As we think most mums would agree, it can be hard to juggle the everyday pressures that go hand in hand with being a parent and often mums find that they feel they don’t have time to follow a healthy eating and exercise plan. With this in mind, we thought we would get in touch with the creator of one of our favourite websites Hungry Healthy Happy to bring you the best tips on how to become a healthier you. Four years ago, Dannii decided to start exercising regularly and eating healthily and since then she has not only lost weight but has also transformed her life.
Making a change in your life, particularly when it comes to eating habits are never easy, what made you decide to take that step?
I was motivated by my health and I am continued to be motivated by that. Of course being happier with the way that I looked was an added bonus, but when I first started it was because I was having health problems related to my weight. My heart was not working as well as it should have been, I couldn't breathe very well and I just didn't have any energy. I was depressed and unhappy and the sadest part was that I was doing it to myself. I knew that I was the only one that could make the change. I needed to stop blaming everything around me for the way I was and take control and that is what I did.
What was the biggest change that you made in your life, what was the hardest for you to keep up?
The biggest change was to start cooking everything myself. I was the queen of convenience. Whether that was a microwave meal or oven chips, or using a jar of sauce to put over my pasta portion big enough for 4. There was hardly anything in my fridge, just cheese really, no fresh produce. But my cupboards and freezer were bursting with jars, packets and boxes that promised me meals in minutes. As soon as I looked at the ingredients on those things, I knew I didn't want them in my body. I started making everything myself and I was so shocked to discover that most of the time it didn't take any longer, it was really easy, it tasted much better, it was cheaper and most importantly it was healthier.
The hardest thing for me to keep up was just generally getting used to my new routine. I just had to remind myself that I couldn't do all the things I used to. Whilst I enjoyed spending time on the computer or watching TV, I needed to use that time to workout now or to prepare healthy meals. It was difficult to adjust and it certainly didn't happen overnight, but I stuck with it and it was so worth it.
Most of us who have tried to start losing weight will have found it hard to stay motivated, how do you stay motivated?
I always keep my goals in sight and I remind myself to not give up on what I want overall for what I want right now. That came in handy when a tub of ice cream was staring at me. Of course I wanted it right now, and it would have tasted good, but I wanted to lose weight more.I would remind myself just how good I felt after a workout and how drained I would feel after days of eating junk.I have written a whole blog post
about what motivated me.
What do you do to get back on track if you fall off the wagon?
The most important thing I did was get rid of the guilt. Beating myself up about the whole cake that I ate when it should have been a bowl of soup is not going to change it and it is not going to get me anywhere. In fact, beating myself up about it usually just led me to emotional eating.
As simple as it sounds, I just started again. I wouldn't say, Oh, the week is ruined now, I will just continue eating junk. I just started again from that moment and started making better choices. Sometimes we over complicate things, so when I fall off track (which does still happen), I just go back to basics. I track my calories, make sure I am getting lots of water and fruit and veg. All these women's magazines that feature the latest diet craze have us confused and we think we have to follow these complicated plans and detoxes.We don't. Just eat well.
What do you think is the secret to your continued success?
There really is no secret. This is something I get asked all the time. People think that I have some kind of superpower that others don't or that I don't have the same struggles. I struggle just as much as the next person, but I just keep pushing forward. I guess the "key" (rather than secret) to my success relates to the previous question - I just don't give up. If I have a bad day/week/month then I always pick myself back up again.Planning and preparation are important too. Plan some meals for the week and write your workouts in your diary like you would a meeting.One of the most important things is finding the route to health/weight loss that works for you. There is no one way for everyone. You have to find the way that is going to let you enjoy it and still be happy and reach your goal with some sanity left.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I like to get my workouts out of the way in the morning. If I don't then I have longer to make excuses to try and get out of it.
So, I get up around 6 and workout for anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour. It really depends on my schedule for that day. Sometimes I split my workout up and do 10 minutes here and there throughout the day. I always say that any workout is better than no workout.
I then get showered and changed, have breakfast and then start my working day. As well as being a blogger, I work as an online researcher, a recipe developer, free-lance writer and I am currently writing my own cookbook/health and fitness book. So my day is pretty packed and I work around 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week and no day is ever the same. I like it like that though.After work, I get started on dinner. I spend so much time in the kitchen for my job, that I like to make my own dinners fairly quick. So I have gone from the queen of convenience to the queen of healthy homemade meals in under 15 minutes.
I then spend some time relaxing with my husband. We all have busy lives, but taking some time out for yourself is important too. I always say to people that if they have time for the internet, then they have time for their health and fitness.
What is your daily exercise routine?
My exercise routine is different every day. If it wasn't then I would get bored of it and give up. I need my workouts to be fun for me to want to do them. I mix it up and do swimming, yoga, running, crossfit, dancing, strength training and so much more. I try to aim to do an hour 5 times a week, but I don't beat myself up about it if it is not always like that. Sometimes life gets in the way. I just make sure that if I am skipping a workout then it is for a valid reason, like injury or work and not just because I didn't schedule my time properly or I am feeling lazy.
What tips do you have for beginners who are just starting out trying to lose weight?
Do what you can with what you have. Never compare yourself to someone else and where they are at in their journey, because everyone really is different. We all have different life demands and abilities, so just do what you can and take it one day at a time. Don't take on too much and make changes one at a time so that it doesn't seem so overwhelming.
Here is a blog post with my tips for beginners
What exercises do you think would be good for a beginner who wants to ease into losing weight?
I found that swimming was really good to start out with. It is slow impact and a great all over body exercise. It will tone you up as well as being good cardio. I know a lot of people don't want to be seen in a swim suit in public, but seriously, stop worrying about it. All those people that you think are looking at you? They aren't. Everyone has their own insecurities and they are more worries about that they look like to be worried about what you look like.
What foods are most likely to be found in your refrigerator?
What isn't in my fridge would be the easier question. I like to keep it stocked so I can always make a healthy meal. The things that I try to never run out of are eggs, Total Greek yoghurt, salad, chicken breast, feta cheese and salmon.
Are there any foods that you strictly avoid?
Yes, anything artificial. When I first started losing weight, I bought into all the diet food products that were low in calories and low in fat, but I soon realised that they are pumped full of chemicals to make them that way. I would rather a little of the real thing than lots of something full of chemicals. The main thing I avoid is artificial sweeteners. They give me awful headaches and there is research to suggest that they actually spike your sugar cravings and your body can't digest the stuff. Other than that, nothing is off limits. It is all about moderation and portion control.
What are some of your favourite recipes for healthy, easy dinners?
I have a whole section on my blog dedicated to healthy meals under 30 minutes
(many of them under 15)My favourites would have to be Creamy Avocado Pasta, Lemon, Honey and Mustard Chicken, Thai Red Noodle Soup and Creamy Cajun Pasta.
The recipes that you have created and shared on your blog are fabulous and healthy, where do you get your recipe inspiration from?
I am inspired by all the unhealthy foods that I used to love and that I can't eat as much as I used to. I want to still enjoy them, so I had to find a way to make them healthier. I just all comes from trial and error. I have had a lot of kitchen disasters in the past - but there is nothing wrong with that. From those disasters, I have continued trying out new versions and I have come up with some of my best recipes. One of my biggest cooking tips is don't be afraid to mess up. Very rarely will you make something totally inedible.
Any ideas for healthy desserts or treats that can be enjoyed relatively guilt free?
Yes! I love desserts so much - that was something I didn't want to give up and I didn't have to. One of my biggest revelations was putting a frozen (peeled) banana in a food processor and blending it until the consistency of ice cream. It REALLY tastes like ice cream. Add some cocoa powder and you have chocolate ice cream. I also have lots of dessert recipes here:
What tips do you have for people who are trying to stay healthy when eating out or on holidays?
My first tip is to enjoy yourself. Trips out, holidays and special occasions are there to be enjoyed. If they don't happen that often, then you should relax a little. We can't (and shouldn't be), 100% on track all the time. But, at the same time, all of those kinds of events can add up if you eat off plan on all of them. The most important thing will be portion control. If you want some dessert, have a little bit.In a restaurant, don't be afraid to order something that isn't on the menu. You will be surprised how adaptable they are. At the very least they will be able to give you a grilled chicken breast salad. Also, when you go to someone's house for dinner or a party, offer to take a dish with you. That way you can guarantee that at least one thing there will fit in with your way of eating.