It’s seems that everything we consume these days will kill us, give us cancer or herald in some terrible disease. Pink slim in ground beef, diet soda, too much soy, artificial sweeteners, carbs, even drinking water. Wait, water can kill you? Yes, too much water has been known to disrupt brain function and cause water intoxication or poisoning. So what is a health conscious girl to do? You can’t eat that because it might make you fat. You can’t eat this because it could give you cancer. Don’t eat that because it could throw off your period or cause hormonal imbalances. And for God’s sake, don’t consume any of that because well, because just don’t! It’s enough to make you paranoid to put anything in your mouth. And then there are the fad diets. You know the ones that come and go like the phases of the moon. They’re all the rage, everyone jumps on the bandwagon only to jump quickly off to the next passing wagon. I’ve watched so many fall victim to bandwagon jumping only to gain every single bit of the weight back. No lifestyle changes were made, just dieting for dieting sake.
I am a health conscious person. I feel I have to be. There is osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer in my family. I don’t smoke. I take my vitamins, eat my fruits and veggies and have not eaten red meat or pork for over 20 years (although this was a political thing that just kinda stuck after high school). I try to buy fresh, free range and whole grain. Organic is a label I look at very carefully because not all organic truly IS organic. I watch the preservatives, nitrates, etc. But again, I read the labels. Yes, I’m the annoying woman in the store intently reading the back of the box like it’s a Hemingway novel. Gluten Free is something I practice in moderation. Certain glutens cause bloating which for someone with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) can be very unpleasant. I drink a green smoothie after every morning run or workout which is 6 times a week plus 6-8 glasses of water a day. Running and pilates are both on my lifestyle menu. I consider myself healthy and a good weight for my height and age. I could do more but this is working for me right now and I want to enjoy my life…in moderation. Yet it’s hard not to become caught up in all of the healthy hubbub, alarmists and fads.
This week the health and lifestyle sections on most major news sites were abuzz with the latest alarming food news. No, it wasn’t all about the pink slim but soda and red meat. Daily consumption of soda can increase your risk of heart disease, not just make you fat and eating too much red meat can increase your risk of dying by nearly 20% due to a higher content of saturated fat. Was this really news? Isn’t this restating what we already know but in slightly different terms? I could hear a collective sigh the world round followed by “Really?” (insert sarcastic tone). Coke will never stop producing soda and cows will never stop being a staple at Longhorn. Why? Because people choose to consume them despite the warnings. But what is wrong with these foods in healthy moderation? Every day there is something new we should or shouldn’t eat, a diet we should or shouldn’t be on, an exercise that may or may not give us incredible abs of steel. So for someone who is looking to get on the healthy lifestyle bandwagon, the one that is traveling a consistent speed on the highway, the one that never seems to breakdown, how do you choose a diet and exercise program that works for your body? Where do you start when everything is seemingly toxic? It all starts with you.
A year after the birth of my now 8 year old, I had a comprehensive physical. No ladies, not an Annual, a physical. The doctor did a full blood workup on my cholesterol, thyroid, and blood cells (both colors). An extensive family history was taken. My blood pressure and heart rate were measured. Every inch of me was examined and analyzed, from the health of my skin and nails to my bones and joints. My results, a healthy woman in her early 30s. My blood pressure was low, cholesterol good, weight was on par with my height and my thyroid was functioning normally. However, my family history indicated that I should be wary of osteoporosis, thyroid issues and heart disease which meant I needed to take steps now to avoid or lessen the affects of these possible threats to my aging body. Determined to take care of myself, I continued exercising and running but cut out soda, cut down on my carbs and eliminated most foods with preservatives and nitrates. After my father was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer and diabetes, I began to cut down on foods that would raise my risk of both diseases (although carbs remain my kryptonite). As hard as it was to take these foods out of my daily diet, I struck a balance of moderation, a food compromise. I didn’t go cold turkey with most of the foods that were “bad” for me, I just chose to eat them every once and a while, kind of like how Cookie Monster refers to cookies as a “sometimes food” now. Mmmm…cookies. By not denying myself comfort foods, I am able to healthily indulge without overeating or experiencing overwhelming cravings (beyond the PMS-induced longings). It works for me. I feel balanced. I’m not perfect. I eat things I shouldn’t. Um, thin mints – 4 cookies, 160 calories…1 sleeve, priceless? My dealer lies in wait at our local Publix. I am a cheese dip addict and I love my wine; beer on trivia nights with my Chickens. But my overall lifestyle consists of foods and exercise based on my family history as well as what works for my body, not by what Hollywood stars are doing, the latest fads pushed on TV or even what my friends are trying. Sure we swap recipes, tips and advice with each other but if it doesn’t work for us, we move on until we find something that does.
I am a firm believer in live-its, not diets. You eat healthy and exercise not to lose weight or stay in shape but to maintain a healthy body balance. A diet is a temporary fix (especially with no exercise). If you choose to revert back to your old habits afterwards, you haven’t made a lifestyle change. It takes work, smart choices and sometimes a hell of a lot of will power to maintain your health. That morning run before sunrise may feel like crap at first but when finished, you’re so glad you got out of the warm bed. The trip to the gym after dropping the kids off at school when all you want to do is go home and drink a gallon of coffee will make the day feel so much more manageable. Eating that salad after gorging on margaritas and cheese dip the night before may not sound appetizing but wow, so much better than adding fuel to the fire in your belly. Choices. We all have to make them. We all have to live with them. Hence a live-it, not a diet.
So the next time you read a report that blah blah food is “bad” for you or “that” exercise is all wrong or this is the diet everybody swears by, step back and think, will it work for me? Does this affect how I maintain my health? Should I reconsider my choices? Jumping on the next bandwagon will only lead to yo-yo dieting, extreme and unhealthy choices and serial wagon chasing. What works for you, may not work for someone else and vice versus. There is so much more to consider other than calories, carbs and calculating. Family history, your physical health, allergies, height, weight and age are all factors in compiling your live-it plan. Everything in moderation has worked for centuries, so why can’t it work in the new Millennium.