Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Fresh Take: A balanced diet

**Please note that these are not things that I have mastered completely, however, when I practice these simple tips and tricks the rewards are endless!  You should always seek to improve your life, even when it seems like you've already got it figured out.**

We all strive for wellness in our mental and spiritual beings--everyone wants to feel happy, to feel at peace, to feel whole.  Yet so many of us lack wellness in our physical beings, even when we think we're being sensible.  I believe that what we are lacking is balance.

As a mother of 3, I've had to deal with weight management a lot over the past few years.  Not only have I had to manage my weight during pregnancy, but I've also had to stay on top of it during nursing and beyond.  Sometimes I have to work on losing weight, sometimes I have to work on keeping it steady, and occasionally (when I'm really active!) I have to work hard to put weight on without eating junk in order to do so.  In any event, it's been a challenge and I'm learning a lot, to say the least.  What's the number one rule that I follow?  BALANCE!

Most people who have gone through periods of significant weight loss will tell you this--it's actually pretty easy to lose the weight.  It may take time, but when you significantly cut back on calories and you up your level of activity, the weight will come off.  What they will also tell you, though, is that the flip side to this is that it's just as easy to put the weight back on.  So how do you manage?  With balance...and a little patience.  Cutting back your calories is fine (and necessary), but when you do this to an extreme extent, you may be setting yourself up for a relapse.  I've found that when I need to lose weight, the best way I can go about it is to set long-term goals for myself.  In other words, don't just cut back on calories and "junk" until your goal weight is reached; cut back on calories and "junk" for good!  Make it a way of life, not a quick fix.

The next aspect of this is healthy eating.  Boy, this sure has become a trend in our country, hasn't it?!  And that's good...I'd rather see healthy eating be trendy over smoking or drinking.  But in spite of our best efforts to eat healthfully, I think a lot of people are missing the point.  Every time I flip a page in a magazine, it seems like there is some new food being deemed a "super food."  The truth is, most foods that comes straight out of nature are super foods (meaning that they pack a significant amount of 2 or more essential nutrients).  Loading up on a single fruit or vegetable...or grain, or nut, that it becomes a cornerstone in your diet is not necessary.  Eating a BALANCE of these foods IS!  And this doesn't just apply to your full month, week, or day; it should apply to each meal.  Remember, you can have too much of a good thing.

With so many food allergies becoming, well, trendy, I've been questioning their legitimacy a lot lately.  That doesn't mean that I don't think that a person can't be allergic to milk or wheat or any of a number of other foods.  I just mean that I feel like the first step a person should take in trying to troubleshoot their own health problems is to practice balance.  For example, if you notice that you seem to be getting stomach problems after eating wheat based foods, start taking note of things such as the quantity you're consuming, what foods you are consuming with the wheat, what type of problem it's creating, and how long after you eat it it becomes problematic.  You may just discover that you are eating too large of a bowl of cereal or that you need to eat bread less frequently throughout your day or that you just need to eat much smaller portions spread out evenly throughout the day or that you need to add a little variety to your grain intake and to try eating popcorn and oatmeal and rice and barley in addition.  This type of study of our own diets should apply to all of the foods we eat.

The last action I'd like us all to consider taking is to eat a balanced diet in accordance with God's green earth :)  What do I mean?  The largest portion of your diet should probably be the foods that are the most easily accessible through nature (not through fast food).  So grains and greens (in variety!) would be the base of what we consume, followed with other fruits and veggies and some of the more accessible nuts, followed by easily accessible animal foods like milk and eggs, followed by harder to access foods like meats and other nuts, topped off with fats and sugars (cooking oil, salad dressings, a sprinkle of sugar or drizzle of honey in our tea, etc)...your basic food pyramid, but I like to take a more common sense approach to this.

To summarize:
1) Cut back calories...only to what's truly essential for a balanced life.  Cut down on portion sizes and cut back on foods that you're probably already getting enough of.  Weight loss should follow if you do it right.
2) Eat healthy foods, but eat the right balance of healthy foods.  This is going to be different for different people depending on lifestyle.
3) Troubleshoot.  If a seemingly healthy food seems to be giving you problems, try eating it in different proportions within your diet before eliminating it entirely.  Too much of a good thing is typically a bad thing.
4) Use common sense when balancing your diet...if it would take days to prepare your meal if you had to do it from scratch with your own bare hands (like if you were hunting and gathering), you're probably eating too much of something unhealthy.
5) Eat like a toddler.  No, I don't mean PB&J and mac&cheese, but simple foods...whole fruits and veggies, cheese and crackers, unflavored milk, small amounts of juice, etc.  The key is to keep it plain and simple.  (This was a new point.)

When seeking health advice from your doctor, remember that your doctor is a smart person, but he/she is probably most knowledgeable on subjects that have general appeal--they don't know everything!  And sadly, most of their patients only want to be treated and not offered advice on ways to better their lives, so their advice typically caters to the lazy masses...if you don't feel comfortable with a diagnosis or a solution, speak up, seek a second opinion, and pray.

Also, eating the healthiest diet in the world won't do you any good unless you're active.  This doesn't just mean hitting the gym, either.  Try changing some of your chores to a more manual method; hang your laundry outside, do your dishes by hand, cook your own food, walk to the stores that are close enough, or make multiple trips up and down the stairs for a simple task.  If you sit at a desk most of your day, get up and go for a walk!!!

If you want to live a more balanced life, try to remember that you need to balance mind, body, and spirit, not just one or the other.  One of the easiest ways to start is by living a balanced physical life--your mind and spirit will follow shortly thereafter.

This has been your Sunday Fresh Food Take.

God bless,

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