Eat a pizza. Eat chicken and green beans.
I have been very aware of my health and my body for as long as I can remember. I distinctly remember weighing myself as early as 11 years old, after giving up sweets for two months in hopes that it would help me lose weight. At 11 years old.
Ignore how totally wrong that is, first off.
That led to more and more crash dieting, until I found books that started to teach me more about health and nutrition while in high school. This lead me to MyFitnessPal.com, which was my first real experience with something that could been considered “healthy” dieting (if there is such a thing). Then from there, I started to take nutrition classes in college, and read more information on my own.
This took me to my first serious weight loss journey that began three years ago, the summer before my junior year of college. Using My Fitness Pal, and my new found knowledge of “clean eating”, I managed to lose 30 pounds in four months.
Since then, I’ve learned quite a bit more about eating “healthy”. And my basic conclusion is that it is so entirely confusing, that it is no wonder that people have a hard time with it.
First off, we have been programmed that all fat is horrible, and all carbohydrates are bad, and sugar should be taken in with moderation. This makes people afraid of things like fake butter/margarine (hydrogenated oils), milk, breads, pastas, rice, and candy, but also things like avocados, eggs, plant oils, whole grain bread, and fresh fruit. So, does this put something like an avocado on the same level as a tablespoon of margarine? A slice of white bread = a whole grain tortilla? Or an orange on the same level as a donut?
Now, add in different points of view, such as:
*Paleo: No dairy, no grains, no legumes (peanuts), no processed foods, no white potatoes. Eat how our ancestors ate. Grass-fed meat, fruit, vegetables, and nuts. The benefits of this diet have been long debated, but overall it promotes a whole foods diet.
*“Clean” eating: Not eating “chemicals” (or non-real food ingredients). The premise is aiming for whole foods, no mystery ingredients or things you can’t pronounce. Mostly plant based, include lean meats, whole grains, shoot for organics. A lot of clean eaters dislike dairy as well, but it depends on your view. Many clean eaters also stick to lower-calorie diets.
Eating for your macros/Flexible dieting: Eating to fill specific grams of our macronutritents (“macros”), which are protein, sugar, and carbohydrates. Specific amounts are calculated based on your specific needs, such as body mass, amount of body fat, etc, and give you a calorie count for the day. Many subscribe to the “I can eat whatever I want” on this diet, because food is all just chemicals (scientifically speaking), so you should eat it in the ratios that your body requires, regardless of what actually makes up that food. I.E., it doesn’t matter if you eat a donut or an apple, as long as whatever it is fits into your macronutritents for the day.
*Note, I say SOME feel this way, and do this, but not all.
Not to mention that you have vegans, vegetarians, the gluten debate, raw diets, alkaline acid diet, and much, much more.
It’s no surprise that we have an obesity epidemic with this many conflicting ideologies. Based on all of these styles, how is someone who has very little nutritional knowledge supposed to be confident when creating a meal?
Someone wants to make chicken for dinner. But they don’t have organic, free range chicken, so is it okay? Then they want to add sides. Fresh vegetables are good, but can they add real butter to it? Or should they use the less calorie butter substitutes, but they have “chemicals”? Then they want to add something else to the meal. They have a frozen vegetable and rice mix that is marketed as “low fat” and “all natural” on the label, but the ingredient list has “chemicals”. But it fits in their macro requirements for the day. But it has dairy. But it is brown rice and mixed vegetables. Is it okay? Is it not okay?
These are the things I think about whenever I think about eating. Where is the line? Which lifestyle is right? Is there a right diet? What is “healthy”? And how does including your mental status and happiness into that equation and diet style factor into what you consider to be “healthy”?
Even since losing weight three years ago, this is an idea I have fought with, and will probably continue to fight until I figure out what my definition of “healthy” is.
*Please note that these dietary lifestyles are described as I understand them, or how I’ve been taught to understand them. I have included the links to sites that I think do a decent job explaining it. I am obviously not a doctor, nor an expert of nutrition or of these lifestyles. If you have a differing view on how these lifestyles or styles of eating are, please do not hesitate to let me know! The entire point of this blog is to illustrate how confusing this is, so I am happy to evoke a conversation about it! 🙂
My life dream is to work with people on improving their health. I want to be the nice Jillian Michaels (with a slightly bigger ass). But as I am still without the certifications after my name that says I am qualified to instruct others on improving their well-being, I thought I’d offer up my opinion on some basic health matters by sharing 5 Quick (and dirty) Health Tips:
1. Drink more Water
I am actually cringing even as I write this, because this is the most overused health tip in the history of Yahoo! Health articles, but it still holds true.
SCIENCE LESSON: Your body uses water in EVERYTHING. Water is a major part of your muscles, your blood, your organs, and your cells (to name a few things). When you become dehydrated, that means your body is missing the water to keep things running the way they should. This could result in low blood pressure (less water = less water in your blood = lowering the amount of blood you have because water isn’t diluting it like normal = feeling sluggish because not enough blood is pumping and delivering things like oxygen to your organs), muscles that aren’t working to their potential, dizziness, fainting, headache, etc. All of this adds up to us not feeling the best that we could be, making this change simple: Drink more water.
There are plenty of simple ways to add more water to your daily life:
Get a cute water bottle. Carry it with you 24/7, and drink often. Or, if you want to stay super dedicated, you can even write on the water bottle body-builder style to time your water intake throughout the day.
Set phone alarms. This one is my personal favorite. I have an alarm that goes off at 1pm, 4pm, and 7pm. I am for 100oz of water per day, and whenever those alarms go off, I check my progress. If I’m slacking, I drink a few glasses. Eventually, it becomes a habit.
Drink a glass of water before every meal.
Stop drinking soda/juice/gatorade during the day, and replace it with water. Bing, bang, boom. Less calories, less sugar, more water. It’s a win-win situation.
For your entertainment, see: My cute water bottle, a hand-painted 52 oz Bubba Keg (originally made for festive alcoholic consumption, is now my favorite water bottle).
2. Increase Your Fruits and Veggies Intake
Notice I said “increase” not “get a totally-unrealistic-amount of servings per day”.
If you are a person who eats very little, or literally no whole fruits or vegetables, then trying to suddenly start eating 3 servings of each per day will be really hard. This is where people tend to get scared and shy away from making healthy choices. You don’t have to cut out all of your favorite foods to improve your health. You can benefit from even adding a little bit at a time. Start off by eating a little bit of fruit with your breakfast in the morning, or have carrots and hummus as a snack (try any garlic hummus that’s on sale next time you’re at the store– trust me), or add a vegetable side to your lunch or dinner. Start small and work your way up to more. The most important thing to remember is to not overwhelm yourself or you’ll quit before you even start.
3. Eat Breakfast
Eating breakfast starts off your whole day. You have literally gone from NOT eating for the 8+ hours you were asleep, and maybe a few hours before that. A good rule of thumb is to start off the day with a breakfast containing a good amount of fiber and protein. Though sugary cereals and bagels are delicious (real talk, have you ever had an asiago bagel? YUMMMMM.), replace the refined carbohydrates with protein and fiber to stay fuller for longer.
Some ideas include:
Breakfast burritos in whole-grain tortillas, include eggs, peppers, onions, salsa, a meat like sausage or bacon (organic or grassfed if you can manage it!), and a little sprinkle of cheese. Sorry, am I drooling?
Greek yogurt with berries, a sprinkle of chia seeds or flax meal, and a dash of cinnamon
Whole grain or ezekial toast (made with sprouted wheat) with almond butter, banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon
- Green smoothie: small spoonful of Greek yogurt, toss in some spinach or kale (or other dark leafy greens of choice), half of a banana for sweetness or a tiny spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter for taste, and a few ice-cubes.
For more ideas, do a little Googling! There are TONS of ideas out there for healthy meals!
4. Cook Your Own Food
It’s easy to eat healthy if you make your own food! Not only is it more economical to buy your own food and prepare it at home, but YOU get to decide what goes in it! Control the sodium, the excess fats, and the flavors by preparing it all.
Restaurant Burger: Questionable beef cooked on a grill greased with butter, slapped refined, white flour bun that was probably also coated in butter, processed cheese-like product, sauce of questionable origin, and fried, probably recently frozen, french fries.
– OR –
At-home burger: Turkey burger patty (or organic beef!) on a skillet greased with a healthy oil (coconut oil?), served on a whole grain bun or in a lettuce wrap, topped with fresh veggies of choice, cheese from antibiotic-free cows, and home-made sweet potato (or regular potato) fries cooked in the oven.
Which would you rather have? The internet is FULL of recipes that are so much easier than they look, and will make you feel like the winner of Chopped. If I had a dollar for every time I have announced my new title as “Top Chef” just from successfully completing a recipe, I’d have more than enough to remain unemployed.
I can’t stress this one enough (ba-dum, tissssh!). Having constant stress wreaks havoc on your body in many ways. The hormones released when your body undergoes a “fight or flight” situation, AKA you feel stressed, are not meant to be in the body for an extended period of time, and can drastically change the way the body normally behaves.
Chronic stress has been shown to do a number of things to the body, including:
cause weight gain that is unrelated to lifestyle changes (no diet or exercise changes)
hormonal changes that can cause anything from mental and emotional problems, to skin problems (rashes, hives, acne, premature aging, etc), to reproductive problems
significantly increase the risk of heart attack or stroke
significantly increase the risk of heart disease, or coronary artery disease
stomach pain, including the development of chronic gastric issues
- muscle aches
I could go on forever about the negative health implications of living chronically stressed. In this age, we tend to praise those who are super busy and super successful, but not think of how that lifestyle could be affecting our health. It’s important to take time to unwind and relax at the end of the day, or work actively to make sure you don’t become incredibly overwhelmed in your life.
Another Google search can turn up valuable tips and tricks to reduce the amount of stress in your life, but here are some of my favorites:
To-Do lists: Daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly to-do lists can break up the stress that having a very hectic schedule can provide. Turn big projects into less stressful, easier to approach chunks, or pace yourself as you prepare for a big upcoming event by turning it into manageable tasks.
Schedule: Get a planner and write things down. Seeing everything in front of you can help you prepare so you don’t feel suddenly overwhelmed by life.
Learn to say “no”! If you’re already super overwhelmed, don’t take on more if you can avoid it. Saying no doesn’t make you rude, or unhelpful.
Take up a relaxing hobby. Reading, writing, watching TV, knitting, painting, exercising, gardening, crafting, reading blogs, cleaning, cooking, baking, puzzles, video games, decorating… anything can be a way to relax if you truly enjoy it.
Exercising and eating healthy. NEVER underestimate the stress-relieving power of a good workout, or the energy boost and clear mind that a healthy diet can have. Find something you enjoy, such as long walks, running, weight lifting, taking a dance class, a spin class, kick-boxing, or doing a workout DVD. Find something fun and active and you’ll be amazed at how clear-headed you feel afterwards.
A little bit of stress is okay, but nobody should feel continuously overwhelmed, worried or anxious. Work on controlling your stress, or relieving it to add years back to your life. Nerd Alert: If you are interested in this phenomenon (and also in the field of health disparities), pick up the book “The Status Syndrome” by Michael Marmot, as he discusses this in length in relation to those who are less fortunate and how being in a stressful life situation (less education, less job security, less income, living in a violent area, etc) causes major health problems due to the chronic stress an unfavorable life can cause. It’s a really eye-opening book.
Hope these helped. Any questions? Feel free to contact me via the “About” page!