Article

3 (Science Backed) Healthy Habits That Will Transform Your Life This Autumn

Published on 25th Sep 2017
by Dr Heather McKee

Dr McKee’s programmes have introduced a more intelligent and evidence based way for you to achieve long term success. Dr McKee is running the last Open Day of 2017 in New You Monday October 9th click here to reserve your free 30 minute consultation. Below she introduces 3 evidence based ways in which you can adopt healthy habits that will transform your life this autumn.

1. Change your food environment

Research shows we make more than 250 food choices a day (Wansink 2013). Large or small coffee? Two biscuits or one? Eat on the go or sitting down? Each of these choices have an impact on your long term success.

Every time you see a specific food you have to make the decision (conscious or not) whether to have it. The more you are exposed to seeing certain foods the more decisions you have to make. The more decisions you have to make the more likely you are to give in to temptation and go for the poorer choice. This is why it is so important to lessen your exposure to temptation in your environment in order to help keep you on track. In fact, studies have found those who keep unhealthy food on their desks or kitchen tables weigh 5.5kg more than those who don’t. Being consistently exposed to temptation in their food environment means they are much more likely to give in more often.

So how can you change your food environment today?

Out of sight is out of mind! Take a look at your food landscape both at home and in the office. Remove any unhealthy foods out of view, off table counters, and into non transparent boxes or wrappers. You want the healthy foods to be the ones you see first. Put prepared fruit and vegetables at eye line in your fridge to ensure these are the things you nibble on when hungry.

2. Make sleep a priority 

We tend to underestimate the impact sleep has on our long term health. Countless studies have identified the importance of getting a good night’s sleep and how sleeping too little (or too much) can negatively impact your weight (Chaput et al., 2008).

Often it’s hard to weigh up getting enough sleep with the importance of getting other things done such as work. However, it is worthwhile to remember that there is a wealth of research demonstrating that sleep not only improves your health but also improves productivity, creativity and effectiveness at work (Rosekind et al., 2010). If you get inadequate sleep you are less likely to stick with your exercise plans, and are prone to having higher circulating levels of hunger inducing hormones. Therefore making you more vulnerable to temptation.

The recommended amount of sleep is 7-8 hours per night anything less and you put yourself at risk of fatigue induced  weight gain (Patel and Hu, 2007).

How can you get more sleep today?

Work backwards from when you need to get up in the morning and set an alarm for 7-8 hours before this. Most of us set an alarm for when we wake up but we tend to be less disciplined on when we actually go to sleep. We therefore tend to sacrifice precious sleeping hours which are vital to keeping us on track with our daily habits. By setting an alarm in the evening it serves as a reminder to prioritise your sleep and consequently your health and happiness.

3. Examine the impact stress is having on your habits, then tackle it head on.

Stress not only leads to overeating and oftentimes emotional eating, but it is also linked to abdominal fat accumulation. Chronic stress such as job/relationship stress is associated with the secretion of cortisol, (a steroid hormone) which activates certain enzymes that promote retention of abdominal fat (this fat is dangerous as it puts you at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes).

Further, this chronic stress also causes an inflammatory response in other cells predisposing you to a host of chronic diseases including; depression, obesity and cancer. That is why it is so important to get a handle on stress.

How can you tackle your stress today?

One priority I have with many of my clients is to examine their relationship with stress. Specifically, looking at what behaviours they currently use to adapt and cope with stress. I do this in order to look at how we can disrupt these patterns and create new, more effective coping responses that will enable them to be healthier and happier.

The first step in tackling your stress management is to be aware of how you deal with stress in the first pace. Examine; what are your primary stressors/triggers? How do you normally react to these? Knowing this alone brings you closer to looking at how to change any maladaptive responses.

The weight loss research shows that those who directly tackled their stress using active coping and problem solving skills were most successful at maintaining their weight long term (Kelm et al., 2000).

An example of an effective active coping skill is mindfulness training. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce stress related overeating, improve cortisol patterns, decrease binge eating and even diminish abdominal fat over time (Daubenmier et al., 2011).

Meditation doesn’t need to involve hours of time or complex chanting or religious practices. It can be as simple as focusing on your breath pattern for a minute. Scientifically this alone has been proven to reduce stress, blood pressure and negative mood.

Why not try treat yourself with a bit of meditation today? You can do the below exercise whilst boiling the kettle, waiting for something to load on your computer or when queuing or commuting (anytime you have a minute to spare):

  • Breathe in for 5 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 5 seconds
  • Release for 5 seconds
  • Hold for 5 seconds
  • Practice this breath pattern for one minute
  • Try and slow down your counting as much as possible

Changing your habits is difficult. However the shift that a new season can bring can often prompt us into reflection. It is the perfect time to look at creating new habits that can support us through winter.

Successful habit change, although hard, is possible. It can be achieved through skills that can be learned and practiced just like a musical instrument. 

Ultimately, repetition is key.

That said if you try and do too much at once you dilute your effectiveness.

So why not choose one of the above habits and execute it this week?

Pick whatever resonates with you most then try and implement that consistently over the next few weeks. Once you are over 70% confident that you can maintain this new habit then you can look to add another new change to it.

Consistency is the key to success. So be kind to yourself. Don’t expect results overnight. The key is to focus on the daily processes you put in place and look to build on these over time to firmly establish your healthy habits long term. If you rush into it, trying to do everything at once it won’t last. Consistent small changes are the proven way to build sustainable habits that last a lifetime.

Make the First Step:


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