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Sunday, February 24, 2013

How I Eat Healthy and Stay Fit

I thought I'd do something a little bit different on the blog today and write a health-related post. Most of my life people have asked me, "How are you so skinny?," to which I would reply, "Um...I have no idea!" It's not something I think about a lot. I've always been thin, and the only explanation I can think of, besides a healthy diet, is that either it's genetic, or it's just my natural build. I have a really tiny frame. I'm 5'4" and about 100 pounds. I'm not super athletic, I hardly make an effort to work out. I do think my diet plays a part in staying thin, though. And I will try to pinpoint some of the factors that I think may be the reason I stay fit.

1. I'm a vegetarian.  I've been a vegetarian since I was around 11 years old, which is another topic people seem to find interesting. And another topic I don't have a lot of explanation for. I'm not a vegan - I eat milk, cheese, eggs, etc. - I just don't eat sea food (fish) or meat. Why? Well, basically I was a picky eater as a kid, and it just got to a point where eating anything "weird" grossed me out. Like..what are those random hard pieces you find in hot dogs or chicken nuggets, or taco meat? I haven't eaten any kind of meat at all since age 11 or so, and I honestly haven't regretted it since.

I have learned along the way that being a vegetarian is not just about not including meat in your diet. It's also about getting the right nutrition you need to balance that lack of animal protein, and getting those minerals and vitamins that are the most essential to a vegetarian diet. I am not fussy about nutrition at all and don't apply pressure to myself to get every vitamin and mineral and protein amount that I need every day. But I have learned to make an effort to eat foods that are nutritious as opposed to foods that aren't, or what I like to call - junk. Which leads me to my next factor:

2. I avoid Junk food.  I used to love my chili cheese fritos, my cheddar-blasted goldfish crackers, and my cheddar cheese Combos. Now, I still love them of course, but I only eat them VERY sparingly. My philosophy is this: Why put junk into your body, when you can feed it with nutrients it needs to thrive and stay healthy? Of course like any other human being, I love candy (ahem, chocolate..) and have a major sweet tooth. But sugary sweets and potato chips and french fries do not make for a healthy diet. In fact, they have no nutritional value and no real benefit - they can only harm your body, not help it. The key is just to eat them every once in a while as a treat, not all the time.

I don't drink pop much anymore either. Water, organic milk, tea, and wine are the only beverages I drink regularly these days. Water is my daily beverage of choice - I always have a glass or bottle of water next to me. I will also drink milk with meals or in my cereal, and I drink Organic Valley 1%. I have drank soy and almond milk and like both, but I prefer dairy, just to get that dairy protein in my diet. I drink Gold Peak unsweetened tea, which has 0 calories and tastes good with pretty much everything. I also like Honest green tea on occasion. I'll have a glass of wine every now and then, and red wine is my favorite, but I drink white, too. 'Hafta be fair. ;)

Fast food is pretty much the worst food to eat on a daily basis, and I hate eating McDonald's fries, because they're so greasy and salty. Not good for you at all. But I think everyone already knows that! It's just getting into that frame of mind where you would just rather eat carrots over fries and a salad over a burrito.

3. I stay conscious about what I eat. This last factor is something I've come to realize over time, and I feel like it is one of the most important factors in eating and staying healthy. Have you ever heard of mindless eating? Like, when you're sitting in front of the TV watching The Bachelor while chowing down on a quart of chocolate ice cream, and next thing you know you're looking at the bottom of the carton? Ok, just me then? Thought so. Kidding...Mindless eating is bad! I've learned to consciously tell myself when I'm hungry and when I'm full, and purposely choose food throughout the day that I feel like my body needs. Example: If I've had string cheese in my lunch, and milk for dinner, I'm probably not going to eat another dairy product for a late night snack - instead I might choose a fruit or a vegetable. Really, it's all about conscious choices and balance.

One technique that has really helped me consciously see what I'm eating and balance my meals proportionately is tracking my meals online. I use the website, which I discovered in 2007 and have been using it off and on ever since. The website has a feature which allows you to track everything you've eaten each day, as well as any exercise you've done. You can set a calorie goal to either gain weight, lose weight, or maintain weight, and it will chart how you are doing as far as the calories you've consumed, or the fat, protein, sodium intake, etc. you consume each day.

Here is an example of the food I tracked on one particular day:

You can see that it shows you the percentage of daily intake you've consumed for calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, fiber, protein, and sugar.

To track a food item, you simply type in what you ate, and it will give you a list of matching foods in the database. You click on that food, enter the number of servings and when you consumed it. Then click "I Ate This", and it adds the food to Your Plate.

There's even a "Food, Diet, and Fitness" Diary that shows you the foods and workouts you did everyday, and allows you to write your mood and a description that day. Here's mine for January 27th:

I've been trying to utilize this feature everyday since about October of last year. I used to get in the habit and then stop for a while, but I've tracked my food everyday for the last several months now. Tracking what I eat has really allowed me to see both the bad and good foods I put into my body and gives me that motivation to keep tracking the good ones! I love it when I have a really healthy day with a balanced diet all the way through, and I hate tracking junk food. So I tend to stay away from it more. Because once I eat it, it's set in stone in my Food Diary. And it's probably already done the damage to my body, too.

So those are just a few of the factors I feel keep me healthy and allow me to stay as thin as I am. As for physical exercise, I do force myself to do crunches once or twice a week, and maybe some lunges or light weights. I used to love doing pilates and would love to take another class - I just don't have the time or motivation to do it on my own! If I feel the need to, I will, but right now I'm content with just staying light on the physical activity. Especially in the winter time in Illinois! Ugh, it's so much easier  to go on a walk or be active when the weather's nice. During the winter I tend to be a little more lazy. :)

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