Self Care: Healthy Eating and Exercise

I’m taking a bit of turn from writing about emotional health and venturing into physical health. They are intertwined. Our emotional health is tied to our physical health and our physical health is tied to our emotional health. Given this, it makes sense to address a bit about physical health. I might tick a few readers off with this post. Opinions have a way of doing that sometimes.
I believe, and I know I’m not alone nor proposing something new, that processed foods are not good for us. I’m of the camp that believes in eating real food. I eat real butter, drink whole milk and enjoy red meat. I love vegetables and fruit, grains, poultry, eggs, cheese and even homemade cookies (sorry, no seafood…I just can’t get that stuff past my tastebuds!). I like to know the origins of my food. A Twinkie may have origins but most of a Twinkie or Velveeta cheese slices for example, are not actually food. Like the food you would see on a farm. I like the taste of Twinkies and Velveeta cheese but that doesn’t mean I should eat them.
Our bodies need good, healthy, unprocessed food to grow, to regenerate cells, to thrive. I learned about a year ago of the importance of good fat for our brains. Now, at 48, I am more interested in doing anything I can to help my brain. So I made the switch from 2% to whole milk and started using 1/2 and 1/2 in my tea. I have not gained a single pound and am just as healthy since I made that switch.
My daughter, Grace loves to bake. When she’s home from college she usually whips up some sort of decadent delight. They often involve ingredients like real butter, cream and chocolate. Rarely do we actually consume all of these delicious treats. We have some, but we don’t devour them. The yumminess is not obsessed upon but rather enjoyed in moderation.
Food or beverages claiming they are fat free or sugar free are more than likely not good for you. Unless we’re talking about water, an apple, fruit or vegetables that are naturally fat free. Sugar free products are usually filled with some sort of sweetening chemical that really shouldn’t be inside your body. I recently discovered fat free half and half. Now if half and half is technically half cream and half whole milk what exactly is fat free half and half? Is that an oxymoron? What was done to make it fat free and why would I ever want fat free half and half? Like, what exactly would that accomplish? So, if you’re eating or drinking something that, in its natural state has fat and/or sugar, choose the real deal over it’s fat and sugar free artificial cousin.
Our country has become so obsessed with fat free and sugar free. Is it a way to cheat the system? Doesn’t cheating usually come back to bite us? And are people really losing weight or getting healthier by eating fat and sugar free products? Most people I know who choose the fat and sugar free items are not healthy. It’s a challenge these days to find full fat products. Take yogurt for example. Go to the grocery store and count how many brands are fat free and then try to find a whole milk version. They exist, I have found them, but not in abundance. In fact, at the grocery store closest to my house I found one, just one yogurt that is not fat free or low fat.
I became increasingly aware of the dilemma of finding whole fat products years ago because my daughter, Anna, the one with cystic fibrosis who just got a double lung transplant, has to eat high fat high calorie food. At times I thought, I’m going to have to hand her a stick of butter because that’s the only product I can find that is whole fat.
I have never had a weight problem and enjoy good health. You can say it’s because I have favorable genes or because my parents set a balanced, healthy example for me. And both of those are true. But I also believe it’s because I have spent most of my 48 years taking care of myself. I generally eat in moderation (for the most part…there’s always that occasional binge on something really bad for me like sour cream and onion potato chips). I exercise regularly though not obsessively. I usually walk or get on an elliptical machine a few times a week. I started lifting weights while I was in NC a few months ago because I’ve heard weight resistant exercise is good for strengthening bones. I also attend a yoga class about once a week. Nothing intense but I try to be consistent.
Exercise can be anything that gets your muscles moving and your heart rate up. Dancing is free. You can dance anywhere to songs in your head. You can walk laps in your apartment or home. If you have stairs, go up and down for awhile. You can join an exercise facility or find drop-in classes in your area. You can get an exercise DVD or find programs on your television. You can go outside for a walk. If it’s not so cold you’ll get frostbite, you can bundle up; the fresh air will do you good. When the weather’s hot, get outside early in the morning before the temperature soars.
My point, take care of yourself by eating real food and exercising. If you have issues with food or body image that create a strangling weed in your mind or emotions, find a good therapist or coach to help you work through those issues and gain freedom. Or join a group like Weight Watchers. Sometimes, we are simply stubborn. We’ll dig our heels in and say we refuse to succumb to the weight obsession in our culture. We continue in our unhealthy lifestyle in defiance. That is not a good reason to avoid taking care of your body. That, and I’ll be blunt, is a really unintelligent choice. Is it defiance or is there underlying hurt and the defiance is your cover-up?
The best action you can take is address head on why you are neither eating well nor taking care of your body. This is a beautiful act of self care. It can’t be for anyone else. It can’t be to look like a person in a magazine or to make someone take notice of you or to prove you’re better than others. It has to be from a pure place within that says you are worth taking care of yourself!
Here’s to moderation! Here’s to healthy eating and exercise! Here’s to you!
A Note: Some people take really good care of themselves and still end up sick from diseases or cancer. Please don’t hear this post as condemning. Rest in knowing you have done what you could; you just didn’t get fair cards.