Healthy Beautiful Diet - 101

I am going to prelude this article by saying, once again, that by "diet" I don't mean "drastically (and sometimes nonsensically) changing your eating habits on the short term to lose/gain weight". "Diet", whenever the term is used on here, means eating habits, as a whole: the food you eat day to day to fuel your body and (hopefully) help with your health and fitness goals.

Now, with that being said, there's another premise which has to be taken into account: I am going to assume that, if you're reading this, your goal is to become (or remain) healthy, thanks to eating habits which promote physical and psychological well-being. Also, I am writing here about "regular" eating habits, not those which some people may use to gain a lot of muscle, for example for bodybuilding. 

When I was ten, we found out that I had an autoimmune disease which has some pesky side effects, including slowing down my metabolism and converting ingested calories into fat rather than energy. I was lucky enough that my mother had always cooked meals based on real, whole foods with very little fat or sugar. However, I still had to make certain adjustments to the way and foods I was eating and, trust me, no ten year old likes hearing that they are different and can't have a 10am snack anymore like everyone else in the school yard! 

The principles I will be laying out in this article come from the advice I have received over the years and from what I have experimented with and found to work for me. It is not specific to having an auto-immune disease, and I firmly believe that everyone can benefit from them, however, once again, I am not a doctor nor am I a nutritionist so if you have specific conditions, please consult a specialist. 

First of all: fruit and veg. There's a reason many Western governments have, in recent years, come out with recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables (usually between 5 and 10). That is because fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins, fiber, minerals and a whole other bunch of essentials nutrients which your body needs to function optimally. I will go more in depth on this later, but leafy and cruciferous greens (spinach, kale, brocoli, cauliflower...) are especially rich in nutrients and low in calories. You can pretty much allow yourself an unlimited (within reason) amount of vegetables per day, and fruits' nutritious benefits tend to outweigh their sugar content although you may want to go a little slower on more sugar-heavy fruits like bananas.

Protein is another essential part of a healthy diet, be it plant or animal-based. Although it is true that it may be a little harder for vegetarians/vegans (v*gans) to find a constant supply of protein, it is not true that being v*gan makes it impossible to ingest enough protein. Whichever way your little heart balances, you will want to prefer lean protein: white meats, lean beef cuts, fish, eggs, quality dairy, beans etc. Now it may seem obvious but I'm going to say this anyway: choosing a lean cut of meat and then lathering it in thick cream based sauces is not going to get you anywhere near "healthy". The way you cook/prepare your meals is essential in remaining on the healthy side of things. Again, more on that soon. 

Ahh, the ever ubiquitous carbs! We love to hate 'em, don't we? How many times have you been told to "lay off the pasta" or that eating bread with your salad will make it go straight to your hips? If you're like me, too many, I'm sure. While it may be true that excessive amounts of carbohydrates can lead to all kinds of unpleasant health issues (heart disease, insulin resistance, gluten allergies...), it is also true that carbs remain one of the easiest sources of food for your brain and muscles. Indeed, to function, your brain can only feed on glucose and that is basically the sugar found in "fast" and "slow" carbs. Fast carbs are pretty much plain old sugar, in whatever form. Slow carbs are found in things like pasta or bread and mainly derive from all manner of grains. 
The recommendation I was given aged 10, and have been following since, is to consume carbs generally for breakfast or lunch, and no later than 4pm. The reason for this is that, as I said earlier, carbs convert to glucose (fast energy) relatively quickly. Now, if that energy is not used up within a few hours, say going to the gym or walking home for example, it is stored in the body and converted to fat "for later use". But this "storage" was useful when we were hunter/gatherers, never sure when the next meal would come along. Today, we eat consistently 3-6 times a day, and it is very rare (in developed/Western societies) to ever go hungry. So that "emergency fat" accumulates, rarely if ever being used, and leads to weight gain. A final word on carbs: try to privilege whole grains (whole wheat vs. white bread for example) and, as a rule of thumb, prefer "dark" carbs: brown rice, whole wheat/other whole grain pasta, etc. 

This leads us to whole grains: whenever possible, prefer these to more processed grains which have been stripped of their good nutrients. Be aware though, when using whole grains, that some may need to be soaked in order to rid them of the phytic acid which makes them less digestible, thus not bringing you all the nutrients you're hoping to get from eating said hole grains.

Fats are another one of those things we love to hate. However, a certain amount of healthy fat is necessary for the body to function properly. This doesn't mean having fried food once a day to get your dose. Rather, it means using a tablespoon of olive oil to make a salad dressing, for example. Or using coconut oil to sauté onions. Eating a small handful of nuts or a portion of fatty fish like salmon is also another great way of getting those essential Omega oils and fatty acids into your body. Keep in mind, when portioning oils/butter/etc that a serving of just one tablespoon contains 90 calories, so that can add up really quickly if you're not being careful. 

Finally, avoid all processed foods. Processed foods tend to contain a lot of salt to enhance their taste after re-heating, but also more oils and sugars than are really needed. Besides, have you ever read the side of  pizza box and wondered how to pronounce some of those ingredients? Yeah, me too. And if I can't pronounce it, I'm thinking maybe I shouldn't be eating it. If it doesn't occur naturally in the environment, you're better off not eating it, at least not on a daily basis. Besides, if concern for your health weren't enough, think of how much more expensive pre-packaged and processed foods are: for the price of that 3 euros frozen pizza, you can make a couple of home made pizzas with none of those unpronounceable chemicals, and take pride in knowing that you're eating the fruit of your (easy) work!

The bottom line is this: prefer fresh produce to any other food when you're shopping, eat whole grains (soaked when necessary) whenever possible, make your daily portions of protein lean, avoid carbs after lunch, stay away from processed foods, ration your fats and sugars and try to keep to healthy versions (try putting honey, stevia or agave syrup in your coffee next time, works a treat!). As for organic, if you have access to it and the cash to spend on it, go for it. However, if you need to choose, it's more important to go organic on foods that have no thick protective skins - like leafy greens or berries - than it is for fruits likes oranges with thick skins that you peel off (unless you're using the rind, in which case you may want to go organic on those, too).

Whatever you do, remember that food should remain a source of pleasure and satisfaction: if you are frustrated or unhappy with what you are eating, it will be harder for you to keep to a balanced diet and you will be much more tempted by that chocolate bar at the till. Be creative when you prepare and cook your food, there are so many great resources online for recipes (and I'll be linking some of my favorite food blogs soon, so look out for that)! Unless you know you are unable to restrain yourself, my advice is: don't forbid yourself anything, try everything. Having a square of chocolate from time to time isn't going to kill your efforts, but eating the rest of the slab that same day will. 

Moderation + portion control = keys to a healthy, beautiful diet. 

What eating guidelines do you guys follow, and why?


What is "healthy, beautiful living"?

Please bear with me as this introductory post is a tad on the longer side.

This is a very personal concept as beauty can obviously be as much internal as it is reflected on the outside. We all know this, we keep hearing about it day in and day out, and yet we all too often obsess over numbers on the scale or our reflection in the mirror. These things obviously have their importance, but it should not be over blown. 
As for health, it is maybe less subjective as I'm pretty sure we all agree that eating fresh produce is healthier than stuffing ourselves with fried foods, yet your diet (as in eating habits) will not be the same if you are trying to lose weight or if you are trying to build muscle.

Now, despite the subjectivity of these matters, certain traits seem to remain generally the same: 

- Confidence is more often than not perceived to be "beautiful". Because confident people carry themselves taller, they occupy the space around themselves, and make use of it to put themselves to their best advantage. Have you ever noticed how, when you wear that power suit of yours, or those kitten heels, you feel more confident and you tend to walk prouder and see the world from a different perspective? That's what confidence will do for you, and people around you notice that, and respond to it in a (usually) positive way. Confident people are admired, we try to be their friends and/or emulate them. And we all like being liked, right? 

- Happiness is something else which we feel on the inside and gets reflected on the outside. When you are happy, your whole demeanour is more positive: you smile at people, you are more forgiving, more willing to help someone, etc. A number of studies have actually demonstrated how the simple act of smiling (and trying to make it genuine) actually acts upon your brain and makes you feel happier. A smile is like a yawn in that it's one of the most contagious things in the world. Try it and see: genuinely smile at a stranger when you're out one day, see them smile back, and feel good in the knowledge that they will be spreading that smile around!

- Fitness is another important marker of healthy beauty. And by fitness I don't mean "being 1m75 and weighing 45kg". I mean something as simple as being able to run to catch a bus and not feel winded after 200m. I mean being able to go on a daily hike with a friend or partner and not have to stop every 20 minutes to take a breath. I mean feeling confident that your body will not let you down at the slightest effort. You can be 5 ft. 2 in. and weigh 200 pounds, and be healthy and fit as an ox. Or you can be thin but have dangerous visceral fat. Although your BMI is a good preliminary tool in assessing whether you are overweight/underweight and, thus, potentially in danger, how much you weigh for your height is not a measure of your fitness level. Someone who is fit and confident in the knowledge that their body is there for them 100% is more likely to feel confident about themselves and, therefore, happier and more beautiful!

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but if you've made it this far, I invite you to keep reading a little while longer. Confidence, happiness and fitness as well as all health and beauty related issues are intrinsically linked to diet. Once again, by "diet" I do not mean one of those fad diets that tell you to do crazy things to lose weight fast - I mean eating habits, and preferably healthy ones. Your diet should support - not hinder - your fitness, beauty and health goals. Studies still disagree as to whether eating a lot of fat or sugar causes acne, but they all agree that unhealthy eating habits lead to weight gain (and other medical complications) and that the quality of the food you ingest matters just as much as - if not more than - the quantity.

Working hand in hand with your diet is your exercise routine. Exercise acts on your body, but also on your mind as it releases your body's natural "feel good drug", endorphins. So while you're breaking a sweat and working on those abs (which will make you feel great as you start seeing results), you're also releasing endorphins which will have a lasting effect on your happiness. Exercise = psychological + physical well being. Two birds, one stone people!

Now, you've broken a sweat, slurped up your Green Monster and you're celebrating your achievements by going out with friends, good on you! But after all that effort put into feeling and looking great, you don't want to hide it all under a baggy sweater and ill-fitting pants, do you? Enhancing your appearance, and what you like most about yourself, will lead to you feeling good, and this will be fed by the compliments you get on that daring red lipstick you're wearing or that fabulous frock you're sporting. Every girl (and boy!) loves a compliment, right? So choose your clothes and makeup accordingly!

Ultimately, healthy, beautiful living is all about doing things that make you look good and feel good about yourself, in as natural and healthy a way as possible. Diet, fitness, clothes and the likes are to be adapted to each and every person, according to their physique and personality. No two life routines should be the same, and that is the beauty of healthy, beautiful living! 

What does healthy, beautiful living mean to you? Is it more the inside, the outside, or a mix of both?

Hello and Welcome!

Hello to anybody who's out there!

I hope you are having a wonderful day! And if that is not the case, and you stumbled upon this page in the hope of finding some help, I hope that you will not be disappointed.
I am still figuring out Blogger as I was used to Wordpress before, so the look of the blog may change quite a bit in the near future as I learn more and devote more time to it.

This little blog is only but a newborn, but I have high hopes for it. I would like it to become a platform where a person can find help for all sorts of questions, ranging from diet (intended as a "way of eating" not a "way to lose weight") to sports and clothing all the way through inspirational posts and daily life tips. In time, my little corner of the web will have healthy recipes that satisfy you and help you with your health and fitness goals as well as general "tips" for healthy eating. There will be articles on exercise, as no diet (or way of living) is complete without it, and we all want a healthy mind and body, don't we? I also hope to build a small library of motivational posts, either images or articles which inspire and motivate me (and which I hope will do the same to you), or articles of my own. These can related to your professional life, your personal life, your emotional well-being, and more. Finally, I will be touching our outer aspect: being beautiful on the inside is obviously important, but if it isn't reflected on the outside, many of us will lose hope and believe it useless. Clothes, makeup, posture and more are an integral part of our outer image, and should not be relegated to a back corner as "superficial" and "meaningless". 

An important part of this endeavour I'm launching into is the fact that beauty is NOT universal, objective or set in stone. Different cultures have very different beauty ideals, and so does each and every individual. So at no point in time do I wish to be expressing a judgement or criticizing other people's views. This blog will have the sole purpose of trying to help people, and in thus is the expression of my personal beliefs. 

Also important is the fact that I am not, nor do I claim to be, any of the following: a nutritionist, fitness instructor, dietician, physician, makeup guru, fashion expert or anything else. I simply have accumulated some knowledge on the different topics I will be touching on, and believe that knowledge may be of use to others.
Without further ado, I shall start publishing and crossing fingers! Any and all questions are welcome by the way!