Busting a Few Myths About Healthy Living

When I started this blog six years ago I was just looking for a platform to share my thoughts on healthy living. As a young teenager, I watched my dad suffer from Type 2 Diabetes and then suddenly pass from Pancreatic Cancer and so I became impassioned about the idea that I could have helped him in some small way. Because I remember fleeting moments of his attempt at “healthy living” and the sadness and misery he seemed to experience in the context of my naive perspective, everything I have searched for in regards to health has been to improve and create balance with more than just the physical quality of life but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual as well.

As it is my passion and, what I believe to be, my life’s purpose to share ideas and hopefully inspire others to live in a healthful way I often find myself in conversations about the idea of health. What I realize more and more is that our society is filled with myths about what healthy living looks like and until we can let go of these false beliefs, we won’t all see the potential we have to live optimally.

Myth: Being healthy means being skinny.
Truth: At our healthiest, overall state we will all still have different body shapes and sizes.
It is inaccurate to assume that a skinny person is a healthy person and vice versa. People lose and gain weight for lots of reasons including mental and physical illnesses I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Because we are all unique in how we build and store muscle and fat, judging a person’s “health” or “fitness” by their weight or even BMI is insufficient and simply doesn’t tell the whole story. This is why I see little worth in celebrating or congratulating someone on any amount of weight-loss. The truth is, it’s not always obvious how one loses weight and I would never want to encourage someone to damage their body, heart, and/or mind with extreme methods just to wear a smaller clothing size or feel valued in such a superficial, insignificant way. I truly feel that treating ourselves and others with kindness is a much better measure of healthy living than the shape or size of our bodies.

Myth: Healthy eating means consuming foods and drinks you don’t enjoy.
Truth: Foods and beverages are meant to nourish us, provide satiety, AND satisfaction–it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
I personally don’t believe there is anything “healthy” about eating something you don’t want to eat. The effects on our psyche when our body, heart, and mind are in such disagreement is just the beginning of why diet culture has messed with our society for far too long. Conversely, the idea that you aren’t being “healthy” if you decide to eat something you do enjoy is just wrong. The way we demonize food just adds a sense of taboo that makes us want to indulge in it more and then we punish ourselves with over-restriction and negative self-talk and the cycle of dieting just goes on and on from there. Sound familiar? I know it does for me.

Myth: I should work out to lose weight even if it sucks and I hate it and I keep getting hurt and it makes me miserable, etc….
Truth: Being physically active is more effective and sustainable when it’s something that makes me feel good and something I enjoy doing.
Similar to eating for nutrition, fullness, and pleasure, I don’t believe there is anything “healthy” about any physical exertion that isn’t in some way enjoyable. The thing is, some people will try being physically active for one reason–to lose weight–and then that creates a series of pitfalls that will cause them to suddenly stop. By being motivated just to lose weight some will go too hard, too fast and then injure themselves rendering them unable to continue for some time and so a steady, healthy habit is never created. In other cases some won’t lose weight fast enough and then they feel discouraged to keep going at all because they are only motivated by that one thing.

It takes time for our bodies to figure out what we’re doing when we change our lifestyle and going from one extreme to another won’t ever change us overnight in a safe and healthy way. What’s more effective is for us to try as many physical activities as we can and explore ourselves and our bodies. If we get to know who we are again with an open curiosity as we once had as children we can then keep doing the things that spark something inside of us because it’s fun and we feel better because of it. Becoming physically fit, whatever that looks like for each of us, will then be a side effect of the self-care lifestyle we have created by searching for inner joy instead of something as meaningless as weight-loss.

When I recall memories of my dad and the little time I had with him relative to my years as an adult, I try to remember him at his best. I envision him at his happiest, with the most joy, and peace as I can. But the moments that I remember him in pain, sad to be measuring out food he didn’t really want to eat, and as I think about all the things he could have invested in during his last few years are what motivates me today. I do not wish that misery on anyone. When I recognize the physical, mental, and emotional challenges I see in others I want nothing more than to help inspire and encourage any amount of change. As a teacher, writer, and advocate for truly healthy living, it is my hope that I do.

Healing from Diet Culture

As I continue to work on living my best life into my forties, I must face the debilitating beliefs that plagued my childhood, teen years, and younger adulthood. I am grateful for ever coming across The Four Agreements more than 10 years ago to help me start to reset my way of thinking. I realize now that this was a necessary step for me to even begin this journey, but it has been incredibly challenging to undo the thought process of diet culture and it still is.

This undertaking feels massive as the weight-loss industry makes billions over billions of dollars on our own belief that we are all not good enough as we are. Thankfully, we have advocates like Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch who paved the way to change this way of thinking by gifting us with the principles and practice of intuitive eating.

This issue cannot be addressed in one post. It is not enough to cover this topic with one voice. It is worth the effort to call bullshit on this industry and this societal mindset with as many advocates and resources as we possibly can.

Please join me on this journey to heal ourselves from this culture of self-loathing. With each upcoming post I will address beliefs we must begin to overcome together. We need to change the narrative. We need to shift our perspective and begin to see ourselves and each other much more clearly. We need to live more truthfully, choose to live with compassion and embrace our BEST selves once and for all.

A Few Thoughts on Nourishment

It’s time for us all to let go of the idea of low calorie diets and begin to understand what it means to truly nourish ourselves.

Consuming natural, whole food sources that provide lean protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats for our bodies to run efficiently is the best place to start. Clean, unprocessed foods will fill us up faster and give us what we need to feel and be balanced.

Does that mean we have to stop enjoying food from now on? No. In fact, it can be enjoyable to eat clean, natural foods, we just have to try it consistently enough to develop the habit.

Does that mean we NEVER indulge and we give up alcohol forever and ONLY eat and drink natural food sources? No. Straying that far away from whatever you enjoy now will not be realistic nor sustainable.

Does that mean we TRY to make healthy food choices at LEAST 80-90% of the time and make a consistent effort to limit our indulgences to only 10% of the time? Absolutely!

Start with whatever you typically eat and drink now and then make adjustments from there. Be aware of what you enjoy, why you enjoy it and who or where you happen to be when you do. Then you can identify when indulgence becomes more than that 10-20% of your daily, weekly and monthly habits and you can start opting some of them out for healthy alternatives.

Once we see how food can nourish us and we choose to do so 90% of the time (especially combined with muscle-building physical activity) calories no longer become the issue or a concern.

~V~

Darn This Sweet Tooth!

As my schedule continues to change and I fill my days and weeks with more and more activities, I find that I’m making less time for things that I still truly enjoy.  One of which was keeping my house clean and in order but I’ll keep working on that.  The other is writing this blog which I am so passionate about but can take hours out of any day.  Since I’m naturally long-winded I’m going to start focusing on one simple swap or adjustment that either continues to work for me or something new I’m willing to try and maybe we can work on one new change at a time together.

Darn this sweet tooth!

This week is going to be all about keeping this sweet tooth of mine in check.  I’ve said it over and over that I’m no fan of deprivation.  I just don’t believe in cutting out an indulgence because for me that often means a binge of said sweetness whenever my willpower is a little on the weaker side.  I’m much more of a fan of making the best choices possible 80% of the time and allowing a bite or two of something here and there.  But after the last several months I went way past “here and there” in the sweet department and now am having to readjust my habits, again.

sweets

So my quick adjustment for as long as I need to break that sweet tooth habit is to flank each desired indulgence with as many fruits as possible.  The natural (water-based) source of sweet combined with the added benefits of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and fiber will gradually train my body to be satisfied with the good stuff and eventually crave it more.  It has worked for me before and it’s starting to work for me again now.  I’m armed with pieces of fruit at home, at the office and anywhere I go and if I see a piece of chocolate I really want to try or a cookie that I decide I don’t want to pass up before it goes the fruit and then after as well.  I do this with my meals, too.  It’s already starting to help adjust my cravings and I’m feeling much more in control which feels like such a relief after these last several months.

It’s my opinion that you can never have too many fruits–or vegetables, for that matter.  It’s true that it would be taking in extra calories and sugar to eat fruit before and after everything else or even if you weren’t really hungry but compared to the alternative, I’m willing to take in that excess.  Mostly because I’m trying to create a good habit which can’t be done by eliminating foods that we crave.  I find my body responds much better by developing a new craving for a more nutritious option than to just cut out something it’s used to with no alternative for satisfaction.

If you have the same tendency as I do towards sweets try this tip out and let me know what you think!  It takes at least a couple of weeks to create a new habit so stick with it and stay consistent and maybe we’ll revisit this one again next month.  Cheers to healthy living!

Love,

V

Commit with Awareness and Keep it Simple

Commit with Awareness and Keep it Simple

When we take a look at all of the different programs available on the market for healthy living, it can be seriously overwhelming.  There are so many different theories, some of which are contradictory, and with all of the promises out there, how do you know which methods to follow?  In my personal experience, the only techniques that really work are those that are simple and continue to keep the momentum slow and steady and therefore encourage long-term changes.

Most of the tips out there we’ve all heard before, especially if you follow this blog, but reminding ourselves of some of these really basic ideas will help it actually click for us one day.  It’s worth it to consistently surround yourself with motivating resources that encourage health and wellness because one day, you will be ready to make that change, and it will truly register for you once and for all.  Remember, we’re in this for life!  The only tips I’m willing to follow myself are realistic enough to at least try and maybe, one day, become a regular habit.  Join me in some of the commitments below and see which ones work best for you if not all of them.  This is your journey.  Explore every bit of it that you can.

I’m committed to making a change.  This sounds like I’m stating the obvious, right?  Well, not really.  Not when I still talk with people who say they want to make a change or live better or feel better or make better choices but they don’t.  Here’s the thing, whatever excuses we come up with, that’s all they are—excuses.  People make time to do what they really care about doing.  Whatever it is, what they invest their time in is their choice.  When you’re ready to make a change, you will, and with awareness you can start altering your lifestyle in the way that works best for you.

I commit to not eat anything after 7pm.  This is certainly easier on some days more than others and it also has to do with my particular schedule.  For the most part, we’re up around 6am every day (if not earlier) and in bed by 930pm so this works for me on nights we don’t go out.  There’s something about the way I personally eat or snack after this time of day.  By trying this simple tweak to my daily habits I found that any eating I did after this hour was more out of boredom or habit because this is when my husband and I typically wind down from the day together and just hang out on the couch.  Commit to learning your own habits and figure out what needs to be tweaked so you can start cutting out the mindless eating we all tend to do from time to time.

I commit to (at least) taking a 30 minute walk every day.  This is an easy one to tailor to your own lifestyle.  Simply put, if you’re currently sedentary, the least you could do is take 30 minutes off of the couch and go for a brisk easy walk outside or do a 30 minute workout video inside.  If you’re moderately active, try an hour-long class somewhere and try something new until you find something you love and will keep doing.  Take small, simple, easy steps to make physical activity a regular part of your lifestyle and your body will eventually begin to crave it.  Push too hard and you may end up quitting before it becomes a true habit.  Go too easy on yourself and you may not feel the benefits enough to be motivated to keep going.  Find the balance of what you can do and what you need to do to make exercise in one form or another part of your daily life.

I commit to drinking a glass of water before every meal or snack.  This is so important for everyone who still has to drink a glass of something other than water when feeling thirsty.  Here’s what helped me—feeling thirsty is your body’s way of telling you that you need hydration.  The only thing that truly satisfies that is water.  So out of the desire to not dehydrate myself, I began to drink water anytime I felt thirsty and the more I did the more it was all I craved.  Drinking anything else when you’re not regularly hydrated just adds more calories, sugars or artificial junk that your body doesn’t truly need at all, ever.  Don’t even worry about how much you drink for now.  Just start drinking before you eat anything and your habits will begin to change over time.  This tip is an easy one to incorporate and the benefits really are endless.

Keep your focus steady and make your changes simple.  Don’t worry about the big, end results—you’re not working towards a goal here so much as you are improving your journey towards healthy living.  If you are focused on a big payout, an end result that’s going to suddenly be the end-all be-all of your current life and create your happily-ever-after, I would rethink your expectations.  What often happens with that mindset is more of a yo-yo effect:  super-charged up and ready to push hard and motivated by the “I’ll be happy when…” mentality and when you don’t reach your goal or you hit your plateau, you’re back to where you started and your old habits are current again.  Give yourself a chance to succeed and make these commitments now because you deserve it.  You always have.

Love,

V

Slow Down and Enjoy Life

Slow Down and Enjoy Life

Greetings, all!  I’m so happy to be back on this journey of health and wellness and I thank you for joining me.  After taking a month or so off of HLbyV, I realize that writing this blog really does keep my own habits in check and I’m so excited to find my focus with you again.  Now that we’ve all settled back into our daily routine, many of us are also trying out new approaches to reach new goals.  As I struggle to find time to evaluate my own aspirations and new methods to reach them, it occurs to me that in order to be successful, the pace at which we go about our everyday life is a huge factor.

Here’s the thing—we pretty much already have the tools we need to make significant changes towards a healthy lifestyle.  We know what we’re supposed to do and we certainly know the basic factors that can help us be successful—so what’s holding us back?  I would say that for many of us, our busy lifestyles allow for our days to get away from us and we continue to go, go, go through the motions without appreciating or being mindful of the present.  As a result, we make the excuse that we don’t have time for healthy habits or we continue to act as though we don’t know any better.  If we don’t slow down and learn to make mindful decisions we are guaranteed that our current state of physical, mental and emotional health will remain just as it is.

To start, our nutritional habits are something we can all focus on right away.  Every day and every time we eat, we have the opportunity to choose mindfully and eat much more slowly than we do and it could make all the difference in our overall lifestyle.  Too many of us let convenience and time constraints dictate the way we choose our snacks and meals as well as how fast we consume them.  Unfortunately, we’ve become a society that prefers quick and easy over quality and nutritional value and very few can appreciate a meal long enough to have it last more than 15 – 20 minutes.  Eating habits like these easily set us up for an unhealthy foundation on which to build upon anything else we want to achieve.

Start the process of satisfying your hunger by first being more thoughtful of your choices and prepare your meals and snacks in advance.  In our house, grocery shopping includes plenty of fresh produce, various sources of whole grain and lean protein but we also plan for meals I can make in larger quantities on the weekend so they last us throughout the week.  This helps us prepare for several days of healthy eating even when we’re on the go or too tired to prepare something new.

Secondly, when you do take time to eat, also take time to enjoy it!  For those of us (myself included!) who tend to eat while working, cleaning, or standing in general so as to move on quickly to the next to-do, we lose so much of the wonderful experience of eating good quality food.  Junk food is meant to be eaten quickly because there simply is no substance to truly taste or enjoy, so when you learn to choose food worth savoring learn to really look, smell and taste each bite and chew it slowly.  Taking the time to slow down and really develop these habits while nourishing your body will create a new appreciation for good nutrition and what it can do for us.  Soon your newfound awareness will show you that your body, mind and spirit really do reflect the quality of your choices.

Here’s to healthy eating!

Love,

V

Bring On the Holidays!

Bring On the Holidays!

We’re only a few weeks away from the Season of Eating and I’m beginning to hear the rumblings of those who already expect it to be a period of defeat!  As if our only option has been and always will be to succumb to the obligatory pressures of holiday parties and an overabundance of rich and decadent foods and libations which only result in one thing in regards to our healthy habits—FAILURE.  To translate this mentality, we work hard all year only to undo every bit of it for about 2-3 months and then start over again in the New Year.  I’m here to challenge all of us to turn this entire frame of mind around starting right now.  We have the opportunity to not only accomplish more than we ever have during this period of JOY but more importantly to set the stage for better habits in the future and even all year-long.

Now, before you stop reading don’t get me wrong.  I’m certainly not against the celebrations that accompany this beautiful time of year which we all know is really about Love, Generosity, Gratitude, Peace and Hope.  In fact, I encourage you to celebrate as much and as often as you can!  I’m simply not an advocate for deprivation and especially not so during the holidays when participation of (some) events is part of the joy that we share with one another.  My challenge for all of us (myself included!) is to incorporate the tips below to add to the festivities we choose to participate in from now and throughout the New Year celebrations.  This is such a special time for all of us for our own reasons, values and beliefs and I encourage, support and celebrate them all with you.  Let’s enjoy these next several weeks together and really get into the spirit of love and living well, for ourselves and each other.

Tip#1:  Avoid the NYR cycle and start a new fitness regimen now!  Don’t make the mistake of waiting for the New Year to set goals or begin a new activity, join a new gym, studio etc., etc.  Here’s what happens when you do:  If this is suddenly (or is typically) your New Year’s Resolution, you’re probably motivated by the guilt of whatever you did to yourself over the previous two months and are probably even carrying excess weight that you didn’t have on you before the holidays started.  These two factors already set yourself up for a more difficult time to make any progress and it will take you much longer to see any results.  Also, the NYR craze is the reason that the busiest time of year for any gym or studio is the first three months.  As a result, while you’re “trying” to develop new exercise habits for yourself, so is everyone else and now you also have to work around a crowded class or facility while probably feeling self-conscious about anyone noticing you.  Soon after you start your new routine, you begin to make one excuse after another to avoid the large groups of people and because you aren’t making the kind of progress you initially hoped for your resolution is suddenly in the past until it comes around again next January.  Am I right???

End the cycle now and commit to trying something new before the holidays instead of after.  First of all, you know full well to expect plenty of festivities so what better way to balance it out than to start an exercise regimen that helps to expend the additional intake?  Secondly, this is your BEST opportunity to develop new habits rather than trying to do so in the New Year when you’re typically trying to get back into your old routine.  We know these next several weeks will only uproot our usual weekly and weekend schedules.  Developing a new habit of physical activity now will not only help you manage the stress of the holidays, it will also be an easier adjustment because nothing will be a set routine for the next two months!  What better way to get your body used to something NEW that will help you feel better and help you manage all those extra calories we ALL want to enjoy???

Below are some of the best local spots in town to check out now or research new classes in your own area.  My challenge to you is to join me in trying at least one new fitness class at as many locations as possible before the end of this month AND (especially if you don’t go with a friend) commit to introducing yourself to as many people as you can including the instructor.  Ask questions and listen to testimonials.  Find out who loves it there and why!  I would be surprised if you didn’t get hooked on something new and it’s always so much easier and much more fun to get moving in a group where friendships develop which can be a great source of encouragement and accountability.

Tip#2: Turn every errand and casual get together into an opportunity to move!  Shopping for party supplies, heading to the grocery store, shopping for gifts at the mall or even meeting a friend for lunch—put on your walking shoes and wear clothes you can move in to find simple ways to burn a few extra calories.  I personally love to dress up and look cute whenever I can but it’s the holidays!  We have PLENTY of opportunities to dress up even if it means calling a friend to meet for dinner at a fancy new restaurant later in the evening.  I challenge you to make activities during the day part of your fat-burning schedule, whether you get an actual workout in or not!  It never hurts our bodies to move, that’s what they’re meant to do, so bring a friend to stay motivated and park in a safe place but as far away as you can, opt for stairs whenever possible and consider walking the perimeter of the entire shopping center, mall or store at a brisk pace before you begin to stop and actually shop—consider it window-shopping the sales before you commit to the buy and have fun getting that heart rate up!

Tip#3: Indulge mindfully.  Don’t over think things this year.  Learn to follow your instincts and if something beautiful and decadent calls you to try it, do so!  But I challenge you to keep the following in mind when you do.  You’ll never have to deprive yourself of anything and you’ll keep that extra fat and those empty calories in check.

1.    Only indulge in late-night eating and special holiday treats during social gatherings, parties and festivities.  The pressure is too great when you’re hosting get-togethers or out with friends and family.  Allow yourself that time to join in but when you’re at home on a regular night, commit to avoid those extra goodies and stop eating anything by 7pm.  This is something I’ve started doing recently and I’ve already noticed a difference in how I feel in the morning and overall.  You’ll have plenty of opportunities to indulge these next two months and many of them will last well into the night.  Save those extra calories for when you have a good excuse to really enjoy them!

2.    When you do choose to indulge, commit to eating no more than half a serving and then put it down.  Again, you’re going to have PLENTY of opportunities to treat yourself.  Think of how many options you’re going to be presented with at every gathering!  I don’t plan on saying “no” to anything that I’m really interested in trying myself, so let’s commit to keeping the quantity of our excess in check.  I challenge you to plan ahead and see if anyone is willing to split something with you or simply take half portions of everything.  Additionally, always wait at least 30-45 minutes after your last bite before going back for seconds of anything except for water.  Again, you’re not denying yourself anything so you shouldn’t feel deprived.  In fact, you’ll have a better chance of enjoying your night because you shouldn’t feel overly full which is absolutely unnecessary and quite unpleasant.

3.    Get an extra workout in the day after a night out.  This tip speaks for itself.  Don’t let the previous day’s extra calories just sit there.  I challenge you to commit to taking a class, workout using a video or at the very least go for a walk in your neighborhood.  You’ll certainly feel better physically and I guarantee you’ll feel better about yourself overall.

I’m so excited about this holiday season because of my new journey to help others incorporate the joys of healthy living.  The opportunities we have to celebrate are endless if we choose to embrace them and that’s what I hope to inspire.  If there’s anything the holidays can encourage us to do, it’s to learn to live with gratitude and I’m here to continue to motivate us all along the way.  I hope you’ll join me.

Love,

V