Monday, January 11, 2016

Health Tips for 2016

There's an article making the rounds about chef Allen Campbell and the "cray cray" diet that Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady adhere to, but how crazy is it? In all honesty, if you're into health then it's far from lunacy. I totally understand how eating healthy seems difficult, but once you commit to your health, everything begins to fall into place. When I think of my own experience and from reading others, making changes towards health is a growing and evolving process. Yes we fuck up sometimes and are angry for smashing in that pistachio ice cream a few days ago, but everyday is an inch forward in the right direction.

When I was a teenager I used to roll with the cool kids in school, but I was deeply insecure. My girls called me babyface and on two occasions, the boys called me potbelly. It was painful, out loud and humiliating. I was tall and lanky with a little belly, which was a result from eating junk foods like pop tarts and growing up in a Salvadorian household. The more I ate the more hermosa I became. As I got older I started walking with mom before and after school. I slimmed out a little, but I hated my body.

me at 13 or 14

Fast forward to college and I lost weight my freshman year. I was financially responsible for my own food and although I still ate crap, I ate smaller portions so it lasted longer. Then I started dating an older man who wined and dined me. I plumped out and when I hit 160lbs, I thought fuck this shit. I started taking free dance classes at my university and started jogging outdoors. Post graduation I joined a gym and gradually increased my workouts from 2-3 times a week to everyday. A few years later I signed up for a free weight training session and my trainer talked about the health benefits of a vegan diet. A year later I went to Kenya and overwhelmed by all the meat and animals, I became pescatarian. As I developed healthier habits, the more weight I lost and the better I felt about me.

Only in the past few years have I become more mindful about my food choices. When I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes a few years back, I ate whatever I wanted within the pescatarian realm. It was only then that I started researching different approaches to health and the relationship between diet and disease. It's taken over a decade to get to where I am today, but I've never felt more confident and stronger in mind and body. So it's a journey and it can be challenging at times, but it's so worth it. So for those who have made health resolutions in 2016, here are some helpful starting tips:

1. Move your diet towards whole, real foods. Whole foods are as close to their natural state as possible and have not been tinkered with and stuffed into a branded box. Processed foods even the ones that claim to be - healthy, gluten-free, low-fat, sugar-free, no trans fat - are loaded with refined carbs, artificial shit and they contribute to inflammation and fat storage. If your like me, you hate to throw out food so I say finish up the process foods in your house and start replacing them with natural whole foods. So instead of low-fat granola, buy plain (unsweetened, slow cook) steel cut oats. Instead of deli cold-cut meats or imitation vegan meats for sandwiches, buy chicken breast and canned salmon or stir fry a batch of veggies like zucchini, mushrooms and peppers. Instead of fig newtons or health bars, snack on fruits, carrot nubs or nuts.

homemade salad - arugula, apples, tomatoes, smoked salmon & EVOO

2. Start reading food labels and familiarizing yourself with garbage ingredients. Some packaged foods are okay like tomato pastes and nut butters, but I like Dr. Mark Hyman's rules of thumb that if you buy processed foods then it should contain less than 5 ingredients and all of those ingredients should be whole foods.

skinny pop: nothing good can come from this

3. Go at your own pace, but be committed. When it comes to changing diet habits, some people like to make sweeping changes while others tackle problem areas one at a time. In my experience I've been successful with a combination of both. I found it relatively easy to completely cut out meat and go pescatarian as well as vegan, but dairy and sugar have been a gradual process. In the beginning I stopped drinking milk and discovered that I prefer and love the taste of soy, nut and coconut milks. Eventually I started avoiding cream based foods, yogurts and cheese because they are inflammatory, spike sugar and insulin and trigger my eczema. Sugar and refined carbs have been by far the hardest, but I started focusing on bad habits. First I cut out eating desserts, then I stopped snacking on granola bars and honey cashews. From there I worked on changing breakfast because I started my days with a sugary hit. A big bowl of granola with coconut yogurt or sweetened nut milk was my jam. Since the summer I've cut out pizza, pasta, bread and rice because it spikes my blood sugars and is not good for me. Decide what you're willing to let go of now and let go.

lunch out: grilled calamari and seafood salad. was delicious

4. When it comes to gaining health and losing weight, your diet lifestyle makes up 80%. The remaining 20% is exercise and is important. Whether you're skinny as a rake or need to lose some timber, exercise is important for the MIND as well as the body. Here are 13 ways that exercise improves our mental health. When it comes to exercise find what makes you sing! Then make it an absolute priority in your schedule.

5. Allow yourself to make mistakes, evolve and change your mind. Expect to fall off the wagon and cheat, but just remember we all fucking do it! Just don't allow a cheat meal to turn into a cheat day. I personally struggle with this and only now do I feel okay with accepting that I ate something terrible for my diabetes, but stopping it there. My eating habits have changed so much over the past year and I've noticed that my friends constantly ask me what I'm eating now when they invite me over for dinner. Bless them for that and although I feel like that annoying guest who doesn't eat this or that, fuck it! It's my health we're talking about and I'm learning what works and doesn't work. It's okay!

me consuming way too much gelato in sept

And so do I think it's hard to eat like Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady? No, not really, not once you put your mind and heart into it. Do you have any helpful tips that you've learned along the way and want to share? I've set some goals for myself this year, but my number 1 is to get my blood sugar levels down consistently and in a healthy range. 
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