Bananas are yellow, right? Well yes, but picture the scene…
The bananas were bought in the supermarket at the start of the week. Nice yellow bananas. The intention was good. This week I’d be eating healthily and making sure I’d get as close as possible to hitting the 5-a-day recommendation.
The bananas were in good company in the fruit bowl, sitting next to lots of apples, pears, and grapes. (Other fruits are available, but I just happen to prefer these ones!)
At the end of the week the bananas are still in that fruit bowl but they’re now that speckled-brown colour and I’m thinking I’d better eat them before they go off.
I love bananas, but the problem is I always end up eating the speckled-brown ones because my good intentions have a shorter shelf life.
What about you? Do you always end up eating brown bananas?
I know I’m not alone. I used to work for a lovely employer that paid for fresh fruit deliveries twice a week for the staff kitchen… but someone always ended up taking home a bunch of speckled-brown bananas so they could make banana bread.
The problem is that ‘healthy eating,’ ‘getting your 5-a-day’, ‘being healthy’ and other intentions often end up falling victim to our busy lives where we mentally acknowledge the importance of nutrition and health but we rarely get round to taking meaningful action.
And to be fair, there’s just so many obstacles in the way:
· an abundance of hyperpalatable, calorie dense foods
· too many deadlines and work commitments
· kids who won’t like anything that resembles a vegetable
· the feeling that cooking is a chore (especially after a busy day)
· a bit of overindulgence at the weekend.
The gap between knowing what we should do and actually doing it can seem insurmountable. But it doesn’t have to be.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been re-evaluating my attitude towards ‘health.’
That’s down to a few things:
I’m going on holiday in a few weeks and despite my best efforts in the gym and the kitchen, I still have a bit of a belly. Don’t get me wrong, under normal circumstances you wouldn’t notice, (and I can still comfortably fit into a pair of jeans with a 30” waist) but as soon as I pop on the t-shirt and shorts, it’s there.
Now, I’m not trying to get a beach body. I gave up on that about 30 years ago. And I’m a regular gym-goer so it’s not just a ’12-week programme’ thing because I have a holiday planned. But, it’s a good point to reconsider if my gym routine and eating habits are where I want them to be.
Secondly, as part of my CPD activities as a translator, I decided to invest in an excellent quality training course that would lead to a qualification in one of my specialist subjects for translation.
So in May I started an Active IQ Level 4 Qualification in Nutrition Coaching with the BTN Practical Academy. This is a year-long, recognised qualification with one of the leading sports nutrition companies in the UK.
The course so far has made me think more holistically about health and the vital role nutrition plays in that. It also advocates a balanced and pragmatic philosophy towards lasting behaviour change that contributes to healthy habits for the long-term.
And finally, recently I attended a very information session at the Institute of Translation and Interpreting 2022 Conference. Entitled ‘Staying healthy while working from home’ the presentation looked at some small, practical and actionable steps everyone could take to make working from home a healthier experience (especially if, like most translators, you spend a lot of that day in front of a screen).
These three events have made me think about what’s working and what isn’t.
So here are my top three takeaways so far*:
1. Don’t focus on exercise, focus movement
It’s easy to create self-imposed burdens on yourself. If you regularly engage in some form of exercise, then great. But if not, start by adding more movement into your day – stand up and stretch every hour or so, go for a short walk, wander into your garden for five minutes.
We tend to think about exercise in a very traditional way – like going to the gym, playing sport or jogging – and not everyone feels they want to do those things.
But if you reframe this so that exercise = movement you open yourself up to more possibilities.
Once you’ve established a new routine, you can think about other ways to increase your activity, such as playing a sport, attending a dance class, taking your dog for a hike, or getting into that gym class.
2. Get the basics right to begin with – sleep, hydration, food
It’s easy to go all gung-ho into an exercise routine or diet plan. Instead, pause for a moment – you don’t need the latest fitness app or celebrity chef’s recipe book. And your goal should be to have a balanced diet not some weird starvation-induced fad diet.
Begin by looking at your current habits in three areas of your life - sleep, hydration, and food.
Do you get a decent 7 or 8 hours sleep a night? What can you do to get to bed earlier, get a better night’s sleep and consistently feel more refreshed?
Are you drinking enough water? It’s easy to confuse hunger with thirst, and even the slightest bit of dehydration can affect your ability to concentrate. Get into the habit of drinking water over the course of the day.
What are your eating habits like? Start by eating regularly at the same time each day. Take a proper lunchbreak. Start by increasing the amount of veggies you eat one meal at a time. Replace one biscuit snack with a healthier option, like dried fruit, nuts or yogurt. Or even a banana!
Small, consistent steps are more important than grand gestures, especially if you’ve fallen into unhealthy habits, and it starts with getting the basics right first.
3. Don’t aim for a perfect work-life balance, just aim for more balanced life
Work-life balance is a myth that's perpetuated by the false idea that we can 'do it all and have it all'. The reality is that there’s always some aspect of life that needs more attention at any given point.
If you’re children are sick then you spend more time attending to them and less time with your friends. If you’re studying for an exam, your social life gets downgraded. If your deadline is looming you might need to work into the evening.
That just how life works.
So rather than create an unrealistic expectation that all aspects of your life are going to get the attention they deserve all the time, realise that some activities may have to go further down the list of priorities for a while.
Having said that, it’s important to examine your routines. If you habitually sacrifice your social life or find yourself working late to meet every deadline then there’s a problem you need to address.
But once in a while? Not really an issue.
The same applies to diet and exercise.
Eating a slice of cake or having a beer with your colleagues won’t derail your progress if you’re otherwise consistent. In fact, it might actually do you good – because good health is more than just diet or exercise. It implies a general sense of wellbeing and happiness.
The reality is that health is a complicated topic. There are numerous factors and circumstances to take into account. And it’s rarely black or white.
But complicated is different from difficult. Taking small, actionable steps are easy as long as you focus on a couple of things at a time and do them consistently – like eating a banana while it’s yellow!
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*REMEMBER: If you’re new to exercise or have any underlying health or dietary conditions, please consult your doctor before engaging in new forms of physical activity or diet. The suggestion in this blog post are general recommendations that most readers would be able to apply. If you have any doubts, discuss them with your GP.