Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Healthy Living

It seems like everyone is concerned with being healthier these days, including me. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've always been a pretty healthy eater (even though I definitely have a sweet tooth!), and I've always been a pretty active person. However, I've recently made a few changes in my life, and I am loving the way I feel! I have so much more energy, less bloating and less of that nasty "ugh...I ate way too much" feeling, fewer problems with my digestion, and just an overall sense of feeling good about the decisions I am making about my health. 

I mentioned that I've always been pretty healthy. I'm finding that most of the time these days people equate being skinny with being healthy. I am here to tell you that's just not true. I am one of those "lucky" people who are somewhat on the lean side. I got blessed with a fast metabolism and good genes. However, over the years, I've come to realize that being skinny does not = being healthy. My arteries don't care what the scale says. If I'm filling my body with greasy fried foods every day, they will get clogged whether I weight 100 pounds or 200 pounds. Yes, weight is one indicator of health, but it is certainly not the only indicator. 

There was actually a time in my life where I was skinny, and I was not healthy at all. I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, and I wouldn't necessarily classify it as an eating disorder, but I would classify it as disordered eating. More than that, I had disordered thinking. I obsessed over food. I thought about every little thing I put into my mouth. I wrote down every calorie I ate each day. I obsessed over exercising enough, even though I was often working out 3 or 4 hours a day. Food was constantly on my mind. I would sometimes go walk around the grocery store when I was hungry, just to prove to myself that I had the willpower to resist "temptation." Pure craziness. I am happy that part of my life is in the past and that I've learned from it. 

What I've learned is that it's not important to be skinny. It's important to be healthy, and I am passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and helping others live a healthy lifestyle, as well. I recently came across some startling and somewhat scary statistics. Did you know that the #1 killer of both men and women in America is heart disease? Did you know American adults consume 2-3 lbs. of sugar each week? Did you know the rate of childhood obesity in the United States has more than tripled in the past 30 years? To me, these statistics are scary. They show that something needs to be done. 

So, I've been doing lots of research and reading lots of books. Trying to figure out how to incorporate a healthy lifestyle in our world of convenience and busyness. I love the way Michael Pollan boils everything down so simply in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. His basic philosophy is this: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants. How simple is that? He breaks this simple statement down even further into even more simplified "rules" in his book Food Rules: An Eater's Manual. I would highly recommend both books. 

I have tried to incorporate this simple philosophy into my daily life. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Here's a little more information about each part:
1. Eat Food - Sounds simple, but so much of what we eat shouldn't even be considered food. We eat things that are highly processed and chemically manufactured with artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and colors. Food is the stuff that grows in the ground, on a plant, or on a tree. It is the meat that comes from animals that have not been treated with chemicals and hormones, let alone battered and deep fried. It is real food. In its pure, natural state. The stuff our ancestors ate when heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity were not national epidemics.

2. Not too much. - Portion control. It is so important to just be aware of the amount of food you are consuming. Always pay attention to serving sizes. Everything today is "supersized," and we need to get back to only eating the food our bodies truly need. 

3. Mostly plants. - I am not a vegetarian, and I never will be. I like meat. My husband really likes meat and would never go for a vegetarian household. However, we have been limiting our meat intake by eating 2 meatless meals (for dinner) each week. Meat contains cholesterol and saturated fat that you don't get from plants and plant products. This is such an easy change to make.

I have also been limiting my intake of gluten, dairy, and soy, simply because these are highly allergenic foods that often cause issues with digestion. By completely eliminating these foods for a short time, I allow my body to detoxify, and I can see what a difference it makes in the way I feel. I do not completely eliminate these foods all the time, but I am more aware of how much I eat and how my body feels as a result. 

One of the most difficult things for me has been limiting my sugar intake! I love sugar. It has actually been shown to be addictive. The more sugar your body has, the more sugar it craves, which is why it's so difficult to quit eating it! I have been trying to use more natural sugar replacements such as raw honey, agave, stevia or unrefined sugar. Too much of these sweeteners is still not good for you, but it is a better alternative to the highly processed, refined white sugar that we usually eat. 

Just making a few simple changes in my diet has totally changed the way I feel. Like I mentioned before, I have more energy, and I don't deal with those yucky bloated feelings after I eat. It's not like I'm suffering either. I promise, I eat well! There are so many healthy options out there these days that you don't have to feel deprived or like you're missing out on anything. You simply substitute what you used to eat with something healthier in its place. The key for me is staying away from those highly processed foods. Reaching for an apple, a carrot, or a bell pepper instead of potato chips, cookies, or granola bars (unless they're the yummy homemade kind!). By eating this way most of the time, I don't feel guilty when I have a piece of cake or an ice cream cone. I just enjoy every single bite of what I'm eating! I know that the food I'm putting into my body is doing good things and being helpful rather than harmful. 

There are plenty of "quick fixes" out there and all kinds of fad diets, but are they really healthy? Most of them are not. Most of them will help you lose weight quickly, but they are not doing anything for you long-term. They are not providing the nutrition your body really needs. They are trying to make you skinny. Not healthy. But let me tell you this, if you get healthy, you'll lose the weight you need to lose. You won't just be getting skinny, you'll be doing amazing things for your insides, as well as your outside. 

I am planning to post more healthy living tips on here on a regular basis. I've also considered starting a completely separate blog just for healthy living information, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to devote that much time yet. Maybe in the future. Until then, keep looking here for info on healthy eating (including recipes) and exercise. If you would like to get together to talk about how you can start living a healthy lifestyle, I would love to talk to you! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. I am so excited about helping people achieve a healthier life for themselves and their families!

Disclaimer: What you see here on my blog is based off of my own personal knowledge, opinions, and experiences. I am not a doctor nor a health professional, so concerning your diet you should always consult a health professional/doctor first to fit your own personal needs.

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