My family enjoyed a great Labor Day weekend, spending time with friends and appreciating the good things in life. There is nothing quite so fulfilling as doing life with people you love; people who encourage you and make you laugh and allow you to truly let down your guard and just be yourself. I also enjoyed treating myself to a piece of cheesecake. After all, being with friends like these is a good reason to celebrate!
But those moments can’t last forever, and after a weekend filled with treats, it is important to remind yourself that your health is important and that if you want to continue to enjoy these occasions, you need to take care of your body. That means less treats, more nourishing food, and more exercise.
I had an interesting conversation with my sister the other day, who is cutting out a lot of processed foods, such as store bought bread. She mentioned that she FEELS so much better than she used to and she ENJOYS the flavor of natural foods more. Carrots are sweet, did you know? It’s amazing the flavors that are revealed when your taste buds stop being overloaded with food that is manufactured to be sensually pleasing and addicting.
And so here is my challenge to you. Try cutting out one processed food item each day and replace it with some naturally nourishing food. For example, skip the cereal and eat eggs for breakfast, or skip the candy bar and have some cheese and fruit for a snack.
The book I Love to Eat Fruits and Vegetables by Shelley Admont encourages kids to do just that. It’s a cute little story about a bunny who wants to eat candy instead of the vegetables his mom set out for lunch. His older brothers insisted that they prefer the vegetables but the little bunny wasn’t convinced. So he went into the kitchen and used a stool to reach the candy on the top shelf. Before he could eat any, the stool fell and he toppled to the ground, shrinking along the way. This is how his brothers found him. Before their mom would notice, the brothers asked her what makes them grow. Her answer? Eating your vegetables! So the brothers quickly fed the little bunny some vegetables and he grew back to his normal size in time for lunch. From that day on, the little bunny realized that not only do fruits and vegetables actually taste good, but they are important. He never refused to eat them again.
It’s a good story to use to help kids understand the importance of eating healthy foods, but I think it’s even better for parents and adults. If you’re a parent who’s trying to instill healthy habits in your kids, you should read it. And for those of you who had a little too much fun over the weekend, use these tips, which I gleaned from the book, to help reset your mind and refocus on eating well.
Your environment influences what you eat
Most people aren’t like the bunny’s older brothers, who actually preferred the vegetables. We’re like the little bunny and want the candy! If a plate of vegetables and a bag of chips are both set out on the table as a pre-meal snack, then which will you grab? Yes, the chips.
When it’s your home, you have control over the situation and can choose to only set out foods that are healthy. If you eliminate the option of eating junk food most people will still reach for the veggies. When you’re at someone else’s home, it’s a bit tougher. You can’t control the options and it can be hard to control yourself. There are a few things you can do to prevent overeating on unhealthy food at a party:
- Eat something healthy before you go
- Drink a lot of water
- Don’t hang out by the food
- Find a health conscious person and imitate them – eat what they eat
Have a support system
The little bunny was fortunate to have brothers who insisted on eating their vegetables and helped him recover when he made the wrong choice. We all need people like this in our lives. Communities take care of each other, so it makes sense that finding a health conscious community to participate in will help you take better care of yourself.
Even more than your environment, the people in your life influence what you eat and how you think about food. The people create the environment! If you struggle with changing your relationship with food, then surrounding yourself with people who don’t care about their health will bring you down. Surround yourself with people who make good food choices most of the time. If you don’t have a place like that and need support, request to join my Facebook group – The FitGrape Life. Let us be your community.
Understand the effect food has on your body
Knowledge is power. If you really understand the effect the food you eat has on your body, you may start to choose differently. Most health issues don’t happen immediately. Obesity and obesity related diseases – like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, sleep apnea, cancer (colon, breast, endometrial, gallbladder) and coronary heart disease – are a result of years of poor nutrition. As the NIH says,
“Being overweight or obese isn’t a cosmetic problem. These conditions greatly raise your risk for other health problems.”
If you take care of your body, then you can significantly reduce the risk for, or even prevent, the occurrence of these diseases in your life. If you already suffer from one or more of these, then eating the right amount of the right foods and moving your body every day may reverse the disease and allow you to go off your medication. Imagine the freedom!
So, friends, I can’t stress enough the importance of educating our kids about this so they get the connection between their food and their health. I don’t want to risk these diseases in my own life and I certainly don’t to risk my children developing them. I will continue to offer my kids nourishing food, teaching them how good it can taste and the importance it has on their long term health. Hopefully, someday my efforts will pay off and they will choose these foods for themselves.
And that cheesecake? It was delicious. But the next slice can wait.