What is a healthy lifestyle?

By: Wilna Nienaber

Date: February 2016

Starting something new can be hard if you are not prepared; particularly when it involves something you do numerous times each day — like eating and drinking.  Doing what you used to do with small adjustment is so much easier.  So if you know what you are doing now and you know what a healthy lifestyle looks like you can simply adapt certain aspects. Adapting your lifestyle will definitely fall into the “as-hard-as-it-gets” category.  Luckily baby steps are called baby steps for a reason.


  1. Get up

I have never heard of someone that actually goes for a run, goes to work, eats lunch or drinks coffee without getting up.  Getting up is probably the most important thing that you will do tomorrow or have done today.  Without getting up nothing else will happen effectively.  I am not talking about Saturday morning cuddles with your Egyptian cotton sheets.  Healthy people are allowed to have those as well.

Start your morning without snoozing the alarm 5 times.  Set your alarm clock realising that as soon as it goes off if you do not get up straight away you will be late!  Getting up the first time your alarm goes off is easy, after that it just gets so much harder.


With that said, you need to get up for 3 things in the morning:

  • To do some sort of physical activity
  • To eat breakfast
  • To go to work/ take your kids to school/raise your toddler or feed the dog (a responsibility)


It is not really about getting out of bed, it is more about starting your day without a nervous breakdown.  If you start your day the healthy way the rest of your day will fall into place.  Reality is that if you are not doing it already it is going to take some time.  For some or other reason time before 6:30 goes by a lot slower than time after 17:00.  Getting 3 very important healthy lifestyle “chores” behind you before work is more than great.


  1. Exercise

This will be ideal if it could happen after getting up, but some of us need to be at work at 7:00 and if that means leaving at 6:15 it will result in you getting up at 5:30.  I get that.  Not everyone can exercise in the morning.  But the most important thing is that you do exercise.

This is just as important as eating correctly. Make sure you include at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, 20 minutes of strenuous physical activity or at least 15 minutes of very strenuous physical activity, more than 5 times a week. If you spend most of your day sitting at a desk in an office, take the stairs and park further away from the entrance.  Every bit of energy that you burn during the day helps.

How active are you?

Moderate physical activity Strenuous physical activity Very strenuous physical activity
Walking 1.5km in 15-20 min Walking or jogging > 30min Jogging > 40min
Treading water Swimming laps (light effort) Swimming laps (vigorous effort)
Bicycling (16 km/h) Bicycling (20 km/h) Bicycling (>22 km/h)
Dancing High impact aerobics Step aerobics
Yard work/gardening Mowing lawn with hand mower Digging a ditch
Hiking Playing doubles tennis Playing singles tennis
Vacuuming Moving furniture Playing basketball or soccer
Playing actively with children Weight lifting Hiking up a mountain


Exercise should not be like eating ice cream (it happens only on special occasions); it should be like brushing your teeth.  Nothing to think about or put on Facebook.  It should be a habit.  If you are posting your training sessions on social media you should know that you are not doing it often enough (except if you are a professional and your sponsor requires a selfie in your sponsored kit).

JUST DO IT, every day, so that the days you do not get to do it you pick up your kid twice us much because you know you should burn that energy somehow.

Exercise may become addictive, try it, I dare you.


  1. Every meal counts

If you keep on telling yourself that this is just one bad meal, you are making a mistake.  If you on average eat 21 main meals per week and of those 3 are takeaways.  Takeaways have on average 3 times the amount of energy of a balanced home cooked meal. So 14% of your meals are contributing to 43% of your energy allowance for the entire week.  If you look at it like this you will realise you need to fast at least one day for every take-away meal you have.


Now that eating fast food sounds like a terrible idea, portion control at home is just as important as choosing your meals outside your own kitchen.  Rule nr 1:  fruit and vegetables.  This is the only way we can keep our stomach full and our energy intake low.


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  1. Drink water

I am more than convinced that people consume just as much energy through cold drinks than through food.  Drinking sodas or any other sort of cold drink or even 100% fruit juice is just one of those habits that we find comfort in.  In winter it is that warm cappuccino on our way to work, in summer it is the long glass of iced tea when we get home.  A cappuccino made with full cream milk contains a shocking 899kJ1, this is not those instant cappuccinos, and they are even higher in energy.  This is about the same amount of energy a small meal should be for an average normal weight woman.  There is no worth in mentioning the amount of energy in soda drinks, because we all can read the labels and deep down know we should not drink it that often.


The moral of the story here is that “comfort drinks” should be seen as a treat.  When you are thirsty you should drink water.  If you feel like something to drink then your brain is telling you that you are thirsty and the answer should still be water.  Cutting down on empty energy is an easy habit to learn, because the alternative (water) is free.


A healthy lifestyle is not a diet or something you do for a week or two.  This should be sustainable, affordable and health enhancing.



  1. http://www.milk.co.uk/page.aspx?intpageid=234



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