Eating healthy should not be complicated; yet, it is, and increasingly so. We are continually bombarded with information about what we should be eating. Look at the magazines at the grocery store checkout, and you will see what celebrities are doing to stay in shape or lose excess pounds. Turn on the TV and there are infomercials touting the latest “nutritional” fad. Healthy eating books fill an entire aisle at Barnes and Noble. Everywhere you look there is a get fit quick cure. And unfortunately, everyone has a different plan for how you can attain optimal health. Who can you believe?
Yourself. Trust yourself. Listen to your body. How do you feel after eating certain foods? How quickly does your body recover from a workout? Are you maintaining a healthy BMI? How is your blood pressure? Is your cholesterol within a normal range? Do you have a good ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol? What does your skin look like? Are your allergies under control? Is your mood stable? Do you have a healthy relationship with food? Be honest with yourself.
Unfortunately, many people confuse healthy with skinny. They are not the same thing. Not by a long shot. Quite honestly, you can get “skinny” by eating foods that are anything but healthy. Ever hear of the Cookie Diet? Restricting food to get to or to maintain a weight below a healthy BMI, is harmful to your body in the long run. Health starts with taking care of your insides. What your outsides look like is a consequence of the foods you choose to eat. So we really need to focus on the quality of food we are putting into our bodies.
How many people do you know that are currently on a diet? Statistics show, diets don’t work. They don’t. We need to change the way we think about the word diet. If we go back to the origin of the word “diet”, we would find that it simply meant the food consumed by an organism. To be healthy, we need to eat a healthy diet. Diet should not be a temporary way of eating simply to lose weight. Anytime you are tempted to diet, ask yourself “Can I continue to eat like this for the rest of my life?” If you can’t, the weight will come back. The cycle of losing and gaining weight is very unhealthy, physically and mentally.
At the age of 47, I feel healthy. Finally. It was anything but easy, but I have gotten to the point in my life where physically and mentally I feel the best I have ever felt. How did I do it?
First of all, I accepted the fact that healthy outweighed (hee hee) skinny. This was the most difficult part for me. I stopped chasing skinny. My body found it’s healthy, natural BMI. I feel strong.
Secondly, I read all that I could about nutrition (not DIETS…NUTRITION). I learned how nutrients affected my body. I began to eat for food for the nutrients they supplied my body, rather than focusing on calories, or fats, or carbs. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds are all nutrient packed. And you may be surprised how these foods can be combined to make incredible tasting meals, snacks, and desserts!
Then, I synthesized all the information I had taken in. I took an honest look at myself and created some goals. I wanted to enjoy food. For me, this was paramount. I didn’t want food to control my life. I wanted to provide my body with the everything it needed to make me healthy and strong. I wanted to feel good about the food I put into my mouth…guilt free.
Finally, I adopted a diet I could live with for the rest of my life. I eat a whole food, plant based diet MOST of the time. In other words, I stay away from processed foods as much as possible. I have even been known to make my own almond milk and flour! I use natural sweeteners (dates, date sugar, bananas, agave nectar). However, I cannot say no to Chicago Diner’s Vegan Cookies and Cream Cake. (Thank goodness we don’t have a Whole Foods close to home or this might become a problem). I eat vegan (no meat, no dairy) 99% of the time. I say 99% because I have learned that the world is not black or white…for me, 99% offers a bit of gray. I do the best I can, but I refuse to freak out if something is out of my control. I do not knowingly eat these foods however.
So hopefully, I didn’t give you Too Much Information. In a nutshell…remember to Keep It Simple Stupid:
1. Listen to your body.
2. Get rid of the “diet mentality”.
3. Eat as unprocessed as possible (avoid the center aisles at the grocery store-stick to the perimeter).
4. Provide your body with nutrient dense foods (vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds).
5. Accept your body and be at peace with your physical appearance.
FYI: The teacher and parent in me cringes at using the word stupid, but I can’t resist using the acronym!