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Health Freak

Health Freak
Rock Werchter 2005
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I joined the health club..

1.Your diet breakdown:
1. How often do you eat high-fat food?
You answered: two to four times a week

If you have a healthy body weight, this intake of high-fat food is fine. If you're trying to manage your weight, there's room for improvement. High-fat food is a major source of calories. Fat contains double the calories of protein (for example, lean meat) or starchy food (for example, pasta, potatoes and bread). It's easy to overeat fatty food because it isn't very filling. Fats from animal origin are saturated which makes them harmful to your heart. These sorts of food include fatty meat, sausages, pies, butter, lard, cream, cheese and ghee.

2. How often do you have dairy food?
You answered: most days (five-plus days a week)
You're on the right track because dairy foods should be eaten every day. These are a good source of calcium, which is important for bone growth and maintenance. Increasing numbers of people in the UK, particularly women, suffer from osteoporosis. This brittle bone condition, which affects older people, is made worse by low-calcium intakes throughout life. Eating the right amount of calcium from childhood is a good way to prevent osteoporosis.

3. How many portions of fruit or vegetables do you eat each day?
You answered: usually none
You're missing out! Fruit and vegetables aren't called 'nature's pharmacy' for nothing. Antioxidant nutrients in fruit and vegetables help to lower our risk of diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart disease. Fruit and vegetables are also an excellent source of fibre which protects your bowel from cancer and other diseases. You should aim to reach five portions a day.

4. How many times a week do you have a takeaway or restaurant meal?
You answered: very occasionally or never
This level of eating out is fine. If you're trying to manage your weight, you may want to be aware of the calories in fast food and some restaurant meals. Most of these are a huge source of calories, although there are now a few more healthier options on the menu. Keeping takeaways or slap-up restaurant meals as occasional treats reduces your chance of becoming overweight.

5. How often do you eat high-fibre food?
You answered: sometimes (one to two days a week)
This level of fibre is fairly low. Higher fibre food helps to keep our digestive systems working effectively and lower the risk of bowel cancer. Fibre is also quite filling, which helps if you're trying to manage your weight.

6. How many times a week do you eat high-fat or sugary snacks?
You answered: at least every day
This could be too high but it depends on your weight and the rest of your diet. 'Treat food' is tasty and makes us feel good, and there's no reason why it shouldn't be part of a healthy diet. However, when treat food becomes too regular, your risk of obesity increases and you can miss out on important vitamins and minerals. Use your weight to gauge whether your intake of treat food is too high. Your BMI indicates whether you are within the recommended weight range. You'll be able to monitor this regularly in your locker once you start your Vitality programme. If your weight is increasing or you're currently trying to lose weight, treat food should be reduced to once or twice a week.

7. How many units of alcohol do you have in a typical week?
You answered: one to 20 units a week
This is within the recommended level. Try to spread out your alcohol intake over the week and avoid binge drinking - that is, more than five drinks in one day. Alcohol contains a lot of calories and can therefore lead to weight gain. About 28 units a week of beer or wine will provide an extra 2,500 calories, which is an average person's calorie intake for a day. Moderate drinking can be healthy because scientists have shown that one to three units of wine a day can help to prevent heart disease. It's becoming increasingly common to be served large glasses of wine. Remember that these can contain as much as two and a half units. Find out more about what counts as a unit and the calorie content of your favourite alcoholic drinks.

8. How often do you eat oily fish or omega 3 DHA/EPA alternatives?
You answered: three to four times a month
This is good but some more would increase the benefits. The fats in oily fish (and in shellfish) are called omega 3 EPA and DHA. They're beneficial for the heart, brain, eyes and immune system. Other sources are liver, fish oil supplements and fortified food. These products usually display 'omega 3s' or DHA on the label. There's a misconception that nuts and flaxseed provide EPA and DHA. This isn't the case, although flaxseed provides another type of omega 3 which is also healthy. It's a good idea to include both types in your diet.

9. When you eat a typical meal, how much of the plate contains starchy food?
You answered: a quarter to a half
This is a bit low. It's recommended that more than half the plate of an average meal should be starchy food (for example, potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, couscous, quinoa, noodles and all types of bread) with another quarter as fruit or vegetables. The reason is that starchy food is a healthy source of energy and is low in fats. There are additional benefits if you choose the high fibre, wholegrain options.

10. How many days a week do you eat breakfast?
You answered: I don't eat breakfast
Missing breakfast means you're missing out on your morning brain boost. The ideal would be to eat something on most mornings. For example, a chopped banana and cereal. The saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is probably right. Scientists have shown that people who eat breakfast regularly tend to be slimmer and have a healthier balance of fats in the blood (for example, better levels of cholesterol). Eating starchy food for breakfast in particular may be beneficial for mental agility and concentration at work or school.

11. How many times a day do you eat sweetened food or drinks?
You answered: one to three times a day
This is a healthy frequency. Your risk of tooth decay is probably low but it depends on how often you brush your teeth and whether or not a fluoride toothpaste is used. Dental experts have shown that each time we eat sugary food or drink sweetened drinks, our tooth enamel comes under attack from acid. The best way to avoid tooth decay is to keep sugary food and drinks to mealtimes and brush with a fluoride toothpaste morning and night.

12. How many cans or small bottles of sweetened soft drinks do you drink a day?
You answered: one to two a day
This seems about right. There are no official recommendations about sweetened soft drinks. However, there's evidence that people who drink a lot of these have high calorie intakes, which could lead to obesity.

People who drink more than two to three soft drinks a day also tend to have low intakes of vitamins and minerals. The best way to keep a balance is to limit sweetened soft drinks. Choose other drinks from a wide variety of sources, such as tap water, tea, coffee, milk, unsweetened fruit juice and diet drinks.

13. How many glasses or cups of fluid do you drink every day?
You answered: four or less a day
This is far too low and you would benefit from increasing your intake towards eight to ten glasses a day. Regular fluid prevents dehydration, where body water levels become low leading to a loss of concentration and stress. By the time you're thirsty, you're already five to ten per cent dehydrated. Keep an eye on the colour of your urine to find out if you need to drink more. If it's a deep yellow colour, drink a glass of non-alcoholic fluid every hour. Water is the healthiest option, but you could also choose from tea, coffee, milk, unsweetened fruit juice and soft drinks.
If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid alcohol and high-caffeine drinks. Also keep tea and coffee to a maximum of four cups a day.

14. Do you add salt to your food?
You answered: cooking and every meal
This is probably too much salt. High levels of salt (sodium) push up blood pressure in susceptible people, which may increase the risk of a heart attack. Even children can experience effects over time so try to avoid adding any to their food. It's particularly dangerous for babies because their kidneys are too immature to deal with it. Many types of processed food contain salt, such as bread, meat products and cereals. So we don't need any extra in your diet. Try to add less salt over time and your taste buds will adapt.

15. How often do you have food containing iron?
You answered: one to two days a week
This could be low if most of your iron is from vegetarian sources, for example cereals and beans. This is because the iron in these types of food is poorly absorbed. Iron helps our red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. Low intakes depress our immune system and can increase lethargy. Women are particularly at risk from low iron intakes and about 20 per cent of young children are deficient. Ensure everyone in your family has red meat or vegetarian alternatives, such as lentils, beans and breakfast cereals, on most days of the week. Drink fruit juice with meals to increase iron absorption.

16. How often do you eat food which is high in folate or folic acid?
You answered: three to four days a week
This is a reasonable amount but you would benefit from more. Folate is important for healthy blood and may help to lower the risk of heart disease. It's also vital during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. It should be taken as a supplement during the first trimester of pregnancy. Some food is fortified with folic acid (similar to folate), such as breakfast cereals. The best sources of folate are orange juice, liver and green vegetables.

2. Your activity breakdown:
17. How many minutes a day do you spend engaged in light physical activity and tasks?
You answered: 0 to 60 minutes

Getting fit and losing weight isn't all about donning trainers and getting sweaty. Simply becoming more active, through performing typical daily tasks, helps you burn more calories. (Even standing burns more calories than sitting, for example.) Injecting more activity in to your life is your first priority.

18. On how many days a week do you accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity?
You answered: one to two days
That's a start. But research shows that the ideal is to accumulate 30 minutes on most days of the week, so aim to increase the number of days on which you're moderately active. You don't even need to do it all at once. There are as many benefits to be had from doing three ten-minute sessions in a day as there is from a single 30-minute session. And it's far easier to fit into a busy life.

19. On how many days a week do you do vigorous physical activity?
You answered: one to two days
A good start. Experts recommend three to five days of more energetic activity, so the aim is to build up to three days per week initially, which has been shown to be beneficial in triggering significant improvements in health and fitness.

20. How do you spend most of your time from Monday to Friday?
You answered: sitting at a desk or at home
For many of us, work inevitably means sitting down for extended periods. While you can't do much to change that, you can learn to sit better, you can get up more frequently and learn to use your non-working hours more effectively. The Big Challenge will give you some ideas on how to do this.

1. Your diet summary:

A good diet really can help you achieve optimal health and keep body weight within ideal limits, so it's worth making an effort. Your personalised answers below will help you make progress on the areas that need attention. Diet messages in the media are often confusing but nutrition experts know the top targets are fruit and vegetables, saturated fat, salt and oily fish. If you're overweight, you need to consider whether you have remembered to include all food and snacks. Check your portion sizes because they could be too large, and increase physical activity. Make changes slowly over the next few weeks and you'll see how easy it can be. Good luck with the programme and enjoy the challenge.

2. Your activity summary:
You aren't currently meeting the recommended guidelines for daily activity, which advise 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week as a bottom line. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) research shows that 68 per cent of Brits don't take enough exercise to achieve health or fitness benefits. But achieving the recommended level of activity will help to protect your heart, lower the risk of diabetes, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and assist your weight-loss efforts. And remember, it doesn't have to mean going to a gym - activities that you do in your daily routine can also count towards the total, if you put a bit of effort in to them. We'll help you to make these changes when you start your Vitality Programme. We'll be emailing you the details soon.

3. Your lifestyle:

21. How do you feel about your diet?
You answered: I mostly eat healthily but when I'm bad, I'm bad
You could be boring yourself into badness. Try to build more excitement into your diet - that's the motivator you need. Experiment with new recipes and try lots of contrasting tastes. Spice up your life in other ways as well. Meet new people, have some travel adventures or experiment with a new hobby or even a new look. Tell yourself regularly that being good can be exciting as well!

22. How do you feel about exercise?
You answered: I enjoy it once I get around to it but often find it difficult to motivate myself
Perhaps you are not making exercise a priority. Schedule exercise into your diary and make sure you keep the appointment. If it helps, arrange to exercise with a friend, then you can motivate each other. Also think about the types of exercise you are doing. Perhaps you could try different ways of exercising like a dance class, swimming, aerobics or jogging. If you find one you really love, motivation will come naturally.
A lack of self-esteem can also lead to motivation problems. Build your sense of self-worth by rewarding yourself with extra non-food treats, self-nurturing and honest compliments.
Phone a few friends who are straight-talkers. Tell them you're trying to build your self-esteem and, although it may sound strange, ask them what they think are your good qualities. Take notes and read these every night for a week. Once you start to truly believe you are worth it, nothing will hold you back.

23. Which of these is closest to your eating routine?
You answered: my eating pattern is erratic, missing meals, then compensating by bingeing or snacking
Your body may be more naturally inclined towards a grazing pattern for eating. Don't let yourself ever get desperately hungry. Try programming in lots of short breaks for pre-prepared nutritious nibbles. Just have one main meal a day. Ensure this feels like and is a leisurely long luxury. It shouldn't be hard work in any sense.

24. Which of these best describes your exercise routine?
You answered: I go through phases of exercising regularly, then don't do any for weeks
You may have a mixed temperament that swings you up and down emotionally. Many successful and creative people have these kinds of cycles. Find a way to work with your natural rhythm and don't fight it. Adapt your exercise routine to work in its favour. For example, you could go to gym or dance classes in your 'up' social phase and exercise to videos and have solitary rambles in the park during your other phase.

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