I had always considered myself a pretty healthy eater. When I was growing up, my mother refused to keep anything junk food-related in the house. That meant no soda, no candy, no chips (which made it hard when I had friends over – fancy a glass of milk anyone?). But eating well is more than just eliminating junk food.
It wasn’t until 2014 that I started exploring a healthier lifestyle. This was at the height of the vegan, raw, paleo, and gluten-free diet craze and I was curious to see how people with dietary restrictions cooked while substituting certain ingredients for others. That fall, I also discovered the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” (available on Netflix) which promoted juicing fruits and vegetables to get your daily nutritional intake. I started juicing every morning and soon enough, I had more energy, was sleeping better and didn’t even put on the winter weight!
I have since been eating less meat and more vegetables and grains. I learned that it’s not about eliminating carbs altogether — it’s about eating good carbs (whole grains like quinoa, barley, oats…) instead of bad carbs (processed grains like white rice or pasta). I have cut out processed sugars, and learned to eat greens first and heavier foods last to avoid creating a “traffic jam” in my digestive system.
I also started intermittent fasting. It’s not so much a diet as much as it is a lifestyle choice that’s more about when you eat rather than what you eat. One way to do it is by fasting for 16 hours and eating during those remaining 8 hours. During the fasting state, your body attacks the stored fat in your body to use as its energy source. I choose to skip breakfast and fast between 7pm and 11am, since it includes the 8-9 hours of which I’ll be asleep and won’t be tempted to eat.
With my diet changing, my workout habits did too. They go hand in hand. You cannot expect a healthier body without eating properly and working out correctly at the same time. I have always been very active, but I admit that I mostly stayed away from the weights in the gym. I, like many girls, was afraid of bulking up. When I started weight training, I started to build muscle, and lose extra fat and soon enough my body was more sculpted and stronger than ever (and not bulky at all!). And you will keep burning calories not only during, but even AFTER the work out — yes, the wonders that muscles do!
By leading a healthier lifestyle, I managed to lose ten pounds within the first month. But I was less focused on the weight I had lost and more on how much my body fat percentage had decreased. My goal was to get to the athletic range (14-20%). After about 6 months of eating and exercising smarter, I went from 23% to 17% body fat. This was a huge win for me and although it may fluctuate a little, I do my best to maintain the level I am at.
So no, there was no magic fix or secret potion to getting in shape and feeling better. Just a lot of hard work and dedication, but that’s what being healthy is all about. Once you take that first step, you won’t regret it! Trust me.
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