence.
Everyone could benefit from seeing a therapist
Life is tough and no one is exempt from experiencing difficult times. Visit babcp.com to find an accredited cognitive behavioural psychotherapist near you.
Take a 70/30 approach
If you want to eat kale with every meal, exercise seven times a week and abstain from sugar and alcohol, that’s up to you, but it would make most people miserable. I find that being as healthy as I can 70 per cent of the time and letting it go for 30 per cent keeps me on track. As any grandmother used to say, ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’.
Make-up can’t replace good health
No blusher, foundation or illuminiser will ever look as radiant as a natural glow.
Finally, respect your body
It is the most mind-bogglingly marvellous piece of kit and we don’t give it enough credit. As director Baz Luhrmann said, ‘Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.’