I’ll be honest here. I am not an expert in any of these areas. My dad is a doctor. My mom is a food scientist. But, unfortunately, their knowledge was not passed along to me by genetics, osmosis, or anything else. I have picked up bits and pieces from their conversations with each other…but even the vocabulary is up here *gestures with hand a foot above my head* and my understanding of what their saying is down here *lays on the floor wishing I had a basement to better illustrate the lowliness of my actual knowledge in this area*. That being said…I have been gifted with some semblance of common sense, experiences at various levels of “health”, and the random bits and pieces I’ve read along the way. So I want to impart what I’ve managed to make sense of.
Health is impossible to define. I’ve heard some people rant about needing to lose weight and others rant about how we shouldn’t strive to be so skinny. I’ve heard about the evils of eggs and the glories of eggs. The food pyramid is touted as the second coming of Jesus by some and the arrival of the antichrist by others. So it leaves most of us average joes floundering around trying to figure out what in the name of heaven above we should be doing/eating/avoiding. So here was the best thing I did. I chucked all of it out the window. Life has taught me that I’m a skeptical and cynical person. I, out of a combination of sheer mule-like stubbornness and a healthy skepticism, avoid fad diets. If you tell me you lost 13 pounds in a week, I’ll call it a pile of something stinky and back away slowly. Plus, I chucked the notion that I needed to be focused solely on losing weight. There was a scientist who decided to try losing weight through calorie deficit alone. He ate McDonalds, hostess snacks, Mac and cheese, etc but only ate about 1700-1800 calories every day. He lost weight, his cholesterol went down as did his fat percentage (you can read more about this here). But was he healthy? I would venture to guess he probably wasn’t.
After several years of working to lose weight, I finally decided health was an overall quality of life that should include activity level, eating well, and a good mental state. But even more than what I eat, I’ve noticed what I do affects everything else. When I keep a good workout routine, I feel better. I feel accomplished, happy, and thin. Nothing else needs to change, even my weight, to create this change in mood. This also means I eat better. I no longer need comfort foods to comfort me. Do I still enjoy them. Ummmm….yeah. Double yeah. Triple dog yeah. I LOVE food! But I no longer feel a NEED to eat junk. Which is a huge difference!
So, basically, I workout and it makes me feel better about myself. I feel better about myself and so I eat better. It works.
I’ve now spent just over 4 years slowly trying to improved my health. It is a journey that is far from over, and I am not to my goal yet. but I have picked up some little tricks along the way that I wanted to pass along:
– count calories. I don’t think you need to weigh every last molecule. But it is amazing how knowledge is power! Knowing what it was that I put in my body helped me make better choices and weigh the consequences. There were all kinds of things I didn’t even really like but ate because they were there. But once I knew how much that was adding up, I was able to cut out the things I didn’t even like, and still enjoy the treats I did like.
– get workout stuff ready the night before. It’s hard to get yourself up and doing something that (especially at first) can be unpleasant. But I found if I had already spent the 15 minutes assembling clothes, getting bottles filled, packing gym bags, etc. that it gave me the extra push out the door. I didn’t want that time and planning to be wasted.
– speaking of planning, plan out your meals for the week, and when you will be going shopping. If I have a game plan and already have the ingredients purchased, I avoid the whole, “Crap! It’s 5:00 and we only have crackers and old celery in the house and we have to be to our scheduled activity at 6:30! Guess it’s McDonald’s again…” situation.
– get a good iPodish device and make a playlist for working out. Music makes the workout for me. It doesn’t even have to be rocking and loud. But it puts me in my own happy place where no children are screaming for me.
– Speaking of screaming kids, join a gym where they watch your kids. Want motivation to work out? How about people taking three small kiddos off your hands for an hour or two? Now THAT is motivation!
– try new things, and often! I’m on a break from my triathlon training. So I’ve tried a spin class, Pilates class, and a Zumba class. I’ve loved them! Don’t be afraid to try new things or look dumb. These trainers are just happy to have people show up to their class! They could care less what you look like. (Also, who cares what you look like at the gym? Anyone who does is a class A douche who is only there to strut around flexing in mirrors…and trust me, everyone else there dislikes them as much as you).
– do what feels right. When it comes to eating and working out, trust what works. If you cut out gluten and feel a million times better, then go for it. If you discover that it doesn’t work and you secretly binge eat because you miss all your yummy bread…then it might not be the best route for you. Try something else.
Getting healthy is a lot like parenting: everyone has an opinion, if you wait long enough someone will tell you the opposite of what you just heard, and you will feel like you’re doing it wrong if you focus on doing it “right”. Instead, just try things, see what works, and then smile and nod at any advice given after that and keep doing what you were doing. But as long as you stick with it, good things will happen!