Have you heard of Sanctus? An inspiring new company based in London who are on a mission to change the perception of mental health and encourage people to becoming mentally fit. They believe as I do that our mental health is the same as our physical health and we can do a lot to gain and maintain good health and fitness in both areas.
I mention them because this post is a padded out version of a reply I posted on their instagram a few months back and I believe in what they're doing and want to take the chance to give them a shout out.
So, onto the 5 simple tips on eating better for mental health. I could write lots of these but for now, here are five more!
1. Transition to a low fat, plant-based diet.
This was a game-changer for me! I started cutting down drastically on the amount of meat, fish, dairy and egg products I was eating and started increasing massively the amount vegetables, greens, fruit and whole foods in general. One of the key points is to keep it low in fat, oils and processed food. You can see more of what I eat by checking out my other blog posts and my instagram :)
Click here to read '5 Ways Going Vegan Helped My Mental Health'
2. Start the day with a fruit juice or a smoothie.
This was one of the first changes I made to my diet and I saw effects within a week or two. Starting my day with a big smoothie or fruit juice really sets me up right. Our brains run mainly off of glucose so getting enough sugar to the brain through whole foods is important for well functioning mental health.
Below is an excerpt from an article recently published which you can read here:
Sugar has benefits for your brain health, says Doctor
“Sugar is vital for your brain health - which is the biggest guzzler of the sweet stuff in your body,” Dr Drew Ramsay... He explains that our brains use up 400 calories of glucose every day, but that doesn’t mean scoffing two chocolate bars is going to give your brainpower a boost.
It’s all about where you get your sugar from. Fructose - the sugar found in many artificial, processed foods - isn’t much use to your body. But natural sugars - those found in honey, maple syrup and fruit, for example - can help boost your brain health.
About a year into my experimenting with a low fat, whole foods, plant based diet I purchased a juicer. Once again, another game-changer! I love making a green juice in the morning. It feels like I've just drunk a glass of vitality and kick started my day. Maybe you think green juice looks or tastes gross, I assure you it doesn't have to! You just have to put enough apples in to sweeten it up!
4. Drink enough water
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I am terrible at this.. I never drink enough water. But I'm getting there. My tips for drinking more water would be firstly, to add something to it initially if you don't like the taste and then move onto pure water once you've got used to drinking more. Secondly, just keep a bottle next to you at all times and keep sipping from it – those sips WILL add up! Thirdly, do some exercise as this will get you wanting to drink water and it's also really good for your mental health so you'll have done two things to help your mind!
5. Eat Enough and Don't Go Too Long Without Food
Food is out fuel. It's quite simple. There have been studies done that show that when people don't eat enough, when they aren't getting enough calories, it affects their mental health. So eat well, eat the good whole foods and eat enough. Live a life of abundance not restriction.
A lot of us live lives which are unnaturally busy these days and unfortunately, sitting down to a meal falls further and further down our list of priorities. You don't have time to eat, you go longer without food then you're really starving and that's when you make the worst food choices. Not to mention, your brain goes into meltdown and you're not as ready or able to cope with whatever life throws at you!
It's definitely worth putting in a bit of time sometime in your week to do food prep, think through what meals you're likely to need during the week, do you take lunch to work with you? Will you need a quick meal in the evening between work and the next plan? Just a little bit of forethought can help you make better food decisions and result in you eating on time, eating healthier and eating enough to properly fuel your body and importantly, your brain.
Click here to read '5 Ways to Make Going Vegan Easier'
Click here to follow Plant Based and Positive on Instagram for meal ideas and inspiration
The NHS have a great 'health tool', the Couch to 5K, a running plan to get you from sitting on your couch to running a 5k distance. Don't be intimidated by the 'r' word, in my own experience this happens when walking becomes faster walking which becomes 'jorking' (a mix of jogging and walking) which in turn becomes consistently jogging and ultimately ends in what we think of as running!
I would suggest checking out where you local Parkrun is and combining that with your Couch to 5k. Parkrun is a free 5k run in parks around the country on Saturday mornings. They are for people of all ages and all abilities and from my experience, I can assure you that ALL ages and ALL abilities do indeed show up there! The very old and the very young, parents jogging whilst pushing a pushchair, people running with their dog on a lead and never fear, there are people walking along, doing the best they can and everyone is encouraged, cheered on and simply enjoying being there :)
"A year from now you will wish you had started today"
I'll just interject at this point and say that Parkrun is also good if you stuggle with social anxiety or get a bit nervous meeting other people and doing things in a group etc. It is very casual and there is nothing required of you, you can turn up walk, jog, run the route and leave without having to engage in conversation other than a smile or a thankyou to whomever scans your barcode. Your barcode is something you print off when you register on the Parkrun website that allows you to have your time recorded. You use the same barcode every time and can use it at any Parkrun.
So, why not give Couch to 5K a go, or just sign up for Parkrun and go for a walk/jork/jog/run every Saturday morning with a friend or by yourself? Ease into, take it safely and slowly and above all keep it enjoyable! Just the act of getting outdoors regularly will boost your positivity, blow away the cobwebs and start you on a journey to a healthier, happier you! :)
To check out the NHS Couch to 5K plan click here
To find your local Parkrun click here
I didn't go Vegan overnight, it was a slow but sustainable transition. Here I share with you the first 3 changes I made towards going Vegan. My main motivation was my mental health and overall wellbeing so my only rule was 'no restrictions, no rules, no stress'. I would simply try to eat more plants and less animal products and take it slowly but surely.
For 5 Ways Going Vegan Helped My Mental Health, click here
After 2-4 weeks of these three changes I was already feeling positive effects:
I was aiming for a diet low in fat, high in whole foods. Check out my post '3 ways to be a healthy vegan'
1. Fruit Smoothie for Breakfast
The very first thing I started doing in my move toward Veganism was making a smoothie each morning. I bought a cheap blender and I would blend grapes and bananas with a little water (you can also use a plant based milk if you wish), sometimes I'd use other berries instead of the grapes. It would be a large smoothie, maybe a litre or so. Beginning my day with fruit, and plenty of it, has a very positive effect on my physical and mental health.
2. Changing the portion size of plants vs animal products
I did not go vegan overnight, it took almost a year before I was eating a predominantly vegan diet. My plan was to go slowly but sustainably into the dietary change so I focused on eating MORE plants and LESS animal products. I would include meat and dairy in my meals still but the portion size would be very small in comparison to the amount of plant based products on my plate. I would also fill up on the plant based foods before eating the animal products which would result in a lesser amount being consumed. Little tweaks like this led to a sustainable vegan lifestyle and the animal products moved out of my diet almost without me noticing.
3. Eating More
I started eating more. I encouraged myself to eat when I was hungry and until I was full. I had never been a calorie counter or dieter, always feeling that I didn't have the willpower for that! I realised that I needed to fuel my body with lots of good, wholesome nutrition for it to be able to operate to the best of its ability. Forget about getting fat or being fat for the moment, this was about helping my body do the work it needed to do. If I gained some pounds, so be it. As it turned out I lost a stone over the following year or so, simply as a side effect!
Bonus tips.. Hydrate! Drink plenty of water, aim for at least 2 litres a day. Move! Even if it's just walking, get some movement in every day if possible. Exercise is great for the body and the mind.
This was my personal experience, maybe it will be of some help to others out there. I do hope so :)
Although a vegan diet is always a good ethical and environmental choice, simply just eating vegan does not mean you will reap the health benefits, of which there are indeed many! Today I want to share my top three tips on how to be a healthy vegan :)
Quite simply, there is vegan junk food. There are a lot of processed vegan foods and while these aren't all bad, as with any processed or junk-y foods it's always healthier to keep them to a minimum in your diet. You should also try to keep your diet low in fat and, as much as possible, oil free.
So here's my 3 top tips on how I helped myself become a healthy vegan:
1. Build Meals Around Whole Foods
Try to build your meals around whole foods. It sounds difficult when you're first beginning, it definitely did to me because I wasn't at all into cooking!! But once I realised that a meal could be a smoothie, or some rice with a tin of sweetcorn and mixed beans, or beans on toast with some salad leaves or.. the list goes on! You don't have to get fancy about this. And sure, by the frozen stuff and the conveniently packaged stuff but just try to keep it as close to nature as you can! You'll find that it gets easier the longer you do it :)
2. Keep It Simple
I cannot emphasise this enough! You don't have to suddenly start creating magic in the kitchen or using foods you've never heard of. Jacket potato and beans is vegan, beans on toast as I mentioned above, is vegan. Some tins of soup are vegan. Toasted sandwiches can be vegan if you just choose the right stuff to put in them. Potato wedges with ketchup! Rice and a mixed veg stir fry. Pasta with a tin of mixed beans and some salad... Think about what you normally eat and eliminate the meat and dairy from it. Again, try as much as possible to keep it whole foods, low fat and as unprocessed as possible. But cut yourself some slack in the beginning ;)
3. Eat Plenty!
Seriously, make sure you eat enough good, clean food and get yourself a decent breakfast in the morning. This will keep the cravings away. Cravings, most often for junky or high fat food, is simple your body's cry for nutrition so make sure your body is being consistently fuelled with enough good, clean foods and it will keep the cravings away!
So there we go, hope my own experience with this has helped you.
Remember: Keep it real, keep it simple and above all, enjoy your food! :)
I wanted to challenge my limits, mentally. It was the mental challenge that had inspired me to do this. These were my limits at that point and I was pushing them. I reminded myself of all the things I had been through mentally before. I told myself that 'the body achieves what the mind believes' so get on with it!
It was a beautiful experience! I spent a lot of my time on the bike reflecting on how I had got to that point, realising how far I had come and of course, wondering if I would dry out before the next rainstorm!
I would growl to myself “why on EARTH are you doing this?!” and then chuckle as I responded with “Because of THESE moments, now come on, dig deep!”
Being out there on a long stretch of open road, seeing a thunderstorm rolling towards you. Realising you have to keep pedalling into the distance as far as you can see, doing so and getting drenched as the thunder rain rolls in. The mix of emotion right then is exhilaration. It made me high. My little legs were going round and round like crazy, fuelled by determination against the weather and excitement at feeling so incredibly alive in the moment!
On this ride I was acutely aware of the parallel with life, and for me, life is a mixture of good and bad, ups and downs, happy and sad, success and failure. We might not like it, we might try to avoid the bits we don't like but it's the embracing of all of this that makes us a deeper, better developed person.
I thought about my anxiety. For me, one of the best ways to overcome it was to stop running from the emotions, turn and feel them. Let them wash over you and realise that just as the waves wash over the sand, so the feelings wash over you. Life is bigger than what we feel. At risk of sounding weird, we are nothing, and yet we are everything.
As with my bike ride, I rode on. So with life, I move on. Through all the ups and downs, the Sun and rain. Just keep going.
You have not come this far to only come this far. Don't stop now. Life beckons to you, allow yourself to move through life like the river moves through the landscape. Breathe and keep going.
So, what's next? ;)
We all have mental health, just as we have physical health, and for the most part we can gain and maintain good mental health in the same was as we do with physical health. So, here's my 5 reasons why cycling is good for mental health:
1. It gets you outdoors
Getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine is healthy, it feels like you're blowing away the cobwebs, looking beyond the concerns of your mind and finding strength in nature.
2. It focuses your mind
I believe that exercise is as good for your mental health as it is your physical. When I'm cycling my mind is focused on what I'm doing and so it becomes clear of everyday clutter and worries.
3. Your own pace, your own time
Cycling is low impact, you can get fitter without putting too much strain on your body and you can do it when and where you feel comfortable. I find it far easier than running and more enjoyable than feeling like I 'have to go to the gym' :)
4. Positive Vibes!
It changes my mood. I can wake up feeling low in energy and mood but if I make myself (and sometimes I really have to make myself!) get outside and out for a ride, by the time I return I'm buzzing and extremely glad I went.
5. Healthy Mind, Healthy Body
It's a step towards a healthier mind and a healthier body which will build your confidence, the two go hand in hand quite often and one will definitely help the other.
So, why not give it a try?
You don't have to already be fit to take up cycling. It is a good activity for those wanting to start on their fitness journey and is becoming very popular these days, with more and more people realising the health benefits. I started off on an old mountain bike we had in the garage. To begin with I went around the block and took it in the car to places that were very safe for cycling. Gradually, my confidence and ability grew and now I am doing rides that would have seemed crazy to me at one point!
Take your time getting into it, be safe, don't take risks, go at your own pace and above all, enjoy it!
I hope to publish more posts on how I got into cycling, beginner tips etc. Please let me know if there's anything you'd like to know about. For now though, thanks for reading!
"Everything was impossible until somebody did it" - Scott Dinsmore
I just did my biggest day ever on the bike. 127K in a day! Up until now, my longest ride has been 64k, this is twice that long and I want to talk about it. Aside from this being an awesome achievement for me I feel that it holds a valuable message on mental strength which inspires me, motivates me and I hope it will you too.
We never set out to do 127k, we were going to cycle into London and then, most likely, get the train back out. As we were approaching the train station I was getting more and more tired, I just wanted to reach the station and enjoy a warm, relaxing ride back home. My legs were aching, I felt I couldn't go no further.
We reached the station and a big sigh of relief escaped me as I slipped off my bike feeling like I had completely reached my limit.
We quickly realised we would have to wait more than an hour for the train which would mean us getting home a lot later. We could do this. Or we could ride the distance. I don't know what exactly it was but I decided let's ride. I want to do this. Maybe it was a combination of the beautiful pink and orange sunset out toward the west, the knowledge that I had already done so much, what would a bit more be and the desire to simply give it a go and see what happened.
Either way, I decided to go for it and so we left the safe option of the train station and set off into the night, it was already getting darker by then. Another couple of hours on legs that had once felt like they simply couldn't do another rotation but by the time we neared home those little legs were spinning around as if independent from my then quite worn out mind.
You could say I was physically fitter than I thought I was but I believe that I managed this ride because I am mentally stronger than I thought I was. Those legs kept going another two hours because my mind decided to do it. My body is as fit as my mind believes it is.
It amazes me that I had felt so tired when I arrived at the train station, if asked then I would have thought I could go no further, that THAT was my limit. I had reached my limit, my boundary, my breaking point and there was no more fuel left in the tank.
But there was. There was two hours worth of fuel and by pushing past that perceived limit, I had raised my game to a whole new level. I had gained new found confidence in my abilities. I had opened up new possibilities for myself and my aim to ride from London to Paris just got a little bit closer.
I slept a lot afterwards, mind and body having given all they had, until that limit gets pushed ;)
Perhaps this post hasn't been the most interesting to read but I wanted to put this experience down in writing because it was the day I broke past the limits I had been putting on myself both mentally and physically. It was the day I gained confidence, self-belief and some truly epic memories.
Follow my journey on..
YouTube: Plant Based and Positive
Strava: Sarah Vickers