My favourite apps for a healthy lifestyle

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.

Fitbit

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.

fitbit weight graph

Fitbit macros graph and calories in vs calories out

Samsung Health

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.

Samsung Macros graph and Vitamins and Minerals

Smiling Mind

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.

Apps that I use every day for tracking, insiration and ideas

Clever Guts

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.

Health Calculator

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.

Pinterest

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.

Pinterest search for healthy recipes

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.

We use our phone continuously throughout the day so try using Apps to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle

My Top Posts of 2019

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.

MY TOP 9 POSTS 2019 – Read them now to gain some inspiration! Live your healthiest year in 2020.
In order, they were:
1 How to make goals that will stick, https://midlifestylist.com/2019/12/18/how-to-make-goals-that-will-stick/
2 Why waist measurement matters, https://midlifestylist.com/2019/11/07/why-waist-measurement-matters/
3 My Weight-loss Journey, https://midlifestylist.com/2019/12/02/my-weight-loss-journey/
4 Slow and Steady wins the race, https://midlifestylist.com/2019/10/29/slow-and-steady-wins-the-race/
5 13+ ways to get more colour in your diet, https://midlifestylist.com/2019/11/13/13-plus-ways-to-get-more-colour-in-your-diet/
6 Gifts that Inspire a Healthy Lifestyle, https://midlifestylist.com/2019/12/03/gifts-that-inspire-a-healthy-lifestyle/
7 How to keep on track with your health goals during the holiday season, https://midlifestylist.com/2019/11/26/how-to-keep-on-track-with-your-health-goals-during-holiday-season/
8 Just change one thing https://midlifestylist.com/2019/10/21/just-change-one-thing/ and
9 Losing weight is a marathon not a sprint. https://midlifestylist.com/2019/10/21/losing-weight-is-a-marathon-not-a-sprint/


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.

The top posts on Midlifestylist.com for 2019

How to Keep on Track with your Health Goals During Holiday Season

One of the hardest times to keep on track with our health goals is during the “silly season” – Christmas and New Year, up to Australia Day at the end of January and even up to Easter. In the US and Canada, Thanksgiving Day in November is the start of the silly season. Summer in the Southern Hemisphere is a time of beach, school holidays, barbecues and celebration, while winter in the Northern Hemisphere is a time for hearty meals, staying indoors in front of the fire and eggnog! It has to be the most challenging time of the year for people trying to keep to their health goals.

If you are having a celebratory meal or gathering of any kind, inevitably the menu includes food that is high in calories and alcohol, and wouldn’t be normally in your day to day diet. Some suggestions to deal with these situations are:

  • Take your own platter with healthy food to share. This is my number one way of dealing with these situations! Try using my recipes for a savoury and sweet grazing platter at https://midlifestylist.com/2019/11/26/savoury-grazing-platter/ and https://midlifestylist.com/2019/11/26/dessert-grazing-platter/
  • Eat a small portion of the food on offer
  • Drink water in between each alcoholic drink
  • Take your own beverages
  • If you don’t want to drink alcohol but feel pressured to, order a drink that looks like an alcoholic drink e.g. mocktail, lemon lime and bitters or soda water. I’m a fan of Kombucha which is really refreshing and doesn’t include many calories.
  • Drink less high calorie alcoholic drinks like a wine spritzer or vodka and soda water. There are low carbohydrate beers and diet mixers as well
  • Order a salad with the dressing on the side. Salads are often covered in dressing in restaurants and that is where all the calories are
  • Many restaurants list how many calories or kilojoules are in their food. Some of them even publish it online so you can research the venue before you go.
  • Don’t go to an event with an empty stomach
  • Don’t order a 3 course meal. Just a main meal is usually ample. My husband and I share an appetiser or dessert if we really feel like another course
  • Don’t stand near the buffet! Take a small plateful and walk away
  • Space out your meal. Give your body time to feel full. Only eat til you start to feel the signals that you’ve had enough
  • Having said that, if I know that I’m about to blow my calorie allowance for the day, I plan for it advance and eat lightly for the rest of the day. A small breakfast and a salad for lunch counterbalances a blow-out for tea.
  • Learn to be assertive and say “no thank you” when offered food. This was always a challenge to me but I’m getting better at asserting myself
  • Accept that some situations are going to be out of your control. If you’re eating to plan during the rest of the week a day of overeating is not going to affect you long term.
  • Enjoy that blow-out meal! You deserve it.
  • Don’t neglect your exercise regime during holiday periods. You will feel so much better if you exercise on days that you’re consuming a large number of calories. Even a walk in the morning before an event will help
  • Try to make celebrations around activities rather than just feasting and getting drunk. Do something active like a picnic at the beach or a bush-walk. Even active party games can take the focus off eating and drinking. Have a game of cricket after Christmas lunch!

If my readers have some other solutions, please share them in the comments. I would love to know how you deal with social events and keeping track of your health goals

Signs you need to see a doctor

A doctor I worked with once said to me “if everyone gave up smoking I’d be out of a job”. That’s not strictly true, however, because even though the smoking rate has gone down since awareness campaigns and Government restrictions on the sale of cigarettes, there are still other risk factors that can predispose us to disease like hereditary factors, lifestyle, age and sex, environmental factors and socioeconomic status. We can’t do much about our hereditary factors, age or sex, but we can control our lifestyle, environment and socioeconomic status to a certain degree.

Another thing we can control is our awareness of signs and symptoms that could warrant a trip to the doctor, such as:

  • changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • shortness of breath, wheeziness
  • a cough that produces yellow or green sputum, or is blood tinged
  • chest tightness or pain
  • spots that have changed on your skin
  • lumps and bumps
  • bleeding, e.g in your urine or faeces, or a wound
  • hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing
  • dizziness or fainting
  • pain not controlled with over the counter medications
  • weakness in a limb, especially when it’s down one side of your body and you also have a drooping mouth
  • very high fevers, 38 degrees C or above
  • discharge or oozing, especially when it has a strong odour
  • swelling
  • a cut or sore that won’t heal
  • severe thirst but still have a dry mouth
  • unexpected weight loss and loss of appetite over a period of time
  • snoring and breath holding at night, and still feeling exhausted during the day
  • changes in your vision, crustiness in your eyes, or red and painful eyes
  • yellowing of skin and eyes
  • palpitations or fluttering in your chest
  • fractures or sprains
  • severe vomiting
  • confusion or mood changes
  • reactions to medications or treatment
  • Knocks to the head, especially ones where you lose conciousness or see stars, or are confused afterwards
  • epileptic fits

This list is only a sample of things to watch out for. Some of these are medical emergencies – don’t hesitate to call an ambulance if you have chest pain, weakness down one side of the body, severe bleeding and serious accidents. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, make sure you are informed of what signs and symptoms to look for, and when to see your doctor for follow-up appointments.

I’ve been a Registered Nurse for over 30 years and unfortunately many of the patients I see have a “head in the sand” approach to health. They are aware of signs and symptoms, but they’re too scared to go to the doctor so they leave it too late. Many of the diseases we see can be cured if they’re diagnosed and treated early enough, but because the person is too scared to see a doctor, it is too late to do anything about it. Unfortunately we also see patients who have been fobbed off or treated for the wrong thing as well. If you’re not happy with what you’re told by one doctor, seek another opinion.

You are the best advocate for your own health so keep in tune with your body and don’t ignore signs that there’s something wrong.

I have worked in Plastics and Reconstructive surgery wards for many years and even then I have a personal example of mis-diagnosis with skin cancer. Because I am aware of the risks of skin cancer I have had a yearly skin check for at least the last 20 years. My sons have had the same checks since they were small children. This is partly due to the high incidence of melanoma in my family (my brother and sister) but also because of seeing the effects of melanoma spread in patients.

I was on holiday in New Zealand and my son phoned me to say he’d had his skin check and the doctor had biopsied a spot on the back of his hand and it had come back as melanoma. It’s hard to convey how devastated I was at hearing this and not being at home to support him. He was only 24 at the time and we’d been going to the same skin doctor for years. This doctor had told him at least twice before that the spot was fine, and we had trusted him. This time it was a different doctor – we had recently moved to a new surgery.

If my son had left it for another year it would have spread. We were lucky it was Grade 1 and hadn’t spread at all. I phoned one of the Plastic Surgeons I worked with and made an urgent appointment and my son was in surgery the following week. He had to have a full thickness flap done, about 3cm in diameter, to his hand but he’s cancer free which is the best outcome we could have had. He’s proud to show his scar because he’s a survivor and he’s brought awareness to many of his friends and acquaintances about the need for skin checks. We both have to have 6 monthly skin checks now for the rest of our lives.

My message today is that I want you to see a doctor if you’re concerned about anything, but keep pushing for more if you’re not happy with what they tell you. That niggling feeling that something isn’t right should not be ignored so pay attention to your body!

Note: this article is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be substituted for professional advice from a Registered Medical Practitioner. Please see the full disclaimer statement by clicking on the heading Disclaimer on the Home page. I am unable to answer specific questions from readers – if you are concerned, please see your doctor.

13 plus ways to get more colour in your diet

Eating more vegetables every day is a sure way to improve your health by filling you up (more fibre) and providing essential vitamins to aid your body in maintaining vital functions. We should all be eating 5 – 6 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day. A serve of vegetables is about 75g or

1/2 cup cooked green or orange vegetables, e.g. broccoli, spinach, carrots

1/2 cup cooked beans, peas or lentils

1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables

1/2 cup sweet corn

1/2 medium potato, sweet potato, taro or other starchy vegetable

1 medium tomato

Depending on the vegetable and the cooking method, a standard serve of vegetables is only 100 – 350kJ (24 – 84kCal). Compared to a small ham sandwich (approx. 271kCal), a meat pie (445kCal) or a Big Mac from McDonalds (520kCal), a large salad will only set you back 50 – 200 kCal depending on the ingredients.

Here are some ways to increase the amount of vegetables in your diet:

  • A large salad for lunch
  • A smoothie with vegetables e.g. spinach, kale, carrot, zucchini, beetroot
  • Load other meals such as stews, bolognese, and pasta bakes with vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, carrots etc. If you have fussy eaters in the family, try grating carrots, zucchini etc. so that they’re barely visible
  • A large stir-fry
  • Soup loaded with vegetables, like my recipe https://midlifestylist.com/2019/11/13/easy-vegetable-soup/
  • Sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, cucumber etc. and meat or cheese.
  • Mexican food like tacos, burritos, nachos can be loaded with legumes such as kidney beans. We have grated carrots, shredded lettuce, corn, tomatoes and guacamole on ours as well
  • Try having a meatless day at least once a week. There are so many options for vegetarian recipes online these days that it’s not difficult to think up ideas for meatless days
  • Carrot or celery sticks with hummus
  • Add spinach or grilled tomato or mushrooms to your breakfast, e.g. in an omelette
  • Potato or sweet potato wedges with tomato salsa
  • Potato salad or bake
  • Make or buy zucchini noodles to use instead of pasta.

Vegetables don’t necessarily have to be fresh. Frozen, canned and dried (legumes like beans or lentils) are all an option. In our supermarkets we can buy vegetables pre-cut and ready to cook which is an option if you are lacking in time. I prefer to steam most of my vegetables in the microwave for a couple of minutes, or stir fry them. This retains the crispness and flavour.

These are just some of the ways you can incorporate vegetables into your diet. I’d love to hear from you some other ideas because I’m always interested in healthy options!

My weekly haul from the Markets includes a variety of fruit and vegetables

Main Image from Amroon Ra, Unsplash

What’s with the Middle Aged Spread?

We’ve all heard about the middle aged spread. Many of us in our 40’s and 50’s start to put on weight which seems to cling to our abdomen, hips and thighs. But why is that, and what can we do about it?

I’ve always put weight straight on to my tummy. Looking at photos of my family, we all have a “pot gut” which we inherited from our father! So it is sometimes from hereditary factors, and sometimes from just learning about food from our families. We’re all foodies in my family – we love our food, we talk about food in detail, and love to experiment with cooking. Being good cooks means we enjoy it just a little too much at times and all our social occasions are based on lavish feasts. All well and good when you’re young and fit and can keep your weight down with exercise and eating well the rest of the week.

But after the age of 40, the reduction in sex hormones in both men and women (yes there is a “manopause”!) can lead to excess body fat being stored around the stomach for men and the buttocks and thighs of women. Women and men store fat differently and it can change due to aging.

I went into a sudden and severe menopause when I was about 46 where my ovaries switched off overnight. I suffered hot flushes every 5 to 10 minutes, severe anxiety and insomnia. For me, going on to hormone replacement therapy was vital for my health. I started to put on weight at the same age, but put it down to lifestyle factors. It wasn’t until this year, at the age of 53, that I managed to slowly wean myself off HRT over the course of about 6 months. It’s only been since then that I’ve been able to lose weight more easily than before. Scientific studies dispute the link between weight gain and HRT, but for me, I believe HRT made it harder for me to control my weight.

Because weight gain in middle age is so common, it is important to look at what we can control, especially our diet. I genuinely did not know that the recommended number of servings of protein and grains is lower after the age of 50. Here was I, eating the same amount of food as my sons who are in their 20’s, and wondering why I was putting on weight! It wasn’t until the dietician told me this that I had a light-bulb moment and realised that I needed to change not only how many servings I was eating, but the amount of food per serving as well.

Once I did this, the weight actually came off easily. I could no longer eat 3 stalks of broccoli and call it a serving, and 200g of red meat and think that that was a reasonable amount for dinner. Here are the recommended amounts of servings per age group:

Recommended number of Servings per Day

You can see from this table, the number of servings drops after the age of 50, so it’s important to adjust our eating habits accordingly. I had assumed that my diet was full of healthy fruit and vegetables, but when I looked more closely at it, I realised that I really wasn’t eating many vegetables at all. It was easy to fix – I just started eating a large salad or some homemade vegetable soup for lunch, and loaded extra vegetables into my night time meals. My serve of meat is now much smaller, and I’ve started incorporating legumes with my meals. My son went vegetarian at the beginning of this year and we’ve really enjoyed cooking sessions where we experiment with different recipes. He’s becoming a good cook as well. His meals look far nicer than our carnivorous ones!

There are some great resources on the internet about serving numbers and sizes. The one I use is an Australian Government website:

https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/

It really is as simple as that: keep to the recommended guidelines for your age and sex, and you will begin to lose weight. Add in exercise, and you’ll not only lose weight, you’ll feel so much better too.

Why Waist Measurement Matters

One of my biggest concerns with my weight was my waist circumference. My waist measured 109cm (inches) when I started on my journey. This put me at a much higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. An ideal waist measurement for women is 88cm (35 inches) or less.

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.

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.

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. 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.

Here are my measurements:

October 2018 / October 2019

Weight 83.5kg / 66.1kg

Waist 105cm / 84cm

Hips 109cm / 95cm

Bust 104cm / 90cm

Thighs 69cm / 59cm

Upper arm 30cm / 27cm

I’d love to hear about your own weight loss journey. Keep up the good work!

Before 83.5kg October 2018. After 66.1kg October 2019

Image credit for feature photo: Pixabay on Pexel