On living a healthy lifestyle:
So the first thing I noticed in Utah is how healthy a lot of people are. The first few people I met had diets such as paleo, sugar-free, gluten-free, etc, and if they weren’t any of that, they still ate relatively healthy. Surprisingly, it didn’t make me feel bad about myself. Rather, I was really happy and excited to meet people I wanted to be like — not in terms of specific diets, but just in general.
I then just noticed that there are much fewer fat/overweight people over here than on the east coast. Not judging, but observing. I also noticed that people here seem to be happier, but it makes sense — the weather is better and it’s absolutely beautiful here. There’s more stuff to do outdoors and the weather allows for outdoor activities for longer throughout the year as well. So I’m kinda correlating happiness to healthiness…when you are feeling good, you will eat better. It’s true! At least for me.
So this got me thinking about health and how it’s so SO important — it’s a lifestyle, a mindset, and a decision that only you can make for yourself. But what is also important is who and what you surround yourself with. It’s not to say that you can’t make your own decisions, but if you’re constantly surrounded by unhealthy habits and unhealthy people, it’s much easier to be swayed into those — for most people, at least. So I’ve come up with some personal and general discoveries during my difficult food journey of this past year.
- I realize that I was surrounded by pretty good people in college (oh god, I’m not in college anymore! Help!). It wasn’t that they were extremely healthy and in fantastic shape, it was that they had a good relationship with food and themselves and liked how they were — and if they didn’t, they worked to change it. And those with a bad relationship with food struggled alongside with me and helped, encouraged and supported me. A lot of my friends cooked at home as well, not that I did that much, but now I see the importance of it. So that was a huge blessing.
- I realize that I had a very good and healthy childhood. I was raised in a pretty healthy home — my parents cooked a lot of homemade Chinese food, meaning they could control the level of sodium and oil and such, which was pretty low. We didn’t have chips or cookies or sodas, but the occasional Cheez-its/Chex-mix snuck in. We ate out maybe 8 times a year, but most of the time it was a Chinese restaurant which I’d also consider healthier than a lot of non-Asian places. Making your own food is so important because you can control everything, aside from what is in the basic ingredients — you can pick the level of grease, sodium, sugar, etc. Upon talking to my new roommate, we realized that both of us had remarkably healthy childhoods. Granted, I spent half of college eating like absolute crap, but I think right now I’m on a good path. It helps that I know what being healthy is like, and that it’s not extremely new to me. The importance of childhood/teenage health is even more apparent to me now! It gives me insight into the friends I already have and want to make, and the way I want to raise my family.
- I realize that I love eating healthy. It feels so good to put food into your body that doesn’t make you feel sick, want to vomit, or have weird poo patterns, and most of the time doesn’t bloat you like crazy. Being able to control my grease, dairy, gluten and sodium levels is very important for my stomach to feel good so I really enjoy making my own food. I now enjoy vegetables more, and I’m trying new things like chickpea/lentil pasta which is doing wonders — doesn’t hurt my tummy, and has extra protein/vitamin benefits. My diet is pretty limited in what I’m eating now, but I plan to expand. Hopefully things like zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash (wish me luck), sweet potatoes, etc. I’ll try to bake stuff too instead of cooking everything on the stove-top, so there are goals in place.
- Anxiety and mental health are very important. I noticed that if I ate something that made me feel even a little bit uncomfortable, my mind would take it even farther and make me feel worse. As well, I feared being hungry even the slightest to the point that I was so stressed out. I’d bring tons of food with me to practice and classes, but my stomach would still hurt, yet I couldn’t figure out if it was hunger or anxiety — so I kept on eating to try and fix it. Which, needless to say, doesn’t work. It’s hard because when food makes you feel sick, you start to hate food, and you start to fear it and it can be a really bad cycle. But somehow you’ve got to break it, and somehow I did.
- I’m currently counting calories and it’s actually a good thing. I mean, yeah, I always feel good when I’m under my calorie count by a little, considering I don’t usually log my strength workouts as calories burned (since I don’t know how to calculate that), but — what’s really surprising is how much 1600 calories is!! I realize to lose weight you do have to be at a caloric deficit, but I’m more so just trying to cut my body fat (ok, I might be wrong about this, I haven’t finished my strength/conditioning book yet but anyway). Yeah, I’m surprised how much I have to eat to get to 1600 calories, but then I realized that I’m eating low-calorie but mostly nutrient-dense food. On Monday I ate a donut because they brought them into work, and I couldn’t resist (and I didn’t feel bad about it yay!!), but that’s like 360 calories!! Insane. So when you’re eating healthy food, you can actually eat quite a large amount of it. What I also like about MyFitnessPal is that it tells you when a food is high in protein, vitamin C and A, and all that. So not only am I tracking my calories, I am also learning what foods are high in what minerals and vitamins and I like that! I’m also figuring out how many calories things are so that in the future, if I do stop meticulously logging my food, I can still understand what I’m putting in my body.
- Here are some things I’ve noticed after just eating better, with portion control, for the past week. The week prior I ate pretty healthy, but ate SO MUCH of everything that it didn’t feel good afterwards. So now, I feel a lot more energized, and even when I’m tired, it’s because of a long day at work or a tough workout, and it’s not just a generally sluggish feeling. I do not need coffee, even for the early days of work, but when you’re setting up for practices, doing treatments, watching practices, it’s not too hard to stay awake. My poop schedule is a lot better now, and it’s generally pretty healthy — there are some issues I haven’t figured out BUT we’ll get there eventually. I don’t bloat nearly as much, and I don’t have a constant feeling of distention and confusion over if I’m full or empty. Whenever I eat unhealthy I tend to store all/most of my fat on my stomach (and inner thighs), and I guess that’s a lot of people, but I’ve noticed that my abs are sticking out more and overall I’m looking more how I want to look (but not in an unhealthy way!!).
- I realize that what you eat is a cycle that could either be great or terrible, depending — if you’re feeling good physically and mentally, probably because you ate well the day prior, you’re probably going to want to keep that feeling, and you’ll continue to eat healthy. Of course you might slip sometimes, but it’s okay. However, if you’re feeling bad — either from eating poorly the day or two prior, or you’re mentally/emotionally down, or both — then you’ll probably keep eating poorly because you don’t really care. That was me! It’s not to say I’m perfect, but I’m feeling great so far. Also, I notice that after I go to the gym, I’m usually craving something healthy like my usual meat, eggs, some type of grain (rice or pasta) and vegetable mix.
- For me, financial responsibility is what also helped push me to this whole health kick (that hopefully ends up being a huge lifestyle change). When I was in school, my parents so kindly gave me money for rent/groceries, which I squandered pretty quickly with all the easily accessible quite unhealthy food (and alcohol) on campus. I realize I was lucky to have been given that money, and it made me sad to know that not only was I wasting money, but I was also hurting my body. Moving out to Utah, they basically said they’d support me if I really needed it, but wanted me to try and do this on my own (except health insurance, long story). And for some reason I didn’t really freak out, because I initially thought I could fully support myself, which they said I couldn’t, but now I am (barely, ahh!). So anyway, I decided that a move would help me mentally, and I wanted to change my lifestyle. In order to save money, I’d cook for myself, I’d very seldom go out to eat, and I’d buy the necessities. So far, it’s working out pretty well — AND I feel good because of the way I’m eating! Win-win!
- Nutrition is actually so important for fitness goals. If you’re not eating enough but you want to build a bigger butt, it’s not happening. If you’re eating a lot to boost the tons of exercise you’re getting but you want to lower your body fat percentage and “tone” things, that’s probably not going to work either. So you have to figure out what you want, and it took me awhile to understand cutting vs. bulking season, although I’m still not sure what I should do. I’m also probably trying to do both right now, as I’m trying to get more muscular but also cut body fat…so I’ll work on that these next few days and figure it out.
- So like I’ve said multiple times, what you are surrounded by is extremely important. I currently work with pro athletes who obviously lead a healthy lifestyle, coworkers who are also healthy, I live with a very healthy roommate, and I am surrounded by the beautiful outdoors with so many hiking areas. I love my new gym! I am also happier with the lower humidity and just the feel of the place, so mentally (people I’m around), emotionally (being in love with the area), and physically (gym and hiking areas) I am in a great environment. I didn’t think the east vs. basically almost west coast would be so different, but it is! I’m not saying I won’t move back, but…I’m loving it out here. Being surrounded by such great things has made me feel very much at peace (except the lonely part but I’ll work on it), which has led to an appreciation for healthy things, a true want/drive/desire to do them (mostly — I’ll have to admit, it’s hard getting out of bed/watching TV sometimes), and actually carrying out my plans which is obviously the most important thing. So when I’m thinking of where to live and who to date (this is very important as you will spend a lot of time together, so I think it’s very important to want similar things in terms of health), I’m very much so going to consider all of this.
So, there you have it. 10 big things I’ve learned/seen in terms of food/health/exercise, most of which has occurred to me in the past week! I hope to continue learning and improving, and I’m very excited to learn more for my strength/conditioning exam — stuff I’m learning has already started to make me rethink my own lifestyle! It’s amazing connecting things you learn from a textbook or medical journal to your own life or your own medical/clinical practice. That’s another thing I love about HEALTH, but that’s a story for another time. And as much as my nutrition is getting better…my sleep is still suffering, so good night!