I grew up in a household with parents who were (and still are) very health-conscious and fit, with little junk food around. Dinners never once consisted of drive-thru food, and there was always fresh fruit on my kitchen counter when I came home from school. When I was younger, I remember being embarrassed when friends came over because I didn’t have a bag of chips or box of Oreos to offer them as a snack.
As I became less of a young girl and more of an adult, I began to feel more and more appreciative to have grown up in this type of environment. I never have been the type of girl who is naturally thin, and I have no doubts that if I had been raised on French fries and full-fat ice cream, I would be overweight. And it most likely would be a problem I’d be struggling to overcome today.
But it’s not just about physical appearance. Being healthy and looking skinny are not synonymous. It’s important to treat yourself well regardless if you’re naturally thin or have to work to keep in shape, because research is finding that many people have what’s being called “skinny fat” syndrome. This is basically when people who don’t eat well and/or exercise have bodies that look healthy on the outside, but behave as if they’re obese on the inside.
Being conscious of the food I’m putting in my mouth and reading nutrition labels is something that comes very natural to me, thanks to my upbringing. But in the last couple of years, I’ve become even more aware of where the food I eat is coming from. This is why I shop locally at the farmer’s market, and buy organic when I can. To me, it matters if my fruit is coming from California or being shipped halfway around the world to get to me, or if half of the ingredient list on my crackers contains words that I can’t pronounce and have no idea what they are. I think food should be enjoyed and savored, not scarfed down in the car from a greasy paper bag more often than not.
A big problem in our society is that people are so quick to start popping pills and to look to modern medicine for cures to whatever issue they may be having, yet fail to look at the most simple cause and solution – the food that we eat and the type of lifestyle we’re living. In fact, 12% of all visits to primary care doctors now result in a prescription for antidepressants (Source: Shape). Now I’m in no way saying that depression isn’t real or that no one should be on meds for anything, but I believe that making positive changes, such as starting to exercise, meditate, and eat healthier, could help improve the way a lot of people feel and greatly reduce common conditions that people struggle with.
One major cause of our obesity epidemic is portion sizes, which have steadily increased over the past 30 years and are now 2-5 times larger (Source: Vegetarian Times). Besides the fact that most Americans are eating too many foods that do nothing for them nutritionally, they’re eating too much of them. To make it worse, overall we’re less active than we used to be. Quite simply, we’re eating more and moving less. No wonder why almost 36% of U.S. adults are obese (Source: CDC). Our eats are meant to be our fuel and energy source, but instead, frequent overeating and consumption of “Frankenstein” food is hindering many from living a full life.
My philosophy in a nutshell:
1.) Eat whole foods– Now more than ever, I make a conscious effort to avoid eating a lot of overly processed foods. Fruits, veggies, and whole grains are a major part of my diet. A lot of the chemicals that are routinely added to our foods are harmful to our bodies. Not enough research has been done with a lot of food additives & chemicals to draw definitive conclusions on their effects, but I use common sense when it comes to food (I’m talking about you, artificial sweeteners that studies suggest may cause cancer!). Simply stated, natural foods are better than processed foods.
2.) All in moderation – I’m not saying that you’ll never catch me eating Twizzlers or tortilla chips, but what I am saying is that I eat apples a hell of a lot more often. The majority of the time, I eat foods that are beneficial to my mind and body. But life wouldn’t be as much fun if I didn’t indulge in the bread basket, dessert, or a glass (or 2 or 3…) of wine sometimes. I believe that balance is key in nearly all aspects of life, and portion control is central to weight management.
3.) No meat – A big aspect of my diet is vegetarianism. I’ve always adored animals, which is why I don’t eat them. Though I’m not suggesting that every person needs to be a vegetarian, I will say that I don’t understand how so many people prefer to just stay in the dark about where their meat is coming from. Just because you haven’t exposed yourself to seeing or hearing about animals being inhumanely treated in slaughter houses doesn’t mean it’s not happening every single day in order to meet demands in food stores. In my perfect world, omnivores care where their meat is coming from, refuse to purchase food from slaughter houses that run under disgusting conditions, and don’t eat meat at every meal. But personally, a meat-free diet adheres to my values. I’ve been a vegetarian for 16 years and have no intentions of stopping.
4.) Keep it moving – I believe that exercise should be an almost daily activity. Working out is great for the body, mind and soul. I prioritize exercise into my life and fit it in whenever and however I can. If I skip a workout one day, I make sure to get back to it the next day. Being active also includes the small things, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Every little bit counts. Exercise puts me in a good mood, helps me stay in shape, and is a preventative for many health complications. Why wouldn’t I make it a priority to stay active?
5.) The bottom line – Despite life’s craziness, I don’t let anything completely derail my health. Stress is an inevitable part of life, and I’m only human. All I can do is try to make every effort to stay focused on living well and thinking positively no matter what’s going on. If I’m worried about something and pig out with unhealthy food one day (or one week!), I tell myself that tomorrow is a new day to make healthier choices, and I make it happen. If I’m in a workout rut, I force myself to keep on trucking along, because I know that giving up on exercise is not an option. I only have one life to live and want to be the happiest, healthiest, best version of myself that I can be. I hope that through sharing my journey, I can encourage all of you readers to strive for a healthier self too. 🙂