Feeling better as important as losing weight

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
As mothers, setting a good example is important for happy, healthy children.

That’s why we want to walk away from the cycle of restrictive dieting and taking a more holistic approach. It’s time to focus not just on the weight, but also how you feel.

Humans are designed to be active. But our modern lifestyle is sedentary, and exercise becomes another chore on the to-do list. When we’re tired, we don’t have the motivation to get out there and move. Many mothers also feel they spend a lot of their time on their feet doing chores.

We need to prioritise physical activity - and not just for losing weight. The research shows that not exercising is just as bad for us as smoking, if not worse.

Exercise has countless health benefits. It’s essential for stress management, mental health, heart health and balanced hormones. Moving outdoors also means we can find green spaces such as beaches and parks which are important when we have so much technology around us. Vitamin D can also be manufactured from daylight in the warmer months when we are out and about also, further improving mood and immune function.

Even though movement is the last thing on your mind when you’re tired, it helps you to produce energy more effectively. It does this by helping our mitochondria - the energy production powerhouses in our cells - to perform more efficiently.

When you exercise, you feel more alive because you’re making more energy on a cellular level. It can take some mental discipline to get started, but once you incorporate movement, you’ll start to feel more energised throughout your day.

Another big reason for mothers to struggle with weight loss is their eating patterns.

Many people are eating too many processed calorie-rich foods that are low in nutrients. But nutrients are what our hormones, energy production and metabolic rate rely on to function. So, we end up starved of key nutrients, and the body responds by increasing the appetite in search of nutrition because we haven’t got what we needed. Do you know the feeling after eating a baked salmon fillet with broccoli and beans, drizzled with lemon? You reach a point where you can’t eat any more as you are so satisfied; quite a different feeling when eating chips and dip, where one handful is never enough.

Unfortunately, processed foods are easy to get anywhere and everywhere. You can’t even go and fill up your car with petrol without being tempted with a chocolate bar. Our ancestors had to move around and forage to find their food so you may like to keep that in mind next time you fill up.

Another common source of excess energy intake are beverages. The wine, alcohol, store-bought coffees and carbonated drinks can add up quickly throughout your day - three glasses of wine (red or white) or three bottles of cider are the same as having an extra 6.7 slices of white bread in your day.

Alcohol reduces fat burning for 24 hours and is often consumed with high-calorie snacks. It shrinks the brain and damages the gut lining, but that’s not all. Alcohol affects women faster than men, even when adjusted for body weight, because we have more fat and less water, and there are other variations based on the menstrual cycle.

Historically, alcohol misuse has been more common in men than women. However, recent data from the past 10 years show we are catching up. For many, it becomes a nightly habit to wind down but it is a case of short-term gain for long-term gain. I have had clients’ eyes glaze over when I mention reducing alcohol, followed by a look of deep disappointment. For those desperate and willing to try a few days without their vice, a thankful email usually follows along the lines of "I can’t believe how much better I feel already from not drinking each day. I sleep better and wake the next day feeling like I have actually slept".

Daily alcohol use over 35 years of age has also been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer, so while you may feel more relaxed and connected having it, I challenge you to try other relaxation techniques.

Sara Gottfried, an American medical doctor recommends taking 1 tablespoon of MCT oil in the afternoon to avoid craving that first glass of wine. Based on anecdotal reports, MCT raises healthy short-chain fatty acids in the body, which may make you feel more satisfied when you prepare for dinner. This can be found in local health shops, pharmacies and online.

Eating well and moving your body doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing approach - every little action helps.

One alcohol-free day, one less favourite chocolate, one more quick sprint as you take a walk - these all keep your mind, stress response, and blood sugar levels one step closer to balance.