Fitness and Health. They sound one in the same, but are they? If you are fit shouldn’t you be healthy? You would think so, but unfortunately it’s often times not the case. Those of you that know me well, know that I have been chasing both fitness and health for years. In my early years, like SO many girls I struggled with those extra pounds that I gained in my late teens and early twenties.
As a competitive high school runner, my extra pounds came a little later than most. Up to the age of about 17 y.o. I got away with eating whatever I wanted and never giving a second thought to what I was putting in my mouth. But it was almost overnight, or so it seems, that that way of eating quickly caught up to me and I was completely lost with how to deal with it. Because I never had to think about diet before, I really didn’t know what I was supposed to do to eat better or even where to start. At the time I wasn’t worried about my health, but about the way I looked. I started to chase that perfect physique and it started to become a very unhealthy obsession. Looking back now, I realize if I’d had the right tools in place and good nutrition advice I’d be in a much better place. I wanted to “look” good. What girl doesn’t?
My idea of the ideal physique, however, wasn’t that of a skinny supermodel. Always having been an athlete, I wanted a muscular, sporty, lean physique. After struggling for years to get those extra pounds of fat off my body I decided to enter a bodybuilding competition. Yep, a bodybuilding competition! All 130 lbs of me, which by the day of the competition rounded out at a hefty 110 lbs. I figured since I didn’t have the willpower to diet myself to that perfect physique, knowing that I would have to stand on a stage with bright lights and a large audience in a teeny weeny itsy bitsy bikini would hopefully give me the willpower to stop stuffing my face with donuts and chocolate.
And yes, the extreme measures I went to, to get this physique worked, but I was extremely UNhealthy, not to mention always hungry and grouchy. I also didn’t have a period which up until earlier this year I thought was normal and something I was perfectly okay with. I mean, really, what girl actually wants to get her period? The problem with that outlook, however, is there is a reason a girl goes through a monthly cycle and it is a part of a healthy, normal, functioning female body (regardless of whether you want children or not). Our bodies function through hormones (or chemical messengers). And this includes you men also. While you might not have a period, you do have many other hormones working (or perhaps not working) to keep you functioning. Overall hormonal homeostasis and getting our bodies to a place where we are functioning in an ideal state is of utmost importance. Without healthy hormone levels we can never truly say we are in a true state of health.
Following my days as a gym rat I moved on to the sport of triathlon, something I still compete in today. The problem was my eating habits went from one extreme to the other. I went from eating no carbs and no fat to eating whatever I felt like. When you’re training anywhere from 2-8 hours daily you figure it would give you a license to eat whatever you want. You assume you are invincible. However, that’s not really the case and my diet quickly became filled with processed foods and refined sugars. And regardless of whether this involved weight gain or weight loss, what I was doing to my insides with this kind of food was not good. Not to mention, as a competitive athlete, we should be looking for an optimal working machine if we expect to get optimal results out of it. How can we expect our bodies to perform at their best when we are fueling them with crap? Unfortunately, both among athletes and non-athletes a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet is STILL being promoted. It is still a widely-held belief that fat is bad for you and many processed carbohydrates are good for you. There is still a lot of misinformation out there in the medical and nutrition world and I hope to dispel some of those myths and help to put you on the right path to finding health and wellness.
I can finally say I am on a path to finding “true” health for myself. It is a journey. I am not there yet, but working on it daily. In my upcoming blogs I will go into detail about eating healthy and what that entails, the benefits of eating healthy (eg; skin health), how you can train for competition or exercise in a healthy manner, how to work on your emotional health and well-being including stress management, and working on being sure that we are all giving ourselves proper rest, recovery and relaxation and finding true metabolic and hormonal homeostasis.
Whether you’re a couch potato, an endurance athlete, a gym rat, a fitness competitor, I think that true health is universal and can be approached in a similar manner. Yes, we are all individuals and we must find what works and does not work for us, but for today I will leave you with this one very simple rule… “JUST EAT REAL FOOD”. You will hear this referred to as “JERF” (an acronym I did not come up with). If your food comes from a “healthy” animal (yes, the way we treat and feed the animals we plan on ingesting DOES matter), the ground or a tree (those not treated with chemicals, and pesticides) then it is real. If the food had to go through a process similar to that of processing cocaine, which IS made from natural coca leaves then I would not call it “natural”. After all, if this was the case, we should be making the argument that cocaine is healthy for us too, right? Hopefully I won’t need to explain to any of you that it’s not :) Be careful reading a label that says something is “natural”. If the food came in a box with a label there’s a good chance there’s nothing natural about it.
To end, I am going to give you a simple list of things to think about when it comes to eating healthy food. In my next blog, “Eat Real! Cut out the Carbage”, I will go into further detail about this topic.
1.) Eat food that is as close to its natural form as possible.
2.) Cut out the sugar, and processed and refined foods.
3.) Eat FAT. Fat does NOT make you FAT! Instead it will give you satiety, reduce your cravings, prevent those insulin spikes followed by energy crashes and lethargy and minimize the need to always be reaching for a snack.
4.) Make the bulk of your meals vegetables with lots of leafy greens and a healthy side of protein
5.) When you are making your meals, think rainbow. Add color to your plate. Not in the form of red dye #5, but in the form of healthy fruits and veggies (think purple cabbage, kale, spinach, arugula, carrots, red, orange and yellow bell peppers, avocado….)
“Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food” —— Hippocrates