By Julie Bream of Peanut Butter Fingers (JL2726)
We live in a world where the latest way to lose five pounds changes every 1.5 seconds. When I was growing up, everyone was all about eating low-fat or fat-free foods. When I entered college, the low-carb craze was in full swing.
I can remember the week I tried living on a diet fueled by meat and cheese and very little carbs. I was living in my sorority house at the time and was surrounded by women who were constantly talking about feeling fat or feeling guilty after indulging in a brownie. I read a lot about the low-carb diets and followed the intro phase, which limited my daily carbohydrate consumption to 20 grams.
After a week of feeling lethargic and defeated, I told my then-boyfriend that I'd rather have a little extra "me" to love, rather than feel the way I did while trying to maintain a low-carb lifestyle.
Sure low-carb living works for many, but I found my greatest success and happiness in living a life fueled by a variety of healthy foods, rich in vitamins, nutrients and, yes, even carbs.
When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2008, I began reading a lot about the importance of a healthy diet in cancer prevention. It was then that I truly began eating for my health, rather than eating to maintain or lose weight.
My mom's diagnosis was a bit of a wake-up call for me. I realized that my body doesn't care how thin I am. My body functions best on a healthy diet, rich in fresh produce, whole grains and healthy fats.
When I began incorporating vitamin-rich foods into my daily diet, something unexpected happened. My new healthy lifestyle was not only helping my body better fight sickness and disease, but I began to feel more energized. I actually dropped a few pounds when I stopped eating packaged frozen “healthy meals" and avoiding carb-heavy foods.
That's right: Eating foods rich in whole grains, like whole wheat pasta, honey wheat bread, barley, and oatmeal in place of Lean Cuisines and Lean Pockets did not cause me to gain weight. Welcoming colorful vegetables and flavorful nut butters into my meals left me feeling satisfied and alive!
When I re-prioritized my eating from eating for my weight to eating for my health, I wanted to fuel my body with real, nutrient-rich food and feel happy eating all different kinds of foods… including carbs and fats! Feeling like I couldn't eat carbohydrates only made me want them even more. To me, when something becomes off-limits, my desire for the "forbidden fruit" only increases.
No food should be completely off limits. Sure, some foods should be reserved for a special treat every now and then, but banished forever? Nah.
For me, the biggest part about living a healthy lifestyle is recognizing that healthy living is not black and white. Striving to be “mostly healthy” is a great goal. Balance your indulgences by fueling your life with healthy food and fitness most of the time, but understand that treats are part of living a healthy life. Be sure to take time to relax and enjoy an ice cream cone every once in a while!
Julie maintains the healthy-living and fitness blog Peanut Butter Fingers, which follows her daily life, fueled by healthy foods and an active lifestyle. A full-time writer and editor, Julie strives to balance a 40-hour work-week with daily workouts, creating healthy home-cooked meals and planning her wedding.
Do you focus on health or weight? At what point in your journey did you notice the shift?
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