For many, “healthy living” is often easier said than done. We get advice from friends or the media on how to eat healthier and do more exercise. Often this all feels like too much of a struggle, but exercising and healthy eating can be easy and fun.

To mark the start of 2020 we’ve pulled together 20 tips to make it a little easier for you to swap old habits for healthier new ones. These tips will help you to make your everyday life healthier and you’ll have made a great contribution to reducing your risk of breast cancer.  Keeping a correct weight for your height and being physically active is a key part of ensuring you reduce your risk of breast cancer.

Healthier eating: You use the best fuel to fill up a Ferrari – so treat your body like a Ferrari.

Have a healthy and nutritious breakfast: try some quick and creamy porridge for breakfast. Using low-fat milk, or a milk alternative like almond or soy, will make it even healthier. Adding a banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon will make it even more luxurious. Ready, healthy, go!

Have one piece of fruit today: it’s easy to repeatedly find yourself on the naughty step: a piece of chocolate here, a bag of potato crisps there – do you recognise this in yourself? A good habit can be to eat a piece of fruit instead of that bar of chocolate or bag of crisps. Apples, for example, contain a wide variety of phytochemicals, many of which have been found to have strong antioxidant and anticancer activity.

Have a meat free day every week: you don’t have to become a full-time vegan. But how about one meatless day a week? Evidence shows that processed meat could increase breast cancer risk. There are so many super tasty vegetarian or even vegan recipes that will make you quickly forget your desire for meat.

Meal Prep: healthy eating needs more preparation time than fast food. But it’s worth it! Good planning is half the battle. Prepare some healthy meals for work, on the weekend. This way you don’t have to spend your evenings in the kitchen but have everything at hand. Some simple ideas are: whole meal pasta and tomato sauce with some roasted veg; chickpeas with rice. All can be prepared in large batches and divided into portions ready for the week ahead.

Drink, drink, drink: your body consists of about 50 to 65 % water and can’t function without a regular supply of liquid. The feeling of hunger is also often confused with thirst. This can happen especially if you’re not consciously paying attention to your fluid intake. So, it is very important to drink enough during the day (6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day). Choose wisely and have some water with lemon and mint or some unsweetened tea. Soft drinks contain many empty calories, meaning they provide very little in way of vitamins or minerals, fibre or phytochemicals. One can of cola contains 140 kcal.

Reduce the alcohol too:  a good trick for drinking less alcohol is to have a non-alcoholic drink after each glass of alcohol. So, after every beer or glass of wine have a glass of sparkling water with lemon. Drinking less will help control your weight and decrease your risk of getting breast cancer.

Chew slowly and carefully: most of the time we gulp down our food almost . By chewing properly, you will notice sooner when you are full, helping you to eat less and prevent weight gain.

Have a yummy self-made fruit yoghurt: have you ever looked at how much fruit there really is in fruit yoghurt? Often only a few percent. The sweet yoghurts you buy often contain an incredible amount of added sugar. The solution? Make your own yummy real fruit yoghurt instead. Take fresh or frozen berries and natural live yoghurt. You can then sweeten it with a little honey if needed.

Going to a restaurant? Mind your choice: the most important tips to avoid unhealthy eating and calorie traps are: choose steamed or grilled foods; and avoid fried foods or food covered in bread crumbs or cheese coating, because they are guaranteed to be high in calories.

Have recipes at hand that are simple, quick and delicious: to implement a healthy diet as easily as possible, you need simple recipes. These have to be prepared so quickly that your inner temptation has no chance. Look up “quick and healthy recipes” on the Internet and create a list of ideas that sound delicious.

Moving more: A little bit every day leads to great results!

Make it a “Stairs only” week: if you look at the escalators in stations or shops, you’ll quickly notice that hardly anyone takes the stairs but prefers to be carried up. But not you! Challenge yourself this week and take the stairs at every opportunity. It gets your cardiovascular system going properly, burns a few extra calories and is considered physical exercise, which has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Buddy Up, get some support: if you’re hesitating about starting exercise by yourself, find a workout buddy. Ask a friend or work colleague to join you on your new regime.  You are much more likely to stick to a new fitness regime if you have support and encouragement from other people. They will give you moral support for the days you don’t feel like getting out there and help you celebrate your successes.

Add some variety: doing the same thing all the time can be boring, so mix it up. For example, change your walking route every few weeks. Explore new areas in your neighbourhood you haven’t seen. Listen to a new playlist or podcast while you exercise. Also, seek out new training plans (you can find plenty of free options on Pinterest for instance and try new exercises. Join a local group – you can find local groups and clubs near you on Facebook. Or, how about signing up to a 5K or 10k run and raise money for your favourite charity while you at it!

Reward yourself: it’s important to set yourself ambitious but achievable goals.  If you succeed, reward yourself with a delicious post-workout snack (healthy of course!), a new pair of sports shoes, or a massage.

Visualize your post-workout me: always make yourself aware of the positive aspects of a training session. For example: more energy, better sleep, better posture, more self-confidence and, of course, a reduced breast cancer risk.

Listen to the beats: music and rhythm can motivate – and distract you from heavy legs. Put your favourite sounds on your ears – there are lots of playlists free to download (BBC Sounds app has a wide selection for all musical and listening tastes). This can push you on that extra mile or complete those extra reps.

Appreciate small successes: Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t throw in the towel after just a few training sessions. Start with small changes, once a week, and write down any improvements regularly.  Have you noticed that you have been getting up the stairs a lot easier lately? And that you have less backache, or you are sleeping better? Give it a try!

Use technology: use fitness apps/trackers that regularly remind you to take a few steps or to move. For example, if you’re looking to start running regularly, try the NHS couch to 5k – it has motivational trainers to talk you through your training to reach 5k in 9 weeks.

Move during your lunch break today: use the lunch break for a walk – alone or with colleagues. Not only will you have taken a few extra steps, but your stay outside will have provided you with some vitamin D which is essential for good health.

Try out a fun Fitness video on YouTube: YouTube is full of motivating and fun fitness videos. Just type in a few key words like for example “fun workout for beginners” or “pilates for beginners” and you will get a whole list of videos (shorter ones and longer ones) you can try at home.

You only have one life and one body. Looking after it and giving it all the energy and nutrients it needs to work properly, is the best insurance for a long, good and healthy life. Diet is one of the risk factors that is known to affect breast cancer risk and mortality, and one that we can personally and proactively take to make positive changes. It all starts with your personal decision to make your health a priority. So make up your mind!

 

References

Sleep and weight gain: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3763921/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20357041

Breast cancer and weight and physical activity: https://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/Breast-Cancer-2017-Report.pdf (Accessed Jan 29 2020)

Drinking: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/water-drinks-nutrition/ (Accessed Jan 29 2020)

Drinking and keeping a healthy weight: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/jhn.12368?referrer_access_token=kPwyI43Ur9Yf9zT0Yiycoota6bR2k8jH0KrdpFOxC66bH5w4L_Tf1J6WoflkCbPWeGZ9tv6EBRD3uRbx4OTJxuKOyw1Ecag5vhqFIbrCNv3kN35WlZOuYojQflI5eomvLbmpblao0uJkmSq5d48wuQ%3D%3D (Accessed Jan 29 2020)

Vitamin D: https://www.breastcanceruk.org.uk/reduce-your-risk/diet-and-weight/diet/ (Accessed Jan 29 2020)


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