A couple days ago I posted a poll on my twitter account asking you guys what types of nutrition/health posts you would love to read from me! Because the topic of "staying healthy" and tips on how to do so got the most votes, THAT'S WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT TODAY, Y'ALL!
So, let me start by saying getting healthy is a process. It's a lot of experimenting, a lot of trial and error, a lot of self-control, & developing a healthy mindset. It's not something that will happen simply or quickly. It's not an overnight change or result. And it is most definitely not the same process for everyone. That being said, it all starts with finding what works best for you. If you are really ready to begin your health and fitness journey (because they go hand and hand), start with becoming mindful. Don't change anything about your diet just yet, but instead, tune into the foods you're eating now and take note of how they're making your body feel. Whether you make a mental note, or keep a food journal, becoming aware of the foods that make you feel good and the ones that make you feel bad is so essential to getting yourself healthy.
Furthermore, I want to stress that what makes someone elses body feel great, might not make yours feel good. If you can eat fruit and veggies all day long, feel energized, and have healthy digestive patterns, then all the power to you! Do some research about vegetarian/veganism, because that might be for you! However, if you're someone who's digestion is irregular and feels bloated from eating mostly fruits and veggies, but feels wonderful eating meat and veggies, keep eating meat and veggies. Research keto diets or paleo! But please remember, fad diets are bad diets. Choose a way of eating that caters to you, not the one that's trendy or more "ethical." Your health journey is about you and what works for you only.
Once you've figured out what foods feels great to fuel your body with, I believe that the next step should be developing healthy habits! You should never dive straight into a new WOE (way of eating) by cutting certain foods out cold turkey. You'll want to start implementing these healthy lifestyle changes slowly so you're not shocking or stressing your body out! Also, developing a new WOE where you're no longer eating the things you used to fuel your body with is going to bring on some "side effects." You may feel lethargic, have headaches, or experience bodyaches, and if you cut things out cold turkey, these symptoms are going to be more intense. By slowly weening yourself off of certain foods, you'll be able to curb some of these feelings and be more likely to stick to this new eating style!
Now let me just stress, I am not a nutritionist, so if you find figuring all of this out on your own to be overwhelming and hard, go to a nutritionist who can help you figure out the best lifestyle for you! But I am just sharing what has worked for me because I believe it can be useful for some of you who are determined to develop a healthy lifestyle. So, without further ado, here are couple of my top tips to start developing healthy habits and an overall healthier lifestyle:
- Food is Fuel
One of the ways I started to find eating clean and healthier to become easy is to think about food as fuel. To remind yourself before you eat something: how is my body going to benefit from this snack or meal? This is also a good way to figure out if the food your eating is just a craving or something your body actually needs. In other words, if its something that your body is craving or something your minds telling you it wants. For example, you decide you are hungry and you want to grab something to eat. You could grab a pastry from a coffee shop, or make yourself some eggs and/or veggies at home. Think to yourself, how is this pastry going to fuel my body? Is it going to provide it nutrients? No. Will it give me energy? Maybe, temporarily, but not lasting energy. What about eggs and veggies? Will it provide nutrients? Yes. Will it give me energy? Yes. Once you make yourself aware of the food that will benefit you the most, it becomes easier to choose that food.
2. Eat whole/real foods & cut out packaged foods with added sugar.
The reason I say to eat whole, real, and natural foods is because they are the closest to unprocessed as we can get. The problem with a lot of processed/packaged foods is that there is so much added sugar being put in them. It all starts with becoming familiar with the ingredients in the packaged foods you're buying. Evaporated cane sugar, fructose, dextrose, & high fructose corn syrup are some of the types that I always stay away from when buying food from the grocery store. We as humans do not need that much sugar. When you consume too much sugar, your liver basically flips its shit because it doesn't know how to process this much sugar; therefore, it starts to store it as fat. Sugar is highly addictive though and increases dopamine levels in the brain, which is why eating sugary foods become a habit and cravings arise. Here are some videos I found that are helpful when trying to understand how sugar affects us and our bodies. And trust me, you'll want to give them a watch (they're all pretty short, don't worry!):
3. Listen to your body's hunger cues
This was a huge struggle for me when I was fueling my body with the wrong foods. It was hard to gain portion control and not binge/overeat because my brain was literally addicted to those foods. I would eat a piece of chocolate for dessert and afterwards, I would want more. That "more" would turn into me ignoring my full belly and eating the entire sleeve of chocolate and probably helping myself to some ice cream as well. Eating when you're not hungry isn't fun when it leaves you feeling sick and like you can't control your own mind. The biggest thing that helped me stop overeating/binging and actually listen to my body's hunger cues was figuring out a WOE that kept both my mind and belly satisfied. Again, it's just about being aware and checking in with yourself. Say you're doing homework and you start to feel peckish. Before mindlessly walking to the pantry and grabbing some nuts to munch on ask yourself, am I really hungry or am I just bored? And if you're not actually hungry, don't eat. I'm going to be honest, even once I figured out the best woe for me, I still struggled with eating intuitively in the beginning. Like I said, this stuff doesn't happen over night and neither will adjusting your mindset. Not eating because you're not hungry isn't always easy but what helped me, is being strict with myself in the first few days. If developing better habits is something you really want to do, know that there will be times that you have to implement will-power, strength, and self-control and that it will be hard. But know that it will get easier and eventually, listening to your body and eating intuitively will become your new norm.
4. being active and moving your body
We all know that exercising and moving your body is what is going to get you healthy and keep you healthy. However, there is such thing as overexercising and if you don't listen to your body when it comes to being active as well, you are going to develop an unhealthy relationship with working out. There's nothing better than those days where you're super motivated and full of energy, go to the gym or go for a run, and smash out a killer work out! But it's important to realize that there are also days where that is not the case. Days where your body is tired or sore, you're feeling super unmotivated to go work out, and all you want to do is lay in bed and binge watch Netflix. If it's one of those days, but you still force yourself to go to the gym, you're most likely going to have a bad workout, be super frustrated, and start resenting exercise all together. Overexercising and overworking can and will have the opposite effect on your body. You'll become more tired, more stressed, more sore, and overall a more unhappy person. Know that it is okay to take a day off and return to your exercise when both your mind and body is up for it. NOW, that's not to say to start using "listening to your body" as an excuse for not being active at all. Because that's just being lazy. Whenever I'm not feeling like working out, I still make sure I'm moving my body that day. Whether that means stretching, going for a walk, yoga, or even just taking the damn stairs all day instead of the elevator. This way, I'm also switching up my "exercises" and not becoming bored of working out! Being active doesn't always mean you need to crank out a sweaty gym sesh. All it means is that your getting your heart rate up, stretching your muscles and staying flexible, and simply just moving.
5. Eat enough
So, I struggled with what to title tip number 5. Maybe, "cut out snacking", "eat big meals", "snack less", "eat until your full." But then I realized there was an underlying point I was trying to get across and that is to eat enough. Starving your body from food when it's hungry is not going to do anything for you. So, if you want to snack, as long as you're doing it with healthy foods, you're a-okay. On the other hand, if you eat a meal and it's not calorically dense enough or doesn't have enough nutrients for your body to feel full, keep eating until it does. The thing that helps me keep my body feel satiated is by eating big meals. Now, I'm not saying big meals as in meals that are too big for me, but meals that are big enough for me to eat without feeling overly full. Doing this tends to tide me over until I get hungry for my next meal therefore, it eliminates the need for my body to want to snack. I'm not saying snacking is bad, but usually 1) the "snack foods" that people eat are loaded with sugar and 2) it's hard to practice portion control with snacking. That's just my personal experience with snacking though, so if you find yourself hungry between meals, by all means, have a snack! Just make sure you're always eating enough, not too little, and not too much. Channel your inner Goldilocks, friends.
Okay holy moly, y'all. That was a LOT. I know this was a really long post, but you guys wanted my thoughts on how to stay healthy and I figured I'd give you as much info as I could! Let me know if you liked reading nutrition posts like this and if you want me to do more specific topics like my favorite superfoods, favorite snack foods, or maybe even what I eat in a days! I hope this helped encourage and inspire you to get healthy and if it did, always remember to remember to listen to your body.