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Healthy Life

Swapping sugar for sultanas and more top healthy life tips

“I am not very fit, but heading in the right direction” ….the first steps towards a healthier life helped by a new Norfolk-based Ready to Change platform.

A plan, some help and the goal of only making very small, very gradual changes is helping people in Norfolk towards achievable health goals.

Among those making the most of the recently-launched Ready to Change campaign is Brandon March, a 26 year old who works in IT in Norwich.

Brandon describes himself as “not very fit, but heading in the right direction” and with his partner is taking ideas from Ready to Change.

“We are reducing the amount of bread, pasta and cheese we eat, and substituting unhealthy sides (such as cheese, chips) with fruit and veg. We’re going to stop buying frozen pizzas and so on and go for something a bit healthier but still quick to make (omelette, chicken etc).”

The Ready to Change platform offers masses of online information, quizzes and tips created by Norfolk County Council Public Health with health and behavior experts from the University of East Anglia.

It focuses on eating well, drinking less alcohol, moving more and cutting out smoking.

Eastern Daily Press: An easy swap for those with a sweet tooth is having a handful of dried fruit rather than reaching for biscuitsAn easy swap for those with a sweet tooth is having a handful of dried fruit rather than reaching for biscuits (Image: jo malone)

Brandon has used the platform to set his goals by considering what he wants to achieve, and using the online tools to consider how he has the capability, opportunity and motivation to change how he lives.

Brandon’s aim for a healthier lifestyle is to improve his mental health and lose some weight, and that means focusing on small steps – such as the switch from chips to vegetables. The aim is that small changes are easier to maintain permanently, and make a difference.

Eastern Daily Press: Adding a salad rather than more than one slice of cheese is a good first step for a healthier lunch.  The next step could be replacing the fried filling with grilled meat. Photo: GettyAdding a salad rather than more than one slice of cheese is a good first step for a healthier lunch. The next step could be replacing the fried filling with grilled meat. Photo: Getty (Image: getty)

He started the Ready to Change goal setting and little steps approach after reading and being surprised about how much exercise he should be doing and some of the advice on eating habits.

“I have tried to make sure that I now do at least 15-20 minutes of exercise a day so I’m at least closer to where I should be, and have changed a few of the things I eat,” he says, adding that’s making a difference.

“Even after that small adjustment, I have more energy and keep finding little ways to try and incorporate exercise into daily activities. I have been parking at the far end of the carpark when I go into the office, and I’ve also started taking the shopping bags straight to the car instead of using a trolley.”

He’s taking more tips from Ready to Change too.

“When I do a proper clean of the bathroom I’ll only bring up one thing initially. So that way I am forced to go up and down the stairs to get other cleaning supplies as and when I need them – sounds silly but it forces me to move around and break a sweat, doesn’t take much extra time, and means that I’m ‘passively’ exercising as much as possible.”

He’s cleaning more too: “I have been vacuuming more, because it’s quite a workout at times and heavy to move around, and started to consider it part of my routine instead of a chore, so I am more on top of things around the house as well.”

Ready to Change encourages platform users to consider their own lifestyle swap ideas, and set their own goals.

“I did kayaking when I was younger, and we went a few times before the winter and I loved it (even though I couldn’t swim) so it will definitely come back to this once it’s warmer,” says Brandon.

He has started going to the gym too: “At the moment I am putting more effort into strength-related exercise just because I find it more fun, but slowly trying to do more cardio.”

He agrees that making changes isn’t always easy: “I used to go to the gym when I was younger and I found that going regularly at a steady pace is the best way to go. If you try to do things too quickly, or overdo it, you’ll just end up putting yourself out for a week and missing sessions.

“If you find that the idea of ​​going to the gym is daunting, see if you can go with someone for the first few sessions. Aim to be there for 45-60 minutes, even if you fill the space with lighter activities, such as the treadmill, or just stretches,” he suggests.

“If you plan to do weights etc, start at lower weights so you can practice your form first and get a feel for how it all works. Have a plan for what you want to do, and what you want to get out of it.

“Watching some videos and doing some research really helps understand how to get the most out of each exercise,” says Brandon, adding that he’s found a good way to get over any feelings of awkwardness at the gym.

“If you don’t like how many people are there (like me), try going later if it’s a 24/7 gym, you’ll be tired enough to go straight to sleep when you get home as a bonus.”

Eastern Daily Press: Jo Malone drinks tea with sugar and a biscuit several times a day and is finding cutting back sugar harder than swapping fatty foods for healthy optionsJo Malone drinks tea with sugar and a biscuit several times a day and is finding cutting back sugar harder than swapping fatty foods for healthy options (Image: jo malone)

Writer Jo Malone is using the Ready to Change ideas to make changes towards a healthier lifestyle too, focusing on eating better, moving more and cutting down on alcohol.

“Reading that an adult should have no more than 30g of sugar a day and looking at my sugar intake was a little daunting.

“That’s only six teaspoons of sugar and I have at least 10 cups of sugary tea daily, including several with biscuits.

“The lifestyle swap ideas have meant I’ve moved the biscuits from the work surface to the back of the cupboard and I’m gradually cutting down on that teaspoon of sugar in every cup of tea.

Eastern Daily Press: Swapping my pre-packaged pain au chocolate for a wholemeal bread or toast breakfast has been an easy little swapSwapping my pre-packaged pain au chocolate for a wholemeal bread or toast breakfast has been an easy little swap (Image: jo malone)

“I’ve swapped my pre-packaged breakfast pastry for wholemeal toast. I’m finding changing fatty foods for healthier choices easier than cutting back sugar. I think sugar is my weak point as dropping the evening beer has reached me for chocolate. I aim to stamp out the weekday alcohol – going for Damp January rather than Dry January – and then work on the evening sugar hit.

“I’ve tried Dry January in the past and not only found it a struggle, but returned to my old ‘drink after work’ ways as soon as January has finished. Making little changes, such as four alcohol-free days a week, feels more achievable and sustainable.”

What little changes could you make towards a healthier lifestyle? Learn how healthy your lifestyle is and where changes could be made at Ready to Change. It’s packed with science-backed ideas for healthy life swaps and ways to set goals, gather support and get over those sugar, alcohol, fat, smoking and exercise hiccups. Find out more at www.norfolk.gov.uk/readytochange