We all know those women who are the epitome of good health – they’re fit, glowing, vibrant and happy. But what’s their secret? We asked some of our favourite wellbeing role models to share their smart habits...
Start the day right
"As I worked on the frontline during the pandemic, I’ve been following my usual pre-work morning routine, which involves a 25-minute workout or 5km run followed by a shower and a grab-and-go breakfast. My go-to breakfast is overnight oats (essentially a no-cook method of making porridge). I like to make mine in an empty peanut butter jar, especially when there’s a little bit of peanut butter left inside. I switch it up by customising it with different things each day, such as berries, dried fruit, different chopped nuts or coconut. Not only is it a delicious breakfast, but it’s full of fibre from the oats, boosted with protein from yogurt and I add chia and flaxseed, which are both good sources of omega-3 fatty acids."
Dr Hazel Wallace, medical doctor and author of The Food Medic For Life (Yellow Kite)
"When I wake up in the morning – even before I open my eyes – I check in on how I’m feeling right now, in the moment. Sometimes, I smile to myself. If I’m feeling less than great, I use an affirmation or mantra to bolster my spirits. Sometimes I simply say 'thank you'. I never start my day by looking at my phone and it helps that I deliberately don’t have my phone in my bedroom."
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, physiologist, sleep therapist and author of Tired But Wired (Souvenir Press)
The best stress-busters
"I grab my karaoke microphone, line up some tracks and have a good old sing; sometimes it’s planned, sometimes it’s in response to something causing me stress. If I receive an email that I don’t like, I resist the temptation to reply in haste and tell myself: 'Step away from the computer, sing a few songs, then decide how to respond.'"
Shahroo Izadi, behavioural change specialist and author of The Kindness Method and The Last Diet (Bluebird)
"Our thoughts have a massive impact on our wellbeing. I try to be very conscious of mine. It’s not an easy thing to do, as being negative and ungrateful can creep up on all of us and take over our lives. So every morning or evening, depending on my schedule, I take the time to burn some cleansing incense – either sage, palo santo or a myrrh and frankincense mixture – and, as it’s burning, I list all the things I’m grateful for. I find it so joyful and it really calms my mind. Over time, it has made such a huge difference."
Margo Marrone, pharmacist, homeopath & founder of The Organic Pharmacy
Stay on track
"Every day, I plan and set goals. I keep referring back to my list so I can make sure I’m focusing my attention on what I have set out to do. That way, I feel satisfied and relaxed in the evening."
Edith Eger, psychologist and author of The Gift (Rider)
"I make a point every day of going out without my phone, usually on my daily dog walk or for a trip to the shops. It helps to keep clear boundaries between me and the digital world and keeps my FOMO (fear of missing out) tendencies in check. I always find out I’ve missed absolutely nothing when I come back. It’s very liberating!"
Tanya Goodin, founder of digital wellbeing movement Time To Log Off, author of Off, and host of It’s Complicated: the podcast to help you untangle your relationship with your phone.
Move it, move it
"At the age of 87, I’ve just bought an exercise bike! My muscles were becoming stiff and achy during lockdown, so I bought a rather swish bike and a neighbour helped me put it together. I try to cycle for 10 minutes every day while I’m listening to the news at one o’clock. I like to hear the news, so it’s a great way to combine the two. Ordinarily, I would have just hung around, listening, but now my legs are moving. I get terribly breathless, but I know I need it, and it’s making a big difference."
Joan Bakewell, broadcaster and journalist
"I do a daily yoga sun salutation; it’s a brilliant routine consisting of 12 movements that work most of the major muscle groups. You can find a tutorial for how to do this on my YouTube channel. This fills me with positive energy and keeps my whole body flexible and toned. I have been doing it now for more than 20 years. I really think yoga should be prescribed on the NHS. It’s never too late to start learning – I have one lady in my class who’s in her 90s. The secret is to go at your own pace and just do enough to feel the stretch; it’s all about listening to your body. These days, people spend so much time craning over computers and phones that they put a lot of pressure on their shoulders and necks, leading to headaches and back ache. Yoga can really help relieve that tension."
Barbara Currie, yoga expert who has taught for 50 years
"The first thing I do in the morning is have a glass of water and take my magnesium supplement. Magnesium is a crucial co-factor in hundreds of enzyme reactions in the body and the brain. It plays a role in heart rhythm, blood vessel health, muscle relaxation, healthy nerve function and the release of neurotransmitters (such as serotonin, often called the 'happy hormone'). It is thought that many people are magnesium deficient, putting all of these processes at risk of poor function for them. Some studies have suggested magnesium may have a role to play in relieving depression. Our need for magnesium goes up during periods of stress, so I take ½tsp of powdered magnesium (citrate) dissolved in a glass of water to make sure I’m giving my brain what it needs, especially when I’m busy."
Kimberley Wilson, psychologist and author of How To Build A Healthy Brain (Yellow Kite)
"I always use a Vitamin C serum. The most important thing you can do to keep your skin healthy is to protect it from excess sun exposure. As well as applying sunscreen, I strongly recommend the addition of an antioxidant to your skincare routine. Vitamin C antioxidant serums neutralise free radicals from UV exposure, which damage our collagen, and studies have demonstrated they reduce wrinkles, surface roughness, skin laxity and sallowness with repeated application. Vitamin C also has a brightening effect and can be a useful tool for reducing pigmentation and creating a more even skin tone. I apply SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF before sunscreen each morning."
Dr Justine Kluk, consultant dermatologist
"I try to stay away from 'rabbit food'! Healthy eating should celebrate great ingredients, textures and flavours; it should be rich, colourful and abundant, and it should satisfy you physically and mentally. Eating well isn’t just about eating lettuce, grated carrot and cucumber. Instead, I love sautéed spices in coconut milk curries and dahls, miso marinated roasted veggies, peanut noodles and banana bread."
Ella Mills, founder of Deliciously Ella and author of Deliciously Ella: Quick & Easy (Yellow Kite)
"I focus on eating a huge diversity of plant foods. I aim to eat bright, colourful fruit and veg and at least 30 different plant species each week, as I’ve been convinced of the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome. Some of the hacks I’ve learned include using tins of mixed beans and pulses in soups, stews, Bolognese and curries and snacking on mixed nuts and seeds. I don’t eat as much fish as I should, so I take a cod liver oil capsule every day to ensure I’m getting enough omega 3 in my diet, as the body can’t produce this on its own."
Dr Zoe Williams, GP and co-presenter of the podcast Steths, Drugs & Rock ’N’ Roll
"Since hitting the peri-menopause and menopause, sleep is something I often struggle with and it affects everything. I’ve been using guided sleep meditations or hypnosis podcasts – my favourites are Sleep Cove and Get Sleepy. Listening to them makes me feel calm and helps me drift off to sleep more easily, so my body feels much more relaxed in the morning."
Anita Bean, nutritionist, athlete and author of Vegetarian Meals In 30 Minutes (Bloomsbury Sport)
"Setting myself a worry curfew is something I find helpful; it’s a 30-minute slot every evening when I can worry unconditionally. It’s what I recommend to my patients to stop daily worries consuming their time and energy. Whenever I experience worry, I ask myself, 'Is this a worry I can turn into a problem I can solve?' If it is, I solve the problem. If it’s a 'might not' worry, that is, something that might not happen, I jot it down and come back to it during my worry curfew, then I return to whatever activity I was doing before. This way, I avoid getting caught up in cycles of worry. During my curfew, I ask myself what this worrying could have got in the way of had it continued throughout the day. After my worry curfew is complete, I delete the day’s notes and start afresh the following morning."
Dr Sarah Vohra, consultant psychiatrist and author of The Mind Medic (Penguin Life)
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