Key Takeaways

So for me, there are 3 key areas to focus on which can help us to be healthy and they are:
The Mind (i.e. mental attitude)
Diet
Exercise
10 mins of Mindfulness Meditation each day, ideally first thing each morning helps big time.
A low cholesterol diet is key.
Ideally we all should be exercising min of 3-5 days per week

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So we all know what we should be doing to be healthy (right?!) but what we should be doing and what we actually do can often be at polar opposites to each other.

Finding time to be healthy can often be a major stumbling block. Today’s world is frantic. We always seem to be super busy, flying from one task to another. You know the score, you have 2.3 children, you / your partner works, you commute, you have fun with your kids, you go on day trips & playdates, you visit family members, you meet friends, you do the shopping, you go to football training, you clean the house, you (need/try to) chill out after a hard week. All this and there are only 24 hours in a day – where the hell do you find the time to be healthy??!!

Well after been diagnosed with ‘multiple signs of heart disease’ & needing 4 stents inserted into my heart earlier this year, I’ve gone through a big change in attitude regarding my health.

Now I’m no doctor and what I’m talking about all stems from my personal views but I have completed a Phase III Cardiac Rehabilitation Programme so my personal views come from my involvement in this programme. It also comes from a common sense approach too so I hope some of what I have to offer can help you to be healthier & live a better life.

BTW – This is going to make me look like I’m a serious health freak, believe me, I’m not!! I am however trying my best. Before the stents, I loved my takeaways, pizzas, wine, beer & chocolate. I also love healthy food if I’m honest but as default, my preference is the bad stuff first – or at least it was anyway.

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So for me, there are 3 key areas to focus on which can help us to be healthy and they are:

The Mind (i.e. mental attitude)
Diet
Exercise
Irrespective of your starting point (e.g overweight & unfit, half fit but want more or whatever) these take time to accept, change & get right and you bet your ass they will bring many challenges along the way. Get it wrong and it can all go tits up fairly fast.

An important point to think about is being healthy isn’t just about you. Fair enough, it has a fair amount to do with you but it’s also about your family and even your friends. How you are and how you behave – weather you are happy or sad, fit or overweight – affects those closest & nearest to you. (If you are not happy with yourself, chances are you won’t be happy in their company and they are the best barometer of you when something is wrong).

So the first part of being healthy starts with the mind.

1 – The Mind:

10 mins of Mindfulness Meditation each day, ideally first thing each morning helps big time. For those of you who are aware of it, you won’t need me to tell you about the benefits of it. For those of you new to it, please check it out. I bet you it’s not what you think and no, you don’t have to have your knees crossed with incense burning everywhere while you listen to some goone chanting music in the background! Mark Williams & Jon Kabat Zinn have excellent material on this. Personally, I use an app called ‘Headspace’ which for me, works really well. I’ve subscribed to the annual upgraded version but there is a free version to try before you buy.

2 – Diet:

I now follow a Low Cholesterol Diet since finding out mine was to high. And since changing my diet & taking Statins, I’ve managed to get it right down to very healthy levels. But it did mean a big change for me as I said above, I loved my takeaways, meat, chocolate, cheese & wine.

What I now know but didn’t before is any food which comes from animals will increase your Cholesterol. Saturated Fat is the devil. These foods over time will clot your arteries which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or worse, death. So cut them out. I did. I’m now more or less a pescetarian except I do eat chicken & turkey. Not because I don’t like meat anymore, I do, I love it & miss it big time but I’ve chosen not to eat it to help get my cholesterol down – and it’s worked.

As a rough rule of thumb – my diet is largely based around this:

Foods low in saturated fat
Foods low in salt
Foods high in protein
Switched to wholegrain (everything)
More fish
More chicken/turkey
More vegetables
More fruit
More lentils / seeds / unsalted nuts
You can check out some of my recipes which revolve around the above here on my blog.

When I first saw what I could eat on this diet, mentally I struggled with it big time. ‘No takeaways & pizza’s, no meat, no cheese, no chocolate, you’re pulling the piss right? Agggghhhhh FFS!’. The thought of not being allowed to have them was horrible. I said ‘Agh Jayzus, so I can’t have any decent food then no?!’ and the reply was, ‘This is what we should all be eating anyway. If everyone eat like this, there would be a lot less cardiac issues with people’. Yes your honour, case closed.

3 – Exercise:

So here’s the scary bit 🙂 Ideally we all should be exercising min of 3-5 days per week, with a session lasting 45 mins to 60mins which includes a 10 mins warm up & a 5 min cool down. And this is not just for those with cardiac history, this is for everyone.

(i) Warming Up & Cooling Down –

Are really important to do and something I never really did correctly until the rehab programme. You need to warm up to allow your heart increase its bpm gradually. It also lets you gently stretch your muscles which can help avoid injuries. Likewise, cooling down gets everything back to normal and helps avoiding cramping post exercise.

(ii) Aerobic Vs Anaerobic Exercise –

What’s the difference? Basically, Oxygen.

Muscles need energy during exercise (to sustain the effort) so with Aerobic exercise, when you breath, oxygen is present & gets transferred to your muscles whereas with Anaerobic exercise, oxygen is not present. With Anaerobic exercise, the body fuels itself from glycogen.

(iii) Running / Walking / Swimming / Cycling –

These are the four types of exercise the rehab programme said where the best forms of exercise to get your heart pumping aerobically. These are the ones that will strengthen your heart.

Keeping your heart rate within a particular zone is key to exercising aerobically. For me, my zone is 124-150 bpm (as given to me in the rehab programme). I track this via my Fitbit but you can also do it via the ‘Borg Scale’.

I like to run with my Nips and before Nip#1 got her summer holidays from creche in June, I was flying. I’d gotten myself up to running 10km which I was absolutely delighted with. Since then to today, 2 runs. Running Fail !!! Once she’s started big school in less than 2 weeks, I’ll be back running again.

Anaerobic examples will include weight training, sprinting or interval training for example. This helps you increase your lean muscle mass. As a cardiac patient, these are out for me as it can put too much strain on my ticker too fast.

(iv) Yoga / Pilates –

I’ve done Yoga like 6 times in my life and I really enjoyed each one. I’ve just been crap at fitting it in. Same for pilates. But it is my aim to start as the benefits are amazing for both your body, mind & soul. And get those three factors right and you my friend will be one healthy, happy mother 🙂

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So this is what I’ve done – particularly in the last 9 months – to be healthy & happy and right now, I’m genuinely the happiest I’ve even been in my life and long may that continue. Running with my Nips shows them exercise is good, eating healthy does likewise. These are traits I want them to have (among many others) and I think I’m leading from the front for their sakes.

I hope you get some benefit & value from it.

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