Halloween just Trick or Treated on your health program. Thanksgiving is on its way. Holiday cheer brings an abundance of dinner parties, fruitcakes and desserts. How do you win in the holiday battle on staying healthy?
Excerpt from “How to Create PRO$PERITY from What You Already Do” by Angela DiCarlo, MBA.
We all go through ups and downs, injuries, sicknesses, weight gain and loss, and all types of body changes throughout our lifetime. At every Vision Board Workshop I have led, almost everyone shows that they care about their health by maintaining or improving it.
Luckily, I have eaten my way through enough programs to make my ideal body a reality. The key that I have found to being happy with this body I carry around is to pay attention to it.
At the time of this writing, I am not a certified nutritionist or fitness trainer so I cannot tell you what to eat or how to work out. I did want to share the keys to what I have learned to create a program that has worked for me consistently over the years to keep me feeling healthy and young.
My health experience comes from always being a health conscious person as well as working in the nutrition field for Balance Bar, creating my own health food company, co-founding a kid’s fitness program, teaching aerobics at health clubs, attending countless health focused workshops, and reading massive amounts of books on nutrition programs. At one point, I owned every top selling diet book written to see what information we were being told and perhaps to find another nugget of gold to add to my own program.
So what it is the secret to creating ultimate health?
It may not be what you think it is. For most people, it is not realistic or healthy to get down to the dress size of a super skinny model. For others, it may not seem possible to get on the cover of a fitness magazine with ripped abs. For most, it is just to feel better about the body you are carrying around and getting comfortable in your skin. I have found that when you are happy in your skin, it reflects across everything you do. When you can look in the mirror and love you for you, then you have found peace.
To feel healthy means to really listen to your body. If you eat something that does not make you feel good afterwards, make a mental note of it. When I am being really good about tracking my health, I write down everything I eat during the day in a food journal and make a note of how I felt. When something helps me feel energized and raring to go, I make a double note of it and draw a happy face in my journal. This has helped to identify my food allergies, stomach irritants and beneficial foods as well as things that cause me to gain or lose weight or felt more energized than other foods.
There are hundreds if not thousands of books written about health, fitness and nutrition. If you have read more than one, then you can feel as frustrated as I did because they often contradict each other or they read like a text book making it impossible to understand. High fat, low fat, high protein, avoid carbs, eat carbs, fasting, eat only this food or that, drink this miracle weight loss shake, cleanse, exercise more, eat less, eat at this time, go vegan, eat only meat, this is good or that is bad. It is enough to overwhelm any sane person.
Set your food plan to one that seems like it will work for you based on what you really want to eat and then go with it.
Track what you eat in a food journal for a week so you can be conscious of what it does to your body and adjust as needed to feel better. Write down what you eat and drink for a week and then look back and see if you liked how it made you feel. Are there any adjustments you could make to help you feel better? Are your portion sizes too big or small to keep you satisfied for a couple hours? Were you dragging all week so you drank more coffee or caffeinated drinks? Did you eat too much of one food and not enough of another?
Once you can visibly see what you ate, it is much easier to create a diet you love and that makes you feel good. And by diet, this does not mean a weight loss program. A diet is what you eat every day. It is your nutrition program. Diet is not a bad word, but dieting can be. By just being conscious of what you are eating, you can improve or maintain your health. Almost every restaurant has meals that can be fit into your personal program, even if it means ordering only off the appetizer or a la carte menu to fit your food needs.
If you have a family, spouse or roommate, it may mean that you eat different meals and possibly at different times. Growing up, I sometimes ate completely different food than my siblings and parents because I knew those foods irritated my stomach but they were fine for them. For instance, I would often get a stomachache when I ate dairy ice cream or drank a milk shake. Talk about a major bummer when your dad takes you and your brother out to ice cream to celebrate your good grades and you suffer for two hours later with severe stomach pain. Luckily, I learned that there were other desserts I could eat like Rainbow Sherbet so I could still celebrate and not suffer the pain afterwards.
If your stomach hurts or you get heartburn after eating something, pay attention to what it was and try to avoid that food item next time.
Your body knows best.
You may still be able to eat that type of food just try to skip whatever triggered the pain. Maybe there is a certain spice or hot sauce that causes you pain every time you eat it. You can look on the internet to see if there is an alternative recipe to the something you love but that has caused you pain. In my case, I could not eat traditional dairy ice cream, but I could eat gelato, soy or rice ice cream that tasted just as good but did not cause me any stomach pain afterwards.
My philosophy on food has been that it should satisfy your hunger, taste delicious and make you feel energized afterward. Anything that requires you to take a pill, in my opinion should be avoided. If you have to take an antacid, a gas relief pill, lactose intolerance pills, heartburn relief pills or any pill just to eat that food, then your body is probably not digesting it properly and you may not be getting the nutrients you need. If it requires a pill to digest afterward, try to avoid it or replace it with an alternative food.
When you get a craving for something, try to figure out if it is a mental craving or a physical craving. Once you can separate the two, you will know if it is your body screaming for nutrients that are lacking or your mind screaming for attention to fix something not food-related by eating something that is not good for you. Tracking your food in a journal can really help to identify the difference.
If your body constantly craves salt or bread, take a look at how much of those foods you are already eating. If you see a lack, then add some, if you see abundance, then adjust accordingly. Most of the cravings are triggered by your body having gotten used to getting so much of something like salt or bread that if you cut back you may crave something that may not be the best for you in that quantity. I know from my experience with bread cravings that after a few weeks of cutting back, the craving goes away and I could eat normal servings instead of binging on something I did not need.
If you want to get started right or along the way get confused, see a professional nutritionist. Your local health food store often has a trained nutritionist on staff that can answer your questions for free and refer you to someone who can give you a complete program if you want professional assistance.
I have also found nutrition workshops to be helpful. A naturopath taught a workshop where we sampled some amazing fruits and veggies that I had never thought to eat before but are now a staple in my diet. I took other workshops by an Auyervedic nutritionist who taught me about alkaline and acidic foods. Another taught me about eating right for my blood type. And another that taught me about eating certain proportions of protein to fat to carbohydrates.
All of that information was great and I learned a lot, but when it came to creating my ideal body, the most important thing I did was track my food in a journal and adjust as needed when something triggered an allergy or caused pain. Also, like in the old story Goldilocks and the Three Bears, knowing proper portion size is important. Did you have enough food, too much food or was it just right?
This is what I have found to be most helpful to my ongoing well being that has helped me to maintain a body that I am comfortable and happy in.
Best of health to you!
Angela DiCarlo, MBA
Mastering Being AliveTM