What You Shouldn’t Stress About

If you’re human, you probably stress out about things.  A big project due at work, giving a speech in class, or dealing with an illness can all be stressful things.  If you’re anything like me, you stress about stupid things.  Like wondering if the people walking behind you just saw you stumble over your own two feet.  Hint: probably, but they don’t really care.

It can feel like stress is a normal part of life and it really doesn’t have to be.  There are certain things that a lot of us worry about that we don’t really need to, especially when it comes to your health.  If you read health articles or magazines or watch the news, it feels like there is a new health claim every day that we have to worry about.  And more than likely over the years, I have worried about it.

But as I’ve gotten older and learned more about my personal health, I have been able to let go of some of the “health” stress and do what works for me.  I haven’t died or gained a billion pounds or detrimentally destroyed some part of my health.  I’ve figured out what I like and what works best.

So here is a list of a few things that you DON’T need to worry about when it comes to your health:

#1- Eating superfoodsWhat You Shouldn't Stress About | Life Healthfully Lived

Kale, acai berries, and quinoa are all delicious and deemed superfoods.  But you know what else is a superfood?  An apple.  Some broccoli.  Even the humble clove of garlic is a superfood.  Focus on eating real food that you actually enjoy and I promise you’ll be just fine.

#2- Sitting downWhat You Shouldn't Stress About | Life Healthfully Lived

Yes, I have actually worried about this.  There have been reports and research lately that say sitting too much has a negative effect on our health.  Even if you workout, if you spend the majority of your day sitting it’s like you haven’t worked out at all.  Cue Katie standing constantly for fear of ruining my metabolism and undoing all the hard work I put into my exercises.  Sure, if you sit all day you should probably get up and move more.  But you shouldn’t stress about sitting down if you’re tired or need a rest.  Find a good balance of sitting and standing throughout your day that works for your body and your schedule.

#3- Making sure your body looks the same at all timesWhat You Shouldn't Stress About | Life Healthfully Lived

I think because we are constantly bombarded with images of perfect bodies and rippling muscles, we feel like we have to look like that too at all times.  I know I would get frustrated when I would look in the mirror in the morning and at night and I would be looking at two different bodies.  Your body shape changes throughout the day due to things like hydration, the foods you eat, and if you’re a woman, your period.  The way your body looks doesn’t determine your worth or even how healthy you are.  You’re long-term habits do.  And remember those pictures of models are just a snapshot of a moment.  They don’t look like that all the time.

#4- Eating at the right timeWhat You Shouldn't Stress About | Life Healthfully Lived

Eat right when you wake up.  Fast for 18 hours.  Don’t eat after 7 pm.  Eat constantly for 6 hours and then don’t eat again for 12 hours.  Who thought when you eat could be so confusing?  Each one of these options has plenty of studies and research that supports their claims and probably, even more disputing them.  You know what you should do?  Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re not.  As long as you’re getting adequate fuel throughout the day and can go about your daily tasks with enough energy, it doesn’t really matter when you eat.  Do what works best for you.

#5- Thinking only one form of exercise can get you resultsWhat You Shouldn't Stress About | Life Healthfully Lived

This is one that I’m currently working on.  If you read my blog regularly, you know that I’m taking a little break from running.  It’s mostly because it wasn’t bringing me the same joy that it used too.  I was dreading my run instead of being excited.  The other part of me taking a break?  I had convinced myself that running was the only way I was going to keep weight off.  I had it in my mind that if I stopped running I would start gaining weight.  My rational brain knew that was silly and wrong, but when do I listen to my rational brain?  There are so many ways to move and exercise, no one way is perfect and no one way will get you results.  Try new things and do what you love and don’t be afraid if those things change over time.

These are just a few of the things I have stressed about over the years and I’ve learned that they weren’t as big a deal as I was making them out to be.  You’re not going to do everything perfectly and that’s ok.  The mistakes let you learn what works for you and create habits and a routine that will keep you healthy for the long haul.

I hope you have an awesome Monday and I will see you back here on Wednesday for an all new recipe!

What are some silly health things you have stressed about over the years?

When To Take A Break

I have tried a variety of diets over the years.  The fad diets would lure me in with their promises of fast weight loss and happiness and I would commit with a gung-ho attitude.  I stick with the program and did what I was suppose to do and most of the time was met with moderate success.  But there would always come that point in my diet where I would take a break.

I would have lost a few pounds, I would feel better about my body and therefore myself and I felt like I could get back to life as regularly scheduled.  The diet had done what it was suppose to do and I could move on.  I never viewed these diets as lifestyle changes and that is what helped perpetuate the cycle of losing and gaining weight.

There finally came a point where I realized that I couldn’t just change my life for a few weeks and then take a break while I went back to my old lifestyle.  I had to make a lasting change that would go on forever.  It sounded daunting, but I knew that I needed to take a big step if I wanted to be healthier and finally enjoy life to the fullest.  So I flipped a switch in my brain from diet to lifestyle change and got on the path to a healthier me.

And it worked.  While it was really tough at first to think that I would never be able to go back to what I used to eat if I wanted to keep moving forward, I fought my way through and got lasting and healthy results.  I wasn’t taking a break this time.  I was all in and I was never going to change.  But weirdly, that kind of got me into trouble again.

I had committed so much to being the healthiest me possible that I scared myself from straying at all.  I couldn’t miss a workout, I couldn’t overeat, I couldn’t choose the wrong food or everything would come crashing down around me.  That switch that I had flipped got stuck in the opposite direction and now I was worried about failing and returning to the unhappy person I was before.

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It was an important lesson that I had to learn to be able to move on.  I couldn’t view the way I ate and exercised as a temporary change but I also couldn’t be so afraid to stray that I was rigid in every aspect of life.  I had to learn to be flexible and trust myself to do what my body needed at the right time.  So how do you know when you reach a happy medium?

By trusting yourself.

When you first start, it’s going to be hard.  You’re going to want to eat like a million Big Macs and you’re going to want to sit on the couch rather than do a 30 minute workout.  It’s really hard to let yourself take a break at this point because it will be so easy to slip back into your old habits.  Once you start to realize that all your old habits have been replaced with new and healthier ones it’s a little bit easier to see where you have wiggle room.

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While I don’t personally believe in having a “cheat” day or meal (it just doesn’t work for me), it’s ok to know that one meal is not going to destroy what you have worked for.  If you notice that your body is sore and achy and the thought of heading to the gym for your workout makes you want to cry, then it’s ok to take a rest day.  That’s your body’s way of saying, “Hey, I need a break here!”  That’s ok, rest days are good.  Enjoying life is good.  Being flexible and able to adjust to the situation is good.

It takes a little bit of practice to find the right balance for you and your body.  Be kind to yourself as you discover what works for you and what doesn’t.  Remember, it’s what you decide to most of the time that is going to impact your overall health not the tiny slip ups every now and then.

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Our Food

OB-SZ379_veg_E_20120516180914I came across this post about a woman from Nigeria coming to the United States for school and trying to learn how to eat well.  I found it fascinating because it really shows how different our food system is compared to the rest of the world.  While the whole post is really good, there were a few points that stuck out that I wanted to address here on my blog.

The first was how she learned to view food in Nigeria.  In her house, they called junk food simply junk because that is exactly what it was.  This is a simple idea but I feel like it is really substantial.  Food is meant to nourish our bodies and give us fuel.  It provides necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that allow us to function properly.  Therefore anything that doesn’t meet those standards shouldn’t even be called food.  Just what are we teaching young kids when we call candy, chips, soda, or any packaged product food when we qualify it as junk?  We are telling them that it is in some way allowing our bodies to work the way they should and that isn’t what happens with Pop-Tarts and Oreos.  It should be no surprise that we are confused about what food is healthy when we teach them that packaged and processed food can be part of a “balanced” diet.

We are spending more money on eating out than cooking at home.

We are spending more money on eating out than cooking at home.

The other reason that so many of us have a hard time eating well is that we are constantly sold on food advertising.  We love our buzzwords like ‘all natural’ ‘organic’ ‘gluten-free’ and ‘locally sourced’. These words mean virtually nothing when it comes to whether we should eat something or not.  Yes, organic and gluten-free are regulated terms but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy.  Organic candy is still candy.  In the article, the author writes about being confused by all these words stating, “Wasn’t food by definition healthy?  If the food wasn’t healthy, then why call it food?”  Great question!  It’s so simple, yet we have complicated it so much by relying on convenience foods.  We need a package to tell us what is healthy to eat instead of just eating food that needs no advertising.  You don’t have to wonder if a bunch of broccoli or a bushel of apples is good for you.  Real food will always trump processed food.

When she came to the United States, the author was in good health.  She never worried about her weight and had no other complaints.  After awhile, she started to experience so many of the complications that come with a Western diet, even though she was trying to eat as close to what she grew up with as she could.  After going to her doctor and doing some searching they realized all the pesticides and chemicals used to treat the food we normally eat, was causing her ailments.  Her doctor stated that it was really common for immigrants to experience these problems when they come here.  This made me realize two things.  One, we really need to work on growing food that doesn’t need to be treated so much just to reach our tables.  I won’t claim to have the answer to that problem, but I do think it starts with us as the consumer.  Our money talks and by placing our money in food systems that are sustainably and thoughtfully grown, we can start to change the tides.  I know that this won’t happen overnight and that it is tough to buy all organic all the time (I don’t have the money to do that either), but we have to start somewhere.  The second thing it made me realize is that we shouldn’t all eat the exact same diet.  I am a firm believer in what works for me might not work for you when it comes to eating.  The microbes that digest our food are all different.  Hence, an immigrant from Nigeria is going to have a hard time digesting the food we eat here just like I would probably have a difficult time digesting the food they regularly eat in Nigeria.  It’s ok to not have a cookie cutter diet and eat what “everyone else is eating”.  You need to find what works for you and stick with that no matter what your neighbor is eating.  Respect your body and it will serve you well.

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There are a lot of great talking/thinking points in this article, like the fact that in most other countries packaged food is way more expensive than regular food and only the really wealthy can afford to purchase it.  Yet it is the exact opposite here.  Packaged food is cheap and easily accessible while it costs a fortune to buy organic food.  While it is still possible to eat well on a budget, it is a little more difficult.  I also really like the authors simple rules to eating well here in the states.  Buy food that you know where it came from, avoid packaged food as much as possible, and cook your own food.  We don’t have to make being healthy a complicated process, simple steps such as these can make a huge difference in your health.

Try changing some things in your diet and see how much better you can feel.  Check out some of my other posts on eating well or making small changes, and start making a difference today.  You can do it!

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Healthy Or Happy

I have noticed that there is a popular sentiment that arises when people talk about being healthier: “I would be healthier, but I would rather be happy.”  They might not necessarily say that exact phrase, but it’s close.  I would eat better, but I don’t want to be miserable.  I would work out more, but I don’t want to hate life.  I would take care of myself, but I have other things going on.  For some reason, there seems to be a disconnect between being healthy and being happy.

This idea pervades the health world all the time.  Diets are associated with denying yourself what you really want to eat, what would make you happy, and eating foods that are boring and tasteless albeit good for you.  Exercise is tied in with punishing yourself for eating poorly or torturing yourself to make your body look good.  In order to be the best you health-wise, you have to deprive yourself of happiness.

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Leaders of the health realm play into this idea, to some extent.  How many times have you heard a new fad diet claim that you can still eat the foods you love and lose weight, somehow implying that food that is good for you is food that you don’t love?  How many new fitness trends focus on the no pain no gain motto?  Or advertise that their workouts are really intense, but if you only devote yourself to twenty minutes of torture you can look like a fitness model?  I know that not every diet or fitness trend out there does this, but I feel that on some level they still make the association that being healthy takes a little bit of being miserable.

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This is so far from the truth, and it is one of the obstacles that stand in the way when people think about being healthier.  No person wants to give up being happy or submit themselves to deprivation and torture to be in a better state of health.  For awhile, I thought that if I wasn’t denying myself some type of happiness when it came to my health, I wasn’t really getting healthier.  If I didn’t feel totally worn out after a workout or say no to an extra helping, I wasn’t doing it right.  Inevitably I would give up on my diet and working out because I didn’t like feeling miserable.  Sound familiar?

I want to help perpetuate the idea that healthy and happy go hand in hand.  Eating well doesn’t have to be a battle of temptation.  You can find food that is delicious AND good for you.  You might have to experiment a little to find out what you like and you might have to let your tastes adjust to less processed food, but you can eat good for you food and still feel the joy of eating good food.  Exercising doesn’t have to be a tool of torture.  There are so many ways to work your body that I am sure you can find something that you enjoy doing.  Again, you will have to try different things and see what you like the best and what your body can handle, but you can find pleasure in working out regularly.  Instead of viewing being healthier as something that is going to take happiness away from your life, view it as a way to add your happiness.  You’re taking steps to add years and energy to your life, you’re taking control of your health, and you’re taking pride in yourself.  These are all healthy things that can make you happy.

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Your Body And Mine

I read this article last week and found it very interesting.  If you aren’t familiar with fitbit, it is a fitness band that keeps count of your steps and calories eaten.  It is suppose to help with weight loss but some users are finding that they are actually gaining weight while using fitness bands.  These users are confused because weight loss should be a simple equation of less calories in than calories out.  But is weight loss that simple?

Unfortunately, it isn’t.  Yes, if you have a deficit of calories at the end of the day you will lose weight.  The thing with weight loss is that there are so many more variables than just the amount of calories you consume or burn.  More and more people are realizing that each person is different when it comes to losing weight or getting healthier.  The way that food affects each person is different, the way that exercise affects each person is different, and this means that the way each person goes about getting healthier has to be different.  We can’t have cookie cutter diets or workout routines any longer, because they don’t work.  I have preached this lesson before, because I believe that it is so important.

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People don’t want to hear that losing weight is hard.  They don’t want to have to put in a ton of work, so they are constantly looking for the magic bullet that will give them a quick fix.  It is much more comforting to just pick up the newest book outlining the latest diet and believe that your weight problem will just go away in 30 days.  I’m sorry to tell you that to get the kind of results that most people want or need, they need to put in much more work.  You have to put in the effort to find what works best for you.

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I know that sounds depressing.  But putting in the work is going to make your journey to be healthier so much more rewarding.  It is also going to make it last a lifetime.  When people keep switching from diet fad to diet fad, they aren’t really learning how to eat better and fuel their body.  They think that because this has worked for others, it should work for them.  Relying on others or fitness gadgets totally to get healthier backfires because you are now dependant on something else.  Put in the effort to customize your lifestyle to your needs, and suddenly you intuitively know what your body needs to stay healthy.  Now you know what works for you and what doesn’t and it is easier to make health decisions.  It becomes a habit to choose the good and turn down the bad.

I don’t want to bash fitness bands or certain diets.  Those things work for some people and they are great places to start when you decide to get healthier.  Just don’t rely too heavily on these things for too long.  Take risks, experiment with different techniques, and embrace that you are uniquely you.  It is a good thing that we each have our own set of needs, because who wants to be just like every other person?  Bottom line: The most important step for better health is to make the decision to change.  Once you do that, really commit to finding what works best for you to accomplish that goal.  Putting in the work and extra effort will make you that much prouder when you get the results you are looking for.

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