12/30/08

Resolution: Clean and healthy

I've been a mission to have a clean and healthy life for the past 5 years. Although I was in top shape in college, the 18-20 hours a week swimming (not counting meets) did not justify a diet full of carbs and cheese. As a vegetarian athlete and no education in nutrition, I lead a diet of pizza, pasta, cheese and bananas (I wasn't a big fan of veggies) in order to fuel 7000-8000 yard workouts on a daily basis.
However, in 2003 I started building a collection of nutrition books and for the next year I learned how to eat healthy. It wasn't until the next 4 years that I jumped into the world of sports nutrition and started learning how to be a healthy athlete (let alone a vegetarian athlete). I haven't once looked back at my days of Dr.pepper, french fries, cheese-smothered foods and lots of candy. Although my body may have looked fit on the outside from the age of 12 until 20, my insides were yucky and unhealthy.
In a quest for weight loss in 2009, many people strive for a better looking body. It's all about how you look on the outside...so you think.
However, the aesthetics for a tone, lean body appear to outweigh the benefits of longevity and a decrease risk for disease. In all seriousness, who really thinks about better eye health when eating carrots or a chance to not get the flu when eating a fruit medley? As much as we would like eat for health, the majority of weigh loss enthusiasts eat for calories.
You rarely hear people complain about their weight and associate it with healthy food. In almost every diet of a weight loss candidate, there are foods which are being consumed that are not healthy for the body. It isn't like a person would say "I really need to cut back on celery and carrots in the afternoon and that orange I eat in the evening". It is usually the mid-day snack or evening treat that instantly triggers a thought "if I could only stop eating that, I could lose weight".
For many people, calories are controlled and exercise is regular but there are treats and excuses here and there. Unfortunately, here and there treats do add up and it isn't that a certain food or snack should be avoided, it is that certain foods trigger bigger cravings and uncontrollable snacking.
As you set a resolution to lose weight, recognize that there are foods that you need to avoid eating for a while in order to control the blood sugar and to clean up the diet. That isn't to say that you can never have a piece of cake, a cookie, bowl of ice cream or a muffin again, but when you give yourself that ok to enjoy a little of something at the beginning of a new lifestyle of healthy eating (aka diet for most people) that little bit could potential affect how you eat tomorrow or the next day.
Rather than looking at numbers, specifically the scale, start to enjoy healthy eating. Avoid buying fat free, sugar free everything and start eating more natural and whole foods. A clean and healthy diet will involve food that needs a little attention. Be prepared that with a healthy and clean diet there also involves a little preparation, chopping and cooking.
Rather than looking at all the foods which you should avoid, take time to recognize the foods which you should be eating more often. Don't be afraid to eat more fruits and vegetables. It isn't like you can't have bread but add more variety and color to each meal. Don't forget low fat sources of protein and even if you aren't a vegetarian, don't be afraid to look for meat-free types of protein. A person can only eat so much before he/she gets full so if boxed, frozen, canned or fast food is minimized, there is more room for fresh food.
It is hard to think about your body in 30,40 or even 60 years but if you take control of your eating and fill your body with less processed food, you will instantly notice a more clean and healthy body.
Hopefully the new year will bring you lots of happiness and less stress and most of all, remember that you only have one body and it would be selfish of you to not give it the right fuel it deserves.
Happy eating!