“Eat Well, Live Well, Be Well”
Recently, I came to the realization that I talk a lot about running and about how impactful it has been on my life, but I rarely talk about my diet and how my food choices have made an equal, powerful impact. In my post One Choice, Forever Changed, I opened up about the stomach problems I endured for many years, and about my decision to take back control and do something about it. I made two major lifestyle changes; one was adding exercise to my daily life, and the other was completely changing what I ate. I realize that I let running take the spotlight in my life and I haven’t given my diet enough credit for my success. But I really should. I should talk about it more, way more. Well, you know what they say, what better time than the present? I think it’s time to have this chat. Get cozy, grab a healthy snack, and let’s talk about food.
Our society really does think about food a lot. We eat when we are bored, we stress eat, over eat, and we have even turned eating into a major social event. In fact, eating has increasingly become one of America’s favorite past times, and there is no lack of choices when it comes to dining out in most cities. We find ourselves dining at restaurants with friends on a Friday night, grabbing breakfast on the go on early weekday mornings, and escaping our desks to grab lunch with co-workers during the hectic workweek. Many times, we don’t think about what we are feeding our bodies, but rather, we are in a hurry, and we are on autopilot trying to make it through the crazy, busy, chaotic days which encompass our weeks, months, and eventually our years. Grabbing a pastry on the way to work, or a pizza on the way home often times has less to do with what we would like to be eating, and more to do with what is the easiest, quickest, and cheapest thing to grab. And let’s not forget to mention that the meal options are getting larger, and the nutritional values have much to be desired. The portions are out of control and the way we think about food has evolved into a dangerous way of thinking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to think about food (actually, we should!), we just need to think about it differently. We need to focus our thoughts and decisions on what our bodies’ need, not what they want. Once upon a time that was my main concern, what I wanted to eat that is, and that mentality was costing me a whole lot. A lot of pain, suffering, low-to-no energy, and who knows what else that I didn’t even realize yet. Who knows what would have happened to my body if I had continued to think of food as a want instead of a need, a gratification instead of a nourishment, fun and enjoyment instead of fuel and energy. When I slowed down and put mindful thought into it, I was amazed at what I had let myself do for so long. Here I was, I had been given this perfectly created body to care for in this life and I was completely neglecting it. I was starving my body of the essential nutrients it needed to perform its hundreds of daily functions, I was overdosing it on sugar, carbohydrates, and empty calories, and I was dehydrating it of the essential water it needed to properly eliminate the waste I was constantly putting into it. And I had never slowed down to think about it, I was too busy getting by and feeling bad.
Your body needs two things, both diet and exercise, to be hand-in-hand in order to function at its best and have optimum health. Think of it like a magic potion; you simply must have both ingredients in order to make it work, to ignite total body wellness. In an effort to turn around my health, eliminate my stomach pains, and feel better as a whole, I started running and eating healthy simultaneously. I was fully committed to each, and “magically”, it began working. After some time and a lot of hard work, my stomach problems disappeared, I gained a newfound energy, and I unexpectedly dropped a total of 30 pounds. As I evolved from this unhealthy, junk food eating person into the healthy, wellness conscious person I have now become, I have been asked a variety of questions by friends and family about my diet. What are you doing? What do you eat? Aren’t you hungry all of the time? I could go on and on about healthy tips, tricks, and my favorite healthy snacks, and I look forward to writing about all of these things in the future, but for now I want to concentrate on where and how to start. The starting line is simple, really. As with most things that you want to change in your life, you must begin with self-evaluation and realization. You need that light bulb moment when you realize how your food choices are affecting your body specifically, and recognizing that you have the option to improve your own health and wellness. You too can create that “magic potion”, and your body will forever thank you for doing it.
So what is so important about self-realization? Well, think about how difficult it would be to correct something that you never believed to be a problem from the start. Sure, a quick fix is possible, but it probably wouldn’t be easy, and it would likely not be a long-term, sustainable solution. The reason being that you didn’t truly understand the original problem, therefore, you didn’t put enough time and energy into the process of correcting it. For me, my light bulb moment was my doctor telling me about the specific nutrients our bodies need to properly function, and helping me correlate my stomach problems with what I was feeding, and not feeding, my body. It was him sparking the thought in my brain that I had a choice, I had just been ignoring it all of this time. It was his encouragement to evaluate what I was doing and not doing to my own body. Had I not had that moment of self-evaluation and realization, I never would have made life-long changes to my diet. I might have changed what I ate for the short term, but it wouldn’t have been something I sustained. My life changed that very moment, sitting in that doctor’s office, simply realizing my own mistakes along the way.
Okay, so now what? First and foremost, I suggest doing a complete analysis of your eating habits. Put some serious thought into your current relationship with food and challenge yourself on why, when, and what you eat on a daily basis. Keep a log of your current eating habits for at least a full week. Write down everything – what you are eating, why and when you are eating, and the nutritional value of every snack and meal you consume. Many of us are visual people, so seeing the facts written out in front of us can really help to see things in a new light. It can help it sink in what you might be doing right or wrong, and show you what is missing or needs to be eliminated from your diet. You may notice patterns that you never realized before, simply because they were a daily routine, and you never actually put thought into it. You may prefer to keep up with your food intake on an app such as MyFitnessPal. This way you can easily keep up with all of the nutritional values of the food you eat and see where deficiencies or overloads exist. At the end of the week, analyze your data and write down your observations. Acknowledge the things you are doing right and accept the things you are doing wrong. This is your starting point on a wonderful new journey in life, so now is the time to be honest with yourself. Now is the time to make the conscious decision to change your relationship with food and change your body and your life. Food is fuel, it nourishes our bodies and keeps them functioning properly. You know, the mind is a powerful thing, and a big part of this is training your brain to view food the way it should be. Once you have made your own personal observations and realizations, it is time to set your goals and get started. Stay tuned, and we will chat more soon about starting slowly, and taking it one bite at a time. In the meantime, congratulate yourself on wanting to make a change, on challenging your own relationship with food, and on continuing to stick with the journey. You are worth it, and you can do it.
Please feel free to comment and share your own stories, experiences, and realizations about food. I would love to hear how your journey to healthy eating began. What was your light bulb moment? How has your relationship with food changed, or what are some food choices you can change to improve your health? Food is good, and I know that changing your diet is hard, but I can assure you that it gets easier. I never thought a day would come where I would prefer fruit over candy, but I do. And you will get there too. I just takes time, patience, dedication, and self-realization.