When it comes to food and fitness, my philosophy is pretty simple: try to be healthy most of the time. It sounds ridiculously basic, but the truth is, I think being so restrictive and strict with diet and exercise is frankly no fun at all. I believe that part of having a good relationship with food and fitness is understanding and accepting that some times, you are going to eat your weight in cookies (read: the entire month of December) and sometimes you are going to be mega-dedicated. I started and stopped weight loss efforts so many time because I thought I had to be perfect to be healthy. As soon as I stumbled over anything, I thought all my hard work was for naught and down the drain my motivation went. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Now I understand that kale, birthday cake, rest days, flax seeds, strenuous hikes and good beer can all be healthy. It’s just a matter of how you frame those things in your mind’s eye.
Emotional eating isn’t bad, emotional overeating is. I think there is nothing wrong with letting your emotions dictate your food choices. On a cold fall day, I want a bowl of chili. On a hot summer day, I was a refreshing salad from my garden. After a crappy day at work, I want comfort food like mac and cheese. I don’t think that’s a problem. I think the problem comes when the crappy day at work results in eating an entire pan of mac and cheese.
Everything in moderation, including moderation. The first part of this phrase has been uttered a million times, but frequently the second half gets left off and I think it’s the most important. Sometimes it’s okay to not got to the gym for a week. Sometimes it’s okay to go to the gym twice a day for a week. Sometimes it’s okay to eat every piece of chocolate in sight, sometimes it’s okay to eat nothing but kale. The key is, that most of the time, your lifestyle falls somewhere between those opposites.
There are no bad foods, only foods to limit. There are some nasty little food-like substances out there (high fructose corn syrup comes to mind), but I think the key to a realistic relationship with food is accepting that those items should be limited, not turned into scapegoats. I really love Mountain Dew. Sure, I know the stuff in it isn’t the best food for my body, but it makes me happy, so I have one every other month or so. I believe it’s the sum of my choices that matter. Six or eight artificially colored, artificially flavored sodas a year are not going to cancel out the hundreds of other healthy choices I make. I think life is too short to avoid something that makes you happy, even if it isn’t the best for you.
Find something that you love to do that also makes you sweat. I love to go on strenuous hikes with my dog and husband. I love to go on walks. I love to swing kettlebells around. Just because everyone else is running or doing triathlons or taking Zumba or doing upside-down-basket-weaving, it doesn’t mean I have to. Figure out what you love. If you don’t, you will never stick to a fitness routine.
Real food always trumps fake food. In the past few decades, real foods got some really bad press. Stay away from butter because of the fat. Don’t eat wheat because of the carbs. Sugar has lots of calories, use artificial sweeteners instead. I don’t subscribe to these thoughts. I would always rather have a small amount of real food (with recognizable ingredients) than a large amount of fake food. I try to eat foods my great-grandmother would recognize most of the time. She would have no idea what margarine, aspartame or low-carb bread was. Innovation isn’t always a good thing.