What is a "healthy lifestyle"?
That is the catch phrase, right? It's all about the "healthy lifestyle." But I bet a lot of people are asking, WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN!?!? You read about so many answers that make it difficult to boil down the exact recipe to "get it", but there is a reason for that. The answer is, there are many answers. This is because it means many things to many people, and it should. A healthy lifestyle includes all the positive things people enjoy and love, and we all like different things. Food choices, activity, our stress management tools, it's all there and with all the flavors, hobbies, and ways to relax that exist, it's impossible to have just one solid answer about what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. What we DO know about what it means however, may be much more simple than you think.
I once read a book called Healthier You: A Family Doctor's Guide to the Fundamentals of Better Living by Vineet Nair, M.D. because I heard about it on an EXCELLENT podcast that I enjoy listening to called Sound Bites with Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RD, CDE The Guilt Free RD ®. You can find out more about this podcast here https://soundbitesrd.com or search for the podcast on your favorite listening platform. The episode with Dr. Vineet Nair is episode #109. I highly recommend both the episode (all the episodes really, but this is a place to start) and the book because between the discussion and the actual read, you really get a big picture mindset of what it is to consider what healthy means and maybe it will help you answer the question about what a healthy lifestyle is for yourself. I won't give away the whole book because it's important for you to really "digest" the information on your own (See what I did there?), but I want say just a few things to help you to focus your thoughts until you get the time to read and listen to the recommendations.
Health is not just nutrition. Coming from an RD that sounds weird, but it's true. The food choices we make are just one part of the big picture of the many things that encompass health. For example, you could eat the most perfect diet (if that exists) and never really be in big picture health if you smoke. Sorry, but it's true. Plus, if your teeth are mottled because of smoking, how will you crunch those veggies? I know you know, but just in case, you can read about the detrimental effects of smoking here https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/index.htm You can also find resources at that link to quit if you do smoke. Remember your D.A.R.E days fellow kids of the 80s, and 90s!
Nutrition is not deprivation. When you hear healthy lifestyle, remember the word "life" is in there. This means IT'S FOR LIFE! So in terms of food, it is not "going on a diet" as a temporary thing. Think about this the next time you hear about some quick fix or a fad diet with many rules or exclusions and ask yourself one question, can I do this for life? If the answer is no (which it definitely should be if it is some weird drink cleanse or pill), then it is not for you. I don't know about you, but I don't want the word "quick" defining my lifestyle either. Nor do I want to feel deprived of the things I love, like a rich, dark chocolate. Barring certain health conditions, the nutrition foundation within a healthy lifestyle includes many things that feed both our cells and our souls, without any detrimental or dangerous side effects.
To piggyback on #2, and as my last thought for now, if you are considering making changes to your diet, remember it is just like any other type of change you make in your life or goal you set. Set S.M.A.R.T goals just like any other goal. If you are unfamiliar with this acronym it means Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Time-Based. You may see a few variations on the actual acronym, but the message is still the same. It means do not just be general and say you'll do XYZ someday. Just saying "I want to be healthy" is not acceptable. It's too broad and it doesn't set the wheels in motion for actual change. How are you going to be healthy? How will you make it happen? Make sure to pick something that you can realistically achieve and then put a timeframe on it so you can revisit and reassess any progress or setbacks. You may think if it was realistic then it's too easy right, isn't change hard? That's the point, it doesn't need to be that hard. Work smarter, not harder, am I right? Use a S.M.A.R.T goal. For example, if you want to eat more vegetables, don't just say you will eat more of them. Say something like "I will eat 1 serving of vegetables at dinner 2 nights a week for 2 weeks." You can even be as specific as choosing the vegetable. At the end of two weeks, assess your progress. How did it work? Then go from there with a new goal to build on what happened. There may be some trial and error at times but it's creating a foundation and just like any house, you can't build on a faulty foundation or it won't last. Take the time, build a solid foundation, make it last.
I do hope you pick up a copy of the book, or turn on that podcast on your next drive. It's worth it. If your kids are in the car though, consider listening to the Playing With Food-Eat. Play. Balance. podcast. Who knew you could learn about nutrition by playing video games!? Thank you for reading and I hope you return again, there is so much more I want to talk with you about!