Getting into shape

It’s not only the journey of getting into shape, but also the journey of staying in shape that is important. This transformation will improve your physical well-being and your mental and emotional health.

To follow a healthier lifestyle, you have to firstly decide why it’s important to you, so the goal is more than wanting a number on the scale. By defining this, it will help you keep focus in achieving your health and fitness goals.

Guidelines to assist you along the way

  1. Set realistic goals

Before you start any health journey, you need to know where you’re heading. You’ll feel like you’re running in circles if you have no clear goal. Decide what you want to achieve and set a realistic time frame by looking at past experiences and talking to experts.

Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, improve fitness, increase endurance or just improve overall health, clear goals will provide you with motivation and a sense of direction.

Instead of having the goal to lose weight, define it better. For example, I want to lose visceral fat (fat around and in between organs), reduce body fat percentage by 5% and be able to walk 5km without being out of breath. I want to do this in a period of three months.

Also add in goals for general health, not just weight loss. This may include increasing fitness levels, lowering blood glucose levels or improving energy levels and sleep.

  1. Start with smaller changes first

Most people follow an all-or-nothing approach which may put you at either end of the spectrum. Both can be damaging. This leads to confusion, exhaustion, depression, and burn-out.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, start with smaller, more manageable changes. Slowly introduce healthier habits into your daily routine while cutting out bad habits. For example, reducing coffee intake to two cups per day and adding in two glasses of water rather than trying to cut out all coffee and drink three litres of water a day. This way you build in doable changes, and it will be easier to maintain in the long run. Then slowly build on that foundation as you go.

  1. Incorporate an exercise routine

Make sure that you start off with or incorporate exercise that you enjoy in small amounts, to keep you motivated. Then build on that by working in variety and a balance between cardiovascular exercises (running, cycling, swimming) that are good for heart health and fat loss as well as strength training (weights, body weight or high intensity interval training) that helps to prevent muscle and bone loss as you get older.

The more muscle you have, the more energy your body uses to maintain it versus fat that is dry mass and not adding any benefits. Stretching is also important to prevent injuries and keep the muscles flexible.

Start of small with 10 – 15 min of exercise three times a week. Then increase to daily exercises, including stretching of 10 – 15 min. Next you can increase the duration of the sessions to 20 – 30 min three times a week while still doing 10 – 15 min stretching in between.

Depending on your health, you can ask healthcare professionals or personal trainers to assist and work with you on the level you are at.

  1. Follow a well-balanced diet

Most people see this as the most important step in getting into shape, but if everything else is not in place and you don’t have clear goals, unfortunately, you won’t see progress or won’t able to stay on track.

Together with exercise, sleep, water intake and managing stress, a nutritious diet is important in improving health and getting into shape.

With every bite you take, you make a choice between: health or harm. Start by reducing or cutting out processed foods and focusing on incorporating more whole foods (food in its most natural form).

Ensure you add in variety of food groups including fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and grains. Unhealthy foods like sugar, fats and processed foods can negatively affect your health and prevent or slow down progress. Also focus on eating smaller more regular meals with snacks like fruits, nuts, seeds or Fabulite Fat Free Yoghurt. The key to adopting a healthy balanced diet is moderation.

Allow yourself the occasional treat but ensure to eat healthy foods most of the time. Fabulite Fat Free Yoghurt Range is the perfect treat as it has the same sweet taste without the guilt.

  1. Drink enough water

This might sound like a simple thing to do, but the impact of drinking enough water during the day can be massive. Your body consists of about 70% water, so you need to maintain these levels as the body is consistently using water in all body processes.

When you don’t drink enough water, your body has to compensate in ways to try and maintain these processes. This causes unnecessary stress on the body. Constipation is prevalent if you aren’t consuming enough water. Any drinks that contain sugar or caffeine can’t be counted as water as caffeine dehydrates the body. Also ensure that you drink enough throughout the day (especially during and after training) and not all at once.

  1. Ensure sufficient rest and sleep

Sleep helps your body recover from stress and exercise; it’s the healing and recovery time for your body. Thus, if you don’t sleep enough, your body can’t function properly, leaving you exhausted and causing more stress on it. You need about 7 – 9 hours of good quality sleep at night.

You can always build up to this by making a few changes in the house to allow your body to switch off earlier. For example, this can be by turning off electronics earlier in the evening, dimming the lights, closing the curtains, having a cup of chamomile tea before bed and avoiding eating before bed.

Rest is another piece of the puzzle where you’re relaxing your body and mind to better handle the rest of the day or week. Rest includes spending time in nature, reading, listening to music, sitting in the sun with a cup of tea, spending time with loved ones, or going for a leisurely walk. Both rest and sleep are important in losing weight as well as improving health.

  1. Consistency and patience

Consistency is key in anything you want to change. You can’t do everything perfectly one week and then the next all the good intentions go out the window. Rather make the changes slowly and maintain them so that when times get tough, it’s easier to sustain.

You also need to be patient with yourself and the process. Your health didn’t decrease overnight, so you can’t expect your body to heal and get into shape overnight. The more you feed it with the right habits, the better and faster it will also heal and the more progress you’ll see.

Stay focused on your goals by keeping them where you can see them and celebrate small achievements, not only the end goal. P.S – just not by eating more chocolate.

  1. Tracking you progress

Find ways to track your progress so you can see how far you have come throughout the journey. You can do this through measurements (weight, centimetres, blood glucose readings) or you can take before and after photos to measure goals visually as well.

Tracking helps you to adjust where you might not be seeing the results. Keep a journal of diet, exercise, sleep, water intake as that will allow you and your healthcare professional to find ways where you might be lacking or overdoing something.

Every bit of progress adds up, so don’t get discouraged if you only lose 1kg in a month.

  1. Find a support system

Doing anything alone is not easy or fun. Add in the fun by doing it together with someone. Who said healthy competition can’t be good? You can also identify someone close to you to stay accountable to, to keep you motivated when things get hard. They can also celebrate the small achievements with you. These positive enhancements will help you stay on track and continue moving forward.

It’s a rewarding journey

Getting into shape can sometimes be a tough but rewarding journey. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people to walk the journey with you, keeps you motivated and helps you stay focused on your goals.

Everyone’s journey is unique so don’t compare yourself to others, and monitor your progress for where you are at. Keep consistent and one day you’ll look back and see how far you have come and thank yourself for the decision you made. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Go out and get into shape today.

Estée van Lingen is a registered dietitian practicing in Randburg and Fourways, Gauteng. She has been in private practice since 2014 and is registered with the HPCSA as well as ADSA and served on the ADSA Gauteng South Committee for 2020 – 2022.


Estée van Lingen is a registered dietitian practicing in Randburg and Fourways, Gauteng. She has been in private practice since 2014 and is registered with the HPCSA as well as ADSA and served on the ADSA Gauteng South Committee for 2020 – 2022.

This article is sponsored by Parmalat in the interest of education, awareness and support. The content and opinions expressed are entirely the health professional’s own work and not influenced by Parmalat in any way.

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Eating right doesn’t have to be boring

Lynette Lacock explains that by starting small and choosing low-GI food options can ease the transition into eating right.

Your doctor has confirmed that you have diabetes. Eating right along with all the dietary changes you need to make have been discussed. On your way home, all you think about is how you’re going to have to worry about what you eat, how you cook, what to buy and how this will impact your family meals.

Where to start

Instead of focusing on all the foods you’ll have to avoid, start thinking of all the exciting new foods you’ll be trying. Everyone gets stuck in a cooking rut and ends up making the same meals that the recipe is longer needed. Now you get a chance to try new foods that you can share with your family and friends.

First you need to understand how to make better food choices. You need to learn which foods are diabetic friendly and why. The great news is that you don’t have to memorise everything or carry around lists of healthy food. You can google glycaemic index charts or download an app, such as Glycemic Index. Diabetes Diary that can help you make better food choices on the spot. Another good website is

What is a glycaemic index?

A glycaemic index (GI) rating lets you know on a scale of 1 to 100 how quickly the food will elevate your blood glucose. As a person living with diabetes, you need to consume foods with a low-GI rating (1 – 55) that won’t cause your blood glucose to rise quickly. You’ll soon learn that there are healthier substitutes for almost everything you’re currently eating.

For example, a white cooked potato has a GI of 90 but a sweet potato has a GI of 50. By changing the type of potatoes you eat, you can already begin to lower the overall GI of your meal.

Another example of something most eat every day is bread. White bread has a GI of 100 and brown bread has a GI of 55. So, by changing they type of bread you and your family eat everyday can have huge health benefits, even if you don’t have diabetes.

Glycemic Index. Diabetes diary

There are many ways to adjust your food choices without sacrificing the taste you and your family are used to. The free app,  Glycemic Index.Diabetes diary, has the GI ratings of most foods. It allows you to look up the GI ratings of foods you’re eating, and you can search for a similar alternative with a lower rating.

You can use it while food shopping until you learn which foods have lower glycaemic indexes. Plus, this app also allows you to add your glucose, weight and blood pressure readings.

There are other similar apps on the market. Find one that you like and familiarise yourself with the low-GI foods.

See the chart belowfor a few examples of foods and their GI ratings.

Start small

Start with a few simple substitutions and your family won’t even notice. Stews and soups are the easiest way to introduce new vegetables because either you puree them and no one is any wiser, or they are mixed in with everything else and go unnoticed.

Another easy way to make your stews is to use a slow cooker. The meat is always tender, and the vegetables start to disintegrate which is great news for those with kids who don’t like vegetables.

You can find plenty of low-GI recipes to suit your family’s taste. Even though you might hear a few complaints about all the new foods, your family and friends will never be able to say your cooking is boring.


Sr Lynette Lacock


Sr Lynette Lacock received her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and Biofeedback Certification in Neurofeedback in the US. She has over 30 years’ experience in healthcare which has enabled her to work in the US, UK and South Africa. Initially specialising in Cardiothoracic and Neurological ICU, she now works as an Occupational Health Sister. She is passionate about teaching people how to obtain optimum health while living with chronic conditions.

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Diet and job performance

Estée van Lingen, a dietitian, explains the importance of a healthy balanced diet to enhance job performance.

The modern workplace is often fast-paced and demanding, requiring you to be at your best both mentally and physically. Achieving peak performance in any job, requires more than skills and knowledge, it also depends on the foundation of good health.

A healthy diet plays a crucial role in fuelling the body and mind to help support focus, productivity, and overall job performance. It also prevents staff from being off sick regularly.

The relationship between diet and job performance

What you eat has a direct impact on your energy levels, mood and cognitive abilities. The food you eat can provide your body with the necessary nutrients that helps it to function optimally. Just like a car needs fuel and oil to operate, your body needs the right nutrients to provide it with the best energy possible.

The opposite is also true where the lack of the right nutrients can prevent you from performing optimally and having the correct energy, leading to mistakes in your job. Several studies have linked diet to job performance showing that individuals who maintain a healthy diet tend to have better productivity, decision-making skills and emotional well-being.

A balanced diet for optimal cognitive function

A well-balanced diet consisting of a variety of nutrient-rich foods is essential for maintaining optimal cognitive function. Nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are known to support brain health and enhance cognitive abilities. Including unprocessed foods like fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, pilchards and sardines), nuts, leafy greens as well as a variety of vegetables and fruits (especially berries) and whole grains in your diet can significantly contribute to improved focus, memory and problem-solving skills.

Balanced energy levels help to sustain focus

Maintaining steady energy levels throughout the workday is vital for sustaining focus and concentration. Consuming complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and vegetables, can offer a gradual and consistent energy release. This helps to prevent the energy crashes that are frequently experienced, particularly during the late afternoon, following the consumption of sugary snacks or heavily processed foods.

A steady energy supply ensures consistent productivity and mental clarity, enabling you to perform at your best throughout the day. Small servings of high fibre or complex carbohydrates can be consumed throughout the day, instead of all at once which can lead to a drop in energy levels.

Managing stress and promoting mental well-being

Work-related stress is a common issue that can negatively affect job performance and overall job satisfaction. A nutritious diet can play a role in managing stress by supporting the body’s ability to cope with stressors. Foods like avocados, dark chocolate and green tea contain compounds that have been shown to reduce stress hormones and promote a sense of calmness.

Other activities can also be incorporated to assist in managing stress like breathing exercises, going for a short walk during your work day, doing hobbies or exercising after work.

The importance of hydration

Hydration is another critical aspect of maintaining optimal job performance. Since your body consists of more than 75% of water, and all body processes uses water in some way, dehydration can lead to decreased cognitive function, reduced focus, and impaired decision-making abilities. It’s essential to drink enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated and keep the brain functioning at its best.

The requirements for each person are different and you can slowly build up to your unique goal. Start where you are at, for example, two glasses of water then slowly increase it with another glass per day for the first week then with two glasses the next until you get to about 1,5 – 2 litres of water per day.

If you have very light-yellow urine, it’s a good indication that you are well-hydrated. The darker it is, the more water you need to incorporate. Coffee and caffeinated drinks don’t count towards your water goal as it also dehydrates the body.

While you’re increasing water intake, you also want to decrease intake of caffeinated drinks. Herbal teas can count towards water intake as long as it doesn’t have sugar or honey added.

Customising your diet to your job.

While general dietary guidelines can be helpful, it’s essential to recognise that your needs may vary based on the nature of your job, activity level and personal health conditions. Consulting with a registered dietitian can provide personalised advice on tailoring a diet to meet specific job demands and health goals.

Basic dietary changes to improve the quality of your diet

  • Eat a healthy balanced breakfast. Breakfast doesn’t necessarily refer to eating as soon as you wake up. It’s basically the first meal you have. The key is to choose a time when you regularly have your first meal e.g. daily at 8am or 10am. Include a lean protein with breakfast, for example: eggs, low-fat cottage cheese, high protein cereal or nuts and seeds. Avoid refined and processed starches (white bread, pasta, baked goods) that will drop your blood glucose and spike it during the day, leaving you drained.
  • Have smaller more regular meals instead of one large meal per day. Regular meals can be anything between three to six times per day, but still sticking with your total daily allowance.
  • Don’t replace meals with coffee.
  • Avoid sugary or processed snacks during the day. For example, sweets, crisps, donuts, croissants, muffins, fizzy drinks, energy drinks, etc.
  • Have healthy snacks available that you can snack on when needed e.g. fruit, nuts and seeds, yoghurt, low-carb protein bars, eggs, Provitas with peanut butter or low-fat cottage cheese, avocados (mashed as a dip for raw vegetables or on a Provita).
  • Include protein with most meals as well as fibre in the form of vegetables, grains or legumes. Also add healthy fats to the meal such as olive oil, olives, avocados, nuts and seeds.
  • Plan and pack meals and snacks ahead so that you don’t end up at the office ravenous and ordering in or buying take-out.
  • When take-out is the only option, opt for healthier options e.g. grilled, not fried; have salads without dressings; leave out the chips; don’t add a fizzy drink to the meal; and decrease the portion sizes.
  • Take a break when eating (even if it’s just 10min) and don’t eat while you’re busy working. When you do these two things together, the brain doesn’t register you have eaten or how much you have eaten, and you can easily overconsume food. You’ll also eat much faster when you’re busy working compared to when you focus on what you’re eating which can again affect your digestive health.
  • It’s good to take breaks in between working. For example, when consuming snacks as this will also give a break to your brain so you can be more productive when returning to work. During breaks, you can consume water or walk around which will help you achieve your water and movement goals.

In summary

Maintaining a healthy diet isn’t only beneficial for overall well-being but also plays a crucial role in enhancing job performance and preventing illness and sick days. A well-nourished body and mind can lead to increased focus, sustained energy levels and improved cognitive function, all of which are vital for excelling in any job. By making conscious choices about what you eat, you can pave the way for success in your professional life while prioritising your long-term health and happiness. Remember, a well-fed mind is a powerful tool in conquering the challenges of the modern workplace.

Estée van Lingen is a registered dietitian practicing in Randburg and Fourways, Gauteng. She has been in private practice since 2014 and is registered with the HPCSA as well as ADSA and served on the ADSA Gauteng South Committee for 2020 – 2022.


Estée van Lingen is a registered dietitian practicing in Randburg and Fourways, Gauteng. She has been in private practice since 2014 and is registered with the HPCSA as well as ADSA and served on the ADSA Gauteng South Committee for 2020 – 2022.

Header image by FreePik

Making fitness fun

Monique Marais explains how you can make fitness fun and shares tips on where to start depending on your fitness personality profile.

Fitness means different things to different people. For some, it means taking the dog for a walk while others train for marathons and extreme challenges. Fitness programmes are followed for various reasons, ranging from health-related benefits to weight loss management.

Fitness is not a one-size-fits-all concept and you need to know what your personal goals are to achieve your desired fitness level, and you need to find the motivation to stick to the plan.

Finding that motivation can be difficult, especially when you’re trying to balance a busy work schedule and raising children. The main reason reported for irregular exercise regimes is the lack of time. When you enjoy what you’re doing, you are, however, more likely to stick to it in the long run. The key is to make exercise fun.

F – focused

U – unique 

N – new normal

Focused fitness

Have a clear goal of what you want to achieve. This will help you to stay motivated and identify exercises that will help you achieve these goals. Sometimes you may need some external motivation, so find a fitness buddy that has similar goals to you and motivate each other. Look for group classes or activities in your area that suits your time schedule, pocket, and goals.

Also make sure your goals are achievable. If you continuously miss the target, you’ll become demotivated with the process. Having someone to exercise with gives accountability, which reduces your chance of cancelling at the last minute.

Unique fitness

Find a form of exercise that is unique to your needs. Just because everyone jumps on the latest bandwagon, doesn’t mean it will be suitable for your needs, or enable you to meet your goals.

There is a wide variety of exercises available that cater for different levels of fitness. If you’re a beginner, identify a form of exercise that matches your level of experience and goals. If you’re more experienced, find a new challenge and commit to it. There are also various online fitness programmes and challenges which you can tailor to your needs and schedule.

If the conventional ways of exercising don’t motivate you to get moving, consider options such as trampoline fitness, pole fitness, rock climbing, trapeze, or aerial skills or even horse riding.

New-normal fitness

To achieve sustainability, you need to identify a form of exercise that can fit into your routine and that you will stick to. This might mean exploring different options before settling on something specific. For others, variety is the key, and they want to do different activities.

Know yourself and know your goals. A mind-shift is, however, required; this needs to become part of your routine, your new-normal, a lifestyle change. If you have children, remember that you’re modelling healthy lifestyle choices when you’re choosing to exercise regularly. Include your children when you do physical activities, this way you get to spend quality time with them while working out.

Exercises for all levels of fitness and ages

Benefits of physical activity

 What fitness personality profile are you?

Dr James Gavin (Ph.D.) formulated the following fitness personality profile to help you identify the best fit for you that will be fun and sustainable.

Remember to follow a healthy balanced diet when you exercise to further contribute to your health and weight loss goals. By eating healthy and regular physical activity, you’ll reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes, and manage symptoms of hypertension and diabetes more effectively.

You need to provide your body with the necessary fuel to continue in this fitness journey to prevent injuries and complications. Also check with your healthcare provider if you have any chronic conditions before starting a rigorous exercise regime.

Go out, get fit, get healthy, and have some fun while doing it!


6 Ways to Put Fun Back in Your Workout | MyFitnessPal

Fun Ways to Exercise: 23 Unconventional Workout Ideas | Bulletproof

Starowicz, J., Pratt, K., McMorris, C. & Brunton, L. 2022. Mental health benefits of physical activity in youth with cerebral palsy: a scoping review. Physical & Occupational Therapy in Paediatrics, 42(4):434-450.

Ntwanano, A.K. & Pule, E. 2016. Psychosocial and psychical benefits of exercise among rural secondary school students. European Review of Applied Sociology, 8(11):14-18.

Hosseini, S.A., Salehi, O., Keikhosravi, F., Hassanpour, G., Ardakani, H.D., Farkhaie, F., Shadmehri, S. & Azarbayjani, M.A.  2021. Mental health benefits of exercise and genistein in elderly rats. Experimental Aging Research: An international journal devoted to the scientific study of the aging process, 48(1):42-57.

Monique Marais is a registered social worker at Care@Midstream sub-acute, specialising in physical rehabilitation for the past 11 years. She has a passion for the medical field and assisting people to understand and manage their diagnoses and the impact on their bio-psychosocial well-being.


Monique Marais is a registered social worker at Care@Midstream sub-acute, specialising in physical rehabilitation for the past 11 years. She has a passion for the medical field and assisting people to understand and manage their diagnoses and the impact on their bio-psychosocial well-being.

Header image by FreePik