Last month People Magazine featured controversial model Tess Holliday on the cover of their ‘2015 Body Issue’. Why controversial? Well, she’s become a central figure in the ‘big is beautiful’ vs ‘fat shaming’ debate. There’s no denying that Tess is very overweight, and I’m sure she would be the first to admit that. What she proves, though, is that your self-confidence doesn’t have to be linked to your dress size, that it’s possible to feel beautiful no matter what others say about your body. Many people adore her for this, but many are equally unhappy about an unhealthily sized woman being held up as a role model. Then again, as her fans point out, who is anyone else (medical experts excluded) to judge whether another person is healthy or not?
Tess herself claims to live a healthy lifestyle, cooking good food and exercising regularly. Its important to realise that although being overweight can definitely increase our chances of developing some nasty diseases, health isn’t always necessarily linked to weight. We could also look at the super skinny, ‘heroin chic’ models—whilst the fashion world’s adoration of this body type has rightly come under fire for promoting an unhealthy body image and contributing to a rise in eating disorders, we should remember that some women are naturally very skinny, perhaps because of a high metabolism or so forth, and they deserve to feel good, too.
We have to be careful to avoid body shaming at both ends of the spectrum, but to also minimise the worries that many people have by breaking the habit of emulating any type of body, whether its big or small. As long as we eat right and get enough exercise, its shouldn’t matter too much what size we are, and once we realise that then maybe we can get back to celebrating bodies like Tess Holliday’s for the right reasons—not as a body to aspire to, but simply as a symbol of being comfortable in our own skin.
With that in mind, we’re going to get back to the only issue we should be talking about here—how to live healthily. As the adage goes, when you feel good, you look good, so here are some small changes you can make in your life to make sure you’re looking after you.
Carry a water bottle with you
Drinking more water can make you feel more energised, clear your skin, remove toxins from your system and help control your food cravings—and that’s only the tip of the ice berg. If you’re someone like me who doesn’t naturally get too thirsty or crave water, you need to focus on making it a habit, and having a constant visual reminder can help with that. Keep a bottle of water in your bag all day, place it on your desk as you work, and put it by your bed when you go to sleep so you can take a big drink as soon as you wake up. If you find water too bland and unappealing, you can always liven up the flavour—try infusing it with cucumber, lemon or lime.
Turn off devices before bed
Whether you’re playing games, sending late night emails or catching up on the latest Gumption articles, looking at computer screens right before bed may be the reason you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep. This in turn can put you at risk of developing a whole host of conditions, from heart disease and high blood pressure, to a lowered sex drive and depression. The Sleep Judge recommends that you turn off all technology about half an hour before you want to go to sleep. Bright screens from our phones and laptops can affect our sleeping patterns and how long it takes for our brains to be ready for sleep.
Meat free Mondays
Eating a lot of red meat can be very bad for your health, and may increase your risk of bowel cancer. The NHS recommends making healthier choices with your meat consumption, substituting red meats for skinless chicken or turkey as much as possible, cutting back on processed meats such as burgers or sausages which are often high in fat, and choosing leaner cuts and less fatty options, such as back bacon over streaky bacon. Many of you out there will be vegetarians and that’s great, but there are lots of conflicting views about the benefits vegetarianism offers. However, what’s for sure is that you don’t need meat every day; cutting back on your meat intake can be beneficial, and you can get a lot of your proteins from non-animal products. If you’re someone like me whose a bit of a meat fiend and tends to treat all non-meat foods as side dishes to the main meat-tastic event, meat-free-mondays could be a nice way to wean yourself off of your meat dependency, and actually learn how to cook without it.
Buy frozen fruit and veg
It can be hard to get enough portions of fruit and vegetables every day, not to mention pricey. A good trick to make sure you always get enough is to stock up on frozen fruit and veg. Going frozen offers a range of benefits; they are cheap, quick, don’t decay so there’s no waste, and can offer a higher nutrient and antioxidant concentration than fresh ones. Frozen berries are a good option—it’s always easy to grab a handful to mix into some yoghurt for a healthy snack, or to chuck on your morning Weetabix or porridge. Lots of bags of frozen veg come with the portions already divided up into little packets. Nuke one of these for a few minutes, and you’ve easily scored yourself an extra portion of your five a day. No excuses, ladies.
Get a pedometer
Being inactive is one of the worst things you can do for your health, and is associated with all kinds of health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and maybe even dementia. In fact, its estimated that inactivity is responsible for 5.3 million deaths each year—the same number as smoking.
Whilst its true that being overweight significantly adds to your risk of developing Type-2 Diabetes and that losing that weight can get you out of that danger area, a lot of people don’t realise that thin people can develop it too. Diabetes UK estimates that around 630,000 people in the UK are currently living with the condition without realising it.
When it comes to getting active, a lot of people don’t realise how little they actually move around, particularly if you have an office job, or drive for a living. Getting a pedometer can be a great way to check how active you really are, and can help you make daily targets—the NHS promotes the 10,000 steps a day challenge, whilst the average person only takes about 3,000 – 4,000. Diabetes UK are offering a free pedometer and diabetes guide if you text in. Someone will call to get your details and they’ll ask if you would like to donate to them—you’ll get your pedometer even if you can’t, but please be nice to them, they’re saving lives! Try making some slight adjustments to your lifestyle—take the stairs if you’re able-bodied, don’t drive if you can walk the distance, or find a shop a bit further away to walk to on your lunch break.
Its important to try and get some fresh air and vitamin D everyday, but please, ladies, always remember that all important SPF—its one of the best things you can do for your skin. There are loads of moisturisers or BB creams out there that have SPF included, so it couldn’t be easier to add to your daily skin routine. Aside from the cosmetic benefits—wearing SPF can prevent early aging and damage caused by the sun—the health benefits are invaluable. Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, and is mainly caused by over exposure to the sun or tanning lamps. Whilst this hopefully sounds like quite obvious advice, there are many myths floating around that contribute to people’s failure to wear sun cream or products with SPF. Contrary to popular belief, you do need it when its cloudy and you should wear it even if you work inside, especially if you sit near a window, as harmful UVA rays still get through. Really, its better to be safe than sorry, so girls, get in the habit of wearing it every day—and remember to check whether yours protects against both UVA (responsible for ageing) and UVB (causes sunburn). You should also learn to spot the warning signs of skin cancer, and get to know every inch of your body so you can spot any changes.
Don’t forget your mental health
No matter how fit you are or how well you eat, you’re never really healthy if you aren’t also taking care of your mental health; this can include focusing on positivity, doing things that make you happy, or taking steps to reduce your stress. Exercise in general can be great for stress and happiness, and yoga in particular offers some fantastic benefits. The British Psychological Society says that yoga can have a positive effect on people “suffering from depression, anxiety, cardiac disease and high blood pressure” and in general can address “stress related nervous system imbalances”. Meditation also offers some great benefits for your mental well being which can rub off on your physical health, reducing stress levels and helping you feel happier and more connected to the world, as well as improving your quality of sleep and your immune system. If you’re not comfortable with the notion of meditating, it’s a good idea to at least learn some deep breathing techniques and take some time each day to practice relaxation. Find the NHS’s advice for relaxation here.
Of course, there are many other ways to stay healthy, and if you are ever concerned about your health you should seek the advice of a doctor or pharmacist. Otherwise, good luck and feel great!