My two weeks cruising around the Caribbean brought the realisation that for the past 18 months I have neglected my health and wellbeing while prioritising work. However, I’m committed to a new diet regime that is scientifically proven to have major benefits.
Despite taking up juicing in the summer of 2017 and regular exercise; as things became more busy at work, I lost sight of my health goals. Instead of preparing healthy meals and consuming a range of home-made fruit and vegetable juices, I found myself grabbing whatever I could on the go.
This usually ended up being sandwiches or baps, crisps and chocolate during the day and frequently stopping in the supermarket on the way home to pick up a ready meal and indulge my sweet tooth with an individual cheesecake or dessert. Combined with a lack of regular exercise as my evenings and weekends were taken up by research projects, my health has been severely neglected.
The cruise had been booked so far in advance (18 months) that I kept putting off health and fitness as it always seemed so far off – until it wasn’t! As a result, I found myself heading off on a dream cruise feeling sluggish and heavier than I would have liked.
I spent more time in front of the camera than behind it as I was self-conscious about my weight, especially when a lot of the calories seemed to have headed straight for my boobs – I did my best to restrain them and cover them up. I only went in the sea in an underwire tankini top and briefs three times on quiet local beaches, never on the Britannia!
I resolved to do something about it on my return and took to starting the day with a partially healthy breakfast of a fruit smoothie and melon slices (main picture) accompanied by coffee, brown toast with honey and if we had a day ashore, a couple of sausages in a roll.
The food on board the Britannia was excellent; it was available around the clock and a-la-carte and when ashore on the Caribbean islands we navigated towards local vendors and restaurants to sample real Caribbean food, which was largely absent from the menus on board the ship.
The only thing to mitigate against this excessive eating was the excessive dancing! I went to a couple of dance classes whilst on board the ship, which was fun and more tiring than it looks on Strictly Come Dancing! I went to the gym twice but found it frankly boring – it was much more invigorating for the body and soul to work out on the dance floor – which we all did night after night to our favourite band, Steele and we usually encouraged many of the other guests to join us and forget their inhibitions.
On the way back from the airport in a taxi home from the train station, I asked the friendly driver to stop in Aldi, where I bought fresh spinach, sweet peppers, carrots, celery, tomatoes, pineapple and mango pieces to start my new diet.
For the last week, save for a couple of bad days where I consumed a Kit-Kat one day and I’m ashamed to say a chocolate donut and two mini-cake treats on another day I teach late, I have consumed only fresh fruits and vegetables, had my daily glass of carrot juice and increased my daily intake of water.
The reason for my simple diet focused on fruit and vegetables, plenty of protein and fibre is the overwhelming scientific evidence. Epidemiology is the study of health and disease in defined populations – and there is substantial epidemiological evidence of the protective role that fruit and vegetable consumption plays in cancer prevention. Scientific evidence also points to fruits and vegetables helping to prevent coronary heart disease (CHD) and strokes.
Fruit and vegetables provide rich sources of potassium, fibre, folate, antioxidants and bioactive phytochemicals. A high potassium intake reduces the risk of mortality by 20%. Its main functions are to regulate fluid balance and control the electrical activity of the heart and other muscles.
Folate is a B-vitamin that our bodies use to make DNA and other genetic material. Antioxidants protect the body against damage cause by free radicals – waste substances produced by cells from processing food and from the environment.
A meta-analysis by Berry et al (2010) of 12 studies over 11 years involving 278,459 individuals found that participants who consumed more than 5 servings a day of fruit and vegetables had a 17% reduction in CHD, while those that consumed 3-5 servings daily had a moderate 7% reduction. The risk of CHD is reduced by 4% for every additional daily portion of fruit and vegetables consumed.
I’m already seeing the benefits to my skin and feeling more energised and energetic. I rolled up my rug in my home office to make way for my exercise mat and step and space for my dancercise, which I can do while listening to my favourite tunes!
A healthy body aids a healthy mind – and from now on I will remember that the aim is to work to live not to live for work. I celebrate my 55th birthday in four months and I’m very motivated to improve my health and fitness for the next milestone, so the countdown is on!
Berry, S.E., Mulla, U.Z., Chowienczyk, P.J. and Sanders, T.A., 2010. Increased potassium intake from fruit and vegetables or supplements does not lower blood pressure or improve vascular function in UK men and women with early hypertension: a randomised controlled trial. British journal of nutrition, 104(12), pp.1839-1847.
Carter, A (2018). Everything you need to know about potassium. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287212.php
Van Duyn, M.A.S. and Pivonka, E., 2000. Overview of the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption for the dietetics professional: selected literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100(12), pp.1511-1521.