It’s Ok To Change

I would say that one of my mantras is that each person has a different definition of healthy.  What you deem to be healthy for you and your body might not be what I deem healthy for me and my body.  That’s what makes health so great and unique.  It’s not just a cookie cutter diet or lifestyle where everyone eats or does the same thing.  That would be boring!  For some reason though, the idea that one persons healthy might not be anothers causes a lot of problems among the health world.  There are some people who believe that the way they choose to live is the ONLY way to be healthy and everyone else is doing it wrong.  This of course sparks sometimes vicious debates and causes some disrespect between people with different lifestyles when there is really no need.  It’s ok to be different and have different goals and want different things health wise.  It’s also ok for those goals and ideas to evolve and change over time, which is something I struggled with a bit.

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I have always believed that it is ok to have a different idea of health from other people, but I haven’t always been as receptive to having my own personal ideals change or evolve.  I thought that I had to do the exact same thing and eat the exact same way as I had when I first made the decision to be healthier.  Why would I change?  This is what had worked for me in the beginning, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right?  Well, yes and no.  To a certain extent you need to keep things the same.  It isn’t good or healthy to constantly be changing things week to week or day to day.  Your body needs a certain amount of time to adjust to things before you start to see results.  That’s one of the problems people have today.  If they don’t see immediate results from an exercise routine or a diet change, then obviously it isn’t working and they have to do something different.  No, you just need to give yourself a fair amount of time to see the change.  But on the other hand, what has worked for you in the past might not always work for you in the future.

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Your body is a magnificent machine.  I don’t mean that we’re all robots, but that there are so many complex processes and functions that your body has to go through to do certain tasks, that it really is an amazing machine.  From the tiniest thing, like blinking, to the largest thing, like digesting a whole meal, your body is a wonderful system, and it likes to be efficient.  Your body wants to accomplish its tasks with the least amount of energy spent, it’s kind of lazy that way.  So in terms of exercise, beginners will experience a higher amount of energy expenditure running a mile than a seasoned marathoner.  As you run more and more, your body will adapt and become more efficient.  This isn’t a bad thing, becoming more efficient is what makes running, or whatever exercise you’re doing, seem easier.  But that also means that you will need to find new ways to challenge your body.  Crosstraining (doing different types of exercise different days) is one way to do this, as is HIIT or high intensity interval training.

This idea also goes for food.  If you have been consuming a certain amount of calories for years and suddenly cut that number down, you are going to experience weight loss.  Your body essentially will be shocked by this sudden change, but not for long.  It will start to adapt to that new calorie intake and adjust accordingly.  Again, this isn’t a bad thing.  It’s good that your body responds to things like dietary intake, but you need to be aware of this and be able to change with it.  Meaning, what has worked in the past might not always work in the future.  Varying your diet and the way you eat is a good practice anyway.  You want to make sure you consume a variety of foods to make sure that you are getting all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that you need to function.  That’s another reason that I support a whole foods diet rather than fad diets.  You can’t go wrong with real foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in their simplest forms.

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When I first realized I would have to adapt and change with my body as it got more efficient, I resisted.  I tend to not like change and love a routine.  It helps me feel organized and in control.  I also worried that people would think I was being wishy-washy with my health.  I thought they would think I was just jumping on another health band wagon and going with the flow.  But being resistant to change wasn’t doing any favors for my health and worrying about what others think never does any good.  If I wanted to keep with the progress I was making, I would have to change.  Not huge major changes, but little tweaks and adjustments as I went along.  Once I stopped fighting it, I realized having those little adjustments made things more fun.  I could start to experiment with different recipes and branch out and see what I could come up with.  I could challenge my body and see how strong it was and try new exercises.  And I surprised myself, I could do more than I thought I was capable of.  Seeing how far along I was helped spur me along even more.

Don’t be too resistant to change.  When you start to see a stall in your health or you’re feeling stuck in a rut, don’t be afraid to try something new.  Don’t worry about what others might think.  They aren’t you and they don’t know what your body needs.  Be confident in your decisions and do what you need to do to be the healthiest you!

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Calories in, Calories out

It is a simple idea, which makes it so attractive/popular to the general public.  In one way or another we have been told that losing weight really boils down to taking in less calories than we burn.  There are of course other factors, but this is the major key to all our weight loss dreams… or is it?

We are slowly, but surely, learning that the science of nutrition is far more complex than we once believed.  As our understanding grows, scientists are finding that calories might not be the only key to losing weight.  As recently as last May, researchers discovered that the calorie count in almonds (one- ounce serving = 160 calories) was actually lower, at 129 calories per serving.  Yes, we may all rejoice that they overestimated the calories rather than underestimated, but the more important part of this study was the reason the calorie count was lower.  They found that the body could not completely break down the almonds and use their full energy as fuel.  This discovery has lead many scientists to believe that the current method of determining calories might not be the most accurate.

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If you have been reading my blog for any period of time, you know that I am a firm believer in the individualization of nutrition.  What works for me and my health might not necessarily work for you and your health, and scientific researchers are starting to see this as well.  I am not a huge supporter of religiously counting calories and making sure I am eating a set number for each meal, mostly because when I did do this I never felt any healthier.  I always felt like I was being deprived and this led to overeating.  I understand that for some of you out there, counting calories is the easiest way for you to achieve your optimal health, but I want you to also think about the kind of calories that you are putting into your body.  It’s not just a number, it is the benefits that those calories gives your body that really count to feeling your healthiest.

Look at it this way, 300 calories worth of food at McDonald’s is going to make you feel a lot different than 300 calories worth of fresh  fruits and vegetables.  Both foods have 300 calories, but the fresh foods will provide your body with far more vitamins, minerals and nutrients that you can use to fuel you throughout your day.  Your body will also use those calories in totally different ways.  While the fat and sodium content of your Happy Meal might get stored as fat in your body, the vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables can be used to instantly nourish your body and help you function.  Don’t get me wrong and think that only eating fruits and vegetables will provide you with the best health, there are so many foods out there that could help you be as healthy as possible.

Nutrition facts for McDonald's cheeseburger

Nutrition facts for McDonald’s cheeseburger

Nutrition facts for 3 stalks of broccoli

Nutrition facts for 3 stalks of broccoli

The message I really want to get across is that the amount of calories you put into your body is only a piece of the puzzle that makes up your health/weight loss.  I don’t think that this is insignificant, as making sure you eat enough is highly important, but I do believe that there is so much more to feeling (and looking) your best.  When you eat a meal, concentrate on how it makes you feel afterwards.  Do you feel sluggish? Like you have ton of energy? Do you feel hungry only an hour after eating a meal or were you so stuffed that you didn’t feel like eating the rest of the day?  The kinds of food you eat will give you much more information about your health than an arbitrary number on the back of a package.  As nutrition research progresses, I hope we see a major overhaul in the way we view food.  Food is much more than a number, it has the potential to truly shape our health.  As Hippocrates so famously stated, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Obesity is a Disease: That’s a Good Thing, Right?

In case you haven’t heard, obesity has officially been recognized as a disease.  Ever since this declaration, people have been debating whether this is a good or bad thing.  There seem to be equal supporters for and against the new label and both sides have some very valid points.  I understand the pros and cons that both sides have brought up and I have a few of my own.  While I’ll share my opinion on labeling obesity as a disease, I think that the more important question I have about this whole thing is what will change?  How will this help to make things better?

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From my perspective, recognizing obesity as a disease is a good first step, but I worry that it will backfire.  I am really glad that people who need help have a better chance at actually getting that help now that obesity is considered a disease.  Insurance companies may provide more financial support, allowing doctors to be better equipped and ready to help treat obese patients.  But here is where I start to get a little leery about this, I think that people will start using this as a crutch to not do anything.  I feel that they will take the “Oh I have a disease, there really isn’t anything I can do” attitude and not try to change.  I worry that people will turn to drugs or miracle pills rather than educating themselves on eating better foods or moving more.  Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that being obese is a case by case disease and that some people really might have no control over their weight gain.  In those cases I know that surgery and medication may be the only way to go.  I also know that some people use those methods as the easy way out and now that obesity is a disease, many drug companies are going to start pumping out more and more medications that will combat obesity.  What’s easier? Overhauling your eating and your lifestyle or taking a pill 3 times a day?

My other big worry is that the whole focus of obesity is going to shift from prevention to treatment.  In fact, that is my concern with a lot of our healthcare issues.  So many diseases and conditions are 100% preventable, yet we wait until they move past the prevention stage and move into the treatment stage.  Obesity, and the many conditions that come along with obesity, is one of these diseases.  There are so many things that we can do prevent obesity, yet we are the most obese country in the world.  We know that if we eat better and exercise we can greatly reduce the risk of obesity and all it’s related disease/ailments.  Unfortunately I see obesity being called a disease furthering the problem of treatment vs. prevention.  I try not to always see the glass as half-empty, but I feel like drug companies and many doctors will see this as a prime opportunity to make even more money and I worry that Americans will fall right into that trap.  Sadly we like the easy way out of things and getting surgery or taking medications is a lot easier than putting in the work to prevent obesity.

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I haven’t lost all hope though.  I think that this is also a prime opportunity for people to step up and really make some big overhauls when it comes to people’s health.  There are so many groups and organizations out there that are striving to educate the public about being healthier (prevention rather than treatment) and I hope that this new label will give them the means and support to further their endeavors.  Take Microgreens for example.  This non-profit organization works with children in the D.C. area teaching them how to cook and prepare low cost meals.  Children whose families benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps), can take classes through Microgreens and learn how to budget, shop for and prepare a healthy meal all for $3.50 per meal.  This is a great program because it not only educates children about healthy eating, it shows them how to go through each step of the process and learning these skills at a young age is so important for future health.  It also encourages kids to share their knowledge and skills with their families, spreading the education of better health even further.  It would be amazing if we could get these types of programs to children and families all over the country and perhaps we can make that possible now that obesity is a disease.

Another benefit I hope to see is more in-depth, one on one counseling for those individuals who are serious about bettering their health and leaving obesity behind.  Before alcoholism was labeled a disease in 1956, there was little to no help for those battling their addiction, in fact most people viewed alcoholism as a stigma and tried to ignore the problem rather than do anything about it.  Once it became a disease though, so many more resources opened up.  Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous were formed, treatment centers were set up, and counselors were trained to work with both alcoholics and their families.  I am not trying to say that obese people and alcoholics are in any way the same; each disease has it’s own criteria and symptoms.  Labeling alcoholism as a disease enabled preventative education and treatment options to flourish, and I believe labeling obesity as a disease can do the same. Perhaps more programs and groups will be formed to help those dealing with obesity, and for all those affected by obesity.  Maybe more schools and communities across the nation will be equipped with classes to help educate the public and prevent obesity from even starting.  How great would it be if those people who are obese or overweight weren’t treated like social pariah’s and ignored but rather were given an abundance of resources to help them heal and have better health and better lives?

Do I think that calling obesity a disease will fix all the problems magically? No.  Do I worry that it could make things worse? A little.  Do I believe that good changes can happen from this? You bet.  While I think we need to proceed with caution on this, I wholeheartedly believe that this can be the start of some great things for America’s health.  It’s up to us to help guide which way this can all go.  If we put our support behind things like better food in schools and supermarkets, organizations that are fighting to educate the public about health, and help for those who are struggling with obesity or their health in general, I think that we can make some major strides toward a happier and healthier future for everyone.

The Cost of Eating

Yes, we all know that eating healthy is good for us and eating unhealthy is bad for us.  This is not surprising news, mainly because it is drilled into our heads on a daily basis via news, twitter, blogs, newspapers, magazines… You get the idea.  So what does it cost us to eat poorly?

Health- This is the obvious cost of eating an unhealthy diet.  We all know this and it is constantly cited and analyzed.  It is also a really important factor, simply for the fact that a bad diet can cause serious complications, and may ultimately lead to death.  One of the most obvious health effects of eating an unhealthy diet is weight gain.  In 2008, 1.4 billion adults in the world were overweight, and 500 million of those were classified as obese.  There are a ton of obesity related diseases, The CDC lists coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancers, such as endometrial, breast, and colon cancer, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, degeneration of cartilage and underlying bone within a joint (osteoarthritis), reproductive health complications such as infertility, and mental health conditions, just to name a few.  That is a really long list of unpleasant complications all related to obesity.  The decision, YOUR decision, to eat unhealthy food leads to this nasty list.  YOU have more control over these issues than you might think.  In this study, researchers looked at two different measures of a quality diet and then assessed how they affected the risk of the chronic diseases mentioned above.  Both measures of a quality diet, which included more consumption of fruits and vegetables and less reliance on processed food, led to reduced risk, with the Alternate Healthy Eating index predicting risk just a little bit better.  Even small changes like eating more fruits and vegetables, like in this study, led to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.  Food has a huge impact on so much of our daily lives, it is the fuel that runs EVERYTHING going on inside your body.  I know this comparison has been made before, but it really is a great illustration.  Think of your body as a car and the food you eat as the gas.  In order to run properly, your car needs the proper fuel, or else it’s not going anywhere and will likely have major troubles along the way.  The same goes for your body.  It needs the right fuel to function optimally.  Good food = good fuel.

Financial- There are a few factors to the financial aspect of eating a poor diet.  The first relates directly to the health factor, healthcare costs.  Let’s just look at the numbers.  In a 2009 study the CDC found that obesity related costs were around $147 billion in 2006.  By 2012, that number had risen to $190 billion, and exceeded the costs of health care costs for smoking which has in the past been the number one health cost.  That is a HUGE jump in just six years, and unfortunately it doesn’t look any better for the future.  Researchers are saying if we keep heading down the road that we are on, by 2030 health care costs will be somewhere in the $550 billion range.  I won’t speak for anyone else, but to me $550 billion feels like an astronomical price to pay for good health.  While I’m not saying this is the magic bullet to fix all problems health related, eating better foods can DRASTICALLY reduce this cost.  Instead of shelling out your hard earned money on medications and surgeries and other health costs, channel that money to a healthy diet.

“But Katie, that’s the problem!  My family can’t afford to eat healthy foods!  It’s just too expensive!”  Many people are under the impression that eating well is also synonymous with being expensive, and at a quick glance it does seem that way.  Go to the grocery store and find a bag of chips at will probably cost anywhere from 2 to 5 dollars.  If you compare that to a bag of organic chips, without added chemicals or preservatives, the price will probably go anywhere from 4 to 6 dollars.  For some families, they just can’t afford to buy all the “fancy” organic healthy food, and our family is one of them.  That doesn’t stop us from eating as well as we possibly can.  Somewhere along the line, it has gotten drilled into our heads that in order to eat well and be healthy we have to buy the top shelf, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy free, soy free, nut free, expensive products.  While I don’t think that any of those things are bad, they are NOT absolutely necessary for a healthy lifestyle.  Adam and I have a limited food budget, but we still manage to eat a very healthy and nutritious diet on that budget.  Every Friday I do one big grocery trip for the week.  Here is this week’s haul: photo

All this food cost us $46.80, which is what we usually spend on our big shopping trip.  I do also make a quick run on Wednesday’s to pick up a few things, but that is because at our local grocery store they give a 10% discount on Wednesday and that bill rarely goes over $20.  So for under $70 a week, Adam and I eat a healthy and balanced diet and there are others out there who spend even less on good food.  We have also made the decision to not eat out frequently and spend our money on whole foods that we can prepare for ourselves at home, which saves us money in the long run.  Americans are spending more and more money on eating out, which isn’t helping their wallets or waistlines.

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This article shows the trend of spending on food over the years, and it’s amazing to see how it has changed over the years.  More and more is being spent on quick convenient foods and then subsequently on medical costs to combat the result of eating those convenient foods.  You have the power to change that, all you have to do is make the conscious decision to spend your money on food that is healthy and not harmful to your body.

Emotional- This is one cost of a poor diet that might not be looked at as much, but it is a very important one.  Your mental health is just as important as your physical health and often the two go hand in hand.  There is an increased occurrence of self-image issues in obese individuals.  These include eating disorders such as binge eating, body dissatisfaction, poor self-esteem, and overall dissatisfaction with quality of life.  As mentioned earlier, mental disorders are also higher among overweight individuals.  So not only is eating poorly attacking our bodies, it is attacking our minds and even our sense of self worth.  In 2010, researchers conducted a study about the effect of public health advertisements on obese individuals.  Many reported that instead of helping or motivating them to be healthier, they often felt attacked and stigmatized.  So even things that the general public believes are helping spread the word about being healthier are in fact causing more stress and hurt.   Believe me I know how it feels to be unhappy about your weight or your body image.  I have struggled with self-image issues from a very early age and it is a tough thing to overcome completely.  But one of the things that is helping me everyday is the fact that I can take control of that with the way that I eat.  Again, I am in no way saying that food is the magic cure-all for every problem I have listed and not listed, but it is a very powerful aspect of our lives.

There are so many more costs that occur from the way we eat.  If I were to talk about them all, we could be here for days and while I would love to believe that you would thoroughly enjoy reading my every word on the subject (I never said I wasn’t just a tad disillusioned),  I don’t want to sit here and beat a dead horse.  Like I said at the beginning, we all have heard that eating bad is not good for us, it isn’t rocket science.  I hope that some of the information I have presented to you today has helped you see just how big of an impact the way you eat can affect your life.  I know it may seem like a huge step to totally change your eating habits, but it is worth it.  Not only to just feel better but to live better! I hope you have a fabulous Monday and talk to you guys soon! Remember to follow me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram to get more updates, facts and insights into eating better!