Don't be put off by the dreaded 'D' word. Following these realistic steps could change your life for the better
Words Morag Turner
You can’t go anywhere in January without hearing the word ‘detox’. It immediately conjures up images of images of slug-coloured juice, kale and the treadmill. But a true over all health detox is about so much more than cleansing, fasting and slogging it out at the gym. It’s not a quick fix, but neither is it so extreme that it you’ll endure it for a week and then slip back into unhealthy habits.
Here are some realistic ways to give your health proper detox this year. You won’t regret it.
Stop focusing on just your weight
Yes we all know that everyone has a few pounds to lose after Christmas and it is a good idea to slim down to your ideal weight (more on that later), but there are often other much more important health issues you need address first.
When did you last have a check up at the doctors? You know that sore back/dodgy knee/funny clicking noise your hip is making? Get it looked at! We tend to underestimate the impact these little niggles have on our lives. Aches and pains that don’t go away after a few weeks are often not normal and you shouldn’t solider on.
Whether it’s an osteopath or a physio you needs to see, make the appointment ASAP. If you’re not sure quite what is wrong then your GP is your first port of call and they can point you in the right direction.
But if, as is so often the case, you can’t get an appointment for weeks, try out the amazing online doctors service The Push Doctor for an online consultation where you can speak to a qualified doctor with in minutes. It’s not a free service, but if you need a prescription in a hurry or a chat at a more convenient time, then it’s the perfect option.
And when was the last time you had a smear test? If you don’t know then make booking one a top priority. What about a skin check too? Even if you are super careful with the sun screen now, it’s thought that 80% of the sun damage we receive in our lives happens before the age of 18, but it can take years for the effects of this to be visible on our skin.
Having a mole check at least once a year is a very good idea. The Mole Clinic has clinics all over London and can offer appointments within a few days. Like so many things, if changes are spotted early they are much more likely to be treatable.
Also consider a full health MOT or ‘well woman check’. They can be booked through BUPA or many private hospitals. There are plenty of options in central London, many on Harley Street. Googling what is available in your local area is a great start but if you’re not sure which doctor or clinic to go to ask your GP and they will definitely be able to advise you.
Setting aside just a couple of hours to really invest in your health could make a massive difference to your wellbeing in the long run.
Be honest with yourself and schedule realistic exercise
So in our heads we are going to do three HIIT work outs a week, two pilates classes and sign up to the local half marathon right? But in reality we are never going to find the time to do all that even if we retain the will to.
The key to a successful fitness regime is being totally realistic and, above all, planning. As all mums know, the days of waking up and thinking ‘you know what? I fancy going for a run’ are long gone. Spontaneity falls off a cliff the minute you have kids and you realize quickly that time for yourself is a precious – and rare – thing.
Ring-fencing a few hours in your diary is the key. Only you know when it will work best – whether you are a morning person who can fit in a work out after dropping the kids at school, or prefer an evening class on the way home from the office. Maybe it has to be the weekend so that your other half can watch the children.
Whatever type of exercise you like, just make sure you put it in your diary and let anyone who needs to know in on the plan.
And if money is involved then pay up front. Nothing is more likely to make you commit than £40 an hour to a personal trainer going down the drain. No one can tell you what work out will suit you best, how much you will enjoy it or quickly you will get in shape – that’s down to you. But forward planning and strict scheduling makes all of the above a whole lot more like to happen.
Do you really need the body of a 21 year-old?
If the answer to that question is yes then great – go for it. Eat as clean and lean as you can and never let a Kit Kat pass your lips. If you are the kind of person who can truly give up sugar/wheat/dairy to slim down then that is your choice and it is to be respected.
But most women just want balance and the ‘80/20’ rule is a good place to start. What this means is that 80% of the time you eat very healthily, and that does mean very. Tons of fruit and vegetables lean meats, nuts, seeds, pulses and whole grains. This will make you feel great and you’ll enjoy making nutritious food for yourself and your family.
The other 20% we eat whatever the hell you like. A croissant with a coffee, dessert in a restaurant, popcorn and a full fat coke at the cinema. Enjoy them because they are treats not staples. But we don’t keep telling yourself that they are somehow guilty pleasures because then you’ll obsess about them. Just get into the 80/20 habit and it will become second nature. And it’s not exactly a hardship – unprocessed, healthy food tastes so much better.
And back to the point about the 21 year-old body. Unless you are one, you’re kidding yourself if you think you can actually look like one. The key is looking the best you can for the age you are and a healthy diet will do that for you. Your skin will glow, your waistline will stay trim and you’ll have loads of energy. Isn’t that more important that being super skinny and chasing youth?
To drink or not to drink?
No alcohol is good alcohol. The experts tell us this all the time and our heads certainly agree the morning after the night before. The weekly recommended limit for women has recently been reduced from 21 to 14 units a week. You don’t need to be bored by a list of how much that means in real terms because you know that already. But safe to say it isn’t a lot.
So we know that it’s not that good for us (the negative impact booze has on the nation’s health is clear to see) but it goes back to the old adage ‘everything in moderation’ – like the 80/20 rule that is applied to diets. Sharing a bottle of wine with your husband on a Friday night, having a cocktail on holiday and dancing around a friend’s kitchen till 2am after the prosecco has been flowing will do you no harm once in a while. This is the 20%. The fun and happiness it brings to your life is worth the occasional hangover. But it is not every night of the week. Excessive drinking has become a normal part of every day life for so many women and it’s extremely dangerous. Celebrating a birthday or a romantic dinner is a reason to open a bottle of wine, just getting home from work or putting the kids to bed is not.
Everyone manages their alcohol consumption in different ways but possibly a good place to start is not really drinking in the week at all and making sure you don’t go above a few glasses on the average weekend – birthday parties, weddings and the like are obviously exempt from this. And from time to time try to abstain completely. Whether it’s dry January or any other time of the year, you’ll feel your body and mind thank you for a few booze-free weeks.
Focus on your own goals
Maybe you want to lose weight and tone up. Or is this the year you plan to get pregnant and want to give yourself the highest chance of conceiving and your baby the best start. It could be that you want to push your fitness boundaries by completing a triathlon or even climbing Kilimanjaro. The goal itself is irrelevant really, what matters is that you find something you want to achieve in relation to your health and make sure you take positive steps to making it happen.