Yoga teacher, life coach and entrepreneur Tracy Johnson shares an holistic approach to health.
Even if your relationship with social media is fleeting, perhaps you’ve noticed a plethora of posts about getting that ‘summer body’ and how ‘summer bodies are made in winter’. Although most of us have a complex relationship with our bodies – we love some bits, are not so happy with others – yoga can give us the ability to come into a space where we focus more on how our bodies feel and what they can do, and less on what they look like. Still, it’s easy to get hung up on having the ‘right’ image. As the weather gets warmer, here are some key tips to help you focus on health and wellness and how to feel great on the inside, first.
1. START WITH WHAT’S ON YOUR PLATE
Cleaning up your diet can help you make an immediate change to how you feel on the inside. This doesn’t mean doing a drastic detox or starving yourself on a juice cleanse. Rather, take a look at what you eat and start by getting rid of the processed foods. Cook your meals from scratch so that you know only healthy whole foods are going into your body.
To beat bloating and feel energised, your plate should include a palm-sized portion of protein (meat or fish if you eat it, or tofu, tempeh or eggs), a good two to three portions of different vegetables and a thumb-sized portion of healthy fat, such as coconut or olive oil, nuts, seeds, cheese or half an avocado. This works for breakfast, too – a vegetable omelette can make for a filling and protein-packed start to the day.
Drink herbal teas, water or hot water with lemon throughout the day and you will soon start feeling full of energy, thanks to all of that good nutrition and extra hydration. Remember to eat when genuinely hungry and to stop as soon as you feel full, so be mindful and take your time over your meals. Avoid snacking unless you really have to, to give your digestive system space in which to do its work and avoid unnecessary caloric intake. Most of us simply eat too much and end up feeling heavy as a result.
2. DECREASE YOUR SUGAR INTAKE
We’re much more aware now that sugar, rather than fat, is what leads to weight gain, as well as glycation processes in the body that can age the skin and harden arteries. Try to cut out the obvious sources of refined sugars in your diet such as that added to drinks and processed foods. Be aware that juicing, no matter how healthy it looks, is simply pouring sugar into your bloodstream without the buffering effects of fibre. If you want fruit, eat it whole, and again, don’t snack mindlessly on it. Eat a couple of portions a day and then stick to vegetables for a good range of nutrients without too much fructose.
If you have a sweet tooth and really need to kick it, eat fruit instead: get anything sweet out of your diet in the short term to recalibrate your palate. If you really need that little bit of sweetness, then small amounts of good quality honey, maple syrup or coconut sugars can be healthier substitutes. Getting rid of your sugar dependence will feel liberating, will stabilise energy levels and open up a whole new world of subtle flavours.
3. DO REMEMBER THE GOOD FATS
If your skin is dry or feels thin and papery, then perhaps you need more healthy fats in your diet. Many of us fell for the low-fat myth and our skin has suffered as a result; it needs plumping and feeding from the inside with whole foods. Incorporate avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds into your diet and see the difference. If you can tolerate dairy, then go full fat! These kinds of filling foods can help you feel satiated and help you avoid snacking on unhealthy alternatives.
Fats to avoid are hydrogenated and trans fats, which have been subject to molecular changes during processing, which can have unpleasant clogging effects on the arteries. It’s easy to avoid these things if you eat fresh foods and dodge fast food. Read your labels if you’re eating out of a packet and avoid things you can’t pronounce. As for red meat consumption, the jury is still out on this one, so enjoy with moderation and source your meat responsibly!
4. MOVE MORE
Feeling sluggish? Get moving! Our bodies are not designed to sit at a desk or behind a steering wheel all day. I love to exercise with weights and kettle bells, but I know this may not be everyone’s preference. Join a running club if being in a group gets you out, or start running or walking to work if you can. Maintain your yoga practice and start your day with an energising morning class; use Movement for Modern Life if you can’t get to a studio and get your blood flowing!
What is the best exercise for you? The one you will actually do consistently, so choose something and stick to it.As the weather warms up, take your training outdoors and benefit from green spaces and that extra vitamin D. Exercise is a natural mood enhancer and anti-depressant as well as being great for developing muscle strength and endurance, so go and find your fit.
5. RETHINK YOUR ATTITUDE
Summer is a great time to seize some positives: spending more time outside, feeling the sun, lingering over food with friends and generally slowing the pace. Perhaps it’s the worst time of year for the self-conscious or those who feel more comfortable hiding behind their winter wardrobe – that used to be me. Looking after your body on the inside will increase your confidence on the outside. Get plenty of powerful Warrior poses into your yoga practice, as well as confident chest and hip openers.
Summer is the best time of year, so eat well, live well and enjoy!
This post was written by Tracy Johnson, the founder of Brainbox Coaching, Empower Yoga Bristol and Stretch+Knead. She trained under Sally Parkes and is a 200 hour RYT with Yoga Alliance. Tracy blends her yoga teaching with confidence coaching and stress management to create a holistic practice, and runs her classes with warmth and humour. She is the author of a careers guide, Working in Science, co-author of The Coaching Gurus, and writes for publications such as OM Yoga Magazine, Globe of Love, Happiness+Wellbeing, MindBodyGreen and has been featured in the Guardian, Body Fit magazine, the Bristol Post and Cardiff Life. She is also a career and confidence coach, self-defence instructor and an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and is currently writing a book combining yoga with her coaching techniques for stress management.