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What does ‘healthy living’ mean to you? Unfortunately, it’s taken on a multitude of different meanings, usually unique to each individual. The media doesn’t help, with its ploy to introduce a new evil on a near-on weekly basis. If you were part of Generation X then it was calories that were evil. You could eat your entire daily limit in Dairy Milk if you wanted, just God forbid you go over 2000 of the little buggers. Then it was the E numbers that were going to give us cancer and turn us into raving, psychotic five year olds. Smarties have never tasted the same since.
Next it’s entire food groups – carbohydrates that would make you fat just by looking at them, or dairy products that would fill you with hormones and stunt your growth.
Unfortunately none of these ‘rules’ really contribute to a healthy attitude towards food, nor a healthy body. Healthy eating is more than just a number. More than the number of calories, fat count, or time of day that you’re eating. It’s more than the food groups you choose, the wheat, or dairy that you avoid. The real truth of it is:
You will never sustain a healthy body if you diet.
Diets are always built on a myriad of rules – foods to eat, food to avoid, times to eat, number of meals to consume. This is unsustainable for one simple reason – man was never built to diet.
Men and women were created to run and walk and swim and hunt – unfortunately your body doesn’t know that you can now just drive to Tescos and get a steak ready made for you. We evolved with an ability to live off the land – yet unfortunately, manufacturers insist on pumping the animals that produce our meat with hormones and our food with preservatives or artificial ‘flavours’ – all in the name of making it a cheap, quick or convenient commodity.
So what’s the alternative?
Listen to your body.
You can’t trust half of the diet ‘rules’ that you read, hear or are told. When you think about it, it actually makes perfect sense that the only way to truly live a healthy lifestyle is to listen to your body. Unfortunately, your body is the only thing where you can guarantee a truthful, unbiased verdict. You can tell if what you’re eating is right for your body very quickly, just by seeing how you feel afterwards. Some people can cope with eating a carb heavy diet and god knows we all need a plate of potato waffles every once in a while. But the effects of eating the wrong foods for your body on a regular basis are blinding obvious – a meal should leave you comfortable, energised and feeling great. If it leaves you uncomfortably full, exhausted or feeling sluggish then you know it’s not quite right.
And yes, we’ve all heard that ‘real women have curves’ and ‘men want something to grab onto’ and curves are great! But curves that make you unable to run or walk, or enjoy any sort of active lifestyle are not really curves, they’re fat. And actually, our bodies were not made to be fat. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have big bones, wide hips, thick waists or muscly thighs. Your body should always be the shape it was born to be. It’s when the size of your body stops you from completing basic activities or functions that your health is in jeopardy. You should be able to move comfortably – this means not getting breathless when you walk a short distance, not feeling your knees croak in protest every time you climb the stairs and being able to stand for a reasonable amount of time without your ankles feeling like they’re about to give way.
And this is completely achievable just by making the tiniest changes to your lifestyle:
Gyms can be judgemental and running is hard, but forget pulling on your running shoes and instead just make sure you move around more. If you have a dog, or sister/brother/niece/child then it’s even easier – grab a ball, head over the park and just be as active as you can. This is great for your mental and physical wellbeing and will just generally make you feel golden.
Stretching is one of the lightest, gentlest ways to get your body moving and energised. Rosie at The Londoner has created this great workout post, which is a mixture of stretches and light toning exercises – even if you start with four or five each morning it will make a difference to your flexibility, strength and muscle tone in no time.
If you haven’t realised it already, water is the best thing you can put into body. I won’t list off the many benefits – you’ve heard them all before. Just drink it. And when you’re bored of drinking it, drink some more.
Set yourself manageable goals
Saying you’re not going to eat chocolate for a month is ridiculous. The same is true for your three-month pre-Marbs exercise plan. Start with three days. Say to yourself that for the next three days you will go for a walk at lunch/climb the stairs/go for a swim. Then when you’ve completed three days. Do another three. Soon you will be managing three weeks or three months without even thinking about it.
The truth is, despite all your best intentions, sometimes you need the warm, glowy feeling you get from eating a plate of Macaroni Cheese. Or sometimes you need to eat a family size bag of crisps and not feel guilty about it. But for the rest of the time, you need to listen to your body. Save the time you usually spend counting calories, eat well, move more and instead, enjoy counting the years that a healthy and active lifestyle will allow you to enjoy.
Image via WeHeartIt
Beth is a Writer and Digital Marketer who founded The Full Agenda as a place to talk about the things that kept her and her friends up at night. Currently working as a Marketing consultant to various SMEs she is a big fan of the startup market and loves technology, apps and anything social media related. When not obsessively checking Google Analytics, she can be found reading, writing or relaxing with a glass of Prosecco.
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