Thursday, June 16, 2011

Healthy living



I'll admit, I didn't always eat healthy. I grew up in a pizza and bagels kind of italian family and I never really learned about nutrition. We got to go to McDonalds a lot when I was a kid. Which was awesome then. Now, not so much.

I tend to favor quick and easy meals, and the drive through was no exception. When I went away to college I gorged myself on the buffet-style food in the cafeteria, or the fast food in the takeout place on campus. Even when I had my own apartment I fileld the freezer with frozen foods: pizza rolla, garlic bread and frozen dinners. For as much crap as I was eating I gained only a relativity small amount. I could've done worse. But over the years I began to gain more and I felt terrible: tired and sleepy all the time. I often got sick, which was a result of late nights, unhealthy food and a lot of drinking.

As soon as college was over my habits continued because I didn't know anything else. I counted calories - a piece of white bread has less than whole wheat - and that's all that mattered. But even though a cheeseburger from McDonalds only had 300 calories - the same as a bowl of Kashi, soy milk and a banana - the nutrients were just not there. So about two years ago I completely overhauled my lifestyle.

I never set foot in a gym in my life. One day I was watching some kids at the school I worked at and I got winded playing kickball with them. I was so out of shape. I took note, but still didn't do anything about out. Then, two years ago, I got fed up. I researched nutrition and fitness, joined a gym, got a trainer, dumped my old eating habits and committed to a healthier lifestyle. And what an amazing change it has been.

I've lost a good amount of weight, but even better is the energy I have and the way I feel. I feel healthy and strong. I don't deprive myself at all, but I always have fruit during the day and veggies with meals, eat leaner protein and have completely cut out all artificial ingredients. I simply wont eat it. I've learned so much in the past few years people actually ask me health and food questions! I feel like if its not going to benefit my body I don't want to eat it.

Not to say I don't slip up. Often when I got home I run into trouble because my family still has the same eating habits; my mom also likes to bake and her icing is amazing (and filled with butter and sugar!). I try to buy my own healthy food to keep in the house and snack on innocuous things when we go to parties - pretzels or cheese and crackers. I just make sure when I get back to my life I continue my healthy habits. Sometimes I try some new supplements or a cleanse. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. I've gone through stages and changes and it's constant work. But I feel accomplished overall. I can outlift many of my peers and I have better eating habits than most people I know. This makes me feel good.

The only thing I truly have an issue with is stress. I have a high-stress job that really affects me. I've learned to cope with it by taking breaks and doing yoga when I get home but it's something I'm still learning to deal with. I'll update as I make progress, which I hope will be soon. I also have a possible move in the works - I'm getting married and my fiance lives outside of Philly so I'm considering a move there for a change of pace. I've been in Connecticut for 5 years and it's time to move on. I've kinda checked out of here mentally and I think that's contributing to my stress. So we'll see where life takes me.

I'll close with some of my favorite health tips I've learned over the past few years!

-Always eat breakfast, but make sure it has a lot of fiber and protein which fill you up and set the tone for your day. Sugar so early will cause a crash.

-Fruit is actually meant to be eaten alone. I'll snack on it in between meals on an empty stomach. It's easier to digest this way and your body metabolizes it better. Don't follow a heavy meal with fruit.

-Foods like wine, dark chocolate, berries and green tea have a lot of antioxidants which are great for your body. Indulge in these.

-Always read labels. You'll be surprised with how many things you can't pronounce are on the label. I always choose the produce with the least amount of ingredients, or the most nutritious ones.

-Know your products. I knwo I'm generally safe if choose to eat foods from companies that produce healthy fare. I love Kashi, Annies, Vitalicious and Nature's Promise.

-Shop smart. I know when I buy from Whole Foods or Trader Joes I'm getting quality food with good ingredients. Trader Joes is really inexpensive too. But you can even shop smart at Wal Mart if you know what you're looking for.

-Eat whole grains. I love carbs, and I will never give them up. So I traded the white refines stuff for whole grain or whole wheat and not only does it taste better but it keeps you fuller and more satisfied.

-Know your sugars. Propaganda aside, high fructose corn syrup is a man-made sugar. It's used in tons of products because its cheap to make. Look at your "maple" syrup. It's mostly HFCS! And be aware that the HFCS industry is trying to change the name to "corn sugar." Same thing. Cane sugar is natural, stevia and honey are good also. Don't even thing about aspartame: Sweet N Low/Splenda/Equal are all artificial and overuse can lead to cancer. Avoide "sugar-free"; this means it's made with one of those. The natural sweet substance least likely to spike blood sugar is agave nectar. Find it at a health food store.

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