Lifestyle Medicine Week 2021 Day 4

It’s day 4 of Lifestyle Medicine Week and today we’re looking at the issue of diet and nutrition.

Eating healthy, real food and avoiding processed foods is one of the key ways we can improve our health.

Globally, millions of people die every year because of poor diet. The Lancet’s 2019 Global Burden of Disease study estimated that 1 in 5 of annual global deaths were associated with poor diet. This amounted to 11 million deaths.

The majority of adults in the UK are now classed as overweight or obese and it is therefore vital that at the individual and the population level we address the dietary and nutritional factors which contribute to this.

The NHS recommends that people should eat “a wide range of foods to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet and your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.”

It is recommended that men have around 2,500 calories a day (10,500 kilojoules). Women should have around 2,000 calories a day (8,400 kilojoules). However, most adults in the UK are eating more calories than they need and should eat fewer calories.

The British Society of Lifestyle Medicine supports an evidence-based approach to nutrition and diet and does not adhere to any single approach. We encourage a range of dietary approaches that are supported by scientific evidence, specific to the patient’s condition and circumstances.

We are aligned with several different organisations which adopt different approaches to diet and nutrition, including Plant-based Health Professionals UK and the Low-Carb food Co.

For those practicing the lifestyle medicine approach with patients, it’s important to support people to make better choices when it comes to what they eat.

Supporting people to make healthier food choices also requires change at the societal level with government and the food industry all having a role to play. In countries such as the UK our food environment is characterised by easy access to “energy dense” but “nutrient poor” foods. This leads to problems such as obesity and under-nutrition. A 2020 UNICEF report also concluded that “low income groups have good access to ‘bad’ food and bad access to ‘good’ food. To improve our diet and our health this underlying “food environment” needs to change.

What you can do to eat more healthily?

  • Eat more fruit and vegetables and plant-based foods
  • Avoid processed foods and foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar
  • Eat wholegrain or wholemeal varieties of starchy foods such as rice, pasta and bread

What about fasting?

BSLM member Dr Adaeze Ifezulike has recorded this short video for Lifestyle Medicine Week in which she discusses the benefits of regular fasting for our health …


Dr Adaeze Ifezulike

Additional Resources

The gut microbiome and the factors that shape it

Dr Eirini Dimidi

NHS Eat Well Guide

Emma Mulligan, BSLM’s Head of Operations shares her top tips for getting the family to make healthier choices:

  • Keep healthy items easily accessible in the fridge so it’s the first thing the family see when they open the door
  • Cook together – not only does this drive healthy relationships as a family, but kids will be more likely to try new things
  • Aim for the rainbow – Eat the rainbow – different colours are linked to higher levels of specific nutrients and health benefits
  • Add extra veg in to curries, pastas and stews by grating or dicing small
  • Eat together as often as possible and always have a jug of water on the table
  • Try a “Meat free Monday” or something similar, by increasing the recipe options it won’t seem such a hassle

Regional Director Dr Reeta Karamchandani shares her tips for healthy eating habits…

Find nutrition not food for solace- Ditch the diet

Mindful eating
It is not just about eating a raisin!
It is about developing awareness of our experiences, physical cues, and feelings about food.
Using all our senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to and nourishing to our body and becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide our decisions to begin and end eating.
Ask yourself:
Is it really hunger or is it just thirst?
What am I eating-could it be swapped to a healthier version?
Where am I seated when eating, on my work desk or distraction free around a table with family?
When should I eat –is it just because it is time for a meal or I want to eat as per my hunger cycle?
For example: To sleep well -avoid these food items couple of hours before bedtime
Flavoured sweetened yogurts/Raw vegetables/Dried fruits/Dark chocolates spicy food /high fibre cereal and sugar.

Intuitive eating
An eating habit that lets us eat what we want, when we want, with no strict limitations on how much.
Make peace with your body’s needs,
Letting go off the guilt associated with eating
Ending the struggle of following diet rules-Reject the diet mentality
It is not over indulgence.-discover satisfaction and satiety.