KNOW YOUR LIMITS
In these winter nights, it’s tempting to slip back into your old bad habits: munching crisps in front of the telly, going for a few drinks after work, partying until you’ve forgotten your name. But these coming weeks don’t have to mean weight gain, hangovers and sleep deprivation. With a little self-control, you can still have a good time and keep illness at bay.
ALCOHOL The Government recommends that women should consume no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. A unit is a small glass of wine, half a pint of beer or a measure of spirits. For men, the limit is higher at 21 units. Remember, these are limits, not targets! A recent EU survey on alcohol consumption found that one in three Irish people “usually” binge drink: have five or more drinks in one sitting.
Don’t go there: Binge drinking can put a strain on your heart and cause irregular rhythms. Get to know your drinking habits and try to cut down and spread out your drinking.
Too much booze can also temporarily impair your stores of Vitamin C stores. Stock up on fresh fruit juices, fruit and vegetables after a night out.
The best policy is to eat before you go drinking and to pace yourself – the more you drink and the faster you drink it, the quicker you end up under the table (not great at the office party).
And, for goodness sake, don’t mix or double up on drinks. Drink water between alcoholic drinks to slow you down and keep you hydrated. Also, check out the herb milk thistle, which is known to cleanse the liver, the organ which takes the biggest hit on your night out.
OVER-EATING One in five Irish men and one in six women are seriously overweight. Put simply, obesity is the result of energy imbalance. You gain too much body fat if you take in too much energy from food and use up too little energy in physical activity. Low-fat but high in sugar products or low-sugar but high-in-fat items are there to trick us into taking in more than we want.
Walk away now: The key to keeping your belt notches tighter lies in a low-fat diet, rich in fruits and vegetables; avoiding passive over-consumption of calories in fast food; keeping soft fizzy drinks to a minimum; and getting active. Today, people watch television for about 19 hours a week and spend less than two hours a week jogging or swimming. Get up, get out and get active …
LACK OF SLEEP Working too hard or burning the candle at both ends can lead to crankiness, poor judgement, and a fall in the quality of your work. Add in commuting and small children and you’ve got a lethal mix with fatigue now being cited as the cause of many car accidents.
Sweet dreams: Sleep restores energy and gives your lymphatic system a chance to clear the lymph glands. Ideally, you should get seven to eight hours’ sleep a night. Don’t nap during the day. Stick to a regular sleeping pattern, even at weekends. There’s plenty wisdom in the old saying, “An hour before 12 is worth more than two afterwards.” Cut down on your alcohol and caffeine intake before bed and don’t eat spicy foods close to bedtimes, as they can upset your body’s natural rhythms. If you can’t sleep, get up and distract yourself for a half-hour or so before returning to bed.
SMOKING Smoking is the single most preventable cause of cancer. It causes 95 per cent of all lung cancers, a condition that causes the death of around 1500 Irish men and women every year.
Stop today: The benefits of quitting kick in as soon as 20 minutes after putting down your last cigarette. Your blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal. Circulation improves in hands and feet, making them warmer. After eight hours, oxygen levels in your blood return to normal and your chances of heart attack start to fall.
After three days, your breathing becomes easier and your energy levels increase as your bronchial tubes relax. Nine months later, and breathing problems such as coughs, shortness of breath and wheezing have improved.
Boost your intake of Vitamin C for the next few weeks because your body uses its stocks to destroy free radicals which harm it.
SKIPPING MEALS Over half the girls surveyed in an Irish school said they skipped meals to avoid weight gain. What actually happens when you start skipping meals is that your body goes into starvation mode, and becomes more efficient at using calories. In fact, people who skip meals typically burn calories more slowly than those who don’t. In people who skip meals and then overeat at subsequent meals, this change in metabolism makes it even harder to burn the extra calories.
Don’t do it: Going too long without a meal often results in uncontrolled eating. That’s why skipping breakfast is a bad idea. You need to restore your blood sugar levels regularly. Try a cup of sweet tea with a bowl of breakfast cereal. Then, during the day, snack only on fruits, such as bananas, which release energy slowly. Fruit smoothies are a great way to rehydrate the morning after the night before and get some restorative vitamins into your system.First published: Easy Health
Copyright: Deirdre O’Flynn 2011