I don’t do diets (the kind where you’re 100% limited to certain foods), but I do follow a decently clean day-to-day diet through mindful eating. For starters, I currently work in health and wellness. I’m not a nutritionist nor am I a fitness expert, but I’ve definitely picked up a thing or two from working in this industry. Plus, I’ve had my own struggles with eating and body image, so you can say that I’ve been around the block a couple of times. It’s taken me a while to write about eating and health – mainly because I’m still figuring out what kind of lifestyle actually resonates with me. Though it’s a work in progress, I do want to share my thoughts on eating.
Prior to this past year and a half, my concept of healthy eating was somewhat misguided. I knew what healthy looked like but didn’t realize how harmful unhealthy was. A lot of us think that we can cancel out the effect of a bag of Hot Cheetos by eating a bag of kale after, but it doesn’t work that way. Food is fuel for our bodies and what we eat has a direct impact on how we feel. Our bodies are not just what we see in the mirror. Our bodies are ecosystems – just like a forest or an ocean, where different species of microbes are interacting to support the whole. We have bacterias within us that boost our immunity, protect us from infections and produce the enzymes we need to digest what we consume. Without these guys, we probably wouldn’t survive so it’s in our best interest to take care of them.
It’s hard to understand the effects of unhealthy eating on your body when you’re twenty-something and full of life. You’re not going to think about what life would be like 20 or 30 years from now. The fucked up part is you don’t face the consequence until it’s imminent. It’s basically a drawn-out joke. You wait forever for the punch line…when you find out you have heart disease.
Don’t get me wrong. I love junk food, especially fries, chips…basically anything fried. And I was obsessed with Arizona ice teas at one point in time. It was crazy what I got away with eating when I was in my late teens. Now fast forward a couple of years…I ate the same way, but the impact became much more apparent. At first I was oblivious to what was happening. But when my clothes began to feel tight and my pooch spilled over my pants, it became clear that unless I want to continue along this slippery slope, something needs to change. So I started working out and paid more attention to what I ate. It was ok but not great because I didn’t understand the difference between whole foods vs. processed foods.
Then I studied abroad in London for 9 months and like shoots and ladders, I was back to where I started. I indulged when I lived in London. Drank so much beer. Partied so hard. Didn’t really exercise cause it was so damn cold. I hit my rock bottom. When I came back to California, I knew it was time to go all in. It took me 2 years to shed the flab and get back in shape. I’m still at it. No weight goal. The goal is to be the best I can be.
I’m naturally petite (thank you Mom and Dad), but size doesn’t mean good health. Health isn’t a weight game. Our bodies are complex pieces of machinery, and although calories might make a simple equation for weight loss, every aspect of our lifestyle factors into our health. Diet is connected to exercise and both are linked to your mentality. A sustainable relationship with food should prompt you to think about eating whole foods that benefit your body, especially if you’re working out. You want foods that give you sufficient energy to rock your workout and help you meet your nutritional needs so that you can build a stronger, healthier body. Most importantly, you need to find your rhythm – what’s right for you. It’s not about going vegan or paleo so please don’t get caught up. You gotta do you.
Eat real, whole foods. Avoid processed foods. Homemade is always better (unless you add a bunch of crap). Read the nutritional labels and the lists of ingredients. Learn about what you’re eating. Explore what’s out there. If you do all of this, you won’t have to worry about calories and how much you weigh. Strength and health will eventually arrive at your doorstep.