Friday, April 18, 2014

My opinion on the health hype

I've been wanting to write a post like this but I don't know where to start. This health hype has brought up so many thoughts, opinions and points of view and I want to share mine too. It's past midnight when I'm writing this, so it's likely going to be a big post filled with unconnected random thoughts, but I've tried to put somewhat of a structure into it with small headings. I can tell you already, this is going to be a really long post with a lot of text and different to what I usually post. Here we go...
I didn't actually find a fitting picture for this post, so here's a pic of one of my colourful breakfasts
The thing that lead me to write this post is my sister telling me "I'm sick of eating goji berries and tired of all this healthy hype stuff. Some fresh bread, a big steak, mashed potatoes and hamburgers are just too good to miss out on!"

I agree with her, and I think it's sad that this health hype has lead to people getting overwhelmed about what they should and shouldn't eat. You shouldn't eat fruit after 4pm, cow milk is bad for you, Greek yoghurt is good for you, dairy is bad for you, you should drink lemon water at least 30 min before you eat breakfast, you should work out 5 times a week to lose weight, you shouldn't eat too many bananas, you shouldn't eat too late... There are SO many contrasting opinions of what you should or shouldn't do, and it's totally understandable that people are getting a bit tired of all these restrictions. Personal health shouldn't feel like you're restricted. A "healthy lifestyle" is different for everyone, you just need to find out what works for you.

The downside of the health hype
What I don't like about this health hype, is that it has caused so many companies to see this as an opportunity to make a lot of money. I've seen the most outrageous prices for fresh juices made from cheap ingredients like cucumber, spinach, carrots etc. which shouldn't cost a lot. Juice cleanses and detoxes have the most ridiculous prices (over 200 pounds for 3 days of juices?!), and I think that sad because it makes a lot of people feel like they can't afford a healthy lifestyle. It 'excludes' a large group of people, while it should actually do the opposite. While I think juice bars and places like The Good Life Eatery are great, I think it's unfortunate that they put the prices so high, just because health is 'on trend' now.

Healthy eating doesn't have to cost a lot. All those chia seeds, goji berries, wheatgrass powders and coconut waters are just bonuses and extras. It's great if you can have them and use them in your daily meals, but if you don't, it doesn't mean you can't eat healthy. The same goes for exercising. You don't need a gym membership to work out! Running is free, and there are thousands of videos on Youtube with perfect workouts which don't require any equipment or money (Blogilates, Fitnessblender etc.)

Find a balance and think logically

Don't look at the number on the scale and don't look at calories. I actually stood on the scale the other day just out of curiosity and I weigh a little more than a few months ago, but I also feel more fit and healthier than ever before so that number reflects absolutely nothing. Remember that muscle weighs more than fat, and that fat takes in more place than muscle.

I sometimes look at ingredient lists of things I eat because I'm genuinely interested of what goes into my body. A lot of it is common sense. If you can find it in it's 'purest' form just as you would find it in nature, there can be little wrong with it (e.g. pure vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, fish, meat etc.)If it has gone through countless processes and a series of tests in laboratories, then it's likely that it's not as nutritious for you and you probably should be thinking of finding alternatives. If you see ingredients that you couldn't possibly pronounce, why put it into your body without thinking twice? Educate yourself, look up things. You can find so much information online these days so there's no excuse to be putting crap into your body. 

"Is this good for my body?"
"Is my body physically asking for this or is it just a mental craving?"
"Do I need this?"
"Will this make me happy/unhappy?"

Ask yourself questions and think logically. It's really not difficult. 

What your body needs
Food isn't your enemy, but your body's best friend. Your body needs food in order for you to be able to do all the things you do: walk, talk, see, think etc. If you try to restrict calories dramatically or live off salads only, you body will not get the nutrients it needs and this will reflect both on how you feel on the inside and what you look like on the outside. 

Many girls think that calories are bad and the fewer calories you eat the better looking you become. It just doesn't work like this. Not eating enough calories throughout the day causes your metabolism to slow down. You need to feed your body with good food - ideally 4-5 times a day - in order to keep your metabolism going. Ideally, you should also try to exercise a few times a week, especially if you're looking to tone your body and get a bit more 'definition' in your arms, legs, butt, stomach etc. But remember that exercising not only changes the way you look, but also the way you feel (I've noticed this so much ever since I started working out regularly) Your eating habits and lifestyle directly affects your quality of life, so if you have the chance to do it right, why not do it?

The things you don't see
Yes, I do love posting colourful pictures of fresh smoothies or fruity breakfast bowls on Instagram. But does that mean I only eat that kind of healthy stuff all day? Does that mean my meals always look perfectly appealing? No, definitely not. I just love sharing beautiful pictures of some of my 'creations', and I do it more for me than anyone else, since I see Instagram (and my blog) as my personal little space in the digital world where I can collect all things that I love. The things you don't see is the huge mess which is left after I make a big fruit salad, the unappealing but delicious toasts with almond butter I have most mornings, the white chocolate easter eggs which I love eating around easter time... No one should feel pressured by all the healthy, amazing pictures you see on Instagram. That's only a very small fraction that someone is sharing of their life. Pictures on Instagram or just the internet should never make you feel insecure or like a failure. Most of these pictures are there to motivate and inspire you.

On a another note, always remember to encourage others, not put them down. Wanting to show that you're better than someone else doesn't give you any satisfaction or make you a better person. I think it only reflects your own insecurities, why would you otherwise need to put someone down to make yourself look better? Instagram and other social media should be about encouraging others:) 

Never feel guilty
We're all human so of course we sometimes crave things that we know isn't good for you (McDonalds or a chocolate cake... take your pick). I think the following quote describes it perfectly: 

"I have off days. I have days where all I want to do is eat cookies and I certainly have days where I give into temptation. These days are okay. It's okay to ease up on your diet, miss a gym day or eat a full plate of nachos that were meant for 4 people. What is not okay, is beating yourself up for it. Obsessing over eating a cupcake is much more unhealthy than actually eating it - trust me. Life is a journey and if you don't give yourself room for mess ups then you're truly doing yourself a disservice. I ask that you treat your body with the love and respect it deserves and let go of the "if I eat this I'm worthless" mentality. Please." (source)

Eating healthy as much as you can and doing exercise regularly actually 'prepares' your body for these kind of days. When you've eaten too much cake, but it was so delicious and you enjoyed every bite, you should never feel bad about it. Just enjoy the moment, stop over-thinking it. And especially don't feel bad about it afterwards. You ate something delicious so you should be happy! 
One cupcake won't make you unhealthy, just like one salad won't make you healthy. It's about finding the right balance.

Healthy habit vs. unhealthy obsession
There's a fine line between healthy Instagram accounts and unhealthy 'thinspiration' accounts. It's kind of a blurry line where healthy habits turn into unhealthy obsessions. You need to approach these kind of accounts/images with a clear mind, and not let it influence you or make you feel bad about yourself. Follow people that motivate you and make you feel good about yourself, both physically and mentally. 

Having a healthy lifestyle shouldn't be something you think about 24/7. It should come naturally. Of course you might need a few weeks/months to switch from an unhealthy to a healthy lifestyle, but after that, healthy living shouldn't feel like something you HAVE to do, but something you WANT. 

Do what works for YOU
It's okay to be selfish when it comes to your personal health.

I meet people that only eat vegetarian, vegan, raw or paleo... and they seem 100% happy with it so why not? It's not because it works well for one person that it will automatically work for you. If you desperately try to eat vegan, but you're a cheese lover and can't live without a glass of cold milk in the morning, then why do it? If you follow a 'diet' that only makes you feel restricted and unhappy, it's not going to help you at all. If you're curious, try to eat vegan for a few days, or a week. Try it out. If you love it, then that's great, continue! But if it only makes you want to feast on burgers and steaks at the end of the week, why do it? A healthy lifestyle is about doing what makes you feel good about yourself.

Don't eat goji berries if you think they taste like soap (a lot of people do) but "everyone's eating it" so that's why you eat it. Eat them because you like them, or think they benefit your health. Don't just mindlessly follow what other people are doing, but approach everything with a critical mind and create your own point of view on things. Only do it because it works for you, or because you want to do it.

If you notice that your body isn't happy with what you're eating, make some changes and 'test' it. Try to go without cow milk for a while, and see how your body reacts? Your body will show when it's lacking something, or when it's unhappy with something you're ingesting. Listening to your body is the most important and best thing that you can do. What other people say about you shouldn't matter to you. The opinion of others doesn't determine who you are, only your own opinion of yourself does.  

The bottom line
Wow, well done for reading all of this, you've made it through! I feel like there's so much more I could write but I'll stop here. I hope that I've managed to express my opinion as I have it in my head. I'm sorry if I totally went off track but I wanted to include all my thoughts on health in general. I don't mean to offend/discourage/sadden anyone with this, I just really felt like I wanted to share my point of view. I'm definitely not perfect, I don't only eat perfectly healthy things, but I do make more conscious decisions about how I feed and treat my body. What I wanted to say with this post is to take this whole health hype with a pinch of salt, and don't let it overwhelm or discourage you. Let it inspire you and motivate you to make more conscious decisions about your lifestyle. 

This is my personal opinion and I'd love to hear your thoughts on all of this so feel free to leave a comment or email me at whiskersandlions@gmail.com if you have a question or have something to share!

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