Welcome back, guys and gals! It’s time for the second installment of the “Investing in Yourself” series, and this time, I’m tackling nutrition. Food. Bites and goodies. And most importantly, I want to discuss the role of good nutrition for your beauty, your general state and ultimately, your long term health. Because to be able to invest in yourself in other regards, you need to first fuel your body with all the nutrients it needs. So here’s my 2 cents (or 5 actually 🙂 ) on this whole food thing. As a disclaimer, I am not a nutritionist or a doctor, however I am often in their company and discuss this topic. I also read and educate myself extensively on the matter, precisely because I want to be healthy and to nourish and take care of my body to the best of my abilities.
So here’s my first thought when it comes to food: It is not only fuel or only pleasure. I hear it often from people at both ends of the spectrum- that food is only meant to keep you satiated, or that it is a thing of beauty and pleasure, nutrition be forgotten. As I do with many other things, I take the middle road here- food’s primary purpose is to keep us alive, that is a fact. We eat to live, as the proverb goes, we don’t live to eat. We need to secure the right balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats), the right mix and balance of vitamins and minerals for our bodies to function properly, before we even think about any other aspects of food. However, it is also true that delicious concoctions served in a pleasant setting, perhaps with friends or family, savoured and not rushed through, will produce us a great amount of pleasure. It’s a shame to deprive ourselves of that pleasure simply because we view our meals as sustenance and nothing else. Also, by not investing too much time and energy in preparing and enjoying our main meals to the fullest, it’s very probable that we’ll seek refuge in the arms of a yummy chocolate bar or slice of cake later on- because we still crave that pleasure derived from food.
Which brings me to my second point: don’t deprive yourself! If you want a bit of chocolate, or a sliver of cake, or a couple of French fries, go ahead and eat them. The key is, as you may have noticed, in the portions: a little goes a long way when it comes to satisfying a craving without going overboard. If you hold out and tell yourself you’re “being good” and not eating that bite of chocolate, you’ll end up caving in a few hours/days/weeks and devouring a whole box. But if you have a little of something you love, it will make you a lot happier and more balanced and not like you have to feel guilty for eating a lot more later. Plus, there are so many ways you can be creative and find healthy substitutes for your favorite snacks and treats. Like the cheesecake below, made with half cream cheese and half Greek yogurt, wholewheat flour and honey instead of sugar. Top it off with fresh berries and it just gets better! A slice of it will bring you nutrients instead of empty calories and will leave you feeling more satiated and satisfied than a regular piece of cake.
And since I was speaking of feeling guilty before, here’s my next bit of advice: stop looking at food as “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”, “naughty” or “nice”. Food is food, it has no moral qualities, and the fact that we are attributing it such virtues gives it power over us and warps our perception of the role it plays in our lives. You are not a better or worse person for eating certain foods, you don’t need to cut certain categories of food out of your life to feel more accomplished or in control, and you do not need a “cheat day”. We need to reevaluate our relationship with food in order to bring back a certain balance into our lives. Every kind of food has a certain role in your life- even fats, even salt, even sugar- they all have a purpose in our bodies and serve a role. What we need to be mindful of is excess- that’s the only thing that is bad, not the food itself. We need to educate ourselves in regards to what is excessive and what is appropriate, medically speaking, for our bodies- and then give them just that. This is why severe, often non-documented crash diets fail- because they deprive the body of essential nutrients. And what follows a failed diet? Usually a period of bingeing, followed by weight gain, followed by a bout of beating yourself up, which then starts the cycle again.
And this is where my fourth point comes up: we need to gain a more holistic view of food. Our meals do not exist in and of themselves, they have an effect on us in accordance to other factors in our lives: exercise, health status, medication we might be taking, mental health- these all work synergistically towards our wellbeing. There are plenty of foods with antioxidant or anti inflammatory properties, but they will not stave off illness if you binge drink, smoke like a chimney, don’t get enough sleep or don’t get off the couch. You can’t expect to be eating right while not exercizing in the slightest and feel in top shape. Just as you can’t expect diet and exercize to keep you feeling happy and healthy if you are battling chronic depression- they will certainly help, but taking care of yourself is something that needs to happen intentionally and on every level for you to become the best version you can be. If you want to feel amazing, you need to listen to what your body is telling you and respect that. Is your body craving sleep, water, fruits, fresh air? Listen to it and give it just that- the results will be incredible, and you will look and feel better than you ever have!
And my final bit of advice is: keep yourself educated. Don’t take my word for it, do your own research- read, ask, gain information from multiple reliable sources. And when I say reliable, I mean competent and dedicated medical professionals, scientific articles, posts and videos, as they hold the information you need. Don’t be swayed by vapid magazine posts promising you to lose 10 kg in a week, don’t give in to the social pressure of looking a certain way, don’t mimic the eating patterns of a friend- learn what is right for you. Sift through all the facts you can find out, then try and test to see what fits you. Once you find the right balance for yourself, nobody will be able to fool you with quick solutions, fast diets or magic potions and pills that will probably harm you in the long run.
So, my dears, let me know what nutrition principles (if any at all) you follow in your day to day life, what advice & sources do you guide yourself after when it comes to healthy eating? How important is healthy eating to you and what is your relationship with food?