I was asked to contribute a guest post by Sue Loncaric for her Website Sizzling toward sixty. Sue’s passion is “helping and encouraging women in midlife to reach their full potential living a healthy & active lifestyle”. I encourage my readers to have a look at her website because it has so many resources for women in their midlife to inspire and guide them to live a healthy life. Sue lives on the Gold Coast and we’ve never met in person but I look forward to having a coffee and a chat with her when we are no longer social distancing.
This was my first guest post and I feel very honoured to have been invited to take part in her series Aging Well Living Well. I talked about some of the challenges I have faced in my life and how I overcame them to arrive at this point in my life. Here is an excerpt:
I want my remaining years to be as healthy as possible so I strive to overcome my health issues and live the healthiest version of my life as I can… No matter what your issues are, whether they are physical or mental, a lack of money or support, it is possible to live the healthiest version of yourself. Do what you can rather than focusing on what you can’t.
Keep on Track with your Healthy Diet with these Ideas for Snacks
It can be very difficult to keep on track with your healthy diet and often the biggest blow-out is caused by the snacks we eat. Some snacks have as many calories as a full meal and the food is often high in salt, saturated fat and sugar. Before you know it, you are hungry again and reaching for another packet of chips.
I have put together a list of snacks which are filling, nutritious and healthy. Snacking on each of these options will improve your diet, rather than detract from it.
One of my biggest concerns with my weight was my waist circumference. My waist measured 109cm (42 inches) when I started on my journey. This put me at a much higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. An ideal waist measurement for women is 88cm (35 inches) or less, and men is 102cm (40 inches) or less. Anything above this is classed as abdominal obesity.
All the extra weight I was carrying was fat, which was surrounding all my vital organs like my heart, liver and pancreas. I had been taking tablets for high blood pressure for a couple of years, and for my cholesterol for at least 6 years, so my body was already showing signs of issues caused by this excess fat around my abdomen.
According to research, reducing the size of your waist to a healthy size will increase your longevity as well as reduce your risk for other diseases, such as dislipidemia, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Even if you are relatively smaller everywhere else on your body, the increased weight around your waist will still lead to other health problems.
How to Measure Your Waist Size
Along with wanting to lose weight, I was desperate to reduce the size of my waist to prevent any other health issues. So I started measuring my waist, hips, bust, thighs and upper arms along with weighing myself 2 – 3 times a week. I used a Body Fat Calculator to assess this. My body fat percentage a year ago was 43.3% which is very high, and now it is around 28% and in the healthy range for my age.
I have found that taking those measurements is more incentive to lose weight than just weighing on the scales alone is. I can also see that some days I’m quite bloated with my waist ranging between 84cm on a good day to 88cm on a bad day! The “bad day” is usually from working night shifts or having a day or two of eating and drinking unhealthy food – but we all need a day or two like that occasionally.
Image credit for feature photo: Pixabay on Pexel
If you are interested in starting to do the same measurements, there’s a great website called Calculator.net that has a number of health and fitness calculators that are easy to use, including a Body Fat Calculator. If you don’t want to go to that much trouble, try writing down your waist measurement and weight once or twice a week.
The way your clothes fit will also be a good way to gauge whether you’re losing weight off your waist. I’ve had to totally replace my whole wardrobe twice in the last year, down to my underwear! It’s so rewarding to be able to see the results, and know that I’ve done a lot to improve my health by reducing my waist size.
Cut out all sugar, especially drinks that have been sweetened. A high intake of sugar leads to the liver getting overloaded, resulting in insulin resistance. Because your body can’t cope with so much sugar (fructose) and stores it as fat in your abdomen and liver.
Increase your protein intake, because this reduces cravings and boosts your metabolism. High quality protein is important, such as that found in eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, seafood, meat and high quality protein supplements (whey powder).
Cut carbohydrates, particularly highly refined ones found in cakes, sweets and white bread. Some people cut carbs drastically leading to ketosis (the popular keto diet) which reduces your appetite and leads to rapid weight loss. My brother has done really well on this diet, while I found just dropping all the rubbish like lollies, cakes, muffins etc. was enough for me to be effective. I find that if I have any of those foods now I get a migraine so that just proves to me that this type of food is bad for my health.
Eat food high in fibre, particularly vegetables. This helps to fill you up, and aids digestion. One of the most effective steps I took was to amp up my vegetable intake, replacing a lot of the carbs with vegetables. Vegetables contain plenty of vitamins and minerals which also help our health and wellbeing. Other food sources of fibre include fruit, cereals and legumes. Adding a fibre supplement like Metamucil would be effective as well.
Exercise, in particular aerobic exercise such as walking, running, swimming and cycling. Spot exercises like sit-ups do not work! Improving your core muscle strength will help you overall but it might not necessarily reduce your waist size unless you are doing aerobic exercise. I can’t do heavy exercise but I have found that regular walking has been effective for me.
Count your calories using a macro counter. I use an App on my phone to record everything I eat, and from there I can see my macros (percentage of protein, carbs and fat), and calorie intake. I try to keep to between 1500 – 1800 Kcal per day, and make sure my calories in is lower than my calories out. I still track this every day even though my weight has been stable for months because I find it helps me stay accountable to my health goals.
Another benefit of reducing your waist size is that clothes fit better! I always found it really hard to find clothes that fitted my apple shaped body and was always trying to hide my belly with tunics etc. It’s now so much easier to find clothes that fit, and my body has a better figure (not quite an hourglass shape though!)
Sprouts have many health benefits: they are full of nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins such as Vit. D, A, zinc, biotin and iron, fibre which aids digestion, and omega-3 fatty acids. The process of sprouting enhances the nutrient value of grains, legumes and beans. They are easier to digest when sprouted, allowing our body to utilise the nutrients easily. While they are full of nutrients, they are low in calories so you can eat a lot of them without worrying about the calorie intake.
To buy them from the supermarket is relatively expensive and they have to be used within a couple of days. I usually end up throwing most of them out because they deteriorate too quickly. By growing my own, I can have sprouts at various stages of growth so that I have a steady supply. They are very easy to grow – you don’t need a garden for these! They can grow on your kitchen bench in a jar and only take about 3 days to grow.
Clean glass jar. You can use any jar for this but a medium sized jar is best
A sprouting lid which has wire mesh to allow air to circulate, and water to drain off the sprouts. I have made do with the foot end of a pair of pantyhose stretched over the mouth of the jar. A piece of muslin or cheesecloth and a rubber band would work as well.
Sprouting seeds e.g. alfalfa, red clover, mung beans, chia seeds, broccoli, wheat, radish, soybean, mustard, lentil, sunflower seeds and pea shoots. Anywhere that supplies seeds should have them, and they will say sprouting seeds on the packet. Health food stores usually supply them too, and you can buy them in bulk online. It’s best to buy special sprouting seeds because they are free of bacteria and are packaged in a controlled environment. Using lentils or other seeds from the grocery store is not as safe because they are meant to be cooked, meaning that they may not be free of the bacteria that causes salmonella or e. coli gastroenteritis.
I use a tea strainer to strain the water off as some of the seeds are very small. The rinsing and draining process is important as you don’t want them to sit in stagnant water.
Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of seeds in the jar. Cover with warm water and leave overnight – 8 to 12 hours
Drain water off (I use the tea strainer to drain it through). Rinse a couple of times until the water runs clear. Do this morning and night. Leave them pointing downwards so that the water drains well.
After a few days the sprouts will be ready to eat. Put them into an air-tight container in the fridge and eat within a few days.
You start a new batch of sprouts every couple of days to ensure a continuous supply.
Enjoy them in salad, sandwiches, wraps or stir fries.
This is the salad recipe that I have used many times over. It is delicious, versatile and healthy. The basis for it is just three ingredients, then you can customise it to suit your taste.
60g baby spinach ( or approx. 2 cups, or half a bag of spinach from the supermarket
250g cherry tomatoes (or two large tomatoes cut up)
1/2 continental cucumber (or 1 Lebanese cucumber)
Rinse spinach in a colander. Break off stems and remove leaves that are blemished. Wash tomatoes and add to spinach. Cut up the cucumber and add to spinach. Place in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last about 4 days.
30 kCalories per serving, total recipe 90 kCalories. Serves 3 for mains, 5 for side dish. 2g Protein, 6g Carbohydrate, 0g fat
feta cheese or shredded low fat tasty cheese (see note at bottom of recipe)
roast baby beetroot, skinned and diced
nuts, e.g. pine nuts, sliced almonds, pistachios
seeds, e.g. quinoa, flax seed, sunflower seeds
dressings, e.g. vinaigrette, Greek or Italian salad dressing, low fat mayonnaise
lean protein – grilled chicken breast, low fat ham or bacon (grilled), tin of tuna in low fat sauce, boiled egg
fruit, e.g. mango, apple, pear, dried fruit such as apricots or cranberries
herbs, e.g. parsley, chives, mint
My favourite combinations
Basic recipe plus:
olives, feta cheese and Greek dressing
chicken breast, avocado, snow peas
Feta cheese, baby beetroot, celery
cos lettuce, boiled egg, low fat mayonnaise
small can of tuna in sun-dried tomato and onion (John West brand, 99% fat free)
Meal Prep Idea
Make the basic salad, divide into 3 portions. Each portion is your lunch. Take the extras to work separately and add just before you eat it, then the salad won’t go limp and soggy.
I’m one of those people who needs to keep a track of everything. I like to be organised and plan things in advance. When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, I use a few apps to help me and give me incentive. I would recommend them to anyone who wants to keep a track of their exercise, weight, and dietary intake amongst other health goals.
This is an obvious first choice for me because I wear my Fitbit all day and night apart from showering and charging it up. It counts my steps, number of floors I’ve climbed, how many calories I’ve used, my heartrate and how many hours I sleep per night. I also use mine to track my calorie intake and my weight and water intake. Every week it sends me a summary of everything and gives me incentive to continue with my goals. I do challenges every week with a group of other people and am in a few support groups such as Healthy Eating which is like a forum. The most helpful aspect of the app is the calories in vs. calories out section. As long as my calorie intake is less than what I burn off every day with exercise, I’m on track to maintain a healthy weight. I also like the weight tracker where I can see graphs of my weight and fat percentage over time.
I have a Samsung mobile phone which came with a free health tracker called Samsung Health. It is very much like the Fitbit App where it can track steps and exercise sessions, weight and sleep, but the reason I like it is that the calorie intake section is better than the Fitbit App. While the Fitbit is more accurate in counting steps and sleep, the Samsung App. has an easier calorie counter to use. It is possible to save numerous types of food in the data bank which makes it easier to track your diet as you go along. I generally eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch so it’s very easy to save a whole meal in the favourites section, or to work out how many calories are in a meal. Calorie counting is very tedious for most people but I find this App. makes it really easy for me to keep control of my eating. Keeping to 1500 – 1800 kCalories per day has been the way I’ve lost 17kg and been able to keep it off. The breakdown of my diet into macros (percentages of carbs, protein and fat) is very useful, and it goes into further detail by telling me how my diet is in relation to vitamins and minerals.
I have been an insomniac for as long as I can remember. Doing shift work doesn’t help because I feel permanently jet lagged. Even with pretty strong sleeping pills I still have a lot of trouble sleeping. The Smiling Mind App. has been a Godsend to me because I’m usually lulled into sleep within minutes of listening to one of the sleep meditations. There are programs for Mindfulness, Stress reduction and improving relationships amongst other things. There are other Apps designed for meditation but this is the one I return to time and time again.
If you’re a fan of Michael Mosley then this is the App. for you. My brother and I have both lost weight using his programs, my brother with Intermittent Fasting and me with The Clever Guts diet and Mediterranean Diet. There are recipes, videos and podcasts on this App.
I use this App. to work out my BMI ( body mass index) and there are also calculators for body fat, ideal weight and basal metabolic rate. I find that the body fat and ideal weight calculators aren’t very accurate but the BMI is easy to calculate using your weight and height. I use a website called calculator.net to calculate my body fat percentage, as I find this much more accurate. To compare, my body fat percentage is calculated as 35.55% on the App, and 28.5% on the website. The website uses gender, age, weight, height, neck size, waist size and hip size while the App only uses waist size and weight so that is why I prefer the website. It’s a handy App to use but I’d recommend only using the BMI calculator.
While not strictly a health App, Pinterest is a great source of information. I can look up thousands of recipes, ideas on food prep, motivation for exercise and self care, and links to bloggers around the world who talk about a myriad of different topics from plant sources of protein to growing vegetables. I follow many different Pinterest boards focused on living a healthy lifestyle. They have opened my mind up to many different ways of thinking, especially about diet and self care. I doubt if I’ll ever buy another recipe book because I can find exactly the recipes I need on Pinterest.
Allrecipes Dinner Spinner
Recipes have been created by many different contributors so there is a huge range of great recipes on this App. I can collate favourites and create a collection under different headings. I can also create a shopping list for the ingredients. It’s a handy App to use on the go, for example while I’m out shopping I can quickly look up the ingredients I need to make a particular recipe.
In summary, these are my favourite Apps that I use to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I would love to hear from you if you find any of these Apps useful, or any suggestions of Apps that you use.
My healthy lifestyle blog has been my biggest achievement this year (apart from losing 17kg!). I’ve really enjoyed writing about a topic that I’m passionate about. The hardest part is the self promotion which goes against my introverted nature but it’s vital to gain followers if I want people to read my articles.
Thanks to everyone who has read, followed, liked and shared my posts across WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter! I really appreciate your support and all the comments, likes and shares. It keeps me motivated to write more.
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