The Importance of Living a Healthy Lifestyle As a Family

The importance of living a healthy lifestyle for maintaining general good health and preventing chronic diseases has been well established. A healthy lifestyle is quite simple to achieve – one does not need to do anything “crazy” to adopt a healthy lifestyle. I will say that a certain amount of independent thinking is required to separate truth from fiction in most modern health advice currently being delivered.

The most important thing you can do is eat well. Avoid toxins in your food as much as possible and consume plenty of fresh fruit, veggies and whole grains; exercise moderately a few times per week; avoid smoking, including secondhand smoke; and avoid gaining too much weight (which should come naturally if you eat right and exercise). While it is not always possible to eat all Organic food – the EWG recommends 12 fruits and vegetables that should be organic because of their higher levels of pesticide residue. Avoiding environmental toxins as much as you can is an important part of achieving a healthy lifestyle.

Our modern lifestyle is very convenient – but it can also be extremely unhealthy. Most of us eat too many processed foods and too few fruit and veggies; we rarely exercise; and when we develop chronic conditions such as diabetes, we rely on conventional medications to make us feel better – but these medications often have devastating side effects. Instead of accepting the importance of living a healthy lifestyle for us and for future generations, we continue with our bad habits – then take potent, toxic medication to treat our inevitable symptoms.

Of course, not all aspects of living a healthy lifestyle are in our control. We are going to be exposed to certain environmental toxins whether we like it or not. But many of these factors are absolutely in our control. Whenever we can, we should be responsible and make the right choices.

This is why it is so important to be sure you eat well as the key factor in achieving a healthy LIFESTYLE.

I say “lifestyle” because what I know is that “eating well” can sometimes be something a person does with resentment because they feel “sacrifice” is required to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

I remember when people who ate poor foods used to joke with me and say I was not really living because I chose not to eat pizza and drink beer – and I always replied “how much LIVING can you do when your body is recovering from what you put in it?

Shifting from an Unhealthy to a Healthy Lifestyle

The reason I discuss the healthy lifestyle tip of simply EATING WELL on my blog is because it has been so effective for my health.

It was not always like this though. I remember when I was addicted to a chocolate bar each day and I always had headaches or an infection or illness of some kind.

In addition to excessive sugar cravings (eating a chocolate bar each day) I also suffered from many unhealthy symptoms that were challenging to resolve through traditional medicine: Frequent headaches, Skin problems (ie. eczema, acne, hives, Bloating, Gas, Bad Breath, Weak or brittle hair and nails, Fatigue and lethargy, Excessive stress, Candida overgrowth, Yeast infections, Food or Environmental Allergies, Anxiety or depression, Diarrhea, Constipation, Memory loss, Mood swings, Frequent colds or infections, PMS or bad menstrual cramps, Bladder infection, Loss of sex drive…etc

Ughhh! No fun at all!

Years later, I LOVE good food and I am rarely sick. Eating well is the perfect way to get in tune with your body and really get back to basics of what your body needs. It challenges you to give up the vices that you take for granted, break your addictive eating habits and start again from the beginning. Eating well is a healthy lifestyle choice that gives you clarity on what your body really needs, not craves and becomes the foundation for all other healthy lifestyle choices.

An important thing to remember with eating well is to really examine your root philosophy for adapting more healthy foods into your lifestyle.

This is SO IMPORTANT!

If it’s simply to loose a few pounds – I personally feel that this is not enough of a motivator and you will set yourself up for “failure” however, if you choose to eat well to enjoy a better quality of life, to do things you have not done in years and to not get sick anymore, then this is a wonderful motivator that will likely last!

So, getting really practical, eating well obviously involves making a few changes to the foods you prepare and enjoy.

I always listen to my body when I eat. I do not calorie count, measure my fist, use ratio’s or anything that causes me to separate myself form the food I eat.

The main reason I enjoy excellent health is because I am critical of what I eat – I choose to eat REAL food.

Because of this, I do not need expensive supplements or challenging programs to maintain my weight.

Delicious menus of real, whole foods allow me to enjoy the things so many diet plans warn against.

This sounds simple enough, but what I have learned is that many people simply do not know what a healthy lifestyle consists of, especially when it comes to food!

I try to keep things as simple as possible. I shop from the perimeter of the grocery store, eat mostly wild and free range chicken, very little meat and mostly raw organic fruits and vegetables, with beans and rice. It’s not practical to list everything I eat here, but feel free to visit my blog and download your FREE Healthy Grocery List while you are here!

The Future Depends on our Health Living a healthy lifestyle, free as much as possible of toxins (in our environment and in our food) and of stress, is important to us – but it’s also important for future generations. Scientists are also now discovering the impact nutrition has on our DNA! Healthy trees bear healthy fruit. A continued lifestyle of sickness will have a lasting effect on future generations and on our planet.

The results of years of living an unhealthy lifestyle are obvious. We are currently faced with a sharp increase in chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, with an obesity rate so high it’s considered an epidemic, and with growing rates of infertility. The number of children diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s syndrome or ADHD is alarmingly high.

We should also remember that our children carefully watch us and emulate us. If they see us act responsibly now, they will likely adopt a similar approach of taking care of themselves and of the planet when they become adults.

We must each ask ourselves if we are modeling the importance of a healthy lifestyle to our children. If we do not show them how to care for themselves, they will likely turn to the food corporations instead. How will they know the difference between real food, “food like” substances?

I keep about 6 – 8 fantastic cookbooks on hand. From these books, I create simple meal plans that I rotate each month based on about 15 simple meal ideas.

In addition to eating Delicious Food (that is real and healthy!) I suggest the following ways to help model a positive approach to food in our children:

Young children especially learn about the world through imitation. How do you feel each day as you prepare your family’s meals? Are you hurried, frustrated, and disconnected? We can show our children that eating healthy is important by the way we approach our meal times. If we are happy and engaged in making a meal, and then take pleasure in eating together we affirm that food is more than something to fill the hole but is a necessary part of a happy and healthy family life. In short, your children will imitate what they see so make sure you are placing a positive value around the activities involving healthy living.
Involve your children in meal preparation, even once or twice a week. By discussing how good certain foods taste and by letting them help you cook you will show that it’s important to take the time to prepare a healthy meal instead of throwing something in the microwave. You never know, you may inspire a future chef!
Make a plan to eat together as a family as often as possible. By each decision you make to eat together, you are casting a value judgment on the importance of healthy living and that it involves more than just eating a few more vegetables.
We can and should make an effort to change our habits and accept the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. If society won’t make changes, then we as individuals need to make them. After all, if we leave our health to someone else guess what they have planned for you? Not much.

I have absolute confidence that you can make the switch to living a healthy lifestyle and eliminating the nuisance symptoms that result from a body that is overloaded with toxins from our North American lifestyle. I was able to do this by following simple strategies, cooking from informative books that helped me switch my lifestyle over and enjoying life!

In all this talk about living a healthy lifestyle – we cannot overlook simply choosing to ENJOY LIFE!

Please visit my blog to view specific recommendations and download your FREE healthy grocery list!

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Fighting Obesity With a Healthy Balanced Diet

It has become common knowledge that obesity is a problem in North America. The newspapers, magazines, television commercials and internet banners all acknowledge the issue. It is not uncommon to see advertisements encouraging membership in diet programs where you can lose those extra pounds in a short time. Marketers have even responded by providing 90-100 calorie pre-packaged snacks ranging from almonds to cookies. Others are telling us to walk it off, and some are encouraging the latest fad diet. It seems that everywhere we look there is someone, somewhere trying to fix our personal weight problem.

Is obesity an issue?

Yes, in more ways than we can imagine. It is not simply a matter of having extra weight. Being overweight or obese triggers many health related situations.

Obese Canadians are 4 times more likely to have diabetes, 3.3 times more likely to have high blood pressure and 56% more likely to have heart disease than those that have healthy weights (1). Throughout North America there are reports relating obesity to heart disease, and diabetes. There are other symptoms that are often ignored by the media but are also troubling. I personally know a lady who experienced severe pain in her feet. The extra 60 pounds she had gained caused a problem with her arches, her feet became “flat” and normal daily activities became a burden. These types of poor health symptoms affect everyone in our communities. Government run health programs become more expensive to operate, families struggle with the emotional side of disease, un-wellness and even death.

Surely you have heard that the rate of overweight and obesity are on the rise. Currently 30.6% of Americans (US), 24.2% of Mexicans and 14.3% of Canadians are obese (2). Compare these rates to those of Japan and South Korea where obesity is only at 3.2% of the population (2). That should trigger two things in your mind. First of all, something that we are doing in North America is causing great negative effects on our optimal health. Second, if there are other nations in the world with lower rates of obesity, then obesity can be controlled in North America as well.

Is there any pattern to obesity in North America?

The acknowledgment of obesity, income levels, sense of failure and lack of physical activities are patterns associated with obesity. Sharon Brady, editor of The World is a Kitchen, believes that the first problem to obesity is that a large portion of individuals are simply not facing the fact that they are overweight whether it is through ignorance, denial or indifference (3). Obesity is also disproportionally found in lower income groups (4). This may be a consequence of buying low nutrient, highly processed foods because of the low dollar values. Another possible problem with weight gain and obesity is the sense of failure that comes with cheating or falling off fad diets. A lack of physical activity or even decreased activities levels associated with changes in lifestyle can also be problematic patterns.

How can we fix the problem of obesity?

Dealing with the way we think about food and our body weight is critical. Information on the mind-body connection is readily available. Understanding and addressing mental and emotional stress is of paramount importance when you want to lose weight (5).

Increasing physical activity is recommended and the Government of Canada has published guides for different age groups (6). Activity can come in many forms, even taking a family holiday can be a way to get moving again.

However, even with a good food mindset and increased physical activity, it will be hard to obtain and maintain a healthy weight without a clear understanding of healthy balanced meals and healthy eating. Regardless of your food choice preferences, vegan, vegetarian, raw or a more traditional meat diet, it is important to make sure you are eating properly. And believe it or not, that is a simple thing to do.

The things we need to consider are:

1. Water

2. Healthy Snacks

3. Protein

4. Dairy and Alternatives

5. Complex Carbohydrates

6. Healthy Fats

7. Fruits and Vegetables

Well, now after saying it is simple, I give you a list of seven things to remember. Trust me, before you know it, the list will become engrained in your thought pattern and you will be on your way to eating healthy balanced meals and optimal health which will result in a natural maintainable weight. Let me guide you through the list.

Water

There has been a lot of concern about plastic water bottles littering our disposal sites and being found floating in the ocean. I agree that it is a problem but the good thing is that it means people are becoming aware of the importance of water and they are drinking more of it.

60 to 70% of our body is water. It is important for normal body functions, like digesting the food we eat. We get water from the fluids we drink as well as the food we eat.

It is recommended that we drink 8 cups of water a day. Even more is required if you live in a dry or hot climate or are physically active. That seems like a lot of water, and it is if you try to drink it all at once. Try drinking a cup first thing in the morning before you even get into the shower. Have a glass or two before every meal and another midway in between meals and a glass in the evening too. Before you know it, you have reached 8 cups of water.

Many people have lost the ability to tell the difference between hunger and thirst. Unfortunately food often wins out and water is left aside. Next time you feel hungry have a glass of water first. Wait for a few minutes to see if the hunger goes away before you eat. If you feel thirsty, you body is already dehydrated. You may need to add more cups of water for your personal lifestyle.

Snacks

For many of us, the word snack triggers the thought of a high calorie, low nutrient food. A good way to think of a snack is like a mini-meal that gets us through to the next meal. It is the opportunity to pick a healthy food that you enjoy but may not part of your meal on that day. One of my all time favorites are apples. If I did not have an apple for breakfast and know I will not have one for lunch, having one for my morning snack, along with my cup of water makes a great healthy snack.

Snacking is critical for children. They get a large portion of their daily calories from snacking and it is important that they get healthy snacks.

Protein, Dairy and Alternatives

Protein comes in many forms and this is often where diet styles differ. No matter what you food style preference is having protein in your meals is important.

Proteins can be found in beans, eggs, meats, fish, milk, cheese, nuts and seeds, soy products including tofu. In North America, having large amounts of protein has become standard. I have seen some restaurants where the smallest steak available is 14 oz and where ordering fish means an entire fish. Having such large amounts of protein is not necessary for your body. Protein is important but it does not have to dominate the meal.

There is much debate over the presence of milk in our diets. Some individuals prefer soy milk and almond milk. The goal with drinking these products is to obtain calcium. Calcium is available through tablet form and naturally occurs in fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are our comfort foods. When we consume them, serotonin is produced and leaves us with that “warm fuzzy feeling.” These foods are best for our bodies when they are closest to their natural state. You will recognize them as breads, crackers, pasta, rice and beans. To obtain the maximum health from your foods, decide on products that are made of whole grains rather than white enriched flours. If you like rice, add brown rice to your diet. It takes longer to cook but you will not be hungry half an hour after you finish your meal.

Healthy Fats

The first thing many people do when they attempt to reduce their weight is to remove all the fat from their diet. Eating a lot of fat is not healthy but the body does need small amounts of healthy fats to function normally. Healthy fats occur naturally in the healthy foods that we eat. Avocados, salmon and other fish, nuts and olive oil all contain fats that are healthy for our body.

Fruits and Vegetables

The number of fruits and vegetables that are available is absolutely amazing. They should make up the majority or your diet and when you can eat them raw, I encourage you to do so. When you make your meal, add lots of color by using a variety of fruits and vegetables. The more variety, the better chance of getting everything your body needs.

Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that aid indigestion. They help keep our bodies healthy, protect us from disease, strengthen our bones and make our skin beautiful. Consider them for your snack.

What is Next?

Well, now you have an idea of the important aspects of creating a healthy balanced meal. Pick a food from each category and several from the fruits and vegetables. These will be the ingredients for your meal.

An example of a traditional style meal could be fish for your protein (but not an entire fish), some brown rice, and a large salad made of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, blueberries and sesame seeds. For a healthy snack after dinner, try a fruit salad made with three of your favorite fruits.

That is how simple making a healthy balanced meal can be when you have a little information.

What Difference will this make?

Eating healthy balanced meals will allow you to lose weight naturally. At first you will still have cravings for the heavily processed products that you ate in the past. Eventually you will replace those without even thinking about it. You weight will reduce naturally and you will be able to maintain a healthy weight.

There is no cheating with eating healthy balanced meals because you are making the decisions for you diet. If you have potato chips tonight just acknowledge how it makes your body feel. Next time try a nice fresh piece of pineapple with all its amazing health and healing benefits. Acknowledge how it feels. Learn to listen to your body.

Failure does not exist in a healthy balanced diet. Every time you eat a healthy balanced meal, you are moving ahead to a better healthier you.

Most importantly, you will be setting an example for your child, friends and everyone else that you come into contact with. Help make North America a healthy North America. Japan and South Korea are doing it, so can we, one meal at a time.

References

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