How to bake a simple cake – Rachel Davies

Sliced Caked Sponge Cake Baked CakeIf I had a pound for every time I heard someone say, “I can’t bake” – I’d be rich!

But home-baking doesn’t have to be like the Great British Bake Off – remember you’re not baking to impress Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry (or Prue Leith now its moved to Channel 4!) – just bake for yourself and your friends, but make sure you’re going to do something you’ll enjoy as it will make the task even easier.

Recently, there has been a trend for Microwave cakes, which have been advertised as a ‘really easy cake’ that you can make in minutes (there’s some great ideas for recipes here, for when you don’t have a lot of time to bake). But to be honest with you, they don’t even taste half as nice as a normal oven baked cake.

So here is a simple cake recipe:

Ingredients

125g margarine or butter Margarine is much softer, so is good if you’re mixing the cake by hand, Butter would need to be left out of the fridge a while before you start so that it can soften

125g Caster Sugar You can use Granulated Sugar, but the cake gets a grainier texture

2 large eggs

125g self raising flour It’s best to use self raising flour – if you only use plain flour you’ll end up with a flat cake! If you only have plain flour, you need to add a teaspoon of baking powder and a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to the mixture.

Yes, really that’s all you need!

Instructions

Heat the oven to 150C.

  1. Grease a baking tin with either the margarine or butter, whichever you have chosen to use.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix the margarine/butter with the caster sugar
  3. Mix in the eggs
  4. Either, sieve the flour into the bowl and mix or, if you don’t have a sieve, add the flour a little at a time and mix in between each addition.
  5. Spoon the cake mixture into the tin
  6. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. (When cooked, the cake should be a golden brown colour on top and if you insert a knife of skewer into the middle of the cake, then it will come out clean.)
  7. Leave to cool.

Want to decorate the cake?

 Buttercream

100g Butter or Margarine

200g Icing Sugar

  1. Mix together the two ingredients and spread over the cake once it has cooled

Icing

200g icing sugar

2 tablespoons water

  1. Mix the icing sugar and water and spread over the cake

Feeling Adventurous?

You could add flavours to the decoration, such as vanilla essence, orange essence or lemon essence, or add some orange or lemon zest using a grater and then squeeze the juice into the mixture.

Let us know if you have a go at baking! Send us a picture to @MetMUnch on Twitter or Instagram!

 

 

 

MUM vs MMU – Emma Green

Big Changes to food and dietary habits

There’s many big changes that come into play when starting university: living in a different city, new groups of friends, but one change we don’t really think about is our food and dietary habits. And surprisingly, it can have a HUGE effect on our student lives.

My Mum, as most Mum’s do, played a huge part in encouraging my love of food whilst growing up. She taught me how to cook from a young age and introduced me to different world cuisines, as well as providing me with the facilities to learn to cook in. I’m very fortunate to have been given these skills as a tot, but I know many students cannot cook or simply, find cooking a chore.

Losing the help of Mum when you’re at University can lead to malnutrition, through poor dietary habits and a lack of nutrients. In 2016, a study found that 1/3 couldn’t even boil an egg, with 48% being unable to put together a simply spaghetti Bolognese.

Putting together a simple meal is super easy!!

There are many student friendly recipe books, YouTube tutorials and even on-the-go apps to teach you some tips (and some here at MetMUnch, of course 😃).

I grew up very much in a meat and two veg family, which I often found laborious and repetitive. Independence with my food choice allowed me to find my own rhythm with my food preferences. Since starting at Manchester Met, I make sure I go meat free at least 2 or 3 days a week. Increasing your veggie uptake can not only be great for your health, but is a sustainable way of living.

Live Sustainably

Living sustainably is probably something you hadn’t even considered since becoming a student,  and not surprisingly, students are the worst at it. With over buying, over cooking and serial snacking, we throw away a huge seven billion tonnes of food away each year, much of which can be eaten.

For students, wasting food is also a huge waste of money, but by following a few simple tips, you could save a lot of pennies in your pockets.

Remember, the freezer is your friend, where keeping fresh fruit and veg, alongside meat, bread and leftover meals will reduce any waste without compromising on taste and nutrient contents (be sure NOT to reheat cooked meat though, keep that in the fridge to eat cold). Communal cooks are also great if you have some friends who want to share some meals and split up the cooking tasks (and the washing up).

As a nutrition student, I thought that I would have cooking healthy for one MASTERED, but surprisingly, my diet took a big hit. I gained independence with my choice of foods and allowed myself to try new foods, but this was also as bad as it was good. The availability of fast food was hard to resist, and slowly tempted me in after nights out, for lazy lunches and when I run out of food and simply could not be bothered to shop.

It made me CRAVE the home cooking and nutrient rich roasts made by my Mum. I’ve slowly learnt to curb these cravings and health up my habits (but no, I still haven’t mastered the singular measure of pasta either).

To help me get back from takeaway binges, I now check out MetMUnch for some savvy student tips over on Instagram and Twitter, you should too!

Fun, food and fresher’s flu – Sam Harrison

Hello Freshers! (and returning students!) This is it!

The start of the academic year, with nothing but fun, friends and hangovers in front of you (plus, hopefully a few lectures). Chances are, before you arrived you gave the following (admittedly, extremely important) things some serious consideration:

  • The colour scheme and theme of your new bedroom (I personally recommend just scattering a few cushions around the place). *I’d advise against asking your parents to do multiple trips in a car full of candlestick holders, trinkets and ornaments (I definitely didn’t do this. Not at all. Nope. No. Ok, maybe)

  • Some new outfits (studies suggest looking stylish at 9am lectures helps retain additional information (MrIMadeThisUp, 2017)).
  • If you’re going to get along with your course mates and flatmates (I’m pretty sure you will!)

But how much consideration have you given to your food, your health and the prospect of being the best, healthiest you possible?

We all neglect aspects of healthy eating from time to time, and MetMUnch certainly won’t advise against going out with your new friends, drinking, dancing and having the time of your life! – The social aspect of university life is incredibly important!

That being said, here are a few tips to balance out all the booze and late nights, so you can reach your full potential in the coming weeks and months, keep your bank balance healthy and keep freshers flu at bay;

  • Drink water, even on a night out! – Alcoholic drink, water, alcoholic drink, water. Your head and your bank balance will thank you for it in the morning. Booze not only dehydrates you, but tends to be high in calories and lacking in nutrients. By drinking water every other drink, you’ll rehydrate your body and save some calories for the following mornings yummy breakfast (we all need an amazing breakfast after a night of drinking, right?). For more tips on avoiding horrendous hangovers, please read this great blog by lovely Emma http://metmunch.com/blog/

  • Speaking of breakfast – eat breakfast! Everyday, especially on university days. Your body has been fasting over night and needs to replenish its stores to allow you to thrive and stay alert. Early morning lectures can be tricky enough without falling asleep and hitting your head on the desk in front of you. MetMUnch recommends oats, oats and more oats! So versatile, so filling and so nutritious. Add fruit, nuts or seeds. Why not add a few squares of dark chocolate in there? This breakfast will give you slow releasing carbohydrates to power you through until lunchtime.
  • Make use of the uni cafes – Manchester Met do some great, affordable salad bars and soups!
  • Plan ahead – This ultimately saves time and money (things we tend to take for granted when living with our parents). Make a shopping list, stick to it and cook your meals in advance. What could be better than a yummy, nutritious meal waiting for after a long day at uni? This also reduces the risk of feasting on junk and takeaway food. We also recommend visiting supermarkets in the evening, as this is when they tend to reduce the prices on various foods and you’re bound to bag a bargain. So many healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can be frozen, which locks in vitamins and minerals and allows you to eat them at your leisure.

  • Try not to get caught up in food fads and “superfoods”. The majority of the foods we know to be good for us have always been good for us, and will continue to be good for us. Make sensible choices – swap the white bread for brown bread and the Frosties for muesli (you get the idea).

There you have it – a few simple tips to help you through your first weeks and months of the university year. Squeeze every last bit of fun out of your time at uni and be good to yourself; you’ve worked hard to get here and you deserve to thrive.

How to cure a hangover (theoretically)… – By Emma Green

Here at MetMUnch, we don’t encourage drinking to the excess, but we know that sometimes we can have a few too many vodka lemonades on a night out, which can lead to a bit of a sore head the next day. That’s right, the dreaded hangover.

So, what do you really know about the nutritional status of alcohol?

Well here’s a few facts:

  • There are 7kcals in every gram of alcohol. That’s almost as much as fat (9kcal/g)! These calories are also referred to as empty calories, as they contain little nutritional value, so aren’t contributing any health benefits to our bodies. These calories soon mount up, especially when consuming numerous drinks on a night out.
  • It’s not just the alcohol itself, but what you consume with it. Mixers are full of sugar and additives, with a 330ml can of coca cola containing 139kcals and 39% of your daily sugar intake. From one can! Ciders and wines are also full of extra sugars, which can pile on the pounds. And all those calories are before that fatty, end of the night takeaway!
  • Over consumption of alcohol can lead to metabolic issues, liver problems and obesity. This can ultimately lead to a poor quality of life as you age.
  • Alcohol is both a stimulant and a depressant. Alcohol affects our brain chemistry, influencing our thoughts, feelings and actions. For many, it can provide a temporary confidence boost and reduce anxiety, but excessive drinking increases the chances of negative emotional responses. This could not only turn a super night sour, but in the long term have a huge effect on your mental health.

our bodies

Our bodies are designed to process small amounts of alcohol. Alcohol (ethanol) converts to a substance called acetaldehyde, which converts to a product called acetate. The body can use this for energy. However, excess consumption of alcohol causes a build-up of acetaldehyde, which causes a whole load of nasties, such as mistakes in our DNA and free radicals.

You’ve probably heard of many horror stories about free radicals. They are highly unstable atoms which cause damage to our cells and tissues – they can be stabilised by antioxidants, which we can get from consuming plenty of vitamins and minerals in our diets.

So, theoretically, eating loads of fruits and veggies can combat excess alcohol consumption and that nasty hangover, right!? Sadly for us, getting rid of a hangover isn’t that simple, but there’s a few tips that can keep it at bay (or just make it a little less painful).

tips

  • Make every other drink a water! By keeping hydrated, you will pace out and reduce your alcohol consumption, whilst still having a great time out. And you will thank yourself in the morning when you feel as fresh as a daisy!
  • Eat plenty of fruits and veggies before, during and after the night out will keep you topped up with antioxidants to (try and) combat the hangover. Reaching for fatty, sugary convenience foods will contribute to weight gain, and make you feel sluggish and fatigued the next day.
  • When choosing drinks, opt for lighter, sugar free versions! This will save massive amounts of calories and sugar, but also reduce fatigue and the chance of feeling a bit rotten after all the fun.
  • Keep moving! A good boogie the night before surprisingly will contribute to your activity and fitness, but make sure you move about the next day to keep you feeling revived, as well as sweating out some of those sins. Too many of us spend hangover days bed ridden, which is so bad for your health and productivity.

But we’re not saying quit the drink completely! Of course, we all need to let our hair down and have a bit of fun. Drinking in moderation is completely okay, alongside making healthier choices and staying in control when going out. So, go out, have fun, and keep that hangover at bay.

Check out the calories in your drink at https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/understand-your-drinking/unit-calculator

Blueberry and Lemon Oatmeal Cookies – Rachel Davies

Anyone that knows me will know that I am obsessed with Pinterest. I could spend hours on there (and to be honest with you, quite often I do!).  I get so many ideas for baking from it and although they don’t always work – they give me chance to play with and adapt recipes.

Blueberry-Oatmeal-Cookies-7-2

Recently I found a recipe for blueberry oatmeal cookies at https://www.asaucykitchen.com/oatmeal-blueberry-cookies/

It’s a good recipe but I’ve added lemon to it, which in my option makes it even better! In the last few months I have done a lot of baking with blueberry and lemon – I’ve done cupcakes, cakes, pavlova and of course these cookies!

Here’s my amended recipe:

Ingredients

1/2 cup soften coconut oil or butter (104 grams) – I used butter

1/2 cup dark brown sugar (110 grams)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 egg

1 cup gluten free all purpose flour (140 grams) gluten free flour can be expensive so you can use regular plain flour

1 1/4 cups rolled oats (106 grams)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (100 grams)

1 Lemon (using the zest and the juice)

Instructions

First…

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix softened coconut oil (or butter) and brown sugar until smooth. Add in the egg and vanilla, then beat again for 2 minutes or until smooth.
  2. Add the flour, oats, mixture, baking soda, and salt to the mixing bowl with everything else. Mix until combined.
  3. Slowly fold in the blueberries with a wooden spoon. Add the juice and zest of the lemon.

Then…

  1. Cover & refrigerate for 20 minutes to firm the dough. (This is especially important if you use coconut oil so the cookies don’t spread too much.) Drop round balls of cookie dough onto a lined/greased cookie sheet. Push the balls down slightly.
  2. Bake for 10-13 minutes at 180°C or until edges just begin to turn golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes on baking sheet so that they can firm up a bit. Transfer to a wire rack to allow cookies to cool completely.

 

Enjoy baking them! Tweet @MetMunch or tag us @metmunch in your Instagram photos to let us see how you get on!

 

Salad season is here – Cennet Tezgel

It’s time to ditch the soups, salad season is upon us and what a perfect way to get in your 5 a day. The thought of salads may seem boring to you though right?

That’s where we go wrong, salads can still be delicious and energising foods without being associated to being on a “diet”. We can spice up our salad, add different vegetables and even add fruit to be adventurous and exotic.

Why eat salads on a nutrition point of view? Vegetables in salads have a good source of insoluble fibre which will help keep a healthy digestive tract, adding extra sources of fibre such as nuts, seeds and beans to our salads known as soluble fibre can help to keep out blood sugar levels balanced along side a healthy living diet and lifestyle.

Salad vegetables such as spinach, a dark vibrant colour adds in the nutritional profile packed with vitamin A & C, as well as adding in iron and fibre.

Tomatoes a popular salad ingredient adds vitamin C and fibre. Fibre aids in achieving a healthy weight, as well as keeping a healthy digestive system, with vitamin C is a treatment for the common cold, boosts the immune system as well maintaining a healthy skin, and healing of skin which may be vital during the hot summer days.

But why not be adventurous instead of the normal day to day salads? I have a few recipes to share to get your salads looking instagramable, summer vibrant and full of colour that will make your food choices this summer extra healthy and happy.

Here are my top four favourite ingredients/recipes for a salad this summer, if you decide to be adventurous try them out and tag a picture in Instagram with @metmunch we love to see your food pictures.

  1. Roasted Aubergines

An easy vegetarian recipe, that can pack your salad with summer flavours. Aubergines are a source of dietary fibre, B1 & B6 and also adding in as a source of potassium.

  1. Mint

A perfect additional to a bit of flavour to your salads, a perfect summer taste. A good idea is courgette, feta and mint salad. or you can add to your basic salad vegetables with a apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing. Mint is perfect to grow in your own garden, much sustainable and organic, additionally on a health side mint is known to be promote digestion, and good for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome to relieve symptoms.

  1. Pomegranate

There’s nothing wrong with adding fruit to our salads, it gives it that refreshing taste whilst adding extra vitamins, nutrients and increasing our 5-a-day recommendation. With its sweetness and pleasantly bitter taste it gives it that fresh feeling, along with a superior visual presentation to our salads by adding colour and shine. Pomegranates are known to have anti-inflammatory effects and is a source of antioxidants. A great recipe to try is a goat’s cheese salads with a pomegranate dressing. The dressing is simple to make, with using the juice and seeds of one large pomegranate, 4tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, 1.5tbsp of red wine vinegar, 1tsp of honey, and a touch of salt and pepper to finish. Exotic and beautifully flavoured.

  1. Asparagus

Last but of course not least we have asparagus a perfect addition to your summer salads. Not only are they delicious but very healthy, with only 20 calories per 100 grams and 0g of saturated fats it is one top a nutritionists list for ‘superfoods’. Asparagus has good sources of fibre, folate and vitamins A, C, E and extremely high in vitamin K; Vitamin K is important for strong bones and blood clotting, additionally antioxidants to help repair from free radicals in our body. Know you know that not only asparagus is the food to get a good amount of vitamins from a recipe that I would recommend is asparagus & halloumi salad (or tofu for a substitute).

A simple recipe that just requires asparagus, halloumi, fennel, red onion, and virgin olive oil to finish. After cooking the asparagus until tender, add it to cold water to refresh before adding into your salad, the fennel and onion should be trimmed and finely sliced and combined with the cooked halloumi and asparagus before adding in oil with a squeeze of oranges juice for the finish.

I hope you like the sound of a few of these recipes or added ingredients for your summer salads, don’t forget to tag in @metmunch to show us your creations of the recipes or any new recommendations for us to take on board. Thank you for reading.

 

6 Nutrition Tips To Get You Through Exams

By Sam Harrison

As the end of the academic year approaches, the thought of long summer days and catching up with friends may well be on your mind. For most of us, we must first tackle those long library days of revision and then finally…exams!

Now, without a doubt this period can be stressful and a little draining, but MetMUnch are here to provide you with some simple nutritional nuggets of information to help you on your way.

1. Breakfast Is King (Or Queen)

IMG_8977edit

Now admittedly, it’s a cliché but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Your body has been fasting for the hours you’ve been asleep and requires a hearty breakfast to kick-start all its intricate functions.

A satisfying meal of scrambled or poached eggs on whole wheat bread gives a brilliant dose of protein and slow releasing carbohydrates. Eggs also contain a vitamin called Choline, which has been linked to better cognitive performance and protecting against memory loss (especially pertinent when revising).

 

2. Eat For Energy

To better aid the long hours of revision, your body should be providing the brain with a steady supply of glucose. Through aerobic respiration, glucose is the key source of energy within the body, and your muscles and brain (with that, your concentration) need it to thrive.

Foods with a low glycemic index rating such as sweet potatoes, quinoa or oats, release glucose into the blood stream gradually. This will increase concentration levels for longer periods (sadly, we can’t say the same for nachos or cookies).

 

3. Water Your Brain

keep hydrated

Water allows a large proportion of the chemical reactions to take place in our bodies, so the speed at which our body and brain functions is directly inhibited when we become dehydrated.

As mentioned earlier, after a period of sleep, we need to replenish certain things the body needs to operate optimally, and this includes water. Checking the colour of your urine is a strong indicator of hydration levels. The darker it is, the more water you need to drink. The NHS recommends we aim to drink around 1.2 litres of fluid a day, preferably water.

 

4. Move Your Body

Take a break from the books and get some exercise. Even a 30 minute walk can do wonders by boosting your concentration levels whilst naturally elevating your mood.

 

5. Plan, Plan, Plan

Meal_Prep

The key to maintaining a healthy body and mind when revising is preparation. A little forward planning goes a long way to negating the risk of reaching for poor food choices which may hamper your revision.

Ten minutes spent planning your meals before you go food shopping will be worth it on results day!

 

6. Treat yourself!

Perhaps most importantly – set aside some time to enjoy your favourite foods or drinks in a guilt-free way. This will not only help to keep you motivated, but gives you something to look forward to at the end of a long week. I personally find the idea of pizza and cocktails especially motivating 🙂

Best of luck, everyone!

Don’t waste food, preserve it!

Ok, so issues regarding food waste aren’t exactly brand new information for most people in the UK, especially since research published by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) found that the UK created around 10 million tonnes of food waste in 2016, a staggering 60% of which could have been avoided. This has an estimated value of over £17 billion a year, and is associated with around 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Food waste

However, here at MetMUnch, we have been having some thoughts…

Now, this is a little old school, but when a food is nearing the end of shelf life it can still be really useful, so how about making it into something else?

Strawberries a little mushy? Make them into a jam.

Got more cabbage than you can eat? Give kimchi a go.

Whatever you do, DON’T THROW IT!!

What started as a way of keeping food from the bountiful autumn harvest through cold winters is still a good way to keep food, as well as being able to imbue it with all manner of tasty flavours and textures.

But this is just the start…canning, drying, salting and preserving– all this and more is open in the wonderful world of fermented foods!

kimchi.jpg

The science of preserving

They say the making of food is half-art and half-science. Well, the science is certainly clear to see whenever we preserve our foods.

There are so many methods open to us to keep our food at its best, and all which work on a few basic scientific mechanisms. Here are some examples:

  • Salting – By using salt to draw out the water we dehydrate the food and make it inhospitable to microbes, which would either spoil it or hurt us. Examples of salting include Sauerkraut or salt cod.
  • Vinegar – On a similar theme we can add vinegar, which changes the pH (<4.6), making it too acidic for microbes to grow. Examples include traditional favourites like a pickled onion or egg.
  • Use of ‘good bacteria’ – Competition is a good thing, so if we can get a harmless strain of microbe to proliferate & consume the resources in a food it leaves no room for the ‘bad bacteria’. This tool is often used in conjunction with salting, for example in the traditional Korean dish kimchi, which uses lactic acid bacteria.
  • Anti-microbial agents – It sounds a bit technical but some foods like spices contain natural chemicals that discourage microbial growth. While these are not often enough on their own they provide a great back-up line of defence when combined with one of the other methods. Cinnamon, clove and mustard all have this property.

pexels-photo-175745

These are just a few of the methods of preserving which have an incredible number of variations and combinations to add flavour, texture and safety to our foods. Have a go at home!

Ask a MetMUncher for more advice on creative ideas for your food, or visit www.metmunch.com for recipes, ideas and nutritional advice!

Grab your Grub and Go – by Lindsay Seccombe

Why should you spend your Sunday afternoons prepping meals for that long week at uni?

Here’s why…

  • You’re a student, you’re skint. Well either that, or you would just rather spend your student loan on something a bit more exciting than food. So, why not save your money by only buying what you need for the week? This way you can plan and prep your lunch for uni so you can grab it in the morning and go.

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  • It can also stop that dreading snacking between lectures. “Ooo look! A vending machine”. Control yourself!! You have wonderful and nutritious nuts in your bag or that tasty fruit salad you prepared on Sunday. You do not need that chocolate bar!!

What to do in 3 steps…

  1. PLAN YOUR PREP

Grab a piece of paper and jot down a weekly food plan for your Monday to Friday week. Use this as a checklist so you only buy what you need. Then get cooking, chopping, slicing ready for the week ahead.

cooking-ingredient-cuisine-kitchen

  1. PLAN YOUR PREP DAY

Personally, I enjoy doing it on a Sunday night. That way, I’m ready for the week ahead.

  1. WHAT TO PREP

You want to focus on the meal you eat while you’re at uni…lunch. This is the one that catches you out daily, dragging you over to the canteen. You should try to mix and match your carbs, protein and healthy fats within your chosen midday meal. A favourite of mine is chicken seasoned chicken with Mediterranean cous cous, peppers and tomatoes. This is usually paired with a 3pm snack of nuts and a colourful fruit salad.

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Need some ideas for a satisfying and healthy lunch?

How about?

  • Mason Jar Salads Untitled-1

Mix and protein with salad, dressing and maybe a sprinkle of feta and bung the lot into a jar, just like this.

  • Mozzarella, Tomato and Spinach Pasta, yum!
  • Chickpea and Feta Salad (you could also use a mason jar).
  • Soup – Blend those left over veggies!! (We hate food waste)

food-healthy-hand-cooking

  • Noodles with a dressing, protein and more veggies.
  • Sweet Potato and Quinoa salad (add chicken if you’re bulking)

Ever thought of prepping your breakfast? Well if you’re a smoothie lover, try this simple tip!

You’ve just woke up, its 8:45am and your lecture starts in just 15 minutes. Don’t you wish your smoothie was just sat waiting for you, rather than chopping up all that fruit? Try this out.

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Prep your smoothie, chop those strawberries, raspberries, blueberries…and maybe some vegetables such as kale, beetroot and spinach, bung them in a freezer bag in your freezer draw. When you wake up in the morning, grab your prepped fruit and stick it in the blender with some Greek yogurt and fresh juice (just the fruit, not the freezer bag!) then you’re good to go!

New Year, New Me

3 Steps to a healthier 2017

With the New Year, brings the usual mantra of ‘New Year, new me’. The following weeks are filled with over exulted expectation and ambition resulting in the inevitable crash and burn. Familiar….? I thought so…

Consider this; if challenged to lift twice your bodyweight with little or no training you’d most likely fail, wouldn’t you? Lifting more than your body can manage is akin to the type of diet and exercise resolutions that thousands of people will have made across the country this week. Goals like ‘I won’t eat any junk food this year’ or ‘I will work out for an hour a day 7 days a week’ are simply too much too soon! Now, look at the alternative using the same analogy, if you slowly began to increase the amount you lift by 2 pounds a week, eventually you would be able to lift twice your bodyweight. It may take a considerable amount of time but the idea is that this method is sustainable. Get the idea?

junk

Let’s apply this theory to the resolutions. If you were asked to choose just one day a week on which you must adhere to a plan; e.g. eliminating junk food and/or performing an exercise routine, then this seems much less intimidating and is therefore much more manageable. The benefit of this approach is that is creates habits. Reflex is when you perform something without having to apply your mind and the benefit of habits is that they follow the same principle and simply become part of your day/week. Instead of consciously telling yourself to follow a plan, you just do it. Then you can begin to slowly increase the number of healthy meals and days on which you follow the plan until the shift is towards more healthy meals and exercise and less junk.

Ok, so let’s start with

step 1: Choosing the plan to follow

Although many similar pieces will have been written, most will suggest the ‘perfect’ plan. The problem with this is that everybody is unique and what works for one doesn’t work for another. Some opt for vegetarian, others low carb or high fat or maybe even something a little more exotic. Some may prefer to make gradual changes by swapping white rice and pasta for wholegrain or trying to incorporate one or two extra vegetables into their evening meal. The bottom line is that regardless of what it is, find a plan which works for you and execute it to the best of your ability. The only point that must be stressed is that you must follow a food plan that is sustainable, crash diets won’t work here because the aim of this piece is to give you an opportunity to achieve and maintain your goals.

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Step 2: Exercise

SMART targets are key here. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time – bound. Firstly, your exercise must be specific to your goal; if you want to run a marathon as your resolution, lifting weights alone won’t get you there, you need to tailor the plan to your goals. Next is measurable. The biggest rush you will experience is smashing through the victory point of your target. Now, if you set yourself the aim of ‘I will run a 5k faster’ this isn’t measurable as what is classed as faster?
A minute off your previous best time? 5 minutes? You need to set a specific target against which you can measure your performance e.g. I will run a 5k in under 25 minutes. For the achievable part of a SMART target motivation plays a big part. If it isn’t achievable you set yourself up for failure, choose something that isn’t out of your reach. For realistic targets a strict rule must be followed, is it possible? If you had arthritis in your knees, running a marathon would not be realistic but swimming 50 lengths of the pool at local leisure centre could be. Finally, by keeping your goals within a time frame it provides the push you require as if a goal follows all the other steps but is ignorant to time then how do you motivate yourself to get it done? it simply gets put off and is eventually forgotten about.

exercise

Step 3: Motivation

Motivation is the key factor between failure and success. If you aren’t motivated to stick to a health plan, then you aren’t going to. Luckily, there is advice that can be given. Firstly, nobody will do it for you, understand that. There is no easy way, no cheats or shortcuts, nor should there be; this is the main reason why when you reach your goal it will feel all that bit better. It will be testing and there will be moments of weakness, the only thing you can do is remember why you are doing it and carry on. Leave notes to yourself on the fridge, a picture of someone in peak health on your mirror or anything that re-focus’ your mind on the task ahead. It’s all about learning not to expect too much too soon, the one thing that must be ingrained into the brain is this;

BE BETTER THAN YESTERDAY.

motivation

It’s not about tomorrow, or yesterday, it’s about now, this moment. Challenge yourself and watch as you reach, succeed and achieve.
Written by: Jacob Edwards

 

#takethechallenge2017

 

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