Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Essentials for a Healthier You

This week a co-worker came into my office and asked me if I could write down a few tips for a friend about how to be healthier. I have gotten this type of question before. I find it a very hard to answer. I know what has made me healthier but I am by no means a health expert. I am not well versed on the science of nutrition, and I am not sure that I want to be.

My passion is not about educating people about what to eat and how to exersize. Rather my passion is to help others to accept and love their bodies so that healthy behaviors become easy and joyful. If we want to be our healthiest selves inside and out unconditional self-love is essential. 

Therefore my #1 answers to the question, how to be healthier has nothing to do with what foods you eat. Rather how you feel about yourself and your body. You must love yourself without condition first, before you will ever be successful at permanently incorporating healthy behaviors into your life.

That being said there are some basic guidelines around food, eating and movement that I believe are essentials to becoming healthier. Today I share those with you.

• Eat Whole Foods
If you do one thing, do this. Our bodies are meant to eat food, real food. Real foods are found around the perimeter of the grocery store in the dairy, meat and produce sections. The processed food in the middle is loaded with additives, corn and sugar. I don’t look at the calories or fat on food labels ever anymore. I simply check the ingredients. If they are a whole paragraph, I’m putting the box down. Can I actually buy the ingredients listed on the label in the grocery store? If not, it’s not real food. Beware the products marketed as healthy can be worst offenders.
Last Nights Edible Art!

• Your Plate Should Look Pretty I have been known to take pictures of my meals sometimes because I am struck by their beauty. Colorful, vibrant food is healthier (and I’m not talking about skittles taste your rainbow). Brown/Beige is very popular in the typical American diet. Try making your meal look prettier and it will be healthier.

• Eat Your Veggies
Sorry to say…it does matter. Mom was right. You need carbs right….get them from the good stuff…vegetables. I didn’t used to believe it, but I now believe balanced nutrition effects how we look, how we feel and how we behave. P.S. corn is not a vegetable it’s a grain.

• Accept that grains and sugar are like drugs
Not all food is addictive…no one is hiding broccoli from their kids. Grains (bread, cereal, pasta, rice) and Sugar are. We crave them and once we get some, it just sets us up our next fix. Sadly the nutritional content of these compelling foods is minimal and some schools of thought will tell you eating them is causes all sorts of bad stuff in our body. The truth is to be healthier we should be limiting these or removing them all together. Sadly many of our diets have more grains and sugar than anything else…no bueno! I don’t eat them because I believe it is to my detriment both physically as well as emotionally. Removing them is my abstinence as a food is without a doubt my drug of choice.

• Question Conventional Wisdom
Just because everyone says it’s healthy or not healthy (including people we are taught to trust like mom and the government) doesn’t mean it’s true. In fact I have come to believe that the more something is an apparently known fact, the more we should question it. Do your own research and be skeptical about information that comes from people who have something to sell.

Experiment with change
I have become a fan of 30 day trials. Want to see how sugar is affecting you? Remove it for 30days, not forever. See how you feel after 30days without it. If you feel more fabulous then ever, that might be a pretty good motivation to stick with it.


• Make Food Fuel First
Our culture focuses on the food as pleasure. Of course food is pleasurable, but its main purpose is nourishment for our bodies. Mentally shifting your motivation towards that instead of just your taste buds can make a huge difference.

• Eat with intention
Pay attention to your food. This especially important if you’re prone to overeating or emotional eating. Don’t eat in front of the TV or in the car. Savor the taste, the texture, think about what the food is giving you. When you start paying attention you may be surprised that what you really want or don’t want to eat has changed,

• Eat with joy
There is something called the 80/20 rule. So you want to nourish your body with healthy foods, but probably you won’t stick with this 100% of the time, nor should you. Food is to be enjoyed!! Consciously choosing what you eat, may sometimes involve cake. When it does….enjoy it!! Its not cheat meal it’s a pleasure meal!

• Listen to your bodies cues
I firmly believe your body knows what it needs. If you’re hungry eat, if your thirsty drink. We spend so much time trying to get outside people and programs to tell us what to do, when we have all the answers already.

• Don’t Diet
DIETS DON’T WORK. Deprivation can never be maintained long term. When you change the way you eat, realize you are choosing that change. You must find pleasure and fulfillment in the eating itself, not the reward you are hoping it will bring. Enjoying food that nourishes your body and your life should be the goal, not the means to it.

Make Exersize Fun
Exersize should not be a chore. It should be a vital part of our lives. The idea that the gym is where movement solely belongs is hogwash!! Get outside and walk, hike, run around with the kids or play a recreational sport. I am sorry to say the treadmill is probably not going to do it. Sure you feel good after you get off it…but do you get excited to get on it???

• Avoid monotony
Variety is the spice of life. Doing the same thing over and over and over again is no good. How many times can you do the same Tae Bo video or same routine at the gym? Forever? If fitness is to be a part of your life long term, it’s got to be interesting!

• Believe in Form Follows Function
If you want to be healthier, don’t exersize so that you can get there. Exersize and enjoy it for the sheer pleasure of giving your body movement. Focus on the movement you are doing in each moment. Focus on how your body moves rather than how it looks or how you hope it will look one day. The results will follow.

Cardio isn’t enough, lift something too
If all you do is cardio and stop today…its over. If you strength train and get stronger and stop today those muscles are still there. We need STRENGTH for so many things that we do in our lives. Fitness is about training for our lives, making everyday tasks easier. 45 mins of cardio might burn off some calories, but what else will it do? Lifting is extremely empowering for women….I highly recommend learning to use the free weights.

• Challenge yourself
In fitness intensity is your friend. If it’s easy, it’s boring (see make exersize fun above). When you accomplish something that was a challenge to your body, the sense of accomplishment is unparalleled. It’s good to work towards something as well. Seeing progress (gained through each moment) is priceless.

It’s a new year. Time to renew, to begin again. Start by accepting how marvelous you are in this very moment. Love every inch of your body so that you can begin to experience the joy that self-care can bring into your life. Its all about shifting how you think about yourself, your body, food, eating and fitness…luckily its true what they say SHIFT HAPPENS!

"We don't know all the answers. If we knew all the answers we'd be bored, wouldn't we? We keep looking, searching, trying to get more knowledge."  
-- Jack Lalanne
A blog to check out: Against the Grain

I acknowledge that we are all on our own paths. What works for me, may not work for you. However if your curious about my specific beliefs about food, eating and movement check out the links below.


The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sission and his blog

Books by Geneen Roth, especially Women, God & Food

Crossfit- Find an affiliate near you at

The key to my success is first and foremost my life’s purpose, the present moment. To learn more about that check out books by Eckhart Tolle, especially A New Earth.


AllieNic said...

This is an awesome post! I couldn't agree with you more about the connection between self-love, happiness and food. These are great, insightful health tips! Thanks so much for sharing!

meghan said...

It really is as *simple* as this, Stephanie! People get so caught up in the minutiae and a sense of deprivation (ie: OMG I could NEVER give up my morning bagel!) that they don't give their bodies a chance to truly enjoy being properly nourished. Brilliant post.

Anonymous said...

Great post Steph - I like the way you describe your philosophy on your big three for being healthy ( food, eating and movement) - it comes across as very intuitive.

Sam B.

Mike S said...

Steph, this covers a lot of important territory thoughtfully and succinctly. Well done!
-MIke S.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the positive feedback!!! Its good to remember we have the answers already if we just listen to our own bodies our own intuition!

Joyce Eisenberg said...

Great advice, Steph. Your blog is terrific week after week.