by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Want to rev up your fitness routine? How about feel better today and live a longer, healthier life? You are what you eat …
It’s the time of year when people make attempts at healthier living. For some, weight loss is the goal. For others, it’s simply the desire to benefit from healthier eating and activities. Regardless of the motive, a nutrient-rich diet is essential for success.
Consider your physical being as a vehicle. Without proper fuel, functioning is minimal, lacking efficiency and power. Fill it with super foods and reap the rewards throughout your day, including with your exercise program. Take note of what you eat and how you perform. One fitness session should prove the point.
A Zumba™ class after a highly sugared protein bar easily can have you dragging halfway through the class. As blood sugar levels off and drops, so does the body’s stamina. You may find you cannot finish the class. Worse, you may sloppily trudge through and pull a muscle or otherwise injure yourself.
This non-motivating experience might leave you reluctant to return to the “crazy class that wore you out like an old rug.” Hopefully, the blame correctly will be placed on the sugary bar and all can be set right again in your world of fitness goals. Repeat the same class after a snack high in protein with carbs, and low in sugar. Your performance should significantly improve.
Exercise is an essential element to every weight loss program, so maximizing results is critical. Good nutrition helps achieve this. Once a healthy weight is reached, exercise becomes even more productive. Calories are burned more efficiently, including when at rest, and results are obtained with less effort. A healthier diet also works with exercise to improve sleep quality, which in itself increases stamina for endurance training or simply trying to get through busy days.
A Powerful Combo
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Healthy eating allows you to better accomplish this. Together, they work in unison to help prevent everything from colds to fatal health conditions. Complement your workout with food. If diabetes runs in your family, focus on maintaining a healthy weight and a diet low in sugar. If you are genetically predisposed to heart disease, focus on heart-healthy foods and a workout that improves cardio endurance.
The National Cancer Institute states obesity is directly related to a poor diet and lack of exercise. It is responsible for 14 percent of cancer deaths in men and 20 percent of cancer deaths in women. That should help you cut down on carbs and fatty meats! Proper nutrition and exercise are needed to help prevent diseases like cancer, and improve outcomes when battling them.
Healthy food improves the immune system, decreases risk of infection, helps rebuild body tissue, and improves overall strength and stamina. A personal trainer and nutritionist can provide a healthy lifestyle plan customized to your specific needs. Share health history and nurse evaluation records to help create your ideal workout and meal plan.
Focus on the Haves
Simply put in those trendy philosophical posts: It’s not about having what you want, but wanting what you have.
Who doesn’t want a chocolate chip cookie! Be honest. Okay, now refocus your cravings. Marvel at the deliciousness of fresh fruit. Its tangy or sweet flavor, the quenching juice, the boost of vitamins and natural sugars. Wishing for ice cream? Enjoy fruit mixed with the creaminess of unflavored yogurt. Want what is good.
Crunch on fresh veggies. They aren’t potato chips. But, they are loaded with nutrients and natural flavors. Enhance with a healthy dip. Find new ways to want what you can have rather than sneak in crumbs of what you shouldn’t have. You may never drool over a vegetable platter, but you can look forward to it and the benefits it offers.
If weight loss isn’t your main motive for healthy eating, enjoy something like veggie pesto spread on whole-grain bread. Load up a baked potato with veggie toppings and cheese. Pile on the freshness. Some mistake eating healthy for a low-cal diet. Those already of healthy weight, or athletes trying to increase their weight, do not need to focus on low-calorie choices. The focus should be on nutrient-packed calories in appropriate quantities.
Dieting is associated with being deprived. Redirect your focus on being fulfilled, but in healthy ways. Most diets fail. The dieter becomes fixated on all s/he is denied. One hungry day or stress attack leads to an empty bag of junk food. Learn to love what you can (should) have. It may be an acquired taste. Before long, the siren of pomegranates, avocados, and kale will be calling your name.
Don’t eliminate entire food groups. They work in unison to deliver different nutrients needed for optimum health. Going without carbs, sugar, or dairy also can be an insurmountable goal. Strict elimination diets are hard to follow short-term when trying to determine food intolerances. Following them to shed pounds is not even as motivating. As with all things in life: You always want what you cannot have. Have what you want, but choose to make your wants healthy. (Challenge yourself!)
Guidelines to Follow
- Aim to eat 2.5 to 6.5 cups of fruit and vegetables daily, as per USDA guidelines. This food group is key to preventing chronic diseases.
- Adults should try to consume 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily. Fiber aids digestion, may reduce risk of coronary artery disease, and helps satisfy hunger for longer.
- Eat when you are hungry. Some suggest snacks at regular intervals throughout the day. This is helpful in maintaining proper blood sugar levels. However, follow common sense. If you are not hungry, do not eat– even if it is a plateful of tofu with diced veggies.
- Fast food and conveniently pre-packed entrees seem a necessary evil in the modern world. There are times when consumption is unavoidable– the begged-for Happy Meal, the overbooked evening with no meal plans, and the team’s celebratory pizza party. Go for it, with awareness. Processed food accounts for about 77 percent of the sodium in the United States food supply. Often, it also contains trans fats. “Cleanse” your system the next day by enjoying mostly low-sodium, nutrient-dense foods.
- Eat for a better mood. A recent study revealed a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids was associated with depression. Obesity and depression are also linked. Certain foods may affect symptoms connected with ADHD, autism, and other mental health conditions. Although studies are mixed, experts confirm food that is good for the brain, is beneficial to mental health. Focus on a diet that maintains a healthy weight and supports a maximized immune system. Your body and mind will be energized and happier.
- Choose foods you enjoy. You can’t make a lifelong commitment to eat healthier if you fill your diet with foods that offend your taste buds. Spinach is only good for you if you actually eat it, not simply store it in your fridge. There are so many options available– a rainbow array of fruits, veggies, grains, and proteins. Experiment. Make old favorites healthier by tweaking recipes. Learn to eat better for life, not only until marathon training is finished.
For improved quality-of-life, which includes maintaining your ideal weight, work to enjoy proper nutrition. With a nutritious diet, fitness comes easier and so do the results. Food doesn’t have to be your ultimate craving satisfier. Eating should give pleasure while energizing you to better enjoy all aspects of life. Don’t be overwhelmed by hype on every nutritional trend and news release. Experiment your way to healthier eating, one forkful at a time.
“10 Facts for Healthy Eating,” by Jennifer King at www.livestrong.com.
“Cancer Statistics with Healthy and Unhealthy Eating,” by Richard Nilsen at www.livestrong.com.
“Depression and Diet” at www.webmd.com.
Diet & Nutrition (various articles) at www.livestrong.com.
Fruit and veggie carving: http://www.flickr.com/photos/clayirving/2190801546/
Timed workout: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jontunnell/4417899772/
Pasta with veggies: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindonfire/4966674248/