The Four Pillars of Wellbeing – Week 2
For most schools enjoying half term currently, or those of you lucky enough to be at the beginning of half term, now is a good time to do an audit of what you eat and whether you are giving your body and mind the support it needs from the food that you eat.
I don’t know about you, but I was so busy as a teacher and school leader that I rarely thought properly about the food I put into my body especially at lunchtime. Quite often it would be something that was quick and filled me up so that my tummy didn’t rumble during the staff meeting later in the day!
The first thing to say is that we are all different and essentially what is right in terms of diets isn’t always right for all people.
What is critical is keeping a check on sugar intakes. It is literally in everything pre-packed or processed and our taste buds have got used to it being there. Spending on type 2 diabetes now accounts for 10% of the NHS total budget. If you feel as though you need to eat every two hours, find your concentration dropping mid-morning, experience a mid-afternoon slump in energy or have an over reliance on sugar or caffeine to keep you going, you may have an over reliance on sugar. Check the front of packages for sugar content. Cereals are some of the worst.
Try to re-educate your taste buds. Cut out sweeteners as they convince taste buds that you need sugar. Keep a selection of healthy snacks ready like carrots or fruit and make sure you include proteins in your meals which help to keep you full for longer. Some people find drinking water when hungry helps to fill you up! Of course, being properly hydrated is critical too!
One of the other key components of good health is making sure that what you eat provides our bodies with the right foods to manufacture the healthy services our body needs. Without our bodies creating the right chemicals we need for health we can become more susceptible to allergies. Our gut loves plant-based fibre like broccoli and kale. Our healthy gut bugs feast on these fibres and create chemicals which are ani inflammatory and help to support your immune system, so when doctors say eating the right things helps you to be healthy, this is what they mean.
We’ve got ourselves into the position through eating a typically Western diet that our body is reacting and we then see the doctor for a cure or take anti inflammatories when actually eating a proper gut friendly diet could prevent the symptoms occurring in the first place.
Particularly gut friendly foods are: onions, garlic, leeks, artichoke, yams, agave, bananas, sprouts, okra, cauliflower, broccoli and chickory root. A banana at playtime replacing the biscuit is a far gut healthier option and will relieve the hunger crave far more effectively.
Dr Rangan Chatterjee in his book “The 4 Pillar Plan” suggests eating fruit and vegetables which represent the rainbow. The science behind this are that different coloured fruit and veg have different chemical compositions which help our body to get all the nutrients that we need. Try to put a container of brightly coloured fruit and veg together for snack times or lunch times as a matter of habit.
As an audit exercise try putting together a weekly timetable outlining the healthy fruit and veg you eat. Dr Chatterjee suggests two different helpings with each meal and has a useful chart to audit this on page 106-107 of his book.
Drinking a litre and a half of water a day is seen as being the healthy amount to drink to allow the body to process substances like alcohol and means that we are less likely to suffer from headaches, low energy and concentration levels and tummy aches. Clearly that amount of water needs increasing when we are exercising.
In essence, our bodies have been used to eating foods in their rawest states for millennia. Our delicately balanced and evolved gut does not respond well to the highly processed nature of many foods nowadays leading to inflammation and a diminished immune system.
Try to plan your meals ahead and avoid foods that have multiple constituents, Try to eat food and especially fruit and vegetables in their natural state. Eat food that looks like what it is, if it doesn’t look like what is proports to be, it probably isn’t!
If you’re a senior leader, why not provide your staff with these healthy snacks in the staff room? It’s healthier than tea and coffee and maybe even print off a list of healthy fruit and veg that can be taken away when staff do their weekly shop.
I’d be really interested to hear about changes you’ve made to your diet and how it has improved your wellbeing. Let’s share what works for us and continue the debate @andymellor64 on Twitter!